THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
In this weeks Parsha, Toildois, we learn how truly dysfunctional Yitzchak Avinu's family was. Indeed, the Parsha tells us about the lies, the deception, and the struggle of brother against brother. I swear, Toldois sounds more like General Hospital than an account of our holy forebears.
Take the account of Rivka Imainu. We learn right away that Rivka was barren. This leads to an obvious question pondered by Chazzal as they were standing behind the mikvah, trying to sneak a peek through the cracks in the wall: Why is it that 75% of the Imahois were barren? That includes Sarah, Rivka, and Rachel. (Leah Imainu, on the other hand, was so fertile she had to be fitted to wear a chastity belt with a combination lock to keep her out of trouble, Kenaiyna Harah.)
According to Rabbeinu Tam, there was actually nothing physically wrong with these women. It is just that the Avois were very, very holy. They were studying Toirah 20 hours a day, sitting in the Bais Medrish holding hands with their Chavrusas, never realizing they should be home having relations with their wives or their girlfriends. What Kedushah!
The Chassam Soifer brings proof to this position from another important incident in our Parsha, Rivka’s misrepresentation of herself as Yitzchak’s sister, rather than his wife. (This, of course, echoes two similar incidents involving Sarah, Avraham Avinu and two different kings.) According to the Chassam Soifer, the reason the Imahois were constantly telling people that their husbands were actually their brothers is because they were love starved and were looking for a little action. And if they could shack up with a local king they might even get a nice bauble out of the deal.
However, according to the RIF, we should go with the Pashut Pshat, the simple interpretation of the Toirah. It really was Avraham Avinu and Yitzchak Avinu who asked their wives to make believe that they were their sisters whenever they would meet a head of state. But it was not that they were afraid for their lives. Chass V'Sholom! Rather, it is because the Avois were both pretty kinky and were titillated by the thought of sharing a mate with a powerful individual. He cites as proof a Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah that says that Avraham Avinu was a cross-dresser, and that Yitzchak Avinu once asked Rivka to wear a strap-on.
Like any good soap opera, Parshas Toildois shares with us the full range and volatility of human emotions across the broad spectrum of human experience. A famous Medrish tells us that halfway through Parshas Toldois, Rivka was diagnosed with depression. And who can blame her? The Toirah tells us that the when Rivka Imainu was confused by strange stomach pains during the course of her pregnancy, the Aimishteh explained to her that "Shnay Goyim BaVitnaych --Two gentiles are in your womb" (Beraishis, Perek Chuf Hay, Possuk Chuf Gimmul). Hey, it's bad enough you have to put up with them at work. If you were told you had two of them in your stomach, you'd need Prozac too!
Of course, the two brothers that were in Rivka's womb grew up to be Ya'akov and Eisav, who through their descendants make up the nations of Klal Yisroel and Edom. We learn so many lessons from them:
-- From Ya'akov -- we learn to take advantage of people who are weak
-- From Ya'akov -- we learn to lie to our parents, and in doing so, to disrespect them, and by inference, disrespect the Reboinoisheloilum as well
-- From Ya’akov -- we learn to covet that which belongs to another
-- From Ya'akov -- we learn to steal
-- From Eisav -- we learn to kill.
So, basically, from Eisav, and especially from Ya'akov, we learn to violate all 10 of the 10 Commandments. Thank Hakkadoshboruchhu! All those nasty restrictions were beginning to cramp my style.
As they grew up, Eisav and Ya'akov became very different people. The Toirah tells us that Eisav became a great hunter and a man of the fields. But Ya'akov did not. According to a Gemmarah in Sotah, while Eisav went off to hunt, Ya'akov went off to study ballet and attend cooking classes in the evening. No wonder Yitzchak didn't want to give him his blessing!
In that same Gemmarah, Rav Yoichanan asks -- why is it that, when it came time to offer his fatherly blessing, Yitzchak could not tell the difference between Ya'akov and Eisav, his own sons?
According to Reb Hai Goyn, Yitzchak spent so much time studying Toirah and coaching the basketball team at Yeshivas Shame V-Ayver that he was never home to see his kids.
But the accepted answer, according to RASHI, is that Yitzchak was blind. Indeed, the RI adds, Yitzchak’s eyesight disappeared as a coping mechanism. He cites a Medrish that reports that following the birth to her twin sons Rivka put on 300 pounds and started wearing a really bad shaytl. So the Reboinoisheloilum, in His benevolence, took away Yitzchak's sight.
This reminds me of a Maiseh Shehoya. I was on a fundraising mission in the Bahamas for my Yeshiva, Yeshivas Chipass Emmess. My wife Feigah Breinah and I were going snorkeling, since, as everyone knows, major donors can often be found examining coral in its natural habitat. Suddenly, as we were about to descend into the water, my bashert announced to me that she could not go in, as she had that second become a Nidah. And, she continued, it is dangerous to go snorkeling in such circumstances since sharks are all drawn to the smell of blood.
I was greatly troubled by this: How could something so repulsive to all men be attractive to the common shark? And, farkhert, how can something so attractive to a shark be so repulsive to all men?
This is the essence of Parshas Toldois. Ya'akov, so unattractive to Yitzchak Avinu, was the pride, the favorite of Rivka Imainu. And it was only through their combined guile, their joint deception, that Yankif Avinu was able to fulfill Hakkadoshboruchhu's plan for the world by stealing the birthright from Eisav and, with it, the foundational line of descent from Avraham that carried the Aimishteh's promise of future greatness for Klal Yisroel.
Hence, just as Yitzchak was blind to the truth about his two sons, the Reboinoisheloilum's master plan is not visible to us in our day-to-day concerns and observations. You may think you know what is right and wrong, but the truth is you are a worthless minuval who doesn't even know the right bracha to say on pumpkin pie, let alone the ultimate truths that drive the universe and the future.
So, the next time your bashert is a Nidah, don't hide from her, as would be your first instinct. Don't reject her as Yitzchak did Ya'akov, and possibly drive her into the arms of a local king. Embrace her. For what may disgust you today may actually be laying the foundations of future greatness for Klal Yisroel. Short of that, it might lead to a nice but messy quickie.
Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval