THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
In this weeks Parsha, Toldois, we learn how truly disfunctional Yitzchak Avinu's family was. Indeed, the Parsha tells us about the lies, the deception, 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 with a chastity belt with a combination lock to keep her out of trouble.)
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 Chavrusa, never realizing they should be home having relations with their wives or their girlfriends. What Kedushah!
Indeed, 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 they were their sisters whenever they would meet a head of state. However, the real reason was not that they were afraid for their lives. Rather, it is because they were both pretty kinky and were titilated by the thought of sharing a mate with powerful individuals. 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 Toldois 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 Aimishteh told Rivka Imainu "Shnay Goyim BaVitnaych --Two gentiles are in your womb" (Beraishis, Perek Chuf Hay, Pussook 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 Yankif -- we learn to take advantage of people who are weak
-- From Yankif -- we learn to lie to our parents, and in doing so, to disrespect them, and by inference, disrespect the Reboinoisheloilum as well
-- From Yankif -- we learn to covet that which belongs to another
-- From Yankif -- we learn to steal
-- From Eisav -- we learn to kill.
So, basically, from Eisav, and especially from Yankif, 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 Yankif became very different people. The Toirah tells us that Eisav became a great hunter and a man of the fields. But Yankif did not. According to a Gemarrah in Soitah, while Eisav went off to hunt, Yankif went off to study ballet. No wonder Yitzchak didn't want to give him his blessing.
In that same Gemarrah, Rav Yoichanan asks -- why is it that Yitzchak couldn't tell the difference between Yankif and Eisav, his own sons?
According to Reb Hai Goyn, Yitchak 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, Yitchak's eyesight disappeared as a coping mechanism for the fact that after giving birth, Rivka put on 300 pounds and started wearing a bad shaytl.
This reminds me of a Maiseh Shehoya. I was on a fundraising mission in the Bahamas for my Yeshiva, Yeshivas Chipas Emmess. My wife Feigah Breinah and I were going snorkling, 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 repulsive to all men.
This is the essence of Parshas Toldois. Yankif, so unattractive to Yitzchak Avinu, was the pride, the favorite of Rivka Imainu. And it was only through their combined guile, their deception, that Yankif was able to fullfill Hakkadoshboruchhu's plan for the world by stealing the birthright from Eisav and with it the foundational line of descent from Avraham which carried the Aimishteh's promise of future greatness for Klal Yisroel.
Hence, the Reboinoisheloilum's master plan is far from the obvious day-to-day issues that we can see. 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 a 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 Yankif, 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.
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess