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Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach 5774

Parashat Hashavua: A Powerful Pasuk, After All!

Harav Yosef Carmel

When the Rabbis want to give an example of a pasuk that is ostensibly unimportant, the one they often chose is “Timna was a concubine” (Bereishit 36:12). The commentaries have reinforced the message that we believe that there is no difference between the pasuk of Shema, where we declare Hashem’s oneness, and the pasuk about Timna (see Rabbeinu Bachyei ad loc.). The Shelah explained further that every pasuk hints at the loftiest possible ideas, even if it seems of little interest. He points out that the letters of Timna are the opening letters of four consecutive words in the famous pasuk about Torah, “The Torah of Hashem is perfect, it revives the spirit; the testimony …” (temima meshivat nefesh eidut) (Tehillim 19:8).

Let us learn from this deceptively significant pasuk something that impacts greatly on contemporary Israeli society – one which threatens to explode at any moment as a highly dangerous issue. Amongst us, there live more than 300,000 young men and women, who come from Jewish families who are not halachically Jewish and need geirut (conversion) in order to become so. At other opportunities, we have cited the opinion of the Rama and the decision of Chief Rabbi Benzion Uziel that we should try to draw close people of Jewish ancestry who are not halachically Jewish. This calls upon us to encourage such people to convert, rather than the classic approach regarding other “candidates” for conversion to initially push them away. Pushing away such people is very dangerous to our nation, just as we will now learn happened in regard to Timna, the concubine of Elifaz, the son of Eisav.

The Midrash Aggada (Vayishlach 36) tells that Timna was a princess who was inspired to want to marry a descendant of Avraham Avinu. The gemara (Sanhedrin 99b) explains that Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov refused to accept her (because of a matter of problematic personal status). She decided that it would be preferable to be a servant in this family than a noblewoman in another nation and therefore became a concubine to Elifaz. The gemara tells that for this reason, she became the mother of Amalek, who of course caused great pain to the Jewish People. The gemara says that the great leaders of our nation made a mistake by distancing her from the family.

Let us pray that we will merit returning our brothers and sisters, descendants of our own people, to the fold of the nation and the special connection to Hashem. We should remember that the Communist regime did whatever they could to erase the name of the Nation of Israel from among the nations. These people are the remnants who survived and came home to the Land of Israel. We should draw them close with open arms with a hope that they will serve Hashem in a full Jewish life facilitated by the process of geirut.

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