Shabbat Parashat Toldot | 5770
Ein Ayah: Personality Traits that Ruined Important People’s Lives; Dangerous Broadening of the Torah
Personality Traits that Ruined Important People’s Lives
(based on Berachot 2:72)
Gemara: “There should be no breeches” (Tehillim 144:14) – this refers to the idea that our group should not be like Shaul’s group, out of whom came Do’eg Ha’adomi (who massacred the kohanim of Nov); “and nothing going out” (ibid.) – that our group should not be like David’s group, from whom came Achitofel (who plotted unethically in support of Avshalom’s rebellion); “and no screaming” (ibid.) – that our group should not be like Elisha’s, from whom came Geichazi; “in our streets [rechovoteinu- literally wide places]” (ibid.) – that we should not have a son or a student who burns his food (i.e., who acts in a manner that demonstrates his religious lacking) in public.
Ein Ayah: The mishna (Avot 4:21) mentions three things that remove a person from the world: jealousy, desire, and pursuit of honor. These are all referred to in this prayer.
Do’eg lost his place in the world due to jealousy, as the gemara (Zevachim 54b) says that his actions against the people of Nov were taken out of jealousy. This is similar to the idea found in Tehillim (69:10): “For the jealousy of your house ate me up.” Achitofel was motivated to aid the rebellion because he … thought that he was going to become king (Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 10:2). Geichazi acted out of desire for silver, gold, clothes, olives, vineyards, as Elisha pointed out (Melachim II, 5:26).
Dangerous Broadening of the Torah
(based on Berachot 2:739)
Gemara: From the above.
Ein Ayah: Burning the food is a good metaphor for someone who distorts Torah ideas and turns them into false philosophies. The food is intrinsically good. So too, Hashem’s words in the Torah are straight, just that the wanton person turns them into horrible sayings.
How does this happen? The person in question heard how the words of Torah can be expanded [the root rachav and be used in “expanding” or “street”] with exegesis and pure ideas. He stumbled by thinking that he could establish thoughts of his heart that are antithetical to Torah concepts. One must pray that a son or an improper student should not use the broadening of Torah ideas to go in the opposite direction from the words of the living G-d.
The Differing Needs of Different Types of Tzaddikim
(based on Berachot 2:74)
Gemara: “Listen to me, the strong of heart, who are far from tzedaka (understood here as charity)” (Yeshaya 46:12) – Rav and Shmuel … one of them said that it refers to those who despite the world being supported by [Hashem’s] charity, they are supported by a strong arm (=merit). The other explained that it refers to those in whose merit the whole world is supported, while they are not supported even in their own merit.
Ein Ayah: There are two types of complete people. The foundation of one’s shleimut is the attempt to make others more complete, while his own shleimut is but attached to the goal of completing others. For another type of complete person, his main existence is in order to perfect himself, which is an important goal. Additionally, he will certainly have a tremendous positive impact on others because of the example of his behavior and the sanctity of his actions.
Those whose work of completeness relates directly to others are those who are supported in their own merit, for they are needed for the improvement of the masses. In contrast, those who focus primarily on their own development don’t even get fully provided for in their own merit. This is because when a person is looked at individually, without relating to others, he suffices with a very small portion, as the gemara tells about Rabbi Chanina, for whom a kav of carobs per week was enough for him to subsist.
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This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.