Our parashah opens: "And these are the offspring of Yitzchak
the son of Avraham - Avraham fathered Yitzchak." Many
commentaries wonder why the Torah mentions that Avraham was the
father of Yitzchak, a fact that we surely know. (See Rashi for
example.) R' Menachem Mendel Krochmal z"l (see page 4) offers
the following explanation:
The Midrash Tanchuma teaches: Sometimes a son suffers
degradation because of his father, as the righteous King
Yoshiyahu suffered degradation because of his father, the wicked
King Amon (see Melachim II chapters 21-22), and as the righteous
King Chizkiyahu suffered degradation because of his father, the
wicked King Achaz (see Melachim II chapter 16). On the other
hand, a father sometimes suffers degradation because of his
children, as the prophet Shmuel did because of his sons and the
Kohen Gadol Eli did because of his sons (see Shmuel I 8:3 and
However, concludes the Midrash, neither Avraham nor Yitzchak
ever suffered degradation on account of the other. To the
contrary, each one was made more distinguished because of his
association with the other. Perhaps, writes R' Krochmal, this is
the message of our verse. Yitzchak was proud to be Avraham's
son, and Avraham was proud to be Yitzchak's father. We find
similarly that Moshe and Yitro each took pride in his
relationship with the other.
R' Krochmal adds: It is the way of wise men and it is a sign of
righteousness to always attribute one's accomplishments to
others. Avraham attributed his accomplishments to Yitzchak, and
Yitzchak, to Avraham. Our parashah records also that Yitzchak
and Rivka prayed for children "opposite" each other. This means,
similarly, that each prayed for children in the other's merit.
(Pi Tzaddik: Drush 3)
"Esav came in from the field, and he was exhausted. Esav
said to Yaakov, `Pour into me, now, some of the very red
stuff, for I am exhausted'." (25:29-30)
Why did Esav want Yaakov to pour the stew down his throat
rather than serving it to him in a bowl? R' Pinchas Halevi
Horowitz z"l (1730-1805; rabbi of Frankfurt am-Main and noted
Talmud commentator) explains:
We read in Mishlei (25:25), "Cold water on a tired soul."
This, writes R' Horowitz, alludes to the power of netilat yadayim
/ ritual hand-washing to cleanse a soul that is weighted down by
impurity. Esav desired a life of impurity, so he did not
practice the mitzvah of netilat yadayim. At the same time, he
knew that halachah forbids eating with hands that are not washed,
and that Yaakov would refuse to offer him food for that reason.
Therefore he said, "Pour it down my throat."
"Rivka took her older son Esav's clean garments which were
with her in the house, and clothed Yaakov her younger son."
Midrash Rabbah explains: These garments had belonged to Nimrod,
and Esav had killed him and taken them. He kept these garments
in Yitzchak and Rivka's house and wore them when he served his
father. The Midrash continues: Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said,
"All my days, I did not serve my father with one-hundredth of the
honor with which Esav served his father. When I would serve my
father, I would wear [ordinary clothes, even if they were] dirty,
yet when I went out in the street I put on clean clothes. In
contrast, Esav specially dressed in royal garments when he served
R' Eliyahu Capsali z"l (Italy and Crete; 16th century) writes
in his treatise on the mitzvah of kibbud av va'aim / honoring
one's father and mother: Because Esav honored his father, he was
guaranteed great reward. Our Sages say that when Amalek, a
descendant of Esav, attacked Bnei Yisrael, Hashem told Moshe,
"Tell Bnei Yisrael, `You will not be able to defeat them, for
even now the reward for their father's acts stands them in good
stead'." Our Sages have said further, "Why is the exile of Edom
[i.e., our present exile] so long? It is because of the honor
that Esav showed his father." However, Chazal note, there is
consolation in this fact, for if such is the reward for one
mitzvah, imagine the reward for one who keeps many mitzvot!
(Meah Shearim Ch. 69)
[R' Capsali asks in a footnote: If Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel
recognized that his service of his father was not as good as
Esav's, why didn't he improve his service and change his clothes?
He answers that perhaps Rabbi Shimon did not learn until his old
age how Esav had served his father. This is implied by Rabbi
Shimon's words, "All my days, I did not serve my father..."
Perhaps we may suggest another answer: The Gemara (Chullin
105a) records that Rav Ukva said, "I am like vinegar from wine
compared to my father, for if he ate meat one day, he would not
eat dairy for 24 hours, whereas I wait only from one meal until
the next." Commentaries ask: If Rav Ukva recognized that his
father's behavior was superior to his own, why did he not imitate
his father? They answer: If one is on a spiritual level where a
given stringency is appropriate, let him practice it. However,
one should not adopt halachic stringencies merely to imitate
another person. Rav Ukva was not bemoaning the fact that he did
not act as his father acted. Rather, he was bemoaning the fact
that he was not on a level where such a stringency was
appropriate for him.
Perhaps this is what Rabbi Shimon meant as well. Perhaps he
was not bemoaning the fact that he did not do as Esav did.
Rather, he was bemoaning the fact that he did not have sufficient
appreciation for the mitzvah of honoring his father. Thus, if he
were to change his clothes to serve his father, it would be
nothing more than inappropriate imitation.]
R' Eliezer Papo z"l (1785-1827) writes: The benefits of
observing Shabbat are well-known. For example, our Sages taught:
"If one observes Shabbat, even if he practices idolatry like the
generation of Enosh, he is forgiven." Our Sages taught further:
"If only the Jewish people would keep two Sabbaths properly, they
would be redeemed immediately." They also said, "Shabbat is
equivalent to the entire Torah."
R' Papo continues (quoting the earlier work Kikar La'aden): It
is absolutely essential to observe Shabbat so that the redemption
will occur in the near future. It is not possible to cure our
wounds in any way other than through Shabbat observance. Even if
we repent from all our other sins, all is dependent on Shabbat
Thank G-d, the work Kikar La'aden continues, most people do
observe Shabbat in our times. Nevertheless, our pain is great
because of two things which cause our downfall. One is that
people do not refrain from speaking of weekday matters on
Shabbat. The verse (Yishayah 58:13-14), "If you proclaim the
Sabbath `a delight,' and the holy [day] of Hashem `honored,' and
you honor it by not engaging in your own affairs, from seeking
your own needs and discussing the forbidden [literally, `speaking
speech'], then you will delight in Hashem..." Only if you
guard yourself from speaking of weekday matters on Shabbat will
you delight in Hashem.
R' Papo continues: Unfortunately, people do not believe that
speaking of weekday matters desecrates the Shabbat. Consider
this: The Torah says (in a number of places), "Rest on the
seventh day, for six days did Hashem create the heavens and the
earth, and on the seventh He rested." What does it mean that
Hashem rested? He means he stopped speaking, for what was
creation other than a result of Hashem's speech, as we read
(Tehilim 33:6), "By the word of Hashem the heavens were made . .
.!" We are commanded to rest as He rested, and this means not
speaking about weekday matters. [Ed. note: Please consult a
halachic work or your rabbi for guidance as to what speech is and
is not permitted on Shabbat.]
R' Papo adds: Some people think that if they preface their
words with the phrase, "Not to speak of this on Shabbat but . . .
," then their discussion is permitted. This is, of course,
foolishness, for the fact remains that they are discussing the
forbidden matter on Shabbat.
[The second common error that R' Papo discusses relates to
having a non-Jew peform work on Shabbat. (This subject too is a
complex halachic matter.) R' Papo concludes:] What then is
Shabbat for? For studying Torah. All week long we make excuses
that we are too busy to study. If Shabbat comes and we still do
not study, our excuses will be discredited and we will be
punished for failing to study all week long.
(Pele Yoetz: Shabbat)
R' Gershon Ashkenazi z"l
R' Gershon ben Yitzchak Ashkenazi, also known as R' Gershon
Ulif, was born in Germany in the early 17th century and may have
studied under R' Meir Schiff (Maharam Schiff) in Frankfurt.
However, as a young man, he emigrated to Krakow, where he studied
under some of the most eminent scholars of that period: R' Yoel
Sirkes (the Bach), R' Yehoshua ben Yosef (the Maginei Shlomo),
R' Heshel, and R' Menachem Mendel Krochmal. R' Gershon's first
wife was a great-granddaughter of R' Sirkes, and when she died at
a young age, he married the daughter of R' Krochmal.
R' Gershon served for a time as a dayan / rabbinical court
judge in Krakow. In 1649, he accepted the rabbinate of Prossnitz
(Prostejov), Moravia, and, sometime after 1657, he was rabbi in
Hanau, Germany. In 1661, R' Gershon succeeded R' Krochmal as
Chief Rabbi of Nikolsburg and Moravia, but he left after three
years to become Chief Rabbi of Vienna. In 1670, the Jews were
expelled from Vienna, and R' Gershon became rabbi of Metz, where
he remained until his death.
In Metz, R' Gershon was a recognized posek / halachic authority
whose opinions were widely sought. He also headed a yeshiva with
hundreds of students, and his lectures were renowned for being
both ingenious and penetrating. Among his students was R' David
Oppenheim, later rabbi of Prague. R' Oppenheim said of his
teacher that if, G-d forbid, the Torah were ever forgotten, R'
Gershon could restore it with his sharp intellect. (Incidentaly,
R' Oppenheim was extremely wealthy and amassed a Torah library
that is reputed to have been one of the largest private Torah
libraries in history.)
R' Gershon also authored a number of significant works: Avodat
Ha'Gershuni, containing halachic responsa; Tiferet Ha'Gershuni,
derashot on parashat ha'shavuah in the pilpul style, with some
kabbalistic material; and Chiddushei Ha'Gershuni on Shulchan
Aruch. He also left unpublished commentaries on several
tractates of Talmud.
R' Gershon died on 11 Adar II 5453 / 1693, and many communities
decreed a ban on music for a full year as a sign of mourning.
(Source: The Acharonim p. 199)