Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Shabbos Parshas Toldos 5772 (part 2)

Letting Go of Reason

In shul after davening, the Rebbe continued the overall theme but from a different angle. (see part one here)

It is very difficult in today's age, a time when nearly everything can be subject to a microscope or telescope, and reason and logic reign supreme, to give up our self-driven need to understand why something must be the way it is. Faith is disdained, considered foolish and dangerous. Adhering to a law that does not lend itself to dissection by science is frowned upon and viewed as archaic, unnecessary and entirely unthinkable to any sensible human being. In such a setting, even those committed to a Torah way of life may, and often do, find it challenging to give up their own opinions, understanding and way of thinking, in deference to the supra-logical nature of Hashem's Torah.

Rivka felt that the child she was carrying was conflicted. Sometimes he seemed to be excited by Torah, yet the baby was drawn to idolatry as well. What kind of a person would be interested in the two opposites? Only a person who picks and chooses based on his own intellect. He asks "Why?" about everything, and if the answer does not sufficiently adhere to the rules of temporal reason, he simply dismisses it. That kind of a person would sometimes be drawn to Torah and sometimes to idolatry, as they both have merits from a human, logical standpoint.

When Rivka realizes this, she says אם כן למה זה אנכי - If so, why is it that I am. The Rebbe explained the question, in light of the above, as follows: If it is so that my child is that of למה זה, of "why this?", then what am I living for? What is the purpose of such a child. An attitude like that is not the attitude of Jew and he certainly is not the child I was praying for. So, she went to inquire and to search out Hashem.

When Eisav demands to be fed from the lentils that Yaakov Avinu was preparing, Yaakov offers him a deal: The lentils for the right to the berachos and the service of the bechor, the first-born. Eisav decides, הנה אנכי הולך למות ולמה זה לי בכורה - "I am going to die, so of what use to me is my birthright?"

The Rebbe explained that Eisav, the father of Rome and science, lived by what made sense to him. Eisav said to himself, "This whole bechor business doesn't make sense anyways; it comes from an unreasonable and alogical place. I am a man of 'lamah zeh'. The question of 'Why is this?' is the preeminent creed by which I live my life. 'Lamah zeh' is 'li bechora' - first and primary, and I therefore have no use for Hashem and his mitzvos."

This is why, the Rebbe mentioned, we say in the L'shem Yichud before putting on tefilin that "I hereby intend to don tefilin to fulfill the commandment of my Creator, Who commanded me to don tefilin". Curiously, later in the same paragraph, we mention various reasons as to why this mitzvah was commanded (see there). But, the first and foremost intention we have in fulfilling the mitzvos, the bechor - primary reason, is because we were commanded to do so by Hashem, something which defies, and is above, logic.

1 comment:

DamesekFan said...

This is not a comment on the above hashkafah, just another thought on the dynamics of Eisav.

The Rebbe shlit"a often draws contrast between Yaakov and Eisav (such as the contrast of Yaakov Avinu in "Yesh Li Kol" where one recognizes the constant, direct hand of Hashem in every experience, where each situation and every moment is tailored to perfection as seen fit by His Will. Even the tiniest details - such as pachim ketanim, are important, no, integral! Eisav did not live his life with this view, rather he focused on the his own influence and thus even if I accomplish much, there is always more I can or could have done - "Yesh Li Rav", but there is more to be had.)

Names are not merely functions, but rather they are the essence of the individual. Parents have divine inspiration in choosing the correct name for their child.

Eisav's name comes from the same root as the word "asah" or "asui" which means did or done. Eisav may have defined himself based on his past deeds. He may have believed that a man is what he does, and once it is done, it can never be undone. In his experience, character change, hope for a better future or the dynamic human spirit meant nothing to Eisav - once a bum, always a bum. Ultimately, he gave up a future of Bechorah based on this flawed assumption. After returning from a day of crime and murder, Eisav no longer saw a future in the holiness of Kohain life - it was too late for that based on his past actions.

The name of Yaakov, however, has the same root as the word "aikev" which means basis(v'haya aikev tishma'un). A yud at the beginning of a action word indicates future tense. The basis of a Yaakov Avinu is always pointing to tomorrow, to what is next. He claims that I will live my current moment and make decisions about how to live right now, not based on my past, but rather based on my future, based on all that I can and desire to be.

This is not to ignore the past, but rather it is clarification in possibilities for this very moment. Right this second, will I live my life, in this choice before me, by limiting it with my past or will I consider that the present is as open to possibility as the unsullied future.

A Yid never closes doors, never gives up hope - "Afilu cherev munachas....."