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Please include Israel's captive soldiers in your tefillot: Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel, Tzvi ben Penina Feldman, Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah Katz, Ron ben Batya Arad, Guy ben Rina Chever.

 

 

Friday,  28 Cheshvan 5775 – November 21, 2014             

              

            Yesterday, we noted the Gemara’s comment in Masekhet Bava Batra (16b) stating that Esav was guilty of heresy.  The Gemara reached this conclusion on the basis of Esav’s reaction to Yaakov’s request of the birthright: “Lama zeh li bekhora” – “What do I need the birthright for?” (25:32).  The word “zeh,” the Gemara posits, refers to the belief in God, as indicated in Benei Yisrael’s song of praise sung  after the miracle of the sea, in which they exclaimed, “Zeh Keli” – “This is my God” (Shemot 15:2).  It stands to reason that Chazal here seek to draw an association of sorts between Esav’s disinterest in the birthright and the miracle of the sea, and the question naturally arises as to the nature of this connection. 

            Rav Yitzchak Menachem Weinberg (the Tolna Rebbe) suggested that the point of connection can be found in the well-known comment of the Midrash (cited by Rashi there in Shemot) concerning the revelation beheld by Benei Yisrael at the time of the miracle of the sea.  The Midrash comments that even the simplest, lowliest members of Benei Yisrael beheld a prophetic vision that surpassed the visions seen by Yeshayahu and Yechezkel.  Benei Yisrael – the entire nation – was elevated at that moment to the stature of prophets.  This was possible despite the fact that, as numerous sources indicate, Benei Yisrael at the time of the Exodus were idolaters, and Kabbalistic tradition describes how they were submerged in the “forty-nine gates of impurity.”  Their low spiritual stature at the time they left Egypt did not preclude the possibility of their becoming prophets less than a week later.  Even though they had been worshipping idols for decades, they were nevertheless capable of raising themselves to the point where they were deemed worthy of a prophetic vision. 

            This was Esav’s “kefira” (“heresy”).  The Gemara there in Bava Batra relates that on the day Esav sold the birthright, he had committed the most grievous sins – murder and adultery.  Rav Weinberg suggests that in response to Yaakov’s request of the birthright, Esav reflected upon his prospects of fulfilling the duties of the firstborn, which would entail tending to the sacrifices and the service in the Beit Ha-mikdash.  He immediately concluded that “lama zeh li bekhora” – it wasn’t for him.  There was no possibility that he, after the crimes he had committed, could ever become worthy of such a lofty position or capable of tending to such important responsibilities.  Esav denied the message of “Zeh Keli,” that God endows us with the ability to draw close to and communicate with God despite our past mistakes and failures.   

            We must never think “lama zeh li bekhora,” that we are unworthy of serving the Almighty because of our shortcomings.  Chazal remind us that we are all able, and expected, to work toward improving ourselves and elevate ourselves, regardless of what we have done or not done in the past.  Just as Esav could have still become worthy of the birthright after the offenses he committed, we, too, are able to rise to greatness regardless of our past failures. 

 

 

Rav David Silverberg       

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(c) 2014 Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash, Yeshivat Har Etzion.

 

 

 

 


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