Parsha Pearls: Parshas Toldos

Living Under the Zionist State
The Worst Zionists are the Religious Zionists
Yitzchok Loved Esav

And Yaakov gave to Esav bread and lentil soup, and he ate and drank, and arose and left; and Esav despised the birthright. (25:34)

The Brisker Rav once said to Reb Zalman Sorotzkin, “Why does the Torah say, ‘And Esav despised the birthright,’ implying that that was his main sin? The Gemora (Bava Basra 16b) says that he committed five sins that day: he violated a betrothed girl, he murdered, he denied the revival of the dead, he denied Hashem, and he despised the birthright. How could despising the birthright be considered the worst of those sins? The answer is that it is understandable that a person can stumble in sin. But to sell a birthright for lentil soup – that shows that all service of Hashem is worth nothing to him. The same is true of Zionism and the State. The Jewish people has lived throughout history relying on the promise of Hashem through true and just prophets, and on their faith in the coming of moshiach and the open miracles that will take place then. The founding of the state came to destroy all of that, like lentil soup in place of the birthright. There is no other sin like it!” (Teshuvos Vehanhagos, v. 2, siman 140)

He called its name Rechovos, and said, “For now Hashem has made space for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.” (26:22)

The Kli Yakar explains that the three wells dug by Yitzchak Avinu symbolize the First, Second and Third Temples. In accordance with the principle that “the actions of the fathers are a sign for their descendants, he explains that the first well, about which the Torah tells that “the shepherds of Gerar fought with the shepherds of Yitzchak,” corresponds to the First Temple, which was destroyed because of the struggle between the “shepherds” of the Jewish people – the kings of Yehuda and the kings of the Ten Tribes. The second well was called simply “Sitnah” – opposition – and it corresponds to the Second Temple, which was destroyed because of causeless hatred among all the people, not only the leaders. The third well, called “Rechovos,” corresponds to the Third Temple and the Days of Moshiach, when there will be perfect peace and the Jewish people will be able to spread out in the Holy Land. This, says the Kli Yakar, is in contrast to the Second Temple era, when “due to the fighting, many good people left the Land because of the evil of its inhabitants. The Torah therefore says that when peace is achieved, we will be fruitful in the land, and we will not have to leave it.”

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When the Brisker Rav came to Eretz Yisroel [in 1941] they asked him if he planned to go back or to stay. He replied, “Do I plan to go back?? I plan to run away!!”

After the Brisker Rav came to Eretz Yisroel someone remarked to him, “The Rav is certainly happy now that he merited to fulfill the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisroel.” He replied, “If not for the great destruction that the Germans, yimach shmam, have brought on the Jews of Europe, I would have stayed there until the coming of Moshiach. I had no specific desire to come to Eretz Yisroel. Only need and desperation brought me here.”

Reb Yaakov Rosenheim visited the Brisker Rov and discussed with him the situation in Eretz Yisroel. The Brisker Rov said that one must leave the State because it is a place of danger. “Isn’t there a mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisroel today?” asked Rosenheim. “There definitely is, but from such a state one must flee,” said the Brisker Rov. He then quoted the Rambam in Hilchos Deos (6:1): “The nature of man is that his character traits and actions are influenced by his neighbors, friends and the people of his country. Therefore… if one is in a country whose practices are bad, and whose citizens do not walk in the straight path, he should go to a place whose residents are righteous and follow proper practices.”

Rabbi Ahron Katzenellenbogen once related in a speech, “The Brisker Rov said that the Zionist State was the most dangerous place for Jews, both physically and spiritually. I asked him, ‘If so, perhaps we should go and live outside Eretz Yisroel.’ He replied, ‘Yes, according to halacha perhaps we are obligated to do that. But since there is no place as good as Yerushalayim for the proper Jewish education of boys and girls, for it is the only place in the world where there are no secular studies, we must be moser nefesh for the education of our children, and Hashem will help us.’” (Uvdos Vehanhagos Leveis Brisk, v. 4 p. 207-8)

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Rabbi Pinchas Biberfeld, rov of Munich, said to the Brisker Rov, “The Gemora says – and the Rambam codifies it as halacha – that a person should rather live in Eretz Yisroel, even in a city of mostly gentiles, than in the Diaspora, even in a city of mostly Jews.” The Brisker Rov replied, “It says a city of mostly gentiles, not a city of mostly heretics!” (ibid. v. 2, p. 189)

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The Satmar Rav said, “The Gemora (Kesubos 111a) says that if the Jewish people violates the Oaths and conquers the Holy Land before the proper time, Hashem will permit their flesh like the deer and the hinds of the field. A person who lives in Eretz Yisroel nowadays should recite the blessing “Hagomel” every single day, to thank Hashem that he woke up alive and did not see the fulfillment of this terrible curse!” (Divrei Yoel v. 2 p. 313)

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During the War of Independence, when there were many casualties, one of the Zionist leaders visited the Brisker Rov. The Brisker Rov rebuked him, crying that the number of Jews dead had reached twenty thousand, and no one seemed to care. The Zionist replied that the number was only ten thousand. “And ten thousand dead is nothing?!” said the Brisker Rov. “Nu, birthpangs,” said the Zionist. (Uvdos Vehanhagos, v. 4 p. 191)

(The number of Jews killed in all the Zionist wars should be noted: In 1948, 20,000. In 1967, 600. In the War of Attrition (1970), 900. In 1973, 2,000-3,000. In 1983, 2,000. In the intifada from the year 2000 till 2005, 923. The total is more than 27,000.)

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Rabbi Meir Berlin, a Mizrachi leader, related that his nephew Reb Chaim of Brisk once said, “The Zionists attract Jews to their movement by dressing it up as ‘the mitzvah of settling in Eretz Yisroel.’ Eretz Yisroel is indeed the Holy Land. But consider: a synagogue is a holy place; nevertheless if it is a Reform synagogue, it is forbidden to go inside. Who knows if it will not come to the point where, despite its holiness, Eretz Yisroel will be ‘reformed’?” (Uvdos Vehanhagos, v. 4 p. 206)

And the children moved inside her, and she said, “If so, why did I ask for this?” And she went to consult with Hashem. And Hashem said to her, “Two nations are in your belly, and two peoples will emerge from your loins…” (25:22-23)

The Sages say that when Rivka passed by the door of a yeshiva, Yaakov kicked, and when she passed by the door of a house of idol worship, Esav kicked. If she was upset that she would be giving birth to a wicked son, why then was she comforted when the prophet told her that two nations were in her belly?

Rabbi Yaakov David Willowski of Slutzk (1845-1913), known as Ridbaz, answers that Rivka thought she was carrying only one child. We know that the worst enemies faced by the Jewish people are its internal enemies. Jews who dress like gentiles, talk like gentiles, and eat non-kosher food do not have much influence on good Jews. Whatever they say will probably be ignored. The real danger is the Jew who dresses like a Torah Jew, does mitzvos, goes to the synagogue, studies Torah, and yet spreads heretical ideas. Rivka Imeinu thought she was carrying such a child – righteous and wicked all at once. But when she heard that there were two children, one righteous and the other wicked, she was reassured (Nimukei Ridbaz).

Today we face both the secular Zionists and the religious Zionists. But members of this latter group pose the greater threat because of their observance and dedication to the Torah. Furthermore, secular Zionism as an ideology is becoming increasingly weak over the years as the secular Jews’ connection to Judaism grows weaker. Religious Zionism, on the other hand, continues in full force, and threatens to dominate the Jewish people. We must give our attention to fighting the influence of this dangerous movement.

And Yitzchok loved Esav, for catch was in his mouth. (25:28)

The Midrash Seichel Tov (Bereishis 33) calls Yaakov Avinu the “choicest of the patriarchs.” What did Yaakov do that was greater than his predecessors, Avraham and Yitzchok? Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld explained that Yaakov passed a unique test that none of the other patriarchs confronted. Avraham Avinu recognized the Creator on his own, in defiance of his idol-worshipping father. He did not expect any support from his father. Yitzchok learned the path of G-d from his father and had his father’s full support. But Yaakov, although he learned from his father to serve G-d, saw at the same time his father’s love for his wicked brother Esav, who rejected all that his father represented. Yaakov was the one following in Yitzchok’s ways, studying Torah and serving G-d, yet Yitzchok preferred Esav to Yaakov. This gave him pause to reconsider: Was Esav on the right path after all? Should he also begin to act like Esav? But Yaakov Avinu strengthened himself in the conviction that he was doing the right thing, and continued to be a straight man living in the tents of Torah. This is why he deserved the title “the choicest of the patriarchs”.

Faithful Torah Jews today face a similar trial. We know we are following the right path, yet we see the success of the Zionists. Their organizations have all the money and they control all the Jewish newspapers. Sometimes we are tempted to wonder: perhaps their success indicates that G-d approves of their ways? Perhaps we should, G-d forbid, be like them? But we must emulate Yaakov Avinu and say: we will continue to do and believe what is right, regardless of whether we are successful or not.

The parallel between Yaakov Avinu and ourselves goes further. Just as Yaakov Avinu realized that Yitzchok’s love for Esav was part of G-d’s plan and it should not deter him in his service of G-d, so too we must accept G-d’s decree of exile, in which Esav and other nations rule over us. We must not be like the Zionists, who attempt to put an end to the love of Esav before its time.

The Midrash Shir Hashirim indeed says that Yitzchok’s love for Esav is behind our exile, and is the meaning of the word “love” in Shir Hashirim (2:7). “Do not arouse the love before it is desired” is understood by the Midrash to mean: “Do not use actions to upset the love of Yitzchok for Esav before the desire of the patriarch [Yitzchok] has been achieved.”

The Shach on the Torah, in the name of the Shaarei Orah, explains that Yitzchok loved Esav because he saw that Yaakov’s children would one day sin and deserve to be punished in Gehinom. In order to spare them this punishment, Yitzchok chose for them the lesser punishment of exile, and chose Esav to carry out the exile. In this manner, he followed in the footsteps of his father, Avraham Avinu, who also chose exile for his children (Bereishis Rabbah 44:21).

And the children moved inside her, and she said, “If so, why did I ask for this?” And she went to consult with Hashem. And Hashem said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples will emerge from your loins…” (25:22-23)

Rashi says, “If so – if the pain of pregnancy is so great, why did I long and pray for it?” On a simple level, Rivka was saying that she regretted praying for a child at all. If this is how painful it was going to be, she should have not prayed, and remained barren all her life.

But the Arvei Nachal explains that Rivka compared her childbearing to the redemption of the Jewish people. Hashem made the Jewish people swear not to force the end of exile with excessive prayer. The reason is that if the redemption comes in its proper time, it will come naturally and easily, without any opposition or pain. But if the Jews pray excessively, although Hashem will certainly not reject their prayers, and the redemption will come before its time, it will come with many accusers and with much pain and suffering.

When Rivka saw how painful her pregnancy was, she thought: Surely I was not supposed to have a child now. Hashem wanted to wait longer because He desires the prayer of the righteous. That was the reason why I was barren to begin with (Yevamos 64a). He only gave me a child now because of Yitzchok’s excessive prayer, as it says, “And Yitzchok entreated Hashem.” She went to consult a prophet, who told her, “It is not as you thought. The pain is not because the child came too early, but rather because there are two nations in your womb…”

The first to understand that the oath against “forcing the end” refers to excessive prayer was Rashi on Kesubos 111a. The Midrash on Shir Hashirim (2:7) applies the oath to the revolts of the Children of Ephraim and Bar Kochba, so it is clear that actions to force the end are also included. Rashi merely meant that even prayer is included in the oath.

Rabbi Shalom Ber Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (1866-1920) said this clearly: “Even if these men [the Zionists] were loyal to Hashem and His Torah, and even if there were a chance that they would achieve their goal, we must not listen to them in this matter, to make our redemption with our own power. Is it not forbidden even to force the end with excessive prayer (Rashi Kesubos 111a)? All the more so that with power and worldly methods, that is, to leave exile by force, we are not permitted… And this is against our true hope, that Hashem will bring us Moshiach Tzidkeinu soon and our redemption will come through Hashem Himself.” (Ohr Layesharim, p. 57)

However, the Zionist leader Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook claimed that according to Rashi, the oath prohibits only prayer, not actions: “Rashi adds that we are not to make exaggerated petitions over the End. We are not supposed to be ‘nudniks’ and clamor, ‘Redeem us! Redeem us! Redeem us!’ without end. The meaning here is that we are not to hasten the End of the exile through spiritual means. It is not talking about building Eretz Yisroel.” (Torat Eretz Yisroel p. 290)

From the Arvei Nachal it is clear that there is no difference between praying for the redemption early and action to bring it early. The problem is that if the redemption comes before its time, “it will come with many accusers and with much pain and suffering.” We do not want to bring upon ourselves pain and suffering, G-d forbid, whether through prayer or action.

The Ramban also holds that prayer is included in the oath, and in Sefer Haemunah Vehabitachon (p. 369 in the Chavel Edition) he draws a connection between the oath against praying excessively for the end and the following Midrash in Yalkut Shimoni Tehillim 845: “Why do Jews pray in this world and are not answered? Because they do not know the Ineffable Name. But in the future the Holy One, blessed is He, will make it known to them, as it says, ‘Therefore let My people know My name’ (Yishaya 52:6). At that time they will pray and be answered, as it says, ‘He will call Me and I will answer him’ (Tehillim 91:15).” The Ramban says that certainly prayer is effective during exile; the Midrash only means that prayer for the redemption will not be effective, because of the oath. Apparently the Ramban understood the oath not as a prohibition but as a decree: Hashem withheld knowledge of the Ineffable Name from us so that our prayers for the redemption would not be effective.

The Ramban proceeds to ask how his interpretation is consistent with the story of Rabbi Chiya and his sons (Bava Metzia 85b), who would have successfully prayed for the redemption had Eliyahu Hanavi not stopped them. He answers that that moment when Rabbi Chiya and his sons tried to pray was an exceptional moment, but in general any prayers for the redemption, even by such great individuals as Rabbi Chiya and his sons, are not answered. Hashem has simply decreed that the redemption will not come until a certain time, or until certain conditions are met. The decree means that both prayers and actions to bring the redemption early will be met with failure.

The Radvaz, in his commentary Migdal David on Shir Hashirim, says that the oath prohibits excessive prayer – not prayer of the Jews in this world, but prayer of their souls in the World to Come. When a Jew dies and his soul ascends, it tells the other souls all about the difficult exile that the Jewish people is undergoing. They feel the pain and wish to complain to Hashem. But the new soul warns them not to force the end before Hashem desires it to come. Here too, we see that the prohibition on excessive prayer is not because Hashem does not want a person to be a nudnik and beg incessantly without doing anything. The souls in the World to Come cannot take any action in any case; all they can do is pray, yet they are warned not to pray.

The Alshich in his commentary on Eichah says that this prohibition on too much prayer is because the exile is for our atonement and we cannot pray for it to end before it is complete. Again, this shows that both prayer and action are prohibited, because the point is not to end our atonement prematurely. He explains this as the meaning of the verses of Eichah 3:25-26: “Hashem is good to those who hope to Him, to the soul that seeks Him. Good and one should wait and be silent, for the salvation of Hashem.” For any other trouble that may befall us, prayer is the best response; Hashem is good to those who hope and pray to Him. But when it comes to exile, our response should be to be “good” – to better ourselves so that we need no more atonement, “and wait and be silent” from praying. We must trust “in the salvation of Hashem” – for Hashem is also in exile with us, and we trust that He will, so to speak, save Himself and save us along with Him.


Three Oaths