The gematria of פקח is יעקב. Indeed Yaakov Avinu was a clever Av who fought his essence to establish an eternal legacy.
Neshech – Taking Ribis (נֶ֫שֶׁך) from someone equals Shin Ayin, the acronym for Shulchan Aruch (ש”ע). This can be explained with the following Chazal. The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah: Chapter 31) says that one who lends for interest violates all the commandments of the Torah, and will not merit having even one angel who will speak up on his behalf on the final day of reckoning. Therefore, symbolically, lending with interest is a violation of the entire Shulchan Aruch and thus the whole Torah as well.
In this week’s parashah the Torah relates how Yitzchak dug wells and the shepherds of Gerar quarreled with the shepherds of Yitzchak regarding the wells. The Ramban (Bereishis 26:20) writes that the Torah relates the episode of the wells that Yitzchak dug to allude to the Bais HaMikdash. The first well was called Esek, strife and struggle, as this alludes to the first Bais HaMikdash that was destroyed by the Babylonians, and the second well was called sitnah, hatred, as this name alludes to the second Bais HaMikdash that was destroyed by the Romans. The third well, however, was called Rechovos, expansion, and this name alludes to the third Bais HaMikdash that HaShem Himself will build and there will not be any quarrel or strife involved in the building of the third Bais HaMikdash. Drinking water and drawing the Divine Spirit
One must wonder, though, why the Torah chose to hint to the building of the Bais HaMikdash specifically in the section that discusses Yitzchak’s struggles with the Plishtim. Furthermore, regarding the well that Yaakov encounters prior to marrying Rachel, the Ramban (Ibid 29:2) writes based on the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 70:8) that the three flocks of sheep alludes to the three festivals when the Jewish People make the pilgrimage to the Bais HaMikdash. The flocks drinking the water allude to the drawing of Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit that was manifested in the Bais HaMikdash. There also we must understand why the Torah chose to allude to the Bais HaMikdash with an apparently mundane episode of sheep drinking water.
The gates are open on Shabbos and one can enter those gates with preparation
It is said (Yechezkel 46:1) ko amar HaShem Elokim shaar hechatzer hapinimis haponeh kadim yihyeh sagur sheishes yimei hamaaseh uvayom haShabbos yipaseiach uvayom hachodesh yipaseiach, thus said the Lord/Elokim: “The gate of the inner courtyard that faces eastward shall be closed during the six days of labor, but on the Shabbos day it shall be opened, and on the day of the New Moon it shall be opened.” The Sfas Emes (Toldos 5643) writes that the Mishna (Avos 5:6) states that the mouth of the well was created on Erev Shabbos. The explanation of this is that Shabbos is the well and HaShem allows a Jew to prepare for Shabbos prior to Shabbos. In this way one can connect the days of the week with Shabbos. Thus, writes the Sfas Emes, according to the manner that one aspires to receive the Shabbos with joy, HaShem will show him the correct path to enter into Shabbos.
Shabbos and Yom Tov are times of extra spirituality
The Sfas Emes (Noach 5647) writes further that Shabbos and Yom Tov are the times when the gates of heaven are opened for an extra infusion of spirituality and it is at these times that one can ascend to greater spiritual heights. We can now understand why the Medrash and the Ramban write that the opening of the wells alludes to the festivals because it was specifically on the festivals that the Jewish People witnessed in the Bais HaMikdash the revelation of HaShem in all His glory. This revelation allowed them to draw from the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit.
The Shabbos connection
We have mentioned that on Shabbos one can actually experience the well of water, which is a metaphor to an in increase in spiritual influence in our lives. One must recognize that Shabbos is a well of fresh water that can literally bring the soul back to life. Throughout the week we are engaged in Torah study and performance of mitzvos. Nonetheless, our study of Torah and performance of mitzvos on Shabbos is akin to a man in a desert who discovers an oasis. He may have been drinking water from his canteen but the oasis is on a different plane. Similarly, Shabbos is on a different level than the rest of the week, and it is the Holy Shabbos that provides the spirituality for the rest of the week. HaShem should allow us to recognize the holiness of Shabbos and to prepare for the Shabbos properly so we can drink from its spiritual waters.
Shabbos in the Zemiros
This mystical Zemer was composed by Avraham Maimin, whose name with the addition of chazak, is formed by the acrostic. Avraham was a student of Rabbi Moshe Kordevero, a member of the Kabbalistic school of the Arizal, and he lived from 5282-5330 (1522-1570 C.E.)
תּוֹצְאוֹתֶיהָ חֲמִשִּׁים שַׁעֲרֵי בִינָה. אֱמוּנִים נוֹצֵר יְ-ה-ֹו-ָה, its overflows are fifty gates of understanding – faithful ones are guarded by HaShem. The simple reading of the words אֱמוּנִים נוֹצֵר יְ-ה-ֹו-ָה is that HaShem guards the faithful ones. We can suggest an alternative interpretation, as the word אמן, besides meaning faith, also means to cultivate. Thus, we are saying that faith needs to be cultivated, and the word נוֹצֵר here means to observe the growth of faith, like one preserves and guards the cultivation of a tree.
Kosher for now, kosher for eternity
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: This past summer 30,000 Boy Scouts joined together in Virginia for a national Boy Scout Jamboree. Among the myriad groups of scouts who attend this event that occurs every four years are many Jewish Scouts as well. Mike Paretsky, a Vice Chairman of the GNYC Jewish Committee on scouting, was the kosher food liaison to the jamboree. Special food was ordered from O’Fishel caterers of Baltimore, so that the Jewish scouts would be able to nourish their bodies as well. One of the scoutmasters, a Jewish man, caught a glimpse of the kosher offerings. He had never eaten a kosher meal in his life, yet when he saw the special meals, something stirred. He and his troops were being served pork-this and bacon-that for breakfast, lunch and supper, and all of a sudden this man decided he was sick of the monotonous treif stuff. He wanted to eat kosher. Scoutmaster Paretsky gladly let him partake in a meal, but that was not enough for the fellow. The man decided to keep kosher during the entire jamboree!
Mr. Paretsky agreed to accommodate the neophyte kosherphile, but a skeptic approached him. “Mike,” he said, “why are you wasting your kosher food on this fellow? He is not going to eat kosher after this is over, and he observes absolutely nothing! Why waste the food on him?”
Mike answered with an amazing story of the Chofetz Chaim. When Russian soldiers entered the town of Radin, Jewish townsfolk prepared kosher meals for the Jewish soldiers in the Czar’s army. Soon their acts of charity seemed to fly in their face as they saw the soldiers devour the food and then stand on line to receive the forbidden Russian rations. When they complained to the Chofetz Chaim and threatened to stop preparing kosher food, he reflected with an insight that must be passed on to generations.
“Every mitzvah that a Jew does, every good deed and every bit of kosher that he eats is not a fleeting act. It is an eternity. No matter what precedes or ensues, we must cherish each proper action of a Jew.” (www.Torah.org)
Shabbos in Halacha
Wringing and Laundering
כיבוס – Laundering
It is forbidden mideoraisa (by Torah Prohibition) to scrub any wet fabric or to rub two parts of the fabric against each other.
This stage of laundering is forbidden with the use of all materials, whether absorbent or not. Thus, although one is permitted to wet a plastic tablecloth, one may not scrub it while wet (neither with one’s hands nor with an implement).
With plastic, one is allowed to brush lightly to loosen dirt; the prohibition is to rub forcefully., However, with absorbent fabric, one is prohibited even from rubbing lightly. [Note: this prohibition applies only to soft materials, not to hard surfaces such as wood.]
In this week’s parsha, we read the episode of Yaakov Avinu “tricking” his father Yitzchak into giving him the brachos. The pasuk says that Yitzchak was able to be tricked because his eyes were dimmed, and he couldn’t see who was standing in front of him. Rashi says that the reason that Yitzchak’s eyes were dimmed resulted from the Akeidah. At the Akeidah, the Medrash says that Hashem opened up shamayim for the malachim to see what was going on. Once they saw what was going on, they began to cry and their tears fell from shamayim and landed in Yitzchak’s eyes, damaging them permanently.
Rav Shmuel Berenbaum zt’l asked a question on this Medrash. Why did Hashem need to open up shamayim for the malachim to see what was happening? They couldn’t see from where they were in shamayim? And furthermore, the Medrash implies that the malachim only started crying once shamayim was opened up. Why? Surely they were cognizant of the Akeidah even before HaShem opened up shamayim. So what new idea was introduced to them when HaShem opened shamayim?
Rav Shmuel answers this question with a fundamental yesod. It says in the sefer Derech Hashem, the malachim themselves don’t have bechira. They don’t have the freedom to choose not to do Hashem’s will. In reality, when the akeida began, the malachim were watching, however to them, sitting from their place in shamayim, the Akeidah really didn’t seem like such a big deal. Hashem said to do something, he did it! They couldn’t comprehend with their limited scope of perception the truly great nisayon that Avraham was going through. Only when Hashem opened up shamayim and revealed to them the depths of the pain that Avraham was feeling were they truly able to grasp the greatness of the nisayon and the lofty level of Avraham Avinu. Only when they were able to see from an “olam hazeh” perspective were they truly able to understand what was going on.
This is why Hashem needed to open up shamayim to the malachim. This is why only then did they begin to cry. Because at that moment, they were able to feel Avraham’s pain; at that moment they were able to understand the nisayon.
The nekudeh itself is one which is incredibly relevant to all of us as well. In order to really feel someone else’s pain, we need to be able to view the nisayon from their point of view. How many times in life do we hear of a person in pain and distress and dismiss it simply because we ourselves aren’t the ones going through such pain? How many times do we ignore what our friend is feeling because we aren’t “living in his shoes?” Klal Yisrael is called “k’ish echad, b’lev echad.” Each one of us has an achrayus to feel the pain of our fellow Jew. As an example, if a person breaks his finger, even his little pinkie, he forgets about the rest of his body and for those moments of agonizing pain, he’s only able to focus on his finger. The same should be with the Jewish people. As long as even one yid is in distress, everyone else should feel that pain as if a part of their own body hurting.
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz was one who epitomized this yesod. He exuded a strong sense of love for every Yid. When there was a Jew in distress, he couldn’t be comforted. It was well known that Rav Chaim would read the paper every morning. However, when something terrible had happened to the Jewish people, his children would hide the paper from him because they knew how much it would distress him. In 1976, when a hundred Israeli passengers were being held hostage in Entebbe, his sons hid the paper from him. However, the crisis lasted a little more than a week, so when Rav Shmulevtiz realized he hadn’t seen the paper in a week, he realized something was wrong. He told his son specifically to go and bring him a paper. His son acquiesced and when Rav Shmulevitz read what was going on, he immediately threw down the paper and ran from his apartment into the beis medrash. (Note – For those of us who have learned in the Mir, one trait of the Mir is that seder doesn’t stop for anything. The only time I can remember when they paused a seder was to tell the bachurim not to leave the beis medrash because there was a riot going on just outside and it was a sakana to leave). Rav Shmulevetiz ran into the beis medrash, walked straight up to the bimah, klapped on the bimah and screamed out, “What would you do if it was one of your children on that flight?!” Then he immediately collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital. Upon his return, the same thing happened. He walked straight up to the bimah and proclaimed “what would YOU do if it was your child on that flight…..” Rav Chaim Shmulevitz was someone who embodied this yesod. He felt the pain of every yid until the point where he would faint from feeling the same distress that these hostages’ parents felt.
The nekudeh is very real to those who try to feel it. We don’t need Hashem to open up shamayim for us. We have the ability to create that connection and feel our brothers’ pain because we can understand what he’s going through. We can empathize and sympathize. Our avodah is to actually do it; to put ourselves in our brothers’ shoes and come to that higher level of understanding of his pain. When our brother feels pain, we should feel pain. Only with that approach can we come to the true achdus of “Ish echad b’leiv echad.”
The Vilna Gaon brings down proofs that Yaakov Avinu did in fact buy the bechor for a sum of money. We see this in the verse of Genesis (25:23), where Yakov says, וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יַֽעֲקֹ֗ב הִשָּׁ֤בְעָה לִּי֙ כַּיּ֔וֹם וַיִּשָּׁבַ֖ע ל֑וֹ וַיִּמְכֹּ֥ר אֶת־בְּכֹֽרָת֖וֹ לְיַֽעֲקֹֽב – And Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day”; so he swore to him, and he sold his birthright to Jacob. It may be inferred that there was a new sale after the oath.