Sunday, December 20, 2015

501 - Toldos

In this week's parsha, the Torah introduces us to Yaakov Avinu and describes him as, "a wholesome man residing in tents" (Bereishis 25:27). While Rashi explains that the tents referred to here are the tents of Sheim and Eiver, Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash, Daas Shlomo) cites the mekubalim who explain that the Torah is referring to the tents of Avraham and Yitzchak. Avraham personified the attribute of chessed and Yitzchak personified the attribute of yir'ah/din (fear of Hashem/strict judgment).
In essence, these are two contradictory middos, since chessed implies overflowing kindness even to the undeserving, while din implies sticking to the letter of the law, and possibly even punishing those undeserving of kindness. Yaakov is referred to as the chosen of our three Avos because he took the attribute found in the tent of Avraham and the attribute found in the tent of Yitzchak and blended them together thereby creating within himself the middah of emes.
When Yaakov, disguised as Eisav, entered Yitzchak's tent in order to receive his blessings, Yitzchak declared, "The fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field which Hashem has blessed". Rashi explains that the fragrance of a field refers to the delicious smell of an apple orchard. How did the smell of apples personify Yaakov? Rav Wolbe explains that an apple is red on the outside and white on the inside. Red symbolizes din while white represents chessed. An apple combines bothchessed and din into a single entity, thus it parallels Yaakov who combined both these middos into a singlemiddah of emes.
The mixture of both chessed and yir'ah is imperative in a person's daily avodas Hashem. The Mesillas Yesharim writes that all aspects of this world are in reality various different trials to determine a person's level of Torah adherence: "Poverty poses a test and affluence poses a test, as Shlomo Hamelech stated, 'Lest I become satiated and declare 'Who is Hashem?' and lest I become impoverished and steal'... Thus whichever way one turns he is faced with a test. If he is a warrior and victorious on all fronts, he has achieved his goal and reached perfection."
Accordingly, perfection is a result of prevailing over the many challenges that come a person's way. How does one accomplish such a feat? He achieves this goal by employing both the middah of chessed and the middah ofyir'ah. Chessed - kindness - affects all of one's interpersonal relationships. A kind person will not steal from others - the test which faces the impoverished. On the other hand, yir'ah is the key to mitzvos bein adom laMakom since one who fears Hashem will do everything possible not to rebel against Him - the test which faces the affluent.
Unbridled chessed can be dangerous. Helping another person at the expense of one's bein adom laMakom, such as offering to shop for someone in a store which compromises one's religious standards, is not a truechessed. Conversely, yir'ah which prompts someone to double park in order to get to mincha, on time thereby causing another person aggravation, is not true yir'ah. Themiddah of Yaakov is truth because a combination ofchessed and yir'ah is the truest manifestation of both of these middos. We all have the ingredients needed, we just have to create the perfect blend.

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