Greatness of the צדיק בן צדיק
The Parshah begins ואלה תולדת יצחק בן אברהם אברהם הוליד את יצחק. As far as the meaning of the word תולדות, there are two opinions in the Rishonim. The Ramban, Ibn Ezra, and Sforno in the beginning of Parshas Noach explain that תולדות mean the “life story of”, and in that context is of Noach and doesn’t necessarily mean children. They support this because the Pasuk in Noach opens up with אלה תולדות נח and doesn’t speak about his children rather it continues נח איש צדיק תמים היה וכו' and only in the next Pasuk does it then list his children.
However Rashi in Noach explains אלה תולדות נח as הואיל והזכירו ספר בשבחו שנ' זכר צדיק לברכה or because עיקר תולדותיהם של צדיקים מעשים טובים. It is obvious that according to Rashi, תולדות only refers to children and not to the “life story of” and therefore he is bothered that the Pasuk continues with נח איש צדיק תמים היה וכו' and therefore brings two explanations, as quoted above. Meaning really, the Torah want’s to list his children it’s just because we mentioned נח, the Torah must pause and ספר בשבחו and another Pshat that מעשים טובים are also considered offspring of the Tzadik.
In our Parshah, when it begins with ואלה תולדת יצחק, Rashi writes יעקב ועשו האמורים בפרשה because he holds תולדות really means children it’s just the Pasuk doesn’t mention the children until a while later. Therefore Rashi writes that ואלה תולדת יצחק is a caption to what happens in the Parshah which is יעקב ועשו האמורים בפרשה.
The end of the Pasuk says אברהם הוליד את יצחק and Rashi writes Hashem was צר קלסטר פניו של יצחק to look like Avraham Avinu to refute the ליצני הדור. It could be suggested that this point doesn’t need to be said according to the other Rishonim because they could say since ואלה תולדת יצחק refers to the story of Yitzchaks life, so the end of the Pasuk that says אברהם הוליד את יצחק is an essential part of the story of Yitzchaks life.
If one thinks about it, Avraham Avinu has multiple Parshiyos about his life as well as Yaakov Avinu. But Toldos is the only Parshah that discusses the life of Yitzchak Avinu and even so, it’s mostly about Yaakov and Eisav. We don’t really read much about his life. So it could be not only was he צר קלסתר פניו של יצחק דומה לאברה-the physical sense, but also that story of his life was him living as the son of Avraham. Avraham was the founder of the faith and Yitzchak was the keeper of the faith. He continued in the ways of his ancestors and that is the story of Yitzchaks life, meaning Yitzchak, being the son of Avraham, is the story of his life.
As we see that so much of the little bit that the Torah does tell us about Yitzchaks life seems to be a repetition of what happened to his father. If one looks in Parshas Vayera in פרק כ, the Psukim begin with Avraham going to live in גרר. Then it says ויאמר אברהם אל שרה אשתו אחתי הוא and Avimelech take Sarah and gives her back. The Parshah continues in פרק כא with the episode of Avimelech wanting to make a treaty with Avraham and Avraham complains about the באר המים אשר גזלו עבדי אבימלך and Avimelech says he didn’t know about it. Then this episode concludes with על כן קרא למקום ההוא באר שבע כי שם נשבעו שניהם.
Now if one looks in our Parshah, it seems to repeat everything said above, but happening to Yitzchak. In פרק כו it says ויחן בנחל גרר and then he went to dig up the wells which his father had dug and he has a disagreement with Avimelech to which they eventually make a treaty. And then this episode ends off with ויקרא אתה שבעה על כן שם העיר באר שבע עד היום הזה. So it would seem a complete repetition of Avrahams life from having his wife taken away, to digging wells, and making a treaty. So it’s clear that the story of Yitzchaks life is really continuing and repeating the life of his father.
The Pasuk says ויעתר יצחק לה' לנכח אשתו וכו' ויעתר לו ה' ותהר רבקה אשתו. The simple reading of the Pasuk is that Yitzchak was the one davening and he was the one answered. But Rashi explains on the words לנכח אשתו that they were each davening in separate corners and therefore when the Pasuk says ויעתר לו, it begs an interpretation why was Yitzchak answered and not Rivka. Rashi, quoting the Gemara in Yevamos 64a, writes שאין דומה תפלת צדיק בן צדיק לתפלת צדיק בן רשע. But how could this be that the Tefilah of Yitzchak, the צדיק בן צדיק, was greater than the Tefilah of Rivka the צדיק בן רשע? After all, she was a self-made person. The Pasuk even describes again that she was בת בתואל הארמי מפדן ארם אחות לבן, to further express how impressive she was that she came from such a family and such a place and she didn’t learn from their ways and she became who she became. As opposed to Yitzchak whose father was Avraham, he was coming from such a holy place, his greatness would seem less impressive than Rivka.
Perhaps one Pshat could be that as impressive as the צדיק בן רשע is, there is the excitement of being a trailblazer, a new beginning. As opposed to Yitzchak who was the צדיק בן צדיק, in a sense it was a unique challenge in being able to continue in his father’s way as children often want to differentiate themselves and be different. His path lacked newness and excitement. He had to just continue in the ways of his ancestors and he didn’t get to forge his own path. So much so that we see Yitzchak was busy with digging the wells that his father dug. The same exact thing.
Similarly, in Tehillim chapter 24, the Pasuk says מי יעלה בהר ה' ומי יקום במקום קדשו. There is a special challenge to climb the mountain, and there is an additional challenge to stay on the mountain. Sometimes, the challenge of staying on the mountain is the greater challenge. Sometimes, people that are born on the mountain are curious to what it looks like at the bottom of the mountain and therefore the courage to continue to in his father’s ways, and to remain on the mountain has special significance.
By the wells the Pasuk says סתמום פלשתים וימלאום עפר. This would seem backwards because סתמום means they stuffed them so it should first say וימלאום עפר that they filled it with dirt and then סתמום פלשתים that it was stuffed up. So why does the Pasuk say it in this order?
על פי דרוש, it can be explained that סתמום פלשתים is from the word סתם, that the wells first became insignificant, something סתם. Once it becomes something like סתם, then it becomes something stuffed with earth which is a second stage.
In the generation after the Holocaust, there was a revolution of creating Yeshivos. The Jews were starting from a new beginning. But in the next generation, our generation, we are like the צדיק בן צדיק, we were born on the mountain. Therefore out challenge is the מי יקום. Even every day, if you lived the way you were supposed to, it’s still the צדיק בן צדיק challenge the next day still has with it the challenge of staying on the mountain.
The greatness of the צדיק בן צדיק is that he must continue down the road that was paved for him. He must follow the trail that has been blazed, without the ability to deviate and create his own path. Therefore we say שאין דומה תפלת צדיק בן רשע לתפלת צדיק בן צדיק.
The Maharsha on that Gemara in Yevamos writes לענין שתהא התפלה מקובלת יותר לבטל גזירת העקרות קיימא הך סברא כדאמר הכא אינו דומה וכו'. He doesn’t elaborate but he seems to stress that specifically in Tefilah there is this מעלה of the צדיק בן צדיק over the צדיק בן רשע.
(This Shabbos ה כסלו, is the Yahrzeit of the Maharsha who died in 1631. It’s not clear what the acronym מהרש"א stands for. Either it’s his name, שמואל אליעזר, or the “א” is for אידל which was after his mother in law אידל so אידלש is אידל son in law. His mother in law was a very wealthy lady and she supported his Yeshiva. It shouldn’t be surprising that his mother in law supported his Yeshiva because after all אשת חיל really means an industrious women as the Targum interprets the word חיל in the Pasuk וישראל עושה חיל as ישראל יצלח בנכסין-property. Eishes Chayil really describes an industrious woman as it says היתה כאניות סוחר ממרחק תביא לחמה וכו' זממה שדה ותקחהו וכו'. But maybe that’s why its אשת חיל מי ימצא because we don’t really find women being the breadwinners.
It’s interesting to note that regarding the Maharsha, the Bach in Tshvos HaChadashos Siman 43 wrote to the heads of the ועד ארבעה ארצות who convened in Lublin the following:והנה עמכם גדול הדור הגאון מוהר"ר שמואל סג"ל אב"ד ור"מ דק"ק לובלין (מהרש"א) הי' לכם להמתיק סוד ועצה עמו. He was being critical of them that they shouldn’t have made a decision without first discussing the matter with the Gadol HaDor, the Maharsha. Additionally, the Chazon Ish writes in the first letter in Iggros Chazon Ish, the following: לא יפה עשו דור האחרון אשר עזבו לימוד ספר מהרש"א ז"ל אשר מתנה טובה נתנה לישראל לזכות בו הדורות הבאים אחריו וכו' והגאון ר' עקיבא איגר לא הניח דבר מספרו ומיום שעזבוהו אבדו את ידיעת הפשט כולו. Also, the איגלי טל quoting his father in the law the Kutzker Rebbeואותי הזהיר מאוד לישא וליתן בפשט כעין ספר המהרש"א ובספר מהרשש"ך.
As a side note, The Maharsha writes on the Gemara in Brachos 47a that says כל העונה אמן יותר מדאי אינו אלא טועה the following: שהוא סובר שעל ידי שיאריך באמן יאריך ימים ושנים כדאמרינן בסמוך כל המאריך באמן מאריכין לו ימיו ושנותיו והוא טועה דאריכות ימים ושנים יותר מדאי נמי אינן טובים כמ"ש והגיעו שנים אשר תאמר אין לי בהם חפץ וגו' וק"ל. He explains that he is making a mistake because he is מאריך יותר מדאי because he wants to live יותר מדאי but living יותר מדאי is not such a good thing.)
Perhaps an explanation as to why specifically regarding Tefilah it’s the צדיק בן צדיק who has the advantage over the צדיק בן רשע is as follows. Rabbeinu Yonah in Brachos 6b writes דרק מי שיש בידו מידת הענוה תפלתו מקובלת לפני המקום-only someone who has the character trait of humility will have his Tefilah accepted in front of Hashem. Similarly, the Chovos HaLevavos in Shar Cheshbon HaNefesh Chapter 3 writes the following:
וראוי לך, אחי, שתדע, כי כוונתנו בתפלה אינה כי אם כלות הנפש אל האלהים וכניעתה לפניו עם רוממותה לבוראה ושבחה והודאתה לשמו והשלכת כל יהביה עליו.
According to this, it could be said that as impressive as the צדיק בן רשע is, it is very difficult for him not to feel a sense of accomplishment that he reached through his efforts and therefore he will not be able to humble and be מכניע himself to the point which is required for his Tefilah to be accepted more than the צדיק בן צדיק. The צדיק בן צדיק however can reach such a level of humility because he is constantly in the shadow of his father and is constantly feeling that he has not yet reached the level of his father and therefore this feeling of humility and הכנעה exists much more by the צדיק בן צדיק than the צדיק בן רשע. Tefilah is about Hashem filling our emptiness and therefore the emptier a person experiences himself as, the more he can be a כלי for Hashem’s Brachah.
In the new Chumashim, the Girsa in Rashi is changed to שאין דומה תפלת צדיק בן רשע לתפלת צדיק בן צדיק. However in the older Chumashim, the version is שאין דומה תפלת צדיק בן צדיק לתפלת צדיק בן רשע as is the Girsa in the Gemara in Yevamos. Usually, whenever the Gemara has a שאין דומה וכו', the second is greater than the first. For examples we says שאין דומה שמיעה לראיה. If Chazal were trying to express that the Tefilah of the צדיק בן צדיק is greater, then this version has it backwards. The Rav said the following answer in the name of his brother. The continuation of the Gemara in Yevamos says מפני מה היו אבותינו עקורים מפני שהקב"ה מתאוה לתפילתן של צדיקים. According to this Gemara, the more interested Hashem is in one’s Tefilah, the more he will delay answering and fulfilling it because it’s sweet and he wants to hear it more. Therefore it makes sense to say that Yitzchak was answered first because שאין דומה תפלת צדיק בן צדיק לתפלת צדיק בן רשע that the Tefilah of the צדיק בן צדיק is less interesting to Hashem and therefore it is answered right away. As opposed to the Tefilah of the צדיק בן רשע which is much sweeter and Hashem has more interested in hearing from this person, therefore he delays fulfilling it.
Seeing with an earthly perspective
ויהי כי זקן יצחק ותכהין עיניו מראות (כז,א)
Rashi brings multiple explanations as to how Yitzchaks eyes dimmed. One of the explanation, from the Medrash, is that by the Akeida, Hashem opened up the heavens and the Angels began to cry and the tears went into the eyes of Yitzchak.
The Rav heard in the name of Reb Shmuel Birnbaum that he asked why was it necessary for Hashem to open the heavens in order for the Malachim to see what was going on? Were they not able to see through the clouds had Hashem not opened the Shamayim? He answered that from an angelic perspective, there is no place to cry as everything is clear and nothing is sad and tragic. Only when looking at something from an earthly perspective is there room to cry because we don’t understand. If Hashem wouldn’t have opened the heavens, the Malachim would be seeing what was happening from an angelic and heavenly perspective and there would be no need to cry as it would be clear, especially since the plan wasn’t for Yitzchak to be sacrificed. However, by opening the Shamayim, Hashem was giving them a perspective that humans experience and that’s why they cried.
In a similar vein, the Kedushas Levi in Parshas Chukas writes the following about a story in Berachos 34b:
ושוב מעשה ברבי חנינא בן דוסא שהלך ללמוד תורה אצל רבי יוחנן בן זכאי, וחלה בנו של רבי יוחנן בן זכאי. אמר לו: חנינא בני, בקש עליו רחמים ויחיה. הניח ראשו בין ברכיו ובקש עליו רחמים - וחיה. אמר רבי יוחנן בן זכאי: אלמלי הטיח בן זכאי את ראשו בין ברכיו כל היום כולו - לא היו משגיחים עליו. אמרה לו אשתו: וכי חנינא גדול ממך? אמר לה: לאו, אלא הוא דומה כעבד לפני המלך, ואני דומה כשר לפני המלך.
One time Reb Yochanan Ben Zakkai’s son fell ill and RYB”Z asked his Talmid Reb Chanina Ben Dosa to daven for his son’s wellbeing. So he placed his head in between his knees and davened and the child was healed. After he was healed, the wife of Reb Yochanan Ben Zakkai asked her husband, is Reb Chanina greater than you? To which Reb Yochanan answered that he himself is actually greater; but while he is like a minister to the king, Reb Chanina is more like a servant to the king.
Rashi explains כעבד - בן בית, נכנס ויוצא שלא ברשות and כשר לפני המלך - שאינו רגיל לבא לפניו.
The Kedushas Levi explains this story by saying that a minister is part of the king’s counsel and therefore he is totally identified with the king’s whole purpose and way of viewing things. However, a servant who is serving the king only has his particular job and has no access and insight to the broader picture.
So Reb Chanina could daven better for Reb Yochanan’s sick son, because he only relates to Hashem as a servant who doesn’t see and understand the big picture. However, Reb Yochanan Ben Zakai who is compared to that of a minister to the king, it is difficult for him to daven for a tragedy because he sees and understand the bigger picture that there isn’t really anything tragic as everything makes sense. This is expressed in the הניח ראשו בין ברכיו that he put his head down which is the idea of נפילת אפים that he is not looking from the high perspective in which everything is clear rather he is looking at it from the lower perspective which is painful.
Disgracing the בכורה
When Yaakov asks to buy the בכרה off of Eisav, he responds הנה אנכי הולך למות ולמה זה לי בכרה. Rashi says the following conversation took place between Eisav asked Yaakov: אמר עשו מה טיבו של עבודה זו? אמר לו כמה אזהרות ועונשין ומתות תלויין בה וכו' אמר אני הולך למות על ידה אם כן מה חפץ לי בה. Only later does the Pasuk say ויבז עשו את הבכרה.
The Medrash says אברהם יצא ממנו ישמעאל וכו' יצחק יצא ממנו עשו וכו' אבל יעקב מיטתו שלימה כל בניו צדיקים. The meaning of יצא ממנו could mean that the offspring is really connected to the root of where he came from. Therefore, the קלקל of Yishmael was specifically within the Midah of Avraham Avinu and the קלקל of Eisav was specifically in the Midah of Yitzchak. It’s brought down in the Sefarim HaKedoshim that Yishmael is the פסולת of the מידת החסד ואהבה and Eisav is the פסולת of the מידת הגבורה והיראה. When Hashem offered the Torah to other nations, Yishmael rejected because of לא תנאף which has to do with the Midah of Chessed as it says by the עריות-חסד הוא because it is the excess of אהבה and Eisav rejected because of לא תרצח which has to do with the Midah of Gevurah which is the root of כעס.
It’s clear in the Parshah that Eisav had this מידת היראה והגבורה within him. Eisav had the respect and חשיבות for the Avodah in the Beis Hamikdash however he had a fear from it. This פחד ויראה that Eisav had which is the reason he הנה אנכי הולך למות is the פסולת of פחד יצחק היה לי. The Gemara says that the Torah can either be the סם החיים or the סם המות. If a person looks at everything in the Torah as an awesome opportunity and responsibility and he rises to the challenge, then for such a person the Torah will be סם החיים as it’ll be empowering. However, if a person see everything in the Torah and throws in the towel and says הנה אנכי הולך למות, then for him it will be paralyzing and will be סם המות.
The פחד ויראה that Eisav experienced was paralyzing. It caused him to have יאוש and he lacked the self confidence that was needed to rise to the challenge. Instead of having this פחד ויראה empower him, he allowed it to paralyze him. Only once he let that fear paralyze him, only then does it say ויבז עשו את הבכרה because a person can’t live with himself that he gave up and gave in on a major opportunity. Therefore only as a result of passing up on the בכרה did he disgrace it and say that it had no value.