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Weekly Hashkafa Shiur #117 - A Deeper Understanding of the Story of Yaakov and Esav

Given 11/28/2022

Summary Introduction

Last week I spoke about the hidden story of Ya’akov and Esav which is a fascinating look at how the Torah should be learned. When you learn it that way, uncovering the hidden, the covert story, many questions are answered. I’m trying to show one example of how the Torah can be learned using the story of Ya’akov and Esav. I wish to continue with this approach to give you a unique understanding and appreciation for the depth of Torah, how it expresses a whole different story on a different level using the exact same verses—which is astounding.

Before I begin, this shiur should be a merit for the health and success of the families of Regina bas Yosef Reuven, and Yeshaya ben Yisrael Binyamin Wolf ben Tzvi Hersh, and Baruch ben Benyamin Wolf.

Yitzchak Loved Esav

Last week I ended with: why did Yitzchak love Esav? In fact, the Torah says that. It says, “V’Yitzchak ohev Esav”—and Yitzchak loved Esav. It’s not that he had a preference for Esav. The Zohar says that “one loves its kind.” We know that the avodah, the service, the work of Yitzchak was that of gevurah—strength, discipline. The job of Esav, being one half of tiferes, the “left side,” the “gevurah side, was to subdue the Satan. His neshama was tied to the Satan and that’s why he had this powerful tendency toward sinning. It was in order to subdue the Satan by not sinning. By resisting, he would have depleted the Satan of all the holiness he’d garnered from the sins of the Jews. Therefore, Yitzchak loved Esav; they had similar jobs.

Yitzchak’s service was about exerting his might of self-discipline, building himself. It’s not that he had to go out into the world and subdue evil. He needed only to subdue the evil inclination within himself. Like it says in “Pirkei Avos”: “Eize gibor?”—who is considered a strong man. It then answers, “Ha’kovesh es yisro”—he who subdues, prevails over, his yetzer ha’ra—evil inclination. That’s internal, right? His job was to work on himself, not to go outside; that’s Avraham. Esav was an “ish sadeh”—man of the field. He went out into the world to subdue evil. How?—by not falling into evil even though it had such a powerful yetzer ha’ra—evil inclination over him.

It’s not that YItzchak didn’t love Yaakov. It’s like the saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Yitzchak and Esav had commonality, camaraderie, so they “flock together.”

The Soul Power of a Patriarch

We now come to the sale by Esav of his birthright, his firstborn status, to Ya’akov Avinu. It’s very difficult to understand why he did that. We know the story so I’m not going to repeat it. We know that Esav came from the field and he’s “wiped” and says to Ya’akov something to the effect of: I’m really tired and I see that you’re making a dish of red lentils (soup). Give me some; I’m starving.

Ya’akov assents but under the condition that you sell me your firstborn status. This is what he tells Esav.

Okay, says Esav. I’ll sell it to you. Ya’akov gives him the bowl of lentils and Esav eats.

People wonder at this. What’s going on here? How could a brother do this to his brother? Everything is money? The anti-Semites point to this. This is the Jews again; it’s all about money. Of course, that’s nonsense. The question is: why did he give lentils in exchange for the birthright? It was a sale. Why doesn’t a brother love a brother and say, “Of course, if you want the lentils, I’ll give them to you.” A brother loves a brother. The question as to why he did this is elementary but the answer is difficult.

There are certain ideas you need to know and then you’ll see how profound this sale was, and how necessary. In fact, if Ya’akov did not give the lentils in exchange for Esav’s birthright, Esav could have facilitated the destruction of the world! Yes, Esav would have destroyed the world.

You’re looking at me and asking: what in the world does he mean?

First of all, why was Ya’akov making these lentils? Avraham Avinu had just died that week and Yitzchak was “sitting shiva,” enacting the seven days of mourning. The minhag—tradition is to prepare food for the mourner. Ya’akov was making lentils for his father, Yitzchak. By the way, the brothers were both fifteen-years-old at that point. Esav comes from the field and the midrash states that, on that day, Esav committed five grievous sins. That’s what Esav was, if you remember what I said from last week’s shiur. One of the sins was that he killed Nimrod. He also took men’s wives and had relations with them. He did a whole bunch of really bad stuff and that’s why he came back tired, tired from sinning. This was in the week that Avraham Avinu died.

Keep in mind that Esav was a patriarch, as I explained last week. The soul of a patriarch is enormous. If a patriarch does a mitzvah, he brings down an incredible amount of Divine energy, Divine Light. If he sins, he gives an enormous amount of that Divine energy to the Satan. This is the risk and the benefit of having an eminent and distinguished neshama. The greater the neshama, the greater the power over good or evil. Since Esav is an av, you could imagine what having committed five sins gave to the Satan, the amount of yanika—nourishment Esav provided the Satan. Esav isn’t a regular guy; he’s a patriarch!

When Esav asked for the lentils, Ya’akov realized something. Ya’akov reasoned that, because Esav has the power of tikkun—rectification at the level of a patriarch, were he to keep sinning, his power of kilkul—damage would be devastating to the briya—Creation. Ya’akov thinks: Esav will destroy us because he’s that powerful. I must take away that ability.

What is “birthright status”? The Kohen has the high status as priest. Before the Kohanim got it, it was the bechorim—the firstborn. They had the status of being the “high priest” of that family, spiritually. The spiritual trajectory of mitzvos, of spirituality for the family, was the firstborn. The direction of the family, of the children, was Esav’s job. This gives Esav even greater power to damage Creation because he’s a firstborn. Ya’akov realized: Wow! I have to take away his abiity to do the tikkun. Now we begin to understand what Ya’akov was going through. He realized Esav is a sinner and we see this from two proofs.

Two Proofs

The first is when Ya’akov says to Esav that he wants to give him the lentils as a sale. He doesn’t want to give Esav the lentils for free. To get the lentils in exchange for the birthright meant that Esav would lose his power of tikkun. Ya’akov says, “michra ka’hayom b’choruscha li”—sell me as of today your firstborn status. He could have said, “Please sell me your birthright status.” Why does he say, instead, “Sell me, as of today....” What’s that supposed to mean?

Here is where we see how the Torah, in one word, describes the deeper meaning of the entire event. Why did Ya’akov want to purchase the firstborn status?—to take away Esav’s ability to do the tikkun, to save the planet. We begin to realize that the job of Esav is the forerunner of Mashiach ben Yosef whose job is to conquer and destroy evil. What are we looking at here? The Torah here reveals Ya’akov’s motive when he says, “Sell me as of today...,” because Yitzchak was sitting shiva on that day.

Avraham was to have lived to the age of 180, just like Yitzchak. Instead, he lived to be 175. Five years were denied him because G-D told him, “You will die in a good old age that you will not see tzuras—problems.” If that day was when Esav went public with his sins and Avraham had lived another five years, he’d have lived to see the terrible life Esav was living, what sins he was doing. It would have caused Avraham Avinu excruciating pain seeing his grandson sinning and destroying Creation. G-D, therefore, spared him that grief. Remember, it’s not just a grandson’s sins but the power of an av to destroy the Creation that was so dangerous.

To understand this more fully, consider that every day in the life of an av is spectacular, the Divinity it brings down, the kedusha—holiness it affords the world for every day that he worships and serves G-D. Imagine the devastation Esav could have wrought that G-D took Avraham’s life, denying him five years of extraordinary avodah—service. Creation was denied that.

“Sell me as of today” emphasizes that is it “this day” that you sinned and is why G-D took Avraham Avinu before his time and denied the Creation the spiritual favor of Avraham Avinu and the tikkun it would have brought. That one word “today” reveals Ya’akov’s motive of acquiring the birthright to save Creation. Isn’t that astounding, in one word!

We may say: wait a minute! Where do we see Esav was such a rasha—evildoer? The midrash says it but where is it located in the Chumash—5 Books of Moses? How does G-D reveal to us the sinning of Esav? It’s from the last word in the pasuk—verse. Esav ate, and then it says he “despised” the firstborn status. It’s a holy task and Esav despised it! What kind of gaava—arrogance, hubris, is that? We see his evil, that he could despise that which is the spiritual task of the firstborn. He wanted Olam Ha’Ze, this (material) world. I’m not interested in spirituality or bringing G-D closer, Esav could say. The Torah reveals his evil and why Ya’akov wanted the sale. Astonishing, isn’t it!

That people learn this over and over and have no concept of what is really being said because it’s veiled! The Torah reveals the entire incident in one or two words. The Torah is very frugal with its words to reveal true meaning.

As a result of Ya’akov’s initiative, the Satan could no longer take from the holiness being brought down because Esav no longer has the ability of tikkun. The damage he did was the death of Avraham Avinu five years prematurely.

Material Blessing for the Forerunner of Mashiach ben Yosef

The next portion is the blessings that Yitzchak gave, intended for Esav. He told Esav to get his dinner. Many times, a person’s blessing depends on—guess what!—food. It’s not the food or the materialism that the tzadik—righteous individual wants. When you eat food, it does something to your physiology so you feel good and, because you feel good, you have the enthusiasm and the strength to give a person a blessing.

Yitzchak sent Esav to get his food and then he would bless him. What? Give him the blessing? If he gives Esav the blessing, he will destroy Creation. Yitzchak didn’t know about the sale. Only Ya’akov and Esav knew of it. Esav certainly did sin and Yitzchak knew that, but he didn’t know how much he sinned, only that he did so from time to time because he knew what Esav’s job was, one of wrenching struggles.

Remember what I mentioned last week, what the Paneach Rosa said, that if Esav had done his job as he was supposed to, he’d have been twice as great as Ya’akov. Have you any idea of what it is to have a monumental struggle with your yetzer ha’ra and win? It is hard to believe how he survived at all. Yitzchak knew of Esav’s struggle and presumed he would sin at times but didn’t know that Esav had abandoned spirituality.

A second idea was to give the blessings to Esav intending that it would m’chazek—strengthen him to continue with the job. What are the blessings all about? Yitzchak wanted to give Esav the job permanently as a forerunner of Mashiach ben Yosef. All the blessings are material, about conquering other nations, and you shall be over them and they shall serve you. These are not spiritual blessings but those given to a forerunner of the Mashiach ben Yosef to do his job to subdue evil and do what’s called “kfias ha’ra”—subduing evil and destroying it. He didn’t know that Esav had already given away the birthright. His intent to give the blessing was to give permanence to the job of contending with evil.

In examining the content of the blessings which, ultimately, went to Ya’akov to fight evil, they’re all about material success which is what Mashiach ben Yosef has to have. G-D, of course, knows what was happening and that Yitzchak did not understand the extent of Esav’s evil so He blinded Yitzchak. We know that the Torah says that the eyes of Yitzchak “became dim” and he would not see who is standing before him. The goal of this was ordained, that Esav cannot have the permanence of Mashiach ben Yosef which would destroy Creation.

Ya’akov comes in, taking a terrible risk, and Yitzchak is unaware; Ya’akov is fooling his father but it’s not just deception. He’s actually taking blessings intended for Esav, stealing them. Why would Ya’akov do that? He knows that if his father blesses Esav, the Creation is doomed. Esav would have the power of tikkun and kilkul—damage and could wipe out Creation or severely damage it. Ya’akov agreed with his mother that he must take it. Instead of explaining the situation to Yitzchak involving a lot of problems because Yitzchak loved Esav, Ya’akov agreed with Rivka to hide his intents and receive the blessings.

When Esav returns later and stands before Yitzchak and asks, “Do you have a blessing for me?” Yitzchak asks: who are you? I already gave the blessings to Esav.

Esav is dumbfounded. What do you mean ‘who are you’? I am your firstborn son, Esav. The Torah says, amazingly—again the hidden terminology of the Torah subtly tells what happened—that Yitzchak realized something very frightening and we’re told that he trembled, severely trembled. The Torah says: “V’yechrad Yitzchak charadah gedola ad me’od,”—he trembled an unbelievable trembling. We presume that Yitzchak is trembling because he realized that he’d been fooled and he gave the blessings to Ya’akov. Were that the case, he should have been enraged that he had just been made to look the fool by Ya’akov Avinu. Instead, he was terrified with exceedingly great pachad--fear realizing that G-D orchestrated all this. He realized that, had he given the inyan mashiach—matter of messiah to Esav, he’d have given him the power of tikkun and kilkul, permanently, to Esav. Yitzchak had ruach ha’kodesh—holy spirit and would have known the truth. That it was kept from him meant that G-D did not want Esav to get the blessings because he was a rasha with terrible destructive power. G-D withheld this knowledge. Yitzchak’s fear, his pachad norah—exceedingly great fear, terror, was a form of thanks to G-D for saving him from what could have been contributing to such unspeakable destruction.

Imagine performing an act and realizing, right after you did it, that you’d stopped the mashiach from coming, that you, single-handedly, had done such a thing! You’d be crushed but would also have fear upon the realization of what you’d done. That’s what Yitzchak felt. The Torah says this, alludes to this. It’s amazing how the Torah conveys this, reveals the essence of the story in one phrase.

Esav is standing in front of Yitzchak crying and pleading: maybe you have something left for me? What was Esav’s problem? Was it due to his being made to feel the fool that Ya’akov “stole” the brachos—blessings in order to save Creation? He should have been enraged which, later, he was, and why he threatened to kill the guy after my father dies. But in this instance, he cried. Why?

Esav’s Love for Yitzchak and the Tikkun Process

It’s important to understand that Esav loved his father and wanted his father to bless him. What do you do when you love somebody? You want to receive that which they want to give and cherish it. That’s one of the reasons why Esav wanted the blessing and why, instead of being enraged, he cried. That mitzvah—and it was a mitzvah of demonstrating kibud av v’eim—was being expressed by Esav’s despair. As I said last week, Esav’s fulfillment of that mitzvah was very great and wanting those blessing was an expression of kibud av, honoring his father.

This mitzvah that he performed so meticulously posed great difficulties for Ya’akov because he always had to contend with Esav’s great kavod—honor of their father. Yitzchak felt terrible and not just because Esav was a sinner and didn’t have the blessings. My son has no part in the tikkun process. To a patriarch, the tikkun is everything! There is no life purpose without being involved in the tikkun process and it’s not only about rectifying Creation; it’s about conferring honor upon G-D, about revealing heavenly majesty.

Yitzchak does something unusual: he gives Esav a blessing: as long as Ya’akov and his descendants will observe the mitzvos, they will have ascendancy over you but, if they sin, you will have ascendancy over them and you can punish them. Why would a father do that, have one child fight with the other and have one child persecute his brother?

What Yitzchak did is phenomenal! It’s as if he were saying: Ya’akov and his descendants must do the tikkun, the mitzvos. If they don’t, they have to atone for their sins, an atonement earned through yessurim—suffering and who will persecute them to make them suffer?—you (Esav) and your descendants. Esav’s fundamental job will be to persecute Ya’akov’s descendants when they don’t observe mitzvos or do teshuva. This retains Esav as part of the tikkun process, indirectly. It was a stroke of genius. He made Esav the cause of Ya’akov’s teshuva!

We know who Esav’s descendants were: Edom, Rome, Christianity. We know about all the butchery, slaughter, persecution, wrought by those entities over the millennia. Rome destroyed the Second Temple. Yitzchak gave Esav this job so he’d, at least, have the merit of restoring Ya’akov through teshuva.

The problem is that Esav’s intent, and that of his descendants, isn’t to do the Will of G-D. It’s to benefit themselves through the harm and destruction to the Jewish people. We see that from a Gemara in “Avodah Zara,” where it speaks about the End of Time, when Edom/Esav/Rome will come to G-D on Judgment Day and say: we realize what we did but we did it because we wanted to help the Jews do the tikkun which was Yitzchak’s original intent.

G-D responds: help the Jews? Whatever you did was to benefit yourselves, not the Jews. You persecuted them as much as you could. The roads, the marketplaces you insist you built for the general good, for the good of the Jews, was for yourselves. What they achieved was true, that it did help the Jews, but inadvertently. They built civilization, yes, but their kavanah—intent was to destroy for their own gain. They have no “legal right” to the Future World.

The Gemara then points out that G-D conveyed: since the Jews did benefit My people, I will give you one chance, one mitzvah called “sukkah” and let’s see what you do. Without getting into the details, they botched it. Therefore, generally, many will not get the Future World. The main idea is that Esav would say, “I did it for the benefit of the Jews” which was Yitzchak’s original intention, to keep Esav a participant in the tikkun process.

Edom/Christianity’s Job

I do have to say, however, that goyim, in a certain sense, many of them, do get the Future World because their actions did, indirectly, benefit the Jews to some extent, especially those who are Noachide. They, certainly, get the Future World.

There’s another way the goyim benefit. The RaMBaM says that, when the Jews sinned and the Beis Ha’Mikdash was destroyed, G-D gave the job, not of tikkun, but of magnifying His Name, to the goyim. It’s true. the RaMBaM says this. The Christians speak about a messiah, that there will be an End, that one must believe in G-D. Paganism doesn’t deal with any of this. So, they were assigned the task of promoting the honor of G-D and for that they will be rewarded.

Their task has been accomplished in two ways; they persecuted the Jews done, primarily, for their own good, and they spread the honor of G-D with the New Testament. Even though it’s a terrible document that bad-mouths, slanders, and defames the Jews, it also promotes, in a sense, G-D, even though it promotes somebody else too.

Yitzchak gave Esav, again, the ability to be part of the tikkun but indirectly. We know understand who Esav really is and what Yitzchak did. It was a brilliant idea to save his son. The problem is that what Yitzchak did would have dire repercussions.

One Patriarch, Two Jobs

Yitzchak blesses Ya’akov cognizant of the mistake he made. What does all this mean? The answers are crucial to understand. There are four jobs to do which is why there are four avos, patriarchs. Ya’akov’s job was to bring down kedusha. Esav’s job was to contend with the temptations of the Satan, subdue and, ultimately, destroy him. Esav, the fourth av, the fourth pillar, is now a rasha and no longer has the power of tikkun, directly, so who will take over the job of Esav? Someone has to destroy the Satan.

Esav’s job was given to Ya’akov Avinu; he had to double-up, piggy-back. He had to bring down holiness and subdue evil by going “into the field” and becoming an ish sadeh—man of the field. Ya’akov accepted the blessings that Yitzchal repeated to him and so had an idea of the task required of not only Mashiach ben David to bring holiness but also that of Mashiach ben Yosef.

If you have the job of Esav, guess what! You can no longer stay home and learn. You have to “go out” into the klippah—“husk” that occludes righteousness into the world filled with sin. That’s why Ya’akov had to leave his home and go to Laban, an arch-enemy, one of the major savants of evil. That’s what the Torah alludes to when it says, “V’yeitzei Ya’akov mi’Be’er Sheva l’Charan.” Rashi says that it could merely have said Ya’akov went to Charan. The text mention of leaving Be’er Sheva subtley indicates the reason he had to go to Charan, because he became the ish sadeh. He became the man in the field who must remain righteous in the midst of evil. He had to leave his prior condition and assume another. Charan represents the evil of the world and Laban was the evil person with whom he would contend. Amazing how the Torah alludes to truth using words that imply the subtlety of such truths.

Ya’akov is about to enter Charan when he realizes: I could have gone to Har Moriah where the Beis Ha’Mikdash would stand but he didn’t go there. G-D did a miracle and returned him to Har Moriah where he dreams of the ladder upon which angels are ascending and descending and G-D promises that He’s going to protect him.

Why would he see these ascending and descending angels? It was a prophetic vision because the angels were telling him: Ya’akov, you have a new job. There are two ways of serving G-D. The first is through observing mitzvos and learning Torah thereby bringing holiness into Creation. Those angels were going up the ladder toward heaven to bring down holiness. The angels going down were indicative of those who serve G-D by going into the klippah, into the tumah—impurity, the pollution, yet remain righteous. The dream told him: You now have a new job. There has to be an av that does that job so that’s your additional tikkun responsibility for the coming years.

There’s one more idea and then I will stop for now. Before Ya’akov Avinu goes, he realizes: I’ve been learning Torah. The blessings were given to him when he was 63-years-old, an older man, middle-aged, even past, and, given all the Torah I learned to increase holiness, is it really enough Torah to protect me against the machination of the yetzer ha’ra—evil inclination? I have to protect myself by learning the chochma—wisdom of character development so I can manage being in an environment of evil and can deal with the machinations of the Satan.

He decided to take a formidable detour to the Yeshiva of Shem v’Ever. He remained there for fourteen years! It is said that he didn’t sleep. When he was tired, he’d put his head down to sleep but not in a bed; he didn’t sleep in a bed for fourteen years. He had to learn how to deal with the Satan. We don’t know what he learned there but the ideas must have been profound kabbalistic concepts. When you’re about to enter the klippah, to enter the world of work, of sinning, of degradation and debasement, you have to be prepared. He prepared himself for descending into the filth and pollution with which the world beckons.

On one level, the story is about two brothers competing for their father’s blessings but, on another level, the hidden level, you’re learning a whole different story. It’s about the spiritual task that they have and the continuity of that task and what G-D does to make sure they do them. It’s a narrative about heaven more than that of earth.

People get involved in the world and think it’s all about money and business etc. This has nothing to do with eternal life. What is your spiritual mission and how can you enhance the doing of it? The tragedy is that man doesn’t understand until it’s too late. Not only does man not fulfill his spiritual mission to remain righteous and promote holiness, he sins terribly. It’s a corrupt world with depravity and debasement. It’s a tragedy, what mankind does.

We’re up to the Yeshiva of Shem v’Ever and Ya’akov’s journey to the House of Laban where he will be vigorously tested.

Q & A

R’Kessin: I hope you enjoyed the story and its real interpretation.

Participant: Yes, the whole thing. Now that we’re in the month of Kislev, does anything have to do with the fact that it always lands in this portion of the parasha?

R’Kessin: What “always lands”?

Participant: Rosh Chodesh Kislev. And Eisav gives away the messianic job.

R’Kessin: Kislev is a very holy month because it’s a messianic month. Right, Esav lost that job.

Participant: So, what does Kislev have in store for us in connection with this parasha?

R’Kessin: It’s a holy time. Why? When I give the Chanukah shiur you’ll certainly understand. Kislev is the restoration of a destroyed Beis Ha’Mikdash in terms of the contamination that the Greeks did. As you will see, Kislev is about the restoration of the messianic Light which I’ll elaborate on when I speak about Chanukah. It’s about rededication and resurgence, or renewal, of the messianic Light. People don’t realize that Chanukah is all about the mashiach. Kislev would be an incredible time to have a serious aspect of it, Chanukah, for the mashiach.

Participant: If the yeshiva of Shem v’Ever was teaching the Torah of the klippah, would that explain why Rivka went, kind of, in secret? She knew that that’s one of the things they taught there?

R’Kessin: That could be, yes. The Yeshiva of Shem v’Ever wasn’t a typical yeshiva. The Torah had not been given yet so we could ask what in the world did they teach, right? What was the curriculum? Obviously, they had a curriculum where Ya’akov Avinu could spend fourteen years so they had to have been able to address his needs. We don’t know what they taught. It had to be the kabbalistic traditions handed down by Adam Ha’Rishon and Noach. The Torah doesn’t talk much about the knowledge they had. The sefe—book “Raziel Ha’Malach” was given to Adam Ha’Rishon, written by a malach—angel. Adam Ha’Rishon was phenomenal in terms of what he knew. What was denied him was just enough to enable him to sin. They had the traditions of Adam and Noach and Avraham Avinu. We don’t know their scholarship, their Torah, but it had to have been awesome for Ya’akov Avinu to attend it.

Could you imagine Ya’akov Avinu coming to your yeshiva? He already knew an incredible amount because his father was Yitzchak and his grandfather was Avraham and I’m sure he learned with them. That’s why he was such a extraordinary person. The tragedy was that Esav had the same education and didn’t benefit. They both would have learned kabbalistic concepts which had been handed down from Adam Ha’Rishon. All of that will, ultimately, be revealed during the messianic era. Don’t be jealous of Ya’akov Avinu.

Not only that, the amount of such information will be revealed about the inner workings of the physical and spiritual worlds is beyond our imaginings. That’s why that era has to be a protracted one, a long time, because it does take time to go through all this. It can’t be just forty years. If the mashiach came tomorrow, we still have 217 years to go to the very End. Every minute is needed because there is so much Torah that the mashiach will teach and I’m not even talking about Olam Ha’ba, the Future World, where the knowledge is almost infinite.

Participant: You know how they talk about the clothes Esav that Ya’akov wore. They say it was really the clothing of Adam Ha’Rishon.

R’Kessin: The one who had the coat, which was kabbalistic, was Nimrod and, when Esav killed Nimrod on the day he came back to eat the lentils, he actually took the coat off Nimrod. Eventually, it went to Ya’akov and then to Yosef and so on.

Participant: What was the power of this coat? If it was the coat that Ha’Shem made Adam Ha’Rishon and the animals were able to come and it was easier for him to kill the animals...I know that part, kabbalistically...

R’Kessin: I would imagine that, kabbalistically, it exuded an incredible amount of Divine energy. It wasn’t your average coat. The coat, basically, was a uniform. A uniform has power because it symbolizes what you represent. It represented great spiritual power. That’s what Esav wanted from Nimrod.

Participant: The coat is buried, hidden?

R’Kessin: Just like we have no idea where the aron is, the ark, is...all these things are buried. Someday we’ll know.

Participant: Mashiach doesn’t need a coat, does he? Will he need it?

R’Kessin: I’m not familiar with how the coat could serve his purposes but it will certainly be found, be revealed, with all the other spiritual vessels of the Beis Ha’Mikdash. All this will return to the Jewish people, everything we originally had until we went into the galus—exile. When you go into exile, not only do you, yourself, go but all the spiritual tools go into exile too. That’s why we don’t know where they are. We don’t know where the ark is, where the menorah is, where all the vessels of the Temple are. They’re in galus. It's the galus of the keilim—vessels. It’s not that they’re hidden. They’re in exile just like us. Everyone goes into exile because what is subdued is not an individual but the entire concept of “spirituality” being able to illuminate and shine. The Jews are in exile, the Divine Presence is in exile, Eretz Yisrael is in exile, the keilim of the Beis Ha’Mikdash, the ark, the coat, and Jerusalem are all in exile. “Exile” is spirituality not being able to express itself! It is subdued by satanic forces. That is what exile is.

I would imagine that one of the ways of getting out of exile—because what keeps Jews in exile is the prosecutions of the Satan, always bringing up the sins—is: silencing the Satan. What happens when he cannot prosecute? All the stuff would be released. That’s Redemption! How to silence the Satan?—shmiras ha’loshon, guarding one’s tongue. If you don’t speak loshon ha’ra—denigrating evil speech, then he can’t prosecute you. In fact, the Jews got out of Egypt because they didn’t speak loshon ha’ra. If you want to silence the Satan and bring the Redemption, don’t speak loshon ha’ra. Satan’s prosecutions keep us in exile and everything with us?—yes. Understand what I’m saying? The exile is due to the kitrugim, satanic prosecutions.

The midrash tells us that not speaking loshon ha’ra was a merit that got us out of Egypt. It doesn’t say why but it says that three different times. When the Jews were leaving Egypt, according to the midrash, Moshe says, “Stand back and watch the salvation of G-D” and “v’atem tacharishun—be silent!” What Moshe was advising them went beyond being merely introspective. He is saying, ostensibly: the reason you’re getting out is because you didn’t talk loshon ha’ra so the Satan couldn’t argue: how can you let them go? They’ve only served 210 years of their 400 years. It was the prosecutions that was stopping them.

Suddenly, by the Yam Suf—Reed Sea, everybody was speaking loshon ha’ra against G-D with: how could G-D do this to us? The Egyptians will kill us! This was defamation against G-D! Moshe had to tell them: Cut it out! You’re reinvoking the kitrugim and that will return everyone to Egypt because that’s what has kept us in Egypt, the power of the Satan to prosecute.

You don’t realize how all-encompassing that is. The exile of the Jews is also the exile of the Divine Presence, the shechina, the keilim of the Beis Ha’Mikdash and the ark—everything! The answer is to close the Satan’s mouth through closing your own with shmiras ha’loshon.

Participant: It’s crazy how shmiras ha’loshon has such impact on our lives and so many people don’t know that.

R’Kessin: it’s an incredible tragedy. People think: so, I bad-mouthed the guy; so what? The world is filled with slander. With newspapers, magazines articles, social media, everybody is talking without realizing that this is key to the prosecutions of the Satan. I speak of this in my shiurim on shmiras ha’loshon. They don’t realize the monumental effect of such speech. It causes the heavenly tribunal to examine and invoke proceedings against a person. It invokes the judicial process. People don’t realize how bad that is. If the person doesn’t speak loshon ha’ra, it’s very difficult to prosecute that person in the heavenly court. Avoiding such speech is an astounding device to bring salvation to somebody that has tzuris—problems, tragedies or whatever. Believe me, I’m not the only one saying this. Many gedolim say this. If you avoid such speech, you’ll have a blessed and peaceful life. People don’t realize the enormous severity of slandering and defaming. That’s why the Chofetz Chaim spent so many of his years writing the book, giving shiurim on shmiras ha’loshon. He’s, in a certain sense, the father of the laws of loshon ha’ra. Before his, there was no book that collected, organized, and presented the laws in one volume; he did it. He realized that loshon ha’ra is why the mashiach doesn’t come and why the Beis Ha’Mikdash is not rebuilt and why the Jews are in exile and persecuted by the nations of the world. What destroyed the Second Temple was loshon ha’ra.

Could you imagine a sin that people look askance at, meaning: big deal! They don’t realize that this is one of the most grievous sins in terms of its power to impact people’s lives so that someone who knows the laws has an enormous advantage to escape the travails of life.

Participant: Why did G-D dim that Light on the knowledge of it? It’s as if there’s a veil. People don’t see it, don’t hear of it, don’t know of it, as though Ha’Shem is holding it back. Now, more and more are learning about it but...

R’Kessin: There are specific issurim—prohibitions against loshon ha’ra and the real story is

Miriam. Somebody looks at Miriam, the sister of Moshe and Aharon, a neviah—prophetess. You don’t get greater than a neviah. She wasn’t, simply, punished. The nation had to wait for her for seven days. Do you have any idea what kind of a punishment that was! She had to stand outside the Jewish camp. You’d think she committed murder or something like it. She bad-mouthed Moshe Rabbeinu and she didn’t do it maliciously. She felt (sympathy) for his wife who had said: my husband separated from me ever since he became a real prophet. Miriam committed a “light act” of loshon ha’ra, never intending to harm Moshe Rabbeinu and she was one of the greatest of the nevi’im—prophets. She’s the one who sang “Oz Yashir.” She’s the one who got all the women to sing, so you can imagine... and the drying up of the well was due to her merit. When she died, what happened to the well? It dried up, right? It disappeared. The reason that klal Yisrael could drink was because of this woman! What does it tell you about her stature? But, nevertheless, she was punished because she spoke loshon ha’ra. This story should cause trembling down everyone’s spine because, if G-D won’t hesitate to punish Miriam, imagine what He’ll do to you!

The one most responsible for most people not knowing about the dangers of loshon ha’ra is the Satan. He doesn’t want people to be aware of the repercussions. He needs the loshon ha’ra to do what?—to destroy the Jews by getting them to sin.

Participant: You also when you were saying that Ha’Shem didn’t tell Yitzchak and when he realized that he gave the bracha to the wrong son, you revealed an incredible mercy that Ha’Shem bestowed, not wanting Yitzchak to see his son...

R’Kessin: ...being such a sinner. That would have brought Yitzchak overwhelming grief. Yitzchak loved Esav; the Torah says that: “V’Yitzchak oheves Esav—and Yitzchak loved Esav. We’re not talking about an average guy; we’re talking about an extraordinarily refined character, a tzadik. Yitzchak is one of the avos. He really loved his son. He assumed Esav would sin sometimes but figured: okay, that’s what happens when you fight the yetzer ha’ra. He knew Esav sinned but didn’t know Esav abandoned the whole spiritual journey of Judaism, of Avraham Avinu. Maybe that’s why Rivka never told him. The prophecy said that he and Ya’akov would never be equal. Why?—Esav would be an exceptional sinner. That’s probably why she never told him, so he didn’t know the extent of the depravity, the evil, of Esav.

Participant: Don’t you think that, if he knew the prophecy Rivka got when she was pregnant when she went to Shem v’Ever, it could have made him work harder to prevent bad from happening, especially since they had similar jobs?

R’Kessin: You’re right, but you have to remember one thing; people at Shem v’Ever were telling her a prophecy that this must happen even though Esav had free-will. We don’t know what that means. The fact that it was a prophecy doesn’t indicate that Esav’s free will was stripped from him, but they did tell her what the future will hold and the prophecy would come true. No matter what Yitzchak did, it wouldn’t help, so he prays to G-D that Esav should be a tzadik. You’re not dealing with information or a crystal ball. You’re dealing with nevuah—prophecy.

Participant: Nevuah can change; we’ve learned that.

R’Kessin: But if it says that somebody is going to a be a rasha, then that’s G-D “talking” from His perspective. The nevuah was from G-D and there was a critical time element involved. It says, in “Bereishis,” that Rivka went to inquire of G-D. That means that she was inquiring of a nevuah from G-D and He is saying this. It didn’t stop Esav’s free wil, but G-D knows what you will freely choose—which is interesting how that works. Had she told Yitzchak and he’d failed to change Esav, imagine the grief! She said nothing. Let happen what is happening and Yitzchak will pray. Maybe it would have been worse had Yitzchak not prayed. I’m sure that’s what he did. That’s probably why Rivka never told Yitzchak, so G-D had to intercede to make sure that Yitzchak wouldn’t give the permanence of Mashiach ben Yosef to Esav which would have destroyed Creation.

Participant: That was really the basis of the blessing.

R’Kessin: Right. If you look at those blessings, they are all material, all concerned with this world, not the spiritual. Take a look at them. The one who needs those blessings is one who must subdue the evil of the planet. People have noted this, asking, “How come the blessings are not spiritual, all physical?” This is what I meant by Esav being a forerunner of the avodah—service of Mashiach ben Yosef. He was no ordinary person.

Participant: Was Ya’akov the forerunner of Mashiach ben David?

R’Kessin: He had that avodah, correct, the proliferation, the expansion, of holiness. That’s Mashiach ben David. It’s called “hispashtus kedusha”—proliferation of holiness.

Participant: Once he took on the blessing, he took on both jobs?

R’Kessin: Right, because a fourth av was needed, to go out into the evil. Therefore, G-D made a “contingency plan,” giving over the job to Ya’akov.

The fascinating aspect, as we will see in the continuation of the story, is what Ya’akov did. Can a person really do two jobs? Each job requires certain characteristics. We’ll get into that, the concept of what Ya’akov did which profoundly affects the story. It answers so many questions because this is the real story, the one in heaven more so than one that pertains to earth.

You should know one thing; it is everybody’s story. We don’t realize our real story is in heaven, who we are, what our mission is, what aspect of Creation we have to act upon, the tikkun for each of us and what the reward will be. This is all heaven, Olam Ha’ba, except that we have to go through the motions in this world. Think about it; if you compare Olam Ha’Ba, which is eternal, never-ending, to Olam Ha’ze—this world which endures for not more than 6000 years, which seems more important? We’re talking about existence that is never-ending. What is “eternal”? 400 billion years is a drop in the proverbial bucket. Olam Ha’ba never ends. If that’s the case—I ask you—which is the more significant, what happens in heaven or what happens on earth?

The guy invests in the stock market or whatever. Who cares about the stock market? That’s only pertinent as long as you’re alive; the “wealth” of the stock is what you do with the money. People make a tremendous mistake. They don’t realize they have limited chances to gain their eternity. How much good will the money, the wealth, do you? That’s the tragedy; we look at this world as the only world. Compared to the Future World which is eternal, never-ending, the main existence is what happens in heaven. This world is really a cloak for the “real” world. The real story is all spiritual which takes the form of two people: Mashiach ben David and Mashiach ben Yosef. The process is to subdue and destroy the Satan and then all about the blessings can come. These are all issues of heaven.

The beauty is in the astonishing means by which G-D conceals everything, how, in one or two words, He can reveal the real story like “k’hayom’—as his day. Why would He compose “and Esav despised the birthright”?—because He wanted to show why Yitzchak did what he did. It wasn’t for money. G-D does it in such an elegant and subtle way.

We have to figure this out but, when you do, it gives you unbelievable pleasure, that you actually know what the chumash is alluding to, at least on a certain level. What can I tell you. To know the real story of “Bereishis give boundless pleasure, to know the real deal, as they say.


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