Category Archives: Parshat תולדת

Parshat תולדת

Parshat תולדת – Genesis 28:9 – When We Don’t Have to Listen to Our Parents

Genesis:  28:9 – So Esau went to Ishmael, and he took Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, the sister of Nebaioth, in addition to his other wives as a wife.

Babylonian Talmud – Megila 17a: From the fact that the verse mentions that Mahalath was the daughter of Ishmael, we already know that she was the sister of Nebaioth. What is the purpose of telling us this fact that is already known? To teach us that immediately after Ishmael betrothed her to Esau, he died. It was then Nebaiot who completed the marriage process [in Ishmael’s place].

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #4

Look at Rashi’s commentary on this verse as it pertains to the above quoted Gemora.

Also note that Rabbi Yosef Karo in Section 167 and also cited by the Ramah in Yoreh Deah (section 140) in the laws of honoring one’s parents that in matter of marriage, the duty of honoring one’s parents does not apply. That is to say, if the father is pushing his son not to marry a specific woman, the son is not obligated to obey him. See also the Vilna Gaon’s comments on this issue.

If this is so, this entire Torah section requires further explanation. How could Yitzchak then command Yaacov to not marry a wife from the daughters of Canaan? (Genesis 28:1) If the law is that Yitzchak does not have the ability to command his son in this matter, how could he command Yaacov? Perhaps he could have used the phrase “request” but certainly not the phrase “command” as was actually the case.

Perhaps there is room to say that if a father commands his entire household not to marry into a certain family (as was the case with Yitzchak) then he would have authority. We find similarly in the Gemorah in a variety of issues that the children of a family can be pressured not to change the custom of their family. In this case, here, the family of our forefathers were commanded not to marry from the daughters of Canaan. As Abraham said to Eliezar (Genesis 24:3) “don’t choose a wife for my son from the daughters of Canaan”. As the Gemora in Pesachim states, Abraham was warning Eliezar regarding Yitzchak not to select a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Thus, it is clear that there was a tradition [in their family]. This is the reason why Yitzchak had authority to command Yaacov regarding his family custom/tradition.

It is a wonder that no halachic authorities have pondered this question [in terms of its ramifications for our time].

Translator’s Note:  It seems clear that the inference from the Torah Temimah’s note is that, as a rule for our times, parents do not have the authority to dictate to their children who they can or cannot marry.


Parshat תולדת – Genesis 27:1 – Why Were Isaac’s Eyes Weak?

Genesis:  27:1 – It came to pass when Isaac was old, and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called Esau his elder son, and he said to him, “My son,” and he said to him, “Here I am.”

Babylonian Talmud – Megila 28a: Rabbi Eleazar said, “ Anyone who stares at the face of an evil person will cause his eyes to be damaged. This is shown by the verse: It came to pass when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see”.  This was due to Isaac’s staring at Esav, the evil one.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #2

See above in Parshat Vayera (Genesis 20:16) that Abimelech cursed Sarah that she should have children with weak eyes. This curse was fulfilled through Isaac. The Gemora asks was it through looking at Esav or due to the curse of Abimelech. The Gemora responds that both reasons contributed.

Prior to this discussion, the Gemora discusses the point that one is forbidden to stare at the face of an evil person. It must be that the phrase “forbidden” is not precise; rather, it is not a good personality trait to stare at the face of an evil person. The proof that it is not literally “forbidden” is from the story that the Gemora tells relating to this issue. The story is that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Karcha is asked “In what merit have you earned to live a long life?” Rabbi Yehoshua replied that he had never stared at the face of an evil person. Note that if it were literally forbidden, what would be special about not having committed that particular sin?

 Also, do not be concerned about the phrase “forbidden” that is used in the Gemora. We find many examples of similar exaggeration. For example, the Rosh writes at the end of the first chapter of Avodah Zarah that it is forbidden to have a [business] partnership with a non-Jew. Behold, this is not at all forbidden, not even rabbinically. Rather the Rosh meant that it is praise worthy trait. Also see Tosafot’s comments in Gemora Bechorot 2b.

As a general observation, also note that the word “stare” refers specifically to depth and emotional looking not to superficial “seeing”. The proof for this is that we have a well know law that one who sees a rainbow should make a blessing upon seeing it. How would this law be possible given that we also state in the Gemora (Chagiga 16a) that anyone who stares at a rainbow will damage his eyes. One must conclude that “staring” and “seeing” are two different levels of looking at something.

 We see the same point from the Gemora there regarding the saying that anyone who stares at the face of a prince, will cause his eyes to be weakened. On the other hand, the law is that when a prince passes by, one should stand up and look at his face with awe (Horayot 12a).

Translator’s Note:  This note stood out to me because the Torah Temimah states that sometimes when the Gemora or later rabbinic texts state “forbidden”, it is not literally forbidden.

Parshat תולדת – Bereishis 25:21 – Whose Prayers Does God Listen To?

Bereishis 25:21 – And Isaac prayed to the Lord opposite his wife because she was barren, and the Lord accepted his prayer, and Rebecca his wife conceived.

Gemora Yevamos 64a: It should have said that the Lord accepted “their” prayer. Why does it say that the Lord accepted “his” prayer? To teach that the prayer of a “righteous person” who is the child of a “righteous person” is more listened to than the prayer of a “righteous person” who is the child of an “evil person”.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #14

See what is written in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Hayim Section 53 and also in the Taz sub-section 3 in the name of the Bach; and in the Maharshal who deduced from this teaching that it is better to look for a prayer leader who is the son of a righteous person. Note that the Taz disagrees with this because of the general principle that “God desires the heart.” It is amazing that the Taz does not reply at all to the above teaching from the Gemora that [indeed] the prayer of a righteous person, the son of a righteous person is preferable.

Rather, it seems to me, that a person who has better personal qualities is more preferable even if he may be the son of an evil person. Therefore, it is better to give such a person preference [in choosing a prayer leader] over a “righteous person the son of a righteous person” who doesn’t have as many good personal qualities.

It appears that a proof to this opinion can be brought from the Gemora Taanis 25b where it relates a story about Rabbi Eliezer who led the congregation is prayers, but nevertheless rain did not fall. Rabbi Akiva then led the prayers and subsequently it rained. The [other] rabbis were murmuring concerning the slight that had occurred to the honor of Rabbi Eliezer since his prayers were not answered. Suddenly a voice rang out from heaven and stated: “It was not because this person (Rabbi Akiva) is greater than this person (Rabbi Eliezer) but rather it is due to the fact that Rabbi Akiva has conquered his natural tendencies while Rabbi Eliezer has not needed to conquer his natural tendencies.”

Behold, it is well known that Rabbi Akiva is the son of converts. Thus, in relation to him, Rabbi Eliezer is a “righteous person, the son of righteous people”. Nevertheless, it was Rabbi Akiva’s prayer that was answered because of the personal characteristics that he had which Rabbi Eliezer did not have.   

Editor’s Note: I think many people instinctively respond the same way as the Torah Temimah to the idea that “the prayer of a righteous person the child of a righteous person is more listened to than the prayer of a righteous person the child of an evil person”. Our instinctive response is that “God desires the heart” and it should not matter who a person’s parents were. The Torah Temimah then goes on to prove that this is a view supported by our tradition by citing the Gemora Taanis 25b.