Saturday, November 2, 2013

Parshas Toldos - Love and Judgement

The Jewish idea of love is defined as Ahava Sheineah Teluiah BaDavar or A Love That Does Not Depend on a Thing.

"Any love that is dependent on something--when the thing ceases, the love also ceases. But a love that is not dependent on anything never ceases. What is [an example of] a love that is dependent on something? The love of Amnon for Tamar. And one that is not dependent on anything? The love of David and Yonatan."

(Pirkei Avot 5:16)

Is a love that is not dependent on anything truly not dependent on anything? It's not dependent on anything impermanent. It goes deeper than any surface matter.

What is an example of that? We can look to G-d's love for Avraham for the paradigm.

"For I have known him because he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord to perform righteousness and justice, in order that the Lord bring upon Avraham that which He spoke concerning him."

Bereishis/Genesis 18:19

The truly enduring value continues beyond the individual. It is something that he commits to beyond his own existence because it is so great a part of him that he cannot be conceived of apart from it.

Now let us turn to Parshas Toldos and the story of Yaakov and Esav.

"And the boys grew; and Esav was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Yaakov was a quiet man, dwelling in tents.

And Yitzchak loved Esav because [his] game was in his mouth, but Rivka loved Yaakov."

(Bereishis/Genesis 25:27-28)

No reason is given for Rivka's love for Yaakov because it is an Ahava Sheinah Teluiah BaDavar, it is not a love that is based on a thing.

However a specific thing is given as the reason for Yitzchak's love of Esav making it an Ahava SheTeluiah BaDavar, a love that was based on a transitory thing.

Was Yitzchak's preference for Esav based merely on bringing him food? The Torah issues a strong warning about the dangers of bribery.

"...bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts just words."

(Devarim\Deuteronomy 16:19)

And indeed we learn that Yitzchak had gone blind. His love for the wrong son for the wrong reasons had become a literal blindness.

The Talmud describes how even minor favors distort the judgement of a judge.

The Gemara in Kesuvos [105b] states: "It goes without saying that monetary bribes are forbidden, but the Torah is coming to teach us that even 'verbal bribes' are forbidden." Flattery, kind words, and so forth can all affect a person's judgment. The Gemara lists several incidents demonstrating how particular Amoraim of the Talmud acted regarding rejecting bribes.

Shmuel was having difficulty crossing a rickety bridge. A certain person stuck out his hand and helped him cross the bridge. Shmuel asked what brought him to the bridge right then. The person told Shmuel that he had a case to be heard in Shmuel's court for adjudication. Shmuel disqualified himself from being a judge in the case since he had just received a favor from this person.

Yitzchak was not aware of this. He was unaware that he loved Esav for the meat that he brought him. But as a result he was blinded to Esav's evil deeds and unable to see what was wrong with his older son.

When he prepared to bless Esav, he asked him to bring him meat. The thing that he loved him for. His blessing for Yaakov in the guise of Esav and then to Esav concentrated on the physical aspects, the fatness of the land.

Esav had given up his birthright for lentil stew. And Yitzchak had nearly given him the blessings for meat. 

When Yitzchak realized that he had blessed Yaakov, his eyes were opened to the reality that his love for his son and his blessings had been dependent on a thing. Not an eternal thing, but a material thing. It was an Ahava Teluiah BaDavar. And the proof of that had been that he had been willing to bless an imposter who had brought him meat. He had not looked beneath the surface, but only at the material feel of his hands.

Yitzchak was meant to function as a judge, to assign the blessings to the son that would be worth of them for the reason that G-d had originally described, "For I have known him because he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord to perform righteousness and justice, in order that the Lord bring upon Avraham that which He spoke concerning him."

And this was clearly not true of Esav who had married Caananite women. Yitzchak had been blinded and now his eyes were open.

Yitzchak only gives Yaakov the blessings of Avraham, when Yaakov journeys to marry properly and set up a household that will carry on that legacy.

The new blessing no longer concentrates on the material aspects of the land, but on the people, 

"Arise, go to Padan aram, to the house of Bethuel, your mother's father, and take yourself from there a wife of the daughters of Laban, your mother's brother.

"And may the Almighty God bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and you shall become an assembly of peoples.

"And may He give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your seed with you, that you may inherit the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham."

(Bereishis/Genesis 28:2-4)

The emphasis is now on the people who inherit the land, rather than on the substance of the land. The emphasis is on future generations, rather than present day material power. It is now a love that depends on multi-generational qualities rather than present day attainments.

Like Yitzchak, we are required to relearn for ourselves that love requires judgement if it is to be meaningful.

Esav, who went out, had and has appealing material qualities, while Yaakov, who stayed in a tent, obscured himself with spiritual pursuits.

True judgement requires seeing past the material to the spiritual. And if we fail to do so, if we are swayed by the material bribes of the moment, then we are blinded only to realize that once we come to the awareness of just how interchangeable the material is.

Yitzchak loved his son for bringing him meat from the field. Only when he realized how interchangeable the thing that he loved the wrong son for was, did he waken from the blindness to turn away from the love dependent on a thing for the true love dependent on eternity.