Weekly Reading Insights: 



From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


"And he called the name of the well Esek" [26:20]

Scripture gives a lengthy account of the matter of the wells when in the literal interpretation of the story there would seem to be no benefit nor any great honor to Isaac in that he and his father did the identical thing. However, there is a hidden matter involved here since Scripture's purpose is to make known a future matter. "A well of living waters" alludes to the House of G-d which the children if Isaac will build.
He called the first well Esek ("contention"), which is an allusion to the First Temple, concerning which the nations contended with us and instigated quarrels and wars with us until they destroyed it. The second well he called Sitnah ("Enmity"), a name harsher than the first. This alludes to the Second Temple, which has indeed been referred to by this very name, "In the beginning of his reign, they wrote 'sitnah' against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem" (Ezra 4:6). And during it's entire existence they were a source of enmity unto us until they destroyed it and drove us from it into bitter exile. The third well he called Rechovot ("Spacious"). This is a reference to the Future Temple, which will be speedily built in our days, and it will be done without quarrel and feud, and G-d will enlarge our borders, even as it says: "And if the Eternal your G-d enlarge your border, as He has sworn, etc" (Deut. 19:8) which refers to the future. And concurring the Third House of the future it is written, "Broader and winding about higher and higher" (Ezekiel 41:7). (The concluding statement in the present narrative, concerning the naming of the third well:) "And we shall be fruitful in the land", signifies that all peoples will come to worship G-d "with one consent."


Rabbeinu Bachya

"…Esav became a skilled hunter, a man of the field. Yaakov was a simple man a dweller in the tents." [25:27]

The plain meaning of the text is that Yaakov spent his time in the tents of Shem and Ever, i.e. in their academies.
A kabbalistic approach to the words: The reason the Torah speaks about the word "tents" in the plural, i.e. ohalim, seeing that most people dwell in only one tent at a time, is that Yaakov demonstrated that one could live in the tent of the "higher" regions and in the tent of the "lower" regions of the universe simultaneously. We have been taught already (Bereishit Rabbah 68-12) that the countenance of Yaakov is engraved on the throne of G-d. In view of this, the expression yoshev ohalim is equivalent to the numerical value of the words yoshev hakiseh, "The One who sits on the Throne."



"He re-dug the wells of Avraham...they challenged him..." [26:18-22]

The Philistines did not fill in the wells after Isaac left, as they did in the days of Avraham, Isaac's father.They did not want to close them permenantly; they only wanted to deny use of them to Isaac. Originally, Avimelech had thought that the source of Isaac's wealth and that of his own countrymen was the same- the mazzal, the heavenly force, supervising their land -but that Isaac was drawing the lion's share, leaving the Philistines the leftovers. They thought they could correct this by the expulsion of Isaac, which would enable them greatly increased benefit from their mazzal. When Isaac departed and their own lot did not improve whereas Isaac's continued to prosper, they had to admit that the source of Isaac's wealth had never been the same as theirs, and that he had not prospered at their expense. This is what Avimelech and Phichol intended in verse 28. You are now blessed by G-d means, that now we realize that your success is due to G-d, not to the mazzal governing our lives.

"Isaac blessed Jacob and commanded: "'Do not marry a Canaaness'." [28:1]

1) What blessing did Isaac confer on Jacob here? Why is it not spelled out?
2) Since Jacob was under orders to take one of Laban's daughters as a wife, the injunction against taking a local girl seems quite unnecessary.
We have explained previously that some blessings apply to life in this world, whereas others assure the recipient of the quality of life in the world to come. The latter kind are never spelled out in detail, only hinted at. Isaac blessed Jacob in verse one with the blessing concerning olam haba, the future world; in verse 3 he blessed him concerning this life. The holiness of a person who receives the first kind of blessing, is contingent on his not defiling himself by intermarrying with the Canaanites. Therefore, Isaac had to warn against such marriage specifically. He had to explain why Jacob was permitted to leave Eretz Yisrael and to live and marry outside, something he himself had not been allowed to do. Having been a total offering on Moriah, his body had been sanctified in a manner which made leaving the sacred soul of the land of Israel impossible.



The scoffers of that generation maintained that Sarah had been impregnated by Avimelech and that Isaac was the issue. They claimed that, had Abraham been Isaac's father, it would have been impossible for Isaac to have fathered a son such as Esau who pursued married women to commit adultery with them under the noses of their husbands. Isaac's extraordinary wealth and material success, the fact that he was sanctified on Mount Moriah, and his life-long residence on the holy soil of the Land of Israel, all served to show that he was indeed a true son of Abraham.

Ohr HaChayim

"Isaac sent Jacob, etc." [28:5]

Why is Laban described as Rebecca's brother, something we have known for a long time? Why is Rebecca described here once more as both Jacob's and Esau's mother? Actually, the Torah found it necessary to explain why Isaac would send a pious son to a person such as Laban, seeing the latter was known to be wicked. True, Abraham had dispatched Eliezer to take a wife for Isaac from the house of Bethuel; however, Bethuel was not a well-known evil person, like Laban. Besides, Abraham had never told Eliezer in so many words to go to the house of Bethuel, whereas he had named Laban specifically as Jacob's destination. He instructed him to marry a daughter of the wicked Laban. By repeating that Laban was after all a brother of the pious Rebeccah the Torah alerts us to the probability that one or both of Laban's daughters could be just as pious as Rebeccah who stemmed from the house of Bethuel. One must not assume that the children and grandchildren of a wicked father or grandfather will automatically turn out to be of evil character. The Torah hints at this by reminding us that even Rebeccah was the mother of both a pious person such as Jacob and an evil person such as Esau.

You have to appreciate that in the period under discussion [prior to the revelation at Mount Sinai], the holy souls had not yet been separated from the regions in which they were imprisoned. Seeing that Abraham's family was recognized as a region where holiness had found a foothold, both he and Sarah being the first proselytes, anyone who would subsequently convert to Judaism would be called either Abraham if a male or Sarah if a female. It is a face that holy members of a holy species look for other members of the same species. Abraham was still incomplete in this regard, as neither he nor his son Isaac had as yet produced female offspring, i.e. holy female souls. Perhaps this is even the reason that we are told in Genesis 25:19: "Abraham begat Isaac", to remind us that he had succeeded only in producing a holy male soul. This situation still existed when Isaac sent out Jacob to secure a wife. The holy female souls had not yet been separated from their place of imprisonment. Isaac therefore had to send Jacob to search for his lost mate, i.e. the girl in whose body such a holy soul was imprisoned. It was only during subsequent generations that Jews were no longer forced to roam the world to find their mates amongst the Gentiles. If nonetheless some "sparks" of holiness (holy souls in captivity) still exists among the Gentiles, they will eventually convert and then be recognized as holy souls returning to their home (the Jewish people).

This raises the question of Abraham's insistence that Isaac not marry someone of Canaanite descent. Isaac also instructed Jacob not to marry a Canaanite. Bereshit Rabbah explains this prohibition against marrying girls specifically of Cannaanite descent as being due to the tribe being cursed, whereas Abraham's seed was blessed. Actually the words of the Midrash are somewhat obscure. In light of what we have written Abraham may have meant that Canaan (Noach's grandson) had been denied holy female souls amongst his seed as a result of Noach's curse. Hence there was no chance of finding the girl who possessed a holy soul amongst the tribe. This is deeper meaning of Noach's curse, i.e. that Canaan would be denied access to holiness.



Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rebbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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