Category Archives: Parshas Toldos

Parshas Toldos: But It Was Only A Cat!

Parshas Toldos

But It Was Only A Cat!

“Yaakov said to his father, Please get up….” Bereishis 27:19)

A cat entered the home of Rabbi Moshe Pizitcher and snatched some food from the table. One of his granddaughters chased the cat out of the house and added some curses for good measure. Rav Moshe scolded her strongly. She couldn’t understand the rebuke since it was only said to a cat. Rav Moshe explained, “True, but you have defiled your mouth.” (Love Your Neighbor by Rabi Zelig Pliskin)


Our forefather Yitzchok had aged and was blind. Before he died, he wanted to bless his firstborn son, Esav. Yitzchok asked Esav to hunt an animal and prepare a meal for him and afterwards, Yitzchok would give Esav a significant blessing for posterity. Our Matriarch Rivkah knew prophetically that the blessings were supposed to go to Yaakov and not to Esav. We also know that Yaakov had purchased, from Esav, the rights to the firstborn. Accordingly, Rivkah told Yaakov that she would prepare a meal for him to bring to Yitzchok, after which he would go to receive the blessings. Yaakov voiced a concern to his mother that his skin was smooth while Esav’s skin was hairy. Yaakov feared that Yitzchok would realize that he was not Esav and would curse him instead of blessing him. Rivkah said that he should not be concerned. Targum Onkelos (Bereishis 27:13) explains that Rivkah told Yaakov that she had a prophecy that he would not be cursed. She put goatskins on Yaakov’s arms and neck so that he would feel hairy to the touch and then escorted Yaakov to the door of Yitzchok’s tent. Yaakov went inside and told his father to “PLEASE get up.” (27:19)


The Radak (27:20. quoted in Artscroll Bereishis) says that there was something in Yaakov’s voice that aroused Yitzchok’s suspicion that he was not Esav. Perhaps it was the polite and gentle way that Yaakov spoke to his father. Therefore, Yitzchok asked Yaakov how he was able to return so speedily after “hunting” an animal and preparing a meal (27:20). To which Yaakov replied, “Because Hashem, your G-d, arranged it for me”. Yaakov said that it was BECAUSE OF HASHEM. The Alshich (27:21. quoted in Artscroll Bereishis) says that at this point, Yitzchok became very suspicious that the person standing in front of him was Yaakov and not Esav. Rashi (27:24) says that Yitzchok said to himself, “It is not Esav’s way to mention the name of Hashem so readily.” Yitzchok asked the person in front of him to come closer so that he could feel his arms to see if they were hairy, like Esav or smooth like Yaakov. When Yaakov came closer, Yitzchok smelled the aroma of Gan Eden (Rashi 27:24). Whereupon he gave Yaakov the blessings.


Yaakov’s actions are puzzling. He tried so hard to make it appear that he was Esav. He was concerned lest Yitzchok curse him had he realized that he was not Esav. Why would Yaakov jeopardize everything by speaking in a way that was unlike the way Esav would speak? Why would Yaakov say, “Please” and why would he invoke Hashem’s name for the reason for his success, if that is NOT how Esav would speak?!


Yaakov left after receiving the blessings. As soon as he left, in walked Esav. Esav had hunted an animal and prepared a meal for Yitzchok. As he approached his father, he said, “Let my father arise”. (27:31) Rabbeinu Bachya points out that Yaakov had said to his father, “Rise up please and sit.” Yaakov had addressed his father with sensitivity and respect.  Esav, by contrast, ordered his father to rise by saying: “Let my father arise”. He did not even ask him to be seated.


Esav was known for the respect that he gave his father. He was the paradigm of showing respect. The Midrash says (Bereishis Rabba 65:16) that Esav honored his father 100 times more than the great sage, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel. Esav even wore his best clothes when he served his father.


Rabbi Alter Henach Leibowitz zt”l (quoted in Chidushei Lev by Rabbi Binyomin Luban) asks  that if Esav was on such a high level of respecting his father, why didn’t he speak softly and respectfully to him? Why did he say in a harsh tone, “Let my father get up”? Especially at this time, Esav should have spoken more respectfully since he wanted the blessings from his father!


Rabbi Leibowitz zt”l answers that this is the way Esav was accustomed to speak to others in the marketplace. He was so used to speaking this way that he couldn’t change it, even when speaking to his father. It was so much a part of him. Even had he wanted, with all his heart, to speak to his father respectfully, he would have been unable to do so! It was too much a part of his essence. Esav was able to change his clothes, but he was not able to change his speech.


Similarly, if one has bad character traits, it is so difficult to separate from them, even for one’s own benefit. One must work very hard, using Mussar sefarim as guides, to try to uproot any bad character traits that he has.


With this in mind, we can answer our first question. Yaakov had such good middos ingrained within him that he was unable to change them even when attempting to appear as Esav. Yaakov was unable to talk harshly to his father and when asked, he automatically attributed his quickness to Hashem.


The way we talk to others becomes a part of us. That is the way we will talk to everyone. We should always be careful to create the habit of always speaking nicely and respectfully to everyone.


Parshas Toldos: Clothes Make the Man-and the Woman!

Parshas Toldos

Clothes Make the Man-and the Woman!


“Rivka took the garments of Esav, her elder son, [the garments] that were precious [to him] that she had in her house, and put them on Yaakov, her younger son.” (Bereishis 27:15)

The traveler was weary and hoped to get a hot meal from a kind-hearted person in the town. He noticed a beautiful mansion on the edge of town and was hopeful that he would get a meal there. He knocked on the door which was opened by the owner. When the homeowner saw the stranger in his tattered clothes and rags he said, “Sorry but we don’t serve beggars here.”  The traveler knocked on the door of another house where he was welcomed and served a hot meal. A few years later, Beryl, a wealthy and respected man came to town. All the townspeople wanted the honor of hosting him for a meal. They all begged Beryl to be their guest. The rich man who lived in the beautiful mansion at the edge of town begged him incessantly until he agreed to come to his home. The rich man was so happy. He was prepared to serve a sumptuous meal with many courses. During the feast, Beryl acted very strangely. During each course, instead of eating he put the food onto his clothes. Overcome by curiosity, the rich man finally asked Beryl why he was doing that. Beryl’s response taught the rich man a very important lesson. Beryl said that he had assumed the invitation to dinner was just for Beryl’s clothes and not for Beryl himself. After all, when Beryl visited this man a few years ago, wearing tattered clothing, he was not invited into the house. Now, that he was wearing fancy clothing he was invited. He was the same person and the only difference was the type of clothes that he was wearing, Thus, he said that he assumed the dinner invitation was just for his clothes.

Scientific studies show that the clothes we wear largely affect how we think and act. They affect our behavior, attitudes, personality, mood, confidence, and even the way we interact with others. In one study, the participants were given white coats to wear. Some participants were told that they were wearing painters’ smocks while others were told that they were wearing doctors’ coats. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, showed that those who were told that they were wearing a doctor’s white coat had a higher level of concentration than those who were told that they were wearing painter’s smocks.  Researchers also found that if we dress for a particular role, we will start to live it. In a study reported by the Journal of Experimental Psychology, subjects were required to wear formal and informal clothing in negotiation meetings. Those who wore business suits performed much better, as they asserted dominance over the person with whom they were negotiating.

Of course, the Torah knew this fact thousands of years before the scientific studies.

Our forefather Yitzchak wanted to bless his firstborn son before he died. He sent his first-born son, Esav, to hunt an animal, prepare a meal for him and then come to receive the bracha. Unbeknownst to Yitzchak, Yaakov rightfully deserved the bracha because he had previously purchased the birthright from Esav. The Ohr HaChaim (Bereishis 27:8) says that Rivka knew prophetically that Yaakov was the one who deserved the bracha. She prepared a meal for Yitzchak and told Yaakov to bring it and then receive the bracha for himself. She placed the skins of young goats on Yaakov’s hands and the smooth part of his neck in order that he should appear hairy like Esav. The commentaries explain why Yaakov was permitted and required to do this seeming subterfuge of pretending to be Esav to receive the bracha from Yitzchak.

Rivka then gave Yaakov Esav’s “precious garments” to wear. The Da’as Zekanim says that these garments had pictures of all the animals and birds in the world painted on it. The animals appeared to be alive. Whenever the wearer walked in the field, the animals were attracted to the pictures and approached the wearer, making them easy prey for the hunter. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba 65:16) says that Esav had taken these garments from King Nimrod when he had killed him.

What did Rivka hope to gain by clothing Yaakov in these special garments of Esav? Yitzchak was blind and would not even see Yaakov’s attire! It must be that Rivka wanted Yaakov to feel as if he was Esav, since one’s clothing affects one’s thoughts and actions.

It seems from this Da’as Zekanim that had Yaakov not worn these special garments, his actions would not have been like those of Esav. Then, Yitzchak would have discovered that it was Yaakov. Yaakov’s mission of getting the brachos would have failed. Yaakov had a lot to gain by receiving the brachos. He also had a lot to lose if Yitzchak would have realized that he was not Esav. Yitzchak might have cursed him for attempting to misleading him. Yet, since Esav’s actions were so different than Yaakov’s, Yaakov’s mission would have failed had Yaakov not worn Esav’s special garments. Those garments made him feel like Esav and he was able to act accordingly.

We see how much our thoughts and actions are influenced by the way we dress.

That is why it is so important to dress as a Jewish man and a Jewish woman should.


Based on a dvar Torah by Rabbi Henach Leibowitz zt”l as recorded in sefer Chidushei Lev by Rabbi Binyamin Luban


I am left with a question. According to this, while wearing Esav’s clothes, Yaakov’s actions should have been just like Esav. Yet, when Yaakov came to Yitzchak (Bereishis 27:19), he spoke gently, “Please sit up”. When Esav came, he spoke gruffly, “Let me father sit up”. Furthermore, when Yitzchak questioned how Yaakov was able to come to him so quickly, Yaakov said that Hashem had sent him good fortune (Bereishis 27:20). Esav would not have invoked Hashem’s name. Those two comments of Yaakov almost caused his mission to fail as Yitzchak knew that Esav did not normally speak this way (see Rashi 27:21 and Bechor Shor on pasuk 26). Maybe you can say that although what you wear affects your thoughts and actions, perhaps it does not affect your speech. Possibly, since the way you speak is so much a part of who you are, that it is not fully affected by the way that you dress.  Therefore, it is so important to actively choose a refined manner of speech.