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Parashat Toldot

The Chafetz Chaim once asked a certain Jew how he was doing. The man said, “It would not hurt if life were a bit better.” The Chafetz Chaim responded, “How could you possibly know that “it would not hurt” if life would be better? Hashem knows what is best for you, and since He is merciful and only good, He certainly wishes to give you more good than what He has given you. He is certainly capable of giving your more than He has given you. It is obvious from the fact that He has not given you more, that what you have and what you don’t is what’s best for you!

We internalize this message each and every day. Lesson one – G-d is everything, for He rules in all of our reality – וְאַתָּה֙ מוֹשֵׁ֣ל בַּכֹּ֔ל. Lesson two- G-d is solely good. – טוֹב־יְקֹוָ֥ק לַכֹּ֑ל וְ֝רַחֲמָ֗יו עַל־כָּל־מַעֲשָֽׂיו.

The Chafetz Chaim derived this No Complaints lifestyle from a Rashi in this week’s Parasha. Rashi asks, when Yitzhak blessed his son with his whole heart, he blessed him in an unusual way.  וְיִֽתֶּן־לְךָ֙ הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים And Elokim shall give you… Why would Yitzchak use the Name of Elokim, the Name of G-d of Judgement, when blessing his son? Wouldn’t the Name of YKVK, the Name of G-d of Mercy, be more appropriate? Rashi writes what the blessing using G-d’s Name Elokim infers    אם ראוי לך יתן לך, ואם לאו לא יתן לךIf it is appropriate for you, G-d will give you. And if it is not appropriate for you, He will not give you…. G-d doesn’t just give us whatever we pray for, if it is not good for us. Because He trusts us that we trust Him. (See Rashi 27;28)

Yitzhak knew that his son Esav was having difficulty with accepting Elokim, G-d’s attribute of Judgement. As the Midrash says, אמר עשו – אף באותו זקן פגעה מידת הדין? א”כ לית דין ולית דיין!  Esav said, how could it be that even my righteous grandfather Avraham died five years before his time? If so, there is no Judgement, and there is no Judge!

Yitzhak was telling his son, No! All the blessings of life, all the blessings of G-d come in the form of difficulties. As if G-d is judging, behaving harshly. The greatest blessings that G-d gives you come with difficulty. Because the way that G-d gives His blessing is Elokim. Through difficulties and loss, tests and annoyances, sweat and tears.

Every single time the Tanach mentions that G-d blessed anyone or anything, it uses the Name Elokim, His Name of Judgement.  וַיְבָ֤רֶךְ אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ אֹת֑ו; וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֶת־נֹ֖חַ וְאֶת־בָּנָ֑יו  ; וַיְבָ֥רֶךְ אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־ יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֑וֹ ; (Except in two places, where those who were blessed with YKVK, G-d’s Name of Mercy, were blessed with unusual blessings – Yosef’s master, and Oved Edom HaGiti.)  Here, in Yitzchak’s blessing, the word Elokim is unique. It does not say Elokim. Rather, it says, HaElokim, The Elokim. When Yaakov blessed Yosef, he also used the Name HaElokim. וַיְבָרֶךְ אֶת יוֹסֵף וַיֹּאמַר הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר הִתְהַלְּכוּ אֲבֹתַי לְפָנָיו אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק הָאֱלֹהִים הָרֹעֶה אֹתִי מֵעוֹדִי עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה. Why HaElokim?

The Seforno on this word HaElokim comments: When you focus on His goodness, even as G-d of Judgment, He will bless your fields. The way for the Jew to bring blessing upon himself is to search for the goodness in the difficulties, to recognize and then focus on the goodness in The Elokim, the judgement.

There is a strange story in the Talmud that brings this concept to light. A certain R’ Mani told his Rebbi R’ Elyashiv, how his in-laws, who were rich, were acting in a haughty fashion and insulting him. So, R Elyashiv prayed that those rich in laws become poor. When they became poor, they started bothering R Mani, to support them. R Mani told R’ Elyashiv, and R’ Elyashiv prayed that they become rich again. Then, R Mani complained that he did not like the way his wife looked. R’ Elyashiv asked for the name of R Mani’s wife. Chana. R Elyashiv then prayed that Chana become beautiful. But then, when Chana became beautiful, she was constantly preoccupied with herself and haughty. She did not want R’ Mani anymore. R Mani told this to R Elyashiv, and R’ Elyashiv prayed that Chana return to her old looks. (Taanit 23b)

This is something that we can learn from King David. Even when King David was cursed by the Chief Rabbi, Shimi Ben Gera, he said to himself, יקוק אמר לו קלל, G-d of Mercy (YKVK) commanded him to curse me. (Shmuel 2 16:10) King David teaches that we should never take anything personally, because G-d is behind every insult… What? But why? Why would G-d want that person to insult me?

I don’t know. But once you accept that G-d is behind the insult, you can realize the benefits, the perks, all the good in the insult that you would not recognize if you would not accept it. Here is a list of a few possibilities.  A. To develop acceptance of yourself B. To develop “elephant skin”. C. Burn away some calories of pride and arrogance. D. You’ll find out who your true friends are. E. You will go to the drawing board and improve yourself. And, many times, these are a good payoff for the insult.

The Midrash tells us that the power to bless with G-d’s Name Elokim was given to Yitzhak. (See Baal Haturim 2;3) Why specifically Yitzhak?  Yitzhak was the Patriarch who barely said anything, and who is symbolic of acceptance. Accepting a wayward child, accepting a runaway son, accepting rebellious daughters-in-law, accepting his father’s prophecy that G-d wills that he be sacrificed, accepting his mother’s tragic death, accepting his grandchildren’s decision to sell their own brother. He even accepted himself for making the biggest “mistake” of his life, of mixing up his own children, and blessing the “wrong” son. This is why Yitzhak blessed using G-d’s Name Elokim.

I recently saw the following joke, and it taught me a lesson for Shalom Bayit. A married couple was celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. At the party, everybody wanted to know how they managed to stay married so long. The husband responded, “When we were first married, we came to an agreement. I would make all the major decisions, and my wife would make all the minor decisions. And in 60 years of marriage, we have never needed to make a major decision.

This can be applied to the relationship between Man and G-d, as well, in accepting G-d as Elokim, and that He gives us only what is best for us. G-d wants us to accept what is, minding our own business in those areas in which G-d gives us no choice, and busying ourselves only with decisions in the areas that that G-d does give us choice. As Byron Katie wrote, “I am a lover of what is, of reality, not because I’m a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality. I can find only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and G-d’s. Reality is G-d, because it rules. Anything that’s out of my control, your control, and everyone else’s control – I call that G-d’s business. Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our own business. When I think, “You need to get a job”, “I want you to be happy”, “You should be on time”, “You need to take better care of yourself”, I am in your business. When I’m worried about past or future, earthquakes, floods, war, or when I will die, I am in G-d’s business. If I am mentally in your business or in G-d’s business, the effect is separation. Every time in my life that I had felt hurt or lonely, I had been in someone else’s business”.  

Keeping connected with G-d is the only way to be connected to blessing. He doesn’t want you to “get involved” in the “big decisions”, the areas where you have no choice. He just wants you to say, all day, again and again, יְקֹוָ֥ק אֱלֹקינוּ, that YKVK is our Elokim; or, in laymen’s terms, that all the judgement of G-d is all His Kindness. To realize that יְקֹוָ֖ק ה֣וּא הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים YKVK is HaElokim! (Devarim 4;35)

Here are the Selfie Steps: The self-help steps that will help you access the blessings that Yitzhak and Yaakov blessed you.

  1. Want what you have and don’t want what you don’t have. Embrace your life as it is, rather than as you wish it to be.
  2. Each blessing you mention YKVK Elokenu, each Shema recital, remind yourself that the difficulties of your life are all G-d’s Mercy and blessing.
  3. Realize where you have choice in life, and only mind your own business. Not G-d’s business. And not anyone else’s business.

About the author, Yosef

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