To Elevate The World
Sichos In English

Shabbos Parshas Toldos, the 4th Day of Kislev, 5750

1. The parasha begins: "And these are the toldos [offspring] of Yitzchok." In his commentary, Rashi explains: "Toldos — [This refers to] Yaakov and Eisav who are mentioned [later on] in the parasha."

To explain: There are two possible meanings for the word "toldos": a) offspring, and b) chronicles, i.e., what a person wrought in his lifetime. Even though the births of Yaakov and Eisav are not mentioned until a number of verses later, Rashi chooses to explain the word "toldos" in the context of "offspring" and thus, referring to them.

On the surface, however, the alternative interpretation appears more appropriate. The parasha relates some of the major events of Yitzchok’s life and then recounts his siring of Yaakov and Eisav.

The difficulty in Rashi’s interpretation is reinforced by a further point. The portion begins, "And these are" (v’eileh). Our Sages explain: "Whenever the Torah uses the expression, ‘And these are...,’ it serves as a continuation of the previous narrative. Whenever it uses the expression, ‘These are’ (eileh), it negates [any connection with] the previous narrative.

According to the interpretation of "toldos" as chronicles, the connection between the "chronicles" of Yitzchok and the subject matter of the previous portion is clear. The previous portion describes the period of Yitzchok’s life when he lived together with his father, Avrohom, and the present portion continues, describing those events which happened to Yitzchok after he set up his own home.

In contrast, according to the interpretation of toldos as "offspring," the connection between our portion and the previous parasha is problematic. The previous parasha concludes with the description of Yishmael’s progeny. How are Yitzchok’s children including Yaakov, the righteous, a continuation of the narrative that deals with Yishmael’s offspring, who were all wicked?

The Midrash explains that there is, in fact, a connection between the two narratives: Just as Yishmael’s descendants were wicked, Yitzchok’s descendants — Eisav’s offspring — were wicked. To emphasize that there is no reference to Yaakov, the word "toldos" is written in a short form, without a Vav. Rashi, however, does not share the Midrash’s perspective, for it is impossible — according to the simple interpretation of the Torah — to say that Yitzchok’s "offspring" refers primarily to Eisav. Indeed, Rashi states the opposite — "Yaakov and Eisav who are mentioned..." Therefore, the question remains: Why does Rashi choose to interpret "toldos" as offspring rather than chronicles?

The above difficulties can be resolved as follows: Since "And these are" refers to a continuation of the previous subject matter, and the previous parasha concludes with a description of Yishmael’s descendants, it follows that the toldos mentioned here would refer to children. Although Yitzchok’s descendants (in particular, Yaakov) were different in nature than Yishmael’s, they do share a common element: they are both the descendants of Avrohom — "These are the toldos of Yitzchok the son of Avrohom..." Thus, the narrative describing Yitzchok’s offspring is a "continuation" of the description of Yishmael’s descendants.

In particular, the two narratives represent the fulfillment of the prophecies Avrohom was given. G-d told Avrohom that he would be "a father of many nations" (Bereishis 17:5-6) (this prophecy does not concern Yishmael for he had already been born) and that Sara would give birth to a son and that she will be "a mother of nations" (17:16, 19). Afterwards, Avrohom prayed, "May Yishmael live before You." (17:18) G-d then assured Avrohom that Yishmael would also become a great nation (17:20), but Sara’s child would be the one who would perpetuate his tradition. (21:12)

Thus, after the Torah recounts how G-d’s promise to Yishmael was fulfilled, describing his many descendants, it mentions the toldos, offspring, of Yitzchok — Yaakov and Eisav — through whom the promise that Avrohom would become "a father of nations" — Yisroel and Edom — would be fulfilled.

Rashi’s commentary contains "the wine of the Torah," i.e., it alludes to mystic insights. In Or HaTorah, the Tzemach Tzedek states that the words "And these are," representing a continuation of the previous narrative, allude to the ability of holiness to refine and elevate the realm of klipa, adding them to kedusha. Thus, it also implies that Yaakov can elevate Eisav and lift up the sparks of holiness contained within his soul. Similarly, there is also the refinement of Yishmael.

Based on the above, we can draw a connection between the two interpretations of the word "toldos" mentioned above. The most important chronicles of Yitzchok’s life began with the birth of his children. That is, although Yitzchok had already undergone the challenge of the Akeida, and then spent three years in Gan Eden, the essential aspect of his Divine service began with the birth of his children.

The purpose of our lives in this world is not to sacrifice ourselves to G-d or to rise up to Gan Eden, but rather, to elevate the world, to make it fit to serve as a dwelling for G-d. This is connected with the command: "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill up the world and conquer it." This was accomplished through Yitzchok’s giving birth to Yaakov and Eisav. In particular, it was realized through Yaakov’s efforts to elevate Eisav and also through the mission with which he was charged at the end of the portion, and in Parshas VaYeitzei, refining Lavan and Charan. This represents the ultimate purpose of a Jew’s existence — the refinement of the world, preparing it for the era when "sovereignty will be the L-rd’s," with the coming of Moshiach.

Additionally, Yitzchok was 40 years old when he married Rivka, and 60 years old when he begot Yaakov and Eisav. The age of forty is significant, as our Sages stated," At forty, one attains understanding," and "After forty years, a person reaches an understanding of his teacher’s knowledge." Similarly, the Torah associates the age of forty with "a knowing heart, eyes that see, and ears that hear."

The Tzemach Tzedek also associates the age of sixty with the quality of understanding. The interrelation of forty and sixty can also be seen in our Sages’ statement that the final Mem (numerically equal to forty) and the Samech (numerically equal to sixty) in the Aseres HaDibros stood in the tablets through a miracle. Thus, forty and sixty refer to a miraculous leap forward in service. In Yitzchok’s case, this was reflected in his marriage (at forty) and his siring of children (at sixty), which reflected a leap forward in his service of refining the world, adding happiness and joy ("Yitzchok") to the world and preparing the world for the ultimate miracle, the coming of Moshiach.

2. The refinement of the world, as reflected in Yaakov’s refinement of Eisav, is of primary importance in the present age. Ours is the last generation of Exile and the first generation of Redemption. Therefore, we have a unique responsibility to spread good, righteousness, and justice throughout the world at large, teaching the gentile nations to observe the seven universal laws commanded to Noach and his descendants. This will serve as a preparation for the era when, "I will make the nations pure of speech and they will all call on the name of the L-rd," and, "The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d...as it is written, ‘For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover up the ocean bed.’"

This concept is related to the service of the Nasi of our generation, the Rebbe Rayatz, whose second name was also Yitzchok. He spread Yiddishkeit and Chassidus throughout the entire world — even in America, the lower half of the world. Also, he initiated the efforts to translate Chassidic thought into the seventy languages of the world.

[It appears that the latter efforts were motivated by a twofold intent. Primarily, the goal was to reach Jews who could not understand the texts in the Hebrew original. In addition, this translation made it possible for the gentiles to learn about the oneness of G-d, Divine providence, and subjects of the like.]

There is a special emphasis on the above this year, the fortieth anniversary of the Rebbe Rayatz’s passing, since, as explained above, forty is connected with attaining "understanding of one’s teacher’s knowledge." Thus, this year grants us the potential for a miraculous leap forward in this direction.

These efforts can be related to the International Conference of Shluchim which was held during the previous week. The Shluchim came from countries all over the world as emissaries of the Jews (and in an extended sense, even of the gentiles) of those countries. In truth, they are emissaries of G-d, making the world a dwelling place for Him through influencing Jews to perform their 613 mitzvos and gentiles to perform the seven mitzvos with which they are charged.

In that sense, every Jew — and gentile for that matter — is a shaliach of G-d. By many, however, this shlichus is not consciously felt. Thus, the task of those who were appointed to serve as shluchim is to motivate all the Jews (and gentiles) throughout the entire world to fulfill the shlichus with which they were charged by G-d.

In this context, the International Conference of Shluchim involved a gathering together of the representatives of the entire world for a single intent to increase and intensify the service of transforming the world into a dwelling for G-d. To reinforce the influence of this conference, it is worthy to organize regional conferences for the shluchim throughout the world. Each of these conferences should publish a record of the gathering, including words of Torah spoken there, as suggested previously in regard to the International Conference of Shluchim.

In this context, we can see the connection to Parshas Toldos, which centers on the "chronicles" of Yitzchok’s "offspring," Yaakov and Eisav. Through the activities of the Jews (Yaakov) in refining the world at large (Eisav) — this being the intent of the International Conference of Shluchim — happiness and joy, the contribution of Yitzchok, will be revealed throughout the world.

3. The effects of our service in refining the world and preparing it for the Messianic Redemption is openly visible throughout the world.

There are those who protest against the suggestion that we are nearing the close of the Exile and approaching the coming of Moshiach. They maintain that the world is proceeding according to the natural order without disruption.

Such a perspective represents a lack of sensitivity and awareness to the upheaval that is taking place throughout the world. Political regimes are falling and power is changing hands in a drastic, almost inconceivable manner. Furthermore, this is being done without war or bloodshed, without even disturbing the commercial activities of the world.

First and foremost, we see a change in Russia, the country in which the Rebbe Rayatz and his students had their roots. After more than seventy years of rule by a powerful regime, which cast fear into the heart of every citizen of the country, there has been radical change. In a very short time, sweeping reforms have been put into effect by the leaders of the country and they have spread to the other countries who follow their ideological thrust.

Similarly, other countries — including China, India, and Japan, countries whose combined populations number in the billions — are in the midst of radical political change. The most miraculous aspect of this process of transition is that it is being carried out peacefully, without bloodshed, something that has never before happened in the history of man. In previous generations, whenever there was a revolution, destruction and bloodshed came in its wake. Indeed, we do not have to look past the Second World War, to see the devastation that can accompany political change. In contrast, today the change is coming in a more complete fashion and yet, in a peaceful manner.

[The upheaval in the world today is reflected even in the physical being of the world. We see many more earthquakes have occurred now than in the previous years. Here, too, G-d’s kindness and mercies are evident since the damage wrought by these earthquakes, is comparatively less than in the past.]

One may ask: Of what relevance are these events to the Jews? A Jew’s mission is to study Torah and fulfill mitzvos and the events that transpire regarding the gentiles have little relevance for him. Nevertheless, these events are significant in two contexts:

a) They reveal the greatness of G-d and His kindness and mercy. This miraculous turn of events is obviously a sign of the greatness of G-d and the lack of bloodshed a revelation of Divine mercy and kindness. We must acknowledge and give thanks for such Divine providence.

Everything that transpires in the world is a result of the service of the Jewish people, as alluded to in the Torah’s statement, "He established the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the children of Yisroel." Thus, our efforts in Torah and mitzvos — including our efforts to spread the observance of the seven commandments given to Noach and his descendants — will have a direct effect on spreading peace and stability throughout the world. In this light, the International Conference of Shluchim, which involved representatives from countries all over the world, takes on a new significance. Their efforts in spreading G-d’s truth throughout the world will contribute to the positive changes that are occurring throughout the world and prepare the world for the ultimate change, the coming of Moshiach, when "the sovereignty will be the L-rd’s" and "the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover up the ocean bed."


We have a unique responsibility of teaching the gentile nations to observe the seven universal laws commanded to Noach and his descendants.


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