Parshas Toldos: The Zookeeper and Latkes


rav-shmuel-brazil-1By Rav Shmuel Brazil

And Rivka took Esav’s “bigdai hachamudos” his coveted clothing and dressed Yaakov in them. Our Chazal tell us that these coveted clothes were the clothes of Adam Harishon that Hashem made for them after eating from the Aitz Hadaas. The Baal Haturim on this passuk [3,21] explains that the passuk contains eight words which correspond to the eight begadim of the Kohen Gadol. In essence the passuk is relating that Hashem made for them clothing of the Kohen Gadol to wear. However, other commentators explain that in these coveted clothes, Esav would hunt and capture all the animals. For on these clothes were drawn diagrams of all the varying animals and as they would see the pictures they would magically and involuntarily gravitate towards Esav thereby becoming a cinch to kill and to capture. That is why Esav and Nimrod who was his predecessor in the ownership of these clothes were both called “gibor tzayid” experts and powerful in hunting.

These conflicting explanations pose a difficulty in ascertaining exactly the nature of these begadim. How could they share this dual personality of being both the clothing of Adam Harishon and the holy kohen gadol yet also those of the killer hunters of Nimrod and Esav? What would Adam Harishon accomplish with these clothes since hunting was not one of his interests since he was forbidden to eat flesh? Also why was it deemed necessary for Yaakov to receive the berachos from Yitzchak in these clothes that were used for hunting?

The answer can be as following. There are two types of animals, those that lie within man and those that roam exterior to him. When Hashem said Let us make Man, the Medrash explains that the plural form Let us was referring to Hashem’s addressing the entire creation asking it to grant their powers in the creation of man who will become a microcosm of the cosmos. All the animals gave to him their kochos and traits. As we find by the mamar of Rebbi Yehudah Ben Taima : be brazen as the leopard, swift as the deer, strong as the lion, and light like the eagle to accomplish Hashem’s commands. In fact to put it more bluntly we actually have a zoo of middos within ourselves that can be channeled for good or for bad. One can control them by keeping them in their cages or on the other hand be controlled by them as they freely roam about Man’s thoughts speech and actions.. One can choose to be the baalabus over them or relinquish his sovereignty and be subservient to them.

The segulah of the bigdai Adam Harishon and Kohen Gadol was to help man to take charge of and tame his animalistic characteristics that lie within him, a process through which Man can become refined and spiritual. Adam and Chava sinned because they listened to the Nachash and let him rule over them until he entered their being and now wants to rule them from within. They were given these clothes as a “segulah” and charm to subjugate the nachash and all his cohorts from within so that Mam can become the zookeeper and fulfill his destiny. The Kohen Gadol who was in charge of the Beis Hamikdash was the head of the avodah of the sacrifices which was to sacrifice the “nefesh habehamis” within Man that caused him to sin and allow his middos to run amok. The highest nefesh in Yisrael was to serve in the Mikdash which was to give back to Man his surrendered reign over the animal kingdom which resides inside of him.

But as everything else, Man has that ability to channel the good into evil and use it to expand his physical horizons and pleasures thereby letting the zoo within run wild like in the jungle. This is how Esav and Nimrod abused these special clothing to feed their physical appetites by capturing more animals for their pleasure and entertainment. They did not use these clothing to deal with the middos that needed taming and cultivation but rather with the physical animals that surrounded them in their environment. They failed as tens of generations after them by abusing a spiritual gift that was given to them to facilitate Man’s ascent to the holy and G-dly and transformed it into a vehicle to further their earthly pursuits.

The saying goes, or at least the manufacturer’s claim so, that clothes make the man or woman. Did one ever stop to think and ask himself what they mean by that statement that clothing makes the man. Did you ever fill in the missing word which describes makes him into —–? Perhaps the answer is a monkey because monkeys see and monkeys do! Or perhaps into a sucker for every time they need more money they decide to change the styles and one allows himself to become a recurring and recycled sucker because he or she doesn’t mind throwing away money to these low lives who couldn’t give a hoot about you, your money, your morality, your marriage and your olam habah.

It is a simple basic understanding that Man’s clothing is a barometer whether or not he or she is the zookeeper of his or her middos. The word middah and maddah share identical spelling and maddah means clothing. If one’s clothes are tzenius and cover the body and are not provocative as the original clothes of Adam and Chava, then they serve a holy purpose and are likened to the clothes of the Kohen Gadol. By dressing modest, the clothes tame the middos to insure that they don’t flare up uncontrollably thereby snatching and throwing away the key from Man the zookeeper. Yes, it is the stylish clothing that testify whether the man or woman is control of his or her middos or the middos are control of the individual. We sometimes let the animals of the street the Madison Avenue’s, Paris, and “Hollywoods” enter our sacred lives with their carnivorous appetites hungry to devour every middah tovah that a Yid possesses and that he inherited from our holy avos. It’s not just that one’s nakedness is showing but also his or her middos that are showing and being displayed as well.

Now we can understand why Rivka was insistent that Yaakov should be wearing these coveted clothes of Esav when he enters Yizchak’s presence to fulfill his mission of receiving the berachos. For when Yaakov walked in with these clothing that were being used for the purpose of tikkun hamidos, it was a clear display attesting to the character of the person who was wearing them. For it was to this reaction that Yizchak remarked Reah raiach beni keraiach hasadeh – upon which our Chazal explain that Yaakov had the scent of Gan Eden around him. Note that Yitzchak did not say that these clothes of Adam Harishon gave off the scent of Gan Eden but rather Yaakov who wore these clothing gave off that scent. The clothing was an indication of the madraiga of the wearer. Yaakov was utilizing these begadim to control his middos and to not even allow his incredible and lofty middah of emes interfere and hinder him from receiving the berachos from Yitzchak even though his appearance in front of his father looked like explicit deceit.

In the same vein the Shinever Rav explains the passuk in the beginning of the parsha that Yaakov eesh tam and Rashi comments that tam means one who is not very capable and astute of deceiving and trickery. He asks but didn’t Yaakov demonstrate just the opposite middah when he beguilingly took the berachos from Esav? To this he answers that the passuk prefaces the middah of tam with the word eesh which means the owner as we find in the passuk Hashem eesh milchama as Rashi explains there. Here too Yaakov was not just a tam but an eesh tam. He was the controller of his middah of temimus, totally in charge when to let it out of the cage and when to keep it inside. The middos were not in control of him.

Now we can understand even on another level why Rivka was insistent that Yaakov should dress up with the coveted clothes of Esav. The berachos of veyiten lecha refers to Torah and all its aspects of learning as enumerated in the Medrash. Torah learning must not be a process of the mind alone but also of the heart as hinted by the first and last letter of the Torah which spells lev. Torah learning establishes the Yid to become the zookeeper over his animal character that lies within. Even from the English word zoo we have this concept reinforced. For zoo in lahshon hakodesh is the letters of zayin vov which is the gematria 13 which correspond to the 13 principles through which the Torah is darshaned and through which one keeps the doors of the animal cages locked.

The Greeks with their secular wisdom were not able to contain the wildness of their animal character which manifested itself with endless orgies of varying sorts. They were the opposite of Torah which stressed learning that develops a person to infuse his wisdom with his middos. Our custom on Chanukah is to eat lakes which is primarily because of the oil that is used in their making. Isn’t it fascinating that they are called levivos from the lashon of lev heart and yet they are full of oil! This is the quintessence of the victory of Torah over the Greeks, that one’s wisdom should enter one’s heart making him the zookeeper and not visa versa. Torah is to make Man the best of creation and not the beast of Mankind.

Gut Shabbos.

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