Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Man Shem

Parashas Toldos

All Grown Up Now

Rabbi David Katz

Parashas Toldos bleeds of redemption all the way through its narration; as much as this is true in the revealed realm, it is the hidden dimensions that are astounding profound. Yes we have the famous prelude of the Baal Haturim commentary that informs us, that as the previous Parasha's end speaks about Yishmael [and his demise], this is a setup and introduction into Isaac's progeny and promised redemption [specifically Isaac's distant son Moshiach ben David; the fall of the Ishmaelite exile is the rise of the return of the Davidic Kingdom]. The Parasha then treks down familiar paths and by this point in history, it all seems a bit cliché; we are all too familiar with birthrights, Esau, Jacob, etc. - all the pre-requisite ingredients that we are promised will grace CNN once the infamous End of Days finally materialize.

The hidden Messianic gem however is almost entirely removed from the light of day, for the redemption begins with the mighty efforts of our Righteous Kohen, one of the Four Craftsmen of Redemption. Rashi identifies this mission to be carried out by Shem the son of Noah; not surprisingly, Shem is the all-star of the Parsha that everyone leaves out of the starting lineup; a pity, for the Torah of Shem never shined brighter than it does here with a HOF cast of the most essential Bnei Avraham at his disposal. Thus with a team of the Torah's biggest hitters present and accounted for, it’s the skipper in Shem that proves old school never grows dull. In fact, this isn't about the redemption of Shem, for Shem does just fine. This is a story about a Man named Shem, and those who claim to know that Man. Of Isaac, Rebecca, Esau, and Jacob….Jacob was a Simple Man, and interestingly enough, he served as Shem's longest tenured servant – fifty years in all. The saga perpetually begins in Toldos.

The key to understanding Shem's Torah, [as a theme to the Parasha] is to first understand real everyday life; namely the World of the Ger, for the Ger's world [while devoid of Jewish partisanship] is semi Divine [which the same is said of the Jew without the Ger, for the revelation of Hashem requires both working together mutually], yet the Torah's vessels are founded on that World by the history's greatest Gerim that ever lived. The World of the Ger [and thus the Torah's natural arena] is extremely profound once we know to approach it within its holiness, and as much as the Jewish tradition may preach the innards of classic Holiness [as subject to the Land of Israel and the Holy Temple], Jewish reality is often missing key content that is the DNA of the Torah's vessels. When the two come together [through Shem's Torah], we should have absolute revelation of [Moses'] Torah, and by this token, Parashas Toldos comes to introduce us to this Divine reality that is in store for the Humanity in the real End of Days.

Enter into focus Jacob and Esau who are seen inheriting greatness from their supernatural parents in Rebecca and Isaac, making the Torah's original "First Family," and interestingly enough, all of them were influenced directly and explicitly by Shem [son of Noah]. Rebecca grows up in Shem's backyard, as one of the original yeshivas was nearby; Rebecca displays the sign of Shem's Torah, as she proves to be the subject and eventual master of "Mazal" – God's providence in motion. [Look at her relationship with Eliezer who predictably met her at the well through knowledge of Mazal, and her keen eye for Jacob, due to perception of God's hand in her life.] Remember too, it was Shem that she ran to for counsel over turbulent womb. And Rebecca is not alone, as Isaac enrolled with Shem and Ever after the Akeida [binding of Isaac], and once Abraham passes on and Isaac is married, we lay witness to Isaac coming into his own as a proper Man – the level attained with mastery of Shem's Torah. [As in a True Man of God, like his father Abraham before him – who also learned this from Shem] this brings us to Esau and Jacob the would be and would be not subjects to carry out Shem's master plan of Creation that will culminate to the Torah being given at Sinai.

 Many authorities point out, that Esau's head was pure, and as the Zohar expresses, it is only his lower half that found him his trouble and feuds with Jacob. Yet as different as these two were, and the specific paths each took in life based on their appropriate Blessings from a uniquely inspired Isaac, the World did ultimately become a perfect place. By the End of Days we will have full glimpse at the polished vessels that were developed through many regimes and fallen empires that were ironically spearheaded by the World's last exile – Edom. By then, both Jacob and Esau's Blessings will have come into fruition, as a stage finally set, for Gerim and Jews to unite – based on a playground designed by God through the agency of Man – only to be understood through the lens of Torat Moshe and inspired by Torat Shem.

Esau would eventually conquer the World and take over her reigns, in efforts to satisfy every desire. This could be a very hedonistic way of viewing the World – and rightfully so, as one need not look too far even today to see that what we have become is not something to be proud of. Yet this is precisely where the Jewish – Ger union plays its strong hand best, for the World boasts supreme greatness if we know where and how to look. When Jacob's blessings mesh with Esau's, properly expressing itself as the best of Jacob and Esau through "Love the Ger" – on both sides, as the Torah of Moses commands upon Mankind, the Torah of Shem can then finally spread its wings and inspire the World – even on a Messianic level, for Shem is part of the Moshiach process as evidenced by the Four Craftsmen.

The World is filled with sports, politics, and vessels of every Wisdom known to Mankind. We can view it as a waste of time, a tool of the arrogant, or even worse a perversion to the Torah, yet on the flipside, if we find Shem's connection to Divine Light under the matrix, suddenly greatness can illuminate in vessels that we all can easily grasp and absorb. Once the unification has occurred among the Torah's practitioners [by way of their familiarity with this function of spirituality – Jews and Gerim], then the Torah of Moses is transformed from archaic meandering text into the Book of real life, or as the Zohar reveals, it finally yields its essential fruit as the ultimate Tree of Life. The Torah finally becomes the book of Man, insight into our greatest attributes that we all possess, for we just knew not to call that the spark of Holiness in all of us. Man was told that this is to our disgrace, as we grew fond of Amalek over our dear Shem, yet the light that comes out of Toldos every year as we trek towards the Hidden Light of Creation i.e. that which the Menora stands for, will eventually heal our virgin eyes.

As Esau's World shines under the tutelage of Shem revealing greatness among true Men of all ages, shapes, and sizes, we can then infuse Jacob's spiritual World into our daily existence. All of a sudden, perhaps there ARE Holy people around on both sides of the ball – praying, learning, talking to God, keeping the commands, enjoying this light from a distance, all under the category that we call a personal desire for God. Yet how can we gain a clear view of this complex tapestry? Jews, Gerim, Amalek, Shem, God, Spirituality – all together, Where?! Parashas Toldos, would be a start, and from there the Torah as we know it, and onwards into the Living Torah called the Life of YOU. The Real Man and Woman in each respective vessel, allowing the Real Jew and Ger to finally do what all of Humanity wants to do: walk with The Lord as Adam.

Maybe Esau went to the field [as Isaac did] to pray? Maybe we literally watched Isaac become the proverbial [Great] Man – like Abraham before him, only now we are privy to witnessing it. Maybe Jacob really was a simple Man – for he was a late bloomer [hence Isaac's "blind eyes"]. Maybe Rebecca fit right into this story and family, as the Torah shows what a real Woman's spirituality is with God – a daily affair with Mazal [from God].

 To make a long story short, perhaps what we see every year in Toldos is real life…real life being performed by exceptionally great people. The real scholar as he wakes up over 50 long/short/mazal filled years. This of course takes place alongside the real Man who blossomed earlier than his adversaries, took full advantage, and married his date with destiny. Perhaps he emulated his father in prayer [in the field], yet the job called for more authenticity – Torah a precedent over Tefilah? Jacob being the young Torah scholar would come into his own greatness and Manhood down the pike, once he learns to merge Torah and Tefilah. Life's lessons go on and on in the Parasha, the secret being look for subtle greatness, the kind that we all know yet are afraid to fully express to the mind's ear.

Shem certainly lives in the ivory towers of Toldos, and the whole Torah of Moses for that matter. While most are looking for mind blowing quotes and Divine images, have you ever heard the soft voice of a wrestler or pondered his six minute plight with destiny? Wrestling is just one of an infinite array of analogies that the Torah of Shem can be fully felt and expressed. In short all that which requires Manhood, we can fully expect that Shem will certainly have words of Wisdom for you, words to apply to all facets of life, as pristinely drawn out in the Torah of Moses.

 We live in a dogmatic World when it's at its best, and somehow we lose sight of the territory and in exchange for a map that ironically leads us to nowhere. The destination we seek we actually have no clue, for only once we arrive do we realize what we now are – a realization of the essential "Adam" – a product of wrestling or whatever. "Whatever" – are the thoughts of man, until a few Parshiot from now we will encounter Jacob wrestling with an angel and strangely asking him his Shem or whatever. Whatever its worth, Jacob became a Man, and Toldos captured every moment of Life's little sagas, that just happens to be a fractal of Shem, Gerim and Jews working to bring God's light into our lives. When we can learn to trade-in our whatever's for what the Torah is echoing from Gan Eden, then perhaps we can enjoy life as Adam…something that if you look carefully into our Parsha, you will see that Shem the Man already beat you to it, just look at his team.

Audio Shiur Sunday Night 11 P.M. [Tzfat Time]
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R Bearden said...

I had to read this three times. The first time I was distracted. The second time I still felt as if I had missed something so I re read it. Upon the third read I got it. Shem is there. Quietly behind the scenes, involved in the lives of all these people. The one that you don't see,or hear about is out there doing his thing. Shem is the common thread in the lives of all these people. He had a relationship, and made it work.

Anonymous said...

Agree!!! Seeing Shem behind the scenes really IS an eye opener... Did not even realize it until you pointed it out, Rabbi... Thank you for these Truths... right in front of our eyes, but hidden away!!

Such a Class...

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