The real Tzadikim are human beings too…

Shabbat Kodesh Parshat Toldot

From very early in my life, I was exposed to real Tzadikim’s biographies . I always loved the chapters describing the absolutely amazing sensitivity and thoughtfulness of real great people to the needs and feelings of other human beings. And of course to their Avodat Hashem and devotion to Torah studying. It gave me the foundation for Emunah. There was one chapter in some books which I usually skipped – The one describing the Tzadik as a “superhuman” person – who never wanted any worldly pleasures, and from “age three” only studied Torah… I felt that even if true, if anything, it shows us, “normal” people, that the Tzadik is made out of different material than ourselves, and hence we will never reach anything as great. This was to me, discouraging greatness, and I prefer not to accept it fully.

This topic comes straight into one’s mind, upon reading the following verse in this week’s Parsha. When Yitzchak Avinu, one of the most revered and true Tzadikim of all times, speaks to Esau. 

וַיֹּ֕אמֶר הִנֵּה־נָ֖א זָקַ֑נְתִּי לֹ֥א יָדַ֖עְתִּי י֥וֹם מוֹתִֽי׃

And he said, “I am old now, and I do not know how soon I may die.

וְעַתָּה֙ שָׂא־נָ֣א כֵלֶ֔יךָ תֶּלְיְךָ֖ וְקַשְׁתֶּ֑ךָ וְצֵא֙ הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה וְצ֥וּדָה לִּ֖י (צידה) [צָֽיִד]׃

Take your gear, your quiver and bow, and go out into the open and hunt me some game.

וַעֲשֵׂה־לִ֨י מַטְעַמִּ֜ים כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר אָהַ֛בְתִּי וְהָבִ֥יאָה לִּ֖י וְאֹכֵ֑לָה בַּעֲב֛וּר תְּבָרֶכְךָ֥ נַפְשִׁ֖י בְּטֶ֥רֶם אָמֽוּת׃

Then prepare a dish for me such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my innermost blessing before I die.”

So, here is a very old man, one of the three forefathers of Am Yisrael, the man who was ready to die for Kidush Hashem, – keen to have a “dish such as I like” in order to give a blessing to his less righteous son…

The main commentators (such as Rashi and the Ramban) do not say anything on this matter. Seforno explains that Yitzchak wanted Esau to “connect” with him, so that Yitzchak could give him a blessing, and the way to connect (for Esau) was by bringing food to him.

Later (and especially Kabalistic) commentators say that the “liking” (of Yitzchak to the delicacy food) was a much loftier purpose. So that theTzadik can “redeem the holy particles” from worldly items, such as food. While we have absolute Emunah in these higher explanations, it still leaves the simple description intact, and suggests that the Torah wants us to know that holiness does not necessarily mean total abstinence from the allowed pleasures of the world which Hashem so beautifully created.

Having said so, I do recall spending Shabbat meals with the holy Bohusher Rebbe ZT”L in Tel Aviv. The meal consisted of 5 or 6 (!) delicious courses. The Rebbe ate a little bit from each course. But – you could see on his face that all he did was, “enjoying” Shabbat Kodesh. Not the food… So maybe I didn’t even get the Pshat (the meaning of the text apparent at face value ) right…

Best regards, Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh tov

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld