Mamar Parshas Toldos


Yaakov Ovinu wages a war
to take away the letter
י’ from Eisav


In our parsha, Parshas Toldos we learn about the birth process of the 2 brothers Yaakov and Eisav (25 25): “The first one emerged red, entirely like a hairy mantle; so they named him Eisav, and after that his brother emerged with his hand grasping on the heel of Eisav; so he called him Yaakov”. Rashi explains that it was Hashem that named him Yaakov.

From the fact that the Almighty himself named him Yaakov, we understand that this wasn’t an insignificant occurrence, but rather an important matter in the service of Hashem; therefore, it is important for us to understand what is the service alluded to in the grasping of Eisav’s heel, on account of which Hashem named him Yaakov.

It is also imperative to pursue another amazing matter in this week’s parsha, the Broches – blessings that Yitzchak wished to bestow upon Eisav rather than on Yaakov. While Esav did deceive his father into thinking that he was righteous, as Rashi explains (25 27), nevertheless, Yitzchak surely knew that Yaakov was a “איש תם יושב אהלים” – a pure man who sat in the Bais Hamedrash of Shem and Ever learning Torah. Why then did he try to prevent Yaakov from receiving the Broches?

Yaakov takes the letter י’ from Eisav

In order to explain all of this, let’s first discuss a question raised by the commentators regarding the Almighty’s choice of the name Yaakov. According to rhe verse he should have been named “עקב” – “heel”. So, where did the addition of theי’ come from? In previous years, we’ve introduced the wonderful explanation of the “Megaleh Amukos”, based on Rashi’s explanation of the name Eisav that he was born fully formed and full of hair like a fully grown person.

The Rashbam explains that according to this explanation the name “עשו” derives from the word “עשוי” which means made. The problem then is, why was he called “עשו” without the י’ and not “עשוי” with a י’? The “Megaleh Amukos” reveals that, originally, he should have been named “עשוי”with a י’, but Yaakov took away the י’ and added it to his own name; therefore, his name remained “עשו” without a י’ while Yaakov gained the additional “yud” –expanding his name from “עקב” to “יעקב”.

From this heilige vort of the “Megaleh Amukos”, we discover, that at the time of their birth, Yaakov and Eisav waged a deadly battle over the letter י’ ,which was originally part of Eisav’s name. Ultimately, Yaakov succeeded in grabbing Eisav’s heel, taking away the last letter of his name and joining it to his own name; to commemorate this act the Almighty named him Yaakov. 

He will pound your head and you will bite his heel

We find a wonderful source for the words of the “Megaleh Amukos” in Tikunei Zohar (tikun 13 29), adding that Yaakov and his descendants versus Eisav and his forces of tumah (impurity), are still waging a battle over this letter י’ until this very day– when the י’ is in the possession of Yaakov and his children in the form of יעקב” they are able to overcome the primeval serpent who is the evil inclination and to crush his head; however, when the serpent, the evil inclination, succeeds in separating the י’ fromיעקב” leaving only “עקב”, then the evil serpent wins out ,G-d forbid.

The Tikunei Zohar explains the verse (Breishis 3 15) that Hashem said to the primeval serpent: “I will put hate between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will pound your head, and you will bite his heel” means that mankind will pound the head of the serpent by means of the letterי’ ,which is a form of a “head,” and the serpent will succeed in overpowering man, if he will separate theי’ from him leaving him only with“עקב” . This is also the defect caused by Eisav’s angel in Yaakov’s thigh; he extracted the letterי’ leaving him limping.

Since we are the children of Yaakov ovinu and carry his name, as it states (Devorim 32 9): “כי חלק ה’ עמו יעקב חבל נחלתו”, it behooves us to explore and try to understand, the deeper significance of the letter י’ over which Yaakov and Eisav waged this battle to the bitter end, and why was it so important to Yaakov to extract it from Eisav’s name, and join it to his own name so that he be called “יעקב” and not “עקב”.

י’ is חכמה to elevate the“עקב”

In order to gain insight into this matter, we will learn the teachings of the holy Rabbi of Rophshitz, zat”l in his sefer “Zera Kodesh” (end of parshat Bereishit) who explains the meaning of the name “יעקב”. The letters“עקב” in his name allude to issues pertaining to this physical, material world, which are on a lower madreigah corresponding to the “עקב” the heel of the foot, whereas the letter י’ in his name, is the first letter of the four letters of Hashem’s holy name, and alludes to חכמה – wisdom which is in the head.

This is the explanation of the addition of the י’ to Yaakov’s name. Because this is our forefather Yaakov’s holy task, to elevate all matters of this world ,which are on the very low madreigah of “עקב”, by using them in conjunction with theי’ which is ““חכמה in the head; we must weigh and consider matters of this world with the scales of ““חכמה as to how to utilize them with the proper intentions and purpose exclusively in the service of Hashem, as stated in the mishnah (Ovos chapt.2 mishnah12): ”and all your actions should be for the sake of Heaven.”

The “Zerah Kodesh” explains, based on this idea, what Hashem showed Yaakov in the dream: “A ladder was standing firmly on the ground and its head is reaching the heavens”, to teach him that this is his holy task–the “ladder standing firmly on the ground”, represent the letters “עקב” in his name, alluding to matters of this lowly world, whereas, “and its head reaching for the heavens”, represent the letter י’ in his name which is the חכמה in the head to elevate all matters of this world.

Who is wise? he who can foresee the outcome

We can expand on this concept regarding using the י’ which is “chochmah” to elevate all mundane matters. We know , as stated in the Shulchan Oruch (Orach Chaim 231), that a Jew who wishes to sanctify all his worldly deeds, need only have the intent that, in all his actions, what he eats and drinks is to insure that he has the strength, afterwards, to learn Torah and serve Hashem.

It now makes sense how proper use of the י’ ,which is “chochmah” ,allows us to elevate the mundane to kedushe . For we’ve learned in the gemarah (Tamid 32:): “איזהו חכם” – who is wise? “הרואה את הנולד” – he who can see the consequences”. As a result, when a Jew, utilizes the י’ in his daily endeavors, foreseeing the consequences and outcomes of his actions, he succeeds in elevating and sanctifying the “עקב” matters of this world.

י’ commandments “עקב” words form יעק”ב

We find a companion for the Rophshitzer’s idea in the sefer “Ohr Hameir” from Rabbi Zev Wolf of Zutamir zatza”l who addressed this issue (Drush for Shavuos). He adds that the essential “חכמה” necessary to elevate the “עקב” the mundane matters of this world to the realms of kedushah is only the “חכמה” of Torah.

We can expand this idea further based on what the “Megaleh Amukos” wrote in this week’s parsha. He explains that the name יעק”ב alludes to the ten – י’ commandments, plus 172 – עק”ב words contained in the ten commandments, which together combine to form יעק”ב.

Based on this gem, we can say that it was for this reason that Hakodosh Boruch Hu ,the Almighty, gave us on Mount Sinai the “ten” י’ commandments containing 172 עק”ב words; He wished to teach us that it is impossible to elevate mundane matters of this world – the heel, the עק”ב of our existence – without the י’ the wisdom of the Torah. Thus , we find that the name יעק”ב and the ten commandments deliver the same message!


Eisav was supposed to serve Hashem in the material realm 

Now, we need to understand: why then, did Eisav originally have the letter י’ in his name “עשוי”, until Yaakov took it away from him? To understand this we must remember what Rashi explained on the verse (25,22), that the twins, Yaakov and Esav, were arguing over the inheritance of the two worlds. His source is the Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni) which states that before Yaakov and Eisav were born, they split between themselves the two worlds, Yaakov took for himself the coming world, while Eisav took for himself this world.

We may explain this as follows: their dispute pertained to the proper way to serve Hashem; Eisav chose to serve Hashem in matters of this world, in keeping with the principle of: “בכל דרכיך דעהו”; whereas, Yaakov chose to serve Hashem only in matters of the world to come and to totally separate himself from matters of this world.

Now, we can understand why the י’ was originally placed in Eisav’s name “עשוי”, seeing as he chose to serve Hashem in matters of this world and would need the י’, the element of “chochmah,” to elevate these matters. This is also why Eisav was the firstborn, since he represented the י’ the first letter of the holy name, the firstborn, as it were, of the four letters of Hashem’s name.

So Yaakov was supposed to serve Hashem only in matters pertaining to the world to come and remove himself from matters of this world; however, upon seeing , while still in his mother’s womb, that Eisav had no intention of serving Hashem–for he tried so hard to leave the womb whenever they passed a place of idol-worship– therefore, as they were being born: “וידו אוחזת בעקב עשו” – his hand grabbed Eisav’s heel to commandeer the י’ at the end of his name “עשוי” and to join it with the matters of this world the “עקב”. This is why Hashem named himיעק”ב the joining of the י’ and the “עקב”, revealing to the world that he agrees to having Yaakov serve Hashem also in matters of this world.

This is the meaning of the of the Tikunei Zohar that explains the Almighty’s saying to the primeval serpent, the evil inclination, that entices man to chase after the foolishness of this world without any loftier intent: “הוא ישפוך ראש” a Jew will overcome you by using the י’ which is “chochmah” which is in the head, “ואתה תשופנו עקב”, while you, the serpent, will win out if you are able to separate him from the י’ in his worldly dealings, leaving him with “עקב” alone.

Yitzchak wished to bless Esav with ten blessings

Now, we understand why Yitzchak wished to bless Eisav; he knew that Esav had chosen in to serve Hashem in matters of this world; so, he wanted to equip him with the tools and blessings for success and the power of the י’. On the other hand, he felt that Yaakov would not need those blessings in his pursuit of matters of the world to come.

We find an amazing fact. In the blessings (27 28): “ויתן לך” ,which Yitzchak wished to bestow upon Eisav, there are ten י’ blessings– as pointed out by the “Baal Haturim” and the source of which is in “Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer (chapt. 32). We can postulate that Yitzchak’s intention to bestow upon Eisav the ten blessings, was to equip him with the י’ so he can elevate all worldly matters.

But in the process, Yitzchak ovinu became aware that Eisav had fooled him, and never had the intention to use this world Leshem Shomayim. Furthermore, Eisav himself, unwittingly, in his own words in verse (27 36) revealed to Yitzchak that it was Hashem Himself who had given his brother the name “יעקב”, consenting to the fact that the י’ ,indeed, belongs to him. For this reason, Yitzchak did not take back his blessings from Yaakov and even added: “גם ברוך יהיה” – Indeed, he shall remain blessed.


~   For  the  full  Mamar  in  Lashon  Hakodesh,  see  the  weekly  “Hamachne Hachareidi”.   ~


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