We begin every day with these brachas, so they must be important.
“Blessed are You, Hashem … Who gives the heart understanding to distinguish between day and night.”
“Blessed are You, Hashem, that I am not a slave!”
“Blessed are You, Hashem, Who clothes the naked!”
“Blessed are You, Hashem, Who firms man’s footsteps!”
Many people cannot walk. I had a friend who needed to walk for his health, but he was not able. His condition deteriorated. I never knew anyone who suffered as much as he did. A brilliant surgeon told me I need to walk three to five miles every day.
“Blessed are You, Hashem … Who opens the eyes of the blind!”
Last week, I mentioned the formula we recite if we lose something: “Hakol b’chezkas sumin ad she’Hakadosh Boruch Hu poseach es ainaihem … all [human beings] are in the category of blindness until Hashem opens their eyes.” (Midrash Rabbah Beraishis 53:14) I once heard Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon Shlita”h ask, “Why should we assume it is normal that we should be able to see?”
Hashem enables us to see, to walk, to breathe and to learn Torah! It is all a gift from the Master of the Universe. The present condition of the world resembles a dust storm which obscures our vision. Only Torah enables us to see.
This dust storm originated with an event in our Parsha, when Yaakov Avinu wrestled with the Angel of Esav. (Beraishis 32:23) Rashi quotes an opinion which states that the words “v’yaiavaik ish … and a man wrestled [with Yaakov)” hint at the word “avak,” which means “dust.”
What is significant about this battle?
“Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said that [Yaakov and the Angel, in the course of their fight] raised dust….” all the way up to the Throne of G-d (Chullin 91a), for “this struggle was the prototype of a greater struggle that has continued throughout history. Indeed, it is the sum and substance of all human history.” (Rabbi S. R. Hirsch on Beraishis 32:23)
Until this very day, the Children of Yaakov and the Children of Esav are locked in a battle that will last until the end of this Exile, which is called “Golus Edom … the Exile of Edom.” Esav is called “Edom.”
The origin of the name “Edom” is the possuk in which Esav says to Yaakov Avinu, “‘Pour into me, now, some of that very red stuff’ … [and] he therefore called his name ‘Edom.’” (Beraishis 25:30) “Edom” means “red.” Indeed, Esav was born red, as it says, “The first one emerged red, entirely like a hairy mantle.” (ibid 25:25)
Esav obsessively loves red meat and blood. He is a hunter and trapper. The children of Esav are covered with blood from all their wars with us, the Children of Israel. This is the great war of history, beginning in this week’s parsha and extending down to the Holocaust and beyond.
The culture of America, which is of course descended from the culture of Esav, is obsessed with red meat. When else in history has there been such an obsession with steak? We have to understand where this originated. America until now has been good to the Children of Israel, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that America is part of the culture of Esav.
A great Rosh Yeshiva once told me that he had never eaten steak in his life. This is significant. Our psychological makeup is determined not only by what we eat, but what we WANT to eat. Esav is a bloody man and he loves red meat.
Please do not misunderstand: I am not saying that red meat cannot be kosher, but I am saying that an obsession for red meat is the heritage of Esav. It is relevant also to note that Jews are not permitted to eat the most choice cuts of steak (sirloin, Porterhouse) because of the prohibition regarding consumption of the sciatic nerve. (Rabbi Frand on this week’s Parsha)
We are not allowed to live the way the children of Esav live.
“Sefer ha Chinuch writes, ‘Just as the angel of Esav caused Yaakov to suffer, so too the children of Esav will cause the children of Yaakov to suffer, but in the end the Jews will see their deliverance from them. Just as the sun shone for [Yaakov when his fight with the angel ended at daybreak], so too the sun of Moshiach will shine for us, heal our suffering and redeem us, speedily, in our days, Amen!’” (Artscroll Chullin 91a, footnote 37)
At daybreak, when the Angel had to run, at that moment he blessed Yaakov Avinu.
“I put confidence in Hashem … and I hoped for His word. I yearn for my L-rd, among those longing for the Dawn, those longing for the Dawn….” (Psalm 130) Why is the word “dawn” repeated?
The sun rose for our Father Yaakov. Soon, b’ezras Hashem, it will rise for us!