Gateway to Proper Behaviour

“These are the judgments which you shall put in front of them. When you acquire a Hebrew slave, he shall work for six years and in the seventh year he shall go out free.” Many commentators ask why the laws of a Hebrew slave should be the very first subject discussed in Parshas Mishpatim, the first parsha after the giving of the Torah in Parshas Yisro. Wouldn’t learning what happens if they become slaves again be the last thing the Jews would have been interested in immediately after being freed from slavery themselves? We can imagine the Jews saying, “Don’t talk to us about slavery, we’ve just come out” to Moshe Rabeinu. Clearly Hashem had a good reason to begin Parshas Mishpatim with this subject.

Iyov is known as a righteous man. Tanach describes him as wholesome and upright; he feared Hashem and shunned evil. In Chapter 29 he describes his own righteousness. “I would rescue a pauper from his wailing and an orphan who had no-one to help him … I would bring joyous song to a widow’s heart. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the destitute.” And in Chapter 31 he says, “If my steps ever veered from the proper way or if my heart ever went after my eyes or anything ever clung to my hand.” Iyov claimed that had he been guilty of sin, he would have accepted his tribulations. Apparently he never did anything wrong, so where is justice?

These words of praise are mind-boggling if we think of Gemara Sotah (11a). “Before Pharaoh began enslaving the Jews he consulted three of his advisors. Bilaam encouraged him, Iyov was silent and Yisro fled.” Bilaam harosho encouraged him because he hated the Jews and tried later, more than once, to destroy them. Yisro fled because he could not countenance even being part of such injustice. Iyov was silent, apparently not wanting to support Pharaoh but also not willing to speak out against Pharaoh’s cruel plan to enslave the Jews. If he had spoken against Pharaoh or fled like Yisro, Pharaoh would have been left with one supporter out of three. With Iyov sitting on silently, he could perhaps claim that a majority of his advisors did not oppose his plans. Pharaoh went on to afflict the Jews with back-breaking slavery and to throw the Jewish boys into the river. Is this Iyov, Pharaohs advisor, the same person who claimed to be “eyes to the blind, feet to the lame and father to the destitute?” If he was such a tzaddik why didn’t he oppose Pharaoh or run away like Yisro? The Gemara indeed concludes that “Bilaam who encouraged Pharaoh was killed, Iyov who was silent was punished with yesurin and Yisro who ran away, he was blessed that his grandchildren sat later in the Sanhedrin”. But what was Iyov thinking when he claimed to be righteous? And how could the posuk say he was wholesome, upright and feared Hashem.

Imagine you are walking behind another Jew and you see money fall from his pocket. A few moments later he puts his hand in his pocket, realizes that his money is missing and you hear him say, “Oy veh for the money I have lost!” You know exactly where that money is. Do you have to tell him where his money is or can you rejoice in your sudden windfall and keep the money yourself?

Your Jewish domestic help puts your best china dishes in the sink — (not everybody has a dishwasher!) — rather too enthusiastically and your best set of eight fleishige plates has just become a set of five. You estimate that it will cost you £100 to replace it. You know this girl is an orphan and has barely enough money to live. Will you charge her for the damage? At the end of the day she comes to you for her wages as normal. Will you pay her or explain politely that since she has caused such damage, much more than the amount she normally earns, you are under no obligation to pay her?

In last week’s parsha (18:20), Yisro told Moshe Rabeinu, “And you should tell them the statutes and laws and you shall tell them the way they should go in and the deeds that they shall do.” Bobo Metzia (30b) interprets the last words of the posuk, “the deeds that they shall do,” as referring to going lifnim mishras hadin, beyond the strict halocho. In the cases we mentioned, the strict halacho allows us to keep the money ourselves, charge the orphan the full damages and certainly withhold her wages. However, lifnim mishuras hadin, Bobo Metzia (83a) says that it is correct not to charge damages and even to pay the wages as usual, although this could depend on the circumstances of the case. Rebbe Yochanon said that Yerushola’im was destroyed because the people followed the strict halocho and didn’t go lifnim mishuras hadin.(Bobo Metziah 30b).

Iyov may have been someone who shunned evil and feared Hashem in the sense that he was careful to do what he was strictly required to do, but he did not go beyond the letter of the law. When Pharaoh asked his opinion, he may have seen that Pharaoh was determined to begin his plan of slavery and disagreeing with him wouldn’t have changed anything. According to the strict moral requirements of his situation, he could sit there in silence. He was an oness, unable to do what should normally have been done in those circumstances.

Yisro, however, went lifnim mishuras hadin, as he later taught Moshe Rabeinu. To sit there and not protest was not an option for him. To argue was useless. But, at least, he could run away. Let no-one even think that he agreed with Pharaoh.

The parsha begins with the laws of a Hebrew slave. We would have thought that if we have a slave, we can treat him like a slave but the Torah later (Vayikra 25:39) tells us that this is explicitly forbidden. The halocho forbids us to tell him to him to do unnecessary work as well as telling him to work until we come back without indicating when this will be which is psychologically difficult.  Further, Kiddushin 22a says that the slave should not have an inferior bed to his master nor be given inferior food. Even a Canaanite slave for whom these halochos are more lenient, should be treated well by his master. “Mimidas chasidus we should treat our (Canaanite) slaves with mercy, feed them generously, speak to them respectfully and listen to any complaint they may have.” (Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 267:17).

What better way could there be to begin parshas Mishpatim? It is not just the laws of slaves. It is a gateway to proper behaviour; not always insisting on our rights; going beyond the strict halocho; showing mercy, generosity and respect to everyone. This is the way Yerushola’im will be rebuilt and this is how to receive Hashem’s blessings, for us and our families.

The Deal of all Time

President Trump has recently been talking about his “deal of the century,” in connection with Israel and the Arabs. Parshas Yisro contains the “deal of all time,” arranged by Hashem and affecting the Jews and the rest of mankind. The Heavens and Earth were waiting nervously. A deal means their continued existence. No deal meant a return to nothingness. The stakes could not have been higher.

Shemos 19:6 tells us: “And now, if you will listen to My voice and keep My covenant, you will be a treasured nation out of all the nations for the whole world is Mine.” In exchange for a commitment to keep the words of the Torah, the Jewish People would become Hashem’s treasured nation. But what were the ramifications of this new status and what would be their precise role in the new world order?

When Moshe Rabeinu ascended Har Sinai, Hashem’s first words to him were, “Don’t they say sholom where you come from?” Moshe Rabeinu responded, “Does a servant say sholom to his Master?” Hashem said, “You should have helped Me.” Moshe Rabeinu responded, “May the strength of Hashem be increased.”(Shabbos 89a).  This borders on the humorous. The exchange between the Creator of the world and mankind’s representative at the beginning of a unique event which was to map out the future of the universe centered on how we should greet one another. It is important but this is the world-shattering topic appropriate for the day the Heavens and Earth have been waiting for, for three thousand years? And what did Hashem mean that He needs our help?

Shabbos 119b tells us that when we say Vayechulu on Friday night we become partners with Hashem in the creation of the World. A partner with Hashem? He needs us to partner Him? What does this mean?

The Bnei Yisosschor’s posuk for Shevat is homer yemirenu vehoyo hu – If a man wants to exchange the sanctity of an animal for another animal, the sanctity of the first animal remains. Does the fact the parshas Yisro is always read in Shevat help explain why this posuk was chosen?

When Hashem first spoke to Moshe Rabeinu at the burning bush, he told him, “So shall you say to Pharaoh. This is what Hashem said, My son, My firstborn son Israel.” What did Hashem mean that Israel is Hashem’s son? If He meant that He created us physically, He created every person and indeed every animal, every plant and the whole of creation. In this sense we are all the children of Hashem. Why should just the Jews be called Hashem’s children?

 The sefer Derech Hashem tells us that after the aveira of Odom Horishon and his subsequent teshuva, Hashem hoped that mankind as a whole would honour Hashem in their actions and thus, Hashem’s purpose in creating the world would be fulfilled.  There was no plan to have a treasured nation. Hashem waited ten generations but the people were corrupt and wicked. He brought the flood but there was no significant improvement, the next ten generations were equally wicked, but this time there was one notable exception —  Avrohom, the son of Terach. He was not only righteous in himself but he had the ability to influence his descendants. Now Hashem decided that a new stage in world history should begin. Avrohom’s family and descendants would be the Hashem’s flagbearers in the world. Their mission was to influence the rest of humanity. (Ramban in Devarim 32:26 and Seforno in Shemos 19:6) From their devotion to Hashem, their publicising His miracles, and their example in leading lives of moral rectitude, the nations of the world would also learn to believe in Hashem, even if they only accepted seven basic mitzvos. In a sense this was Hashem’s back-up plan to bring the world to its fulfilment.

If we proclaim our belief that Hashem created the world by saying Vayachulu, we become partners with Hashem in bringing the world to its fulfilment. He asks us to help Him bring the world to its fulfilment by sanctifying His Name amongst the nations of the world. Only when the whole of mankind is ready to serve Him will we have done our job.

Being a partner with Hashem is an awesome responsibility but it also brings us tremendous blessings. Firstly, because of the vital role we play in bringing the world to its fulfilment, we will receive a huge reward in the world to come. Secondly, Hashem takes special care of us in this world. We are His partners and partners do everything to help each other. Even if we sometimes slip, according to the Ramban (ibid), He shows us great patience and mercy. He “has to.” We are already in plan B. There is no plan C; only a return to nothingness. We learn in Kiddushin (36a) that however much we fall from the required standards, we are still referred to as Hashem’s children. Not in the physical sense, as we explained earlier, but because we are building a world of honour for Hashem. We have a joint mission.

 We are indeed Hashem’s “firstborn son.” We are Hashem’s chariot. We are Hashem’s flagbearers. Out of all the nations, we devote ourselves to increasing Hashem’s honour in the world. He will not exchange us for another nation as the Bnei Yisosschor implied. Hashem was not just telling Moshe Rabbeinu merely to greet people when you meet them, important though that is. He was telling him the reason for the universe’s existence and our national mission. If the Jews don’t take on this mission, it will mean a return to nothingness. If we don’t ‘help’ Hashem, there is simply no point in the universe continuing to exist.

To be Hashem’s treasured nation does not just mean being chosen for Hashem’s special protection. It is a lifelong commitment to be loyal to Hashem’s Torah in all circumstances and to sanctify His Name amongst all the nations. Indeed, the deal of all time.

Our Personal Yetzias Mitzrayim

“And the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled and the attitude of Pharaoh and his advisers towards the Jewish People changed and they said, “What did we do that we sent away the Jews from being our slaves?” (Beshalach 14:5).

We laugh at Pharaoh. What kind of diminutive idiot was he? Just a few days before he had got up in the middle of the night and searched desperately for Moshe Rabeinu to tell him to leave with all the people and animals. Even though he had said earlier, “Who is Hashem that I should listen to His voice?” after makas habechoros he decided that he could not stand against the power of Hashem and freed the Jews unconditionally.

Yet a few days later he changed his mind again. His chopping and changing, his promising and reneging on his promise, his admitting he was a rosho then continuing in his obstinate ways had been going on for months. A person with sechel comes to a decision and keeps to it. He was clearly unbalanced and totally unreliable and that is how we remember him. Is there anything we can learn from such an idiot? Surely not; but read on.

In the Hagada we read, “Reb Yehuda used a mnemonic to list the ten makos: Detzach Adash B’Achab.” He divided the ten makos into three sections. The plagues of blood, frogs and lice. The plagues of wild animals, pestilence and boils and the plagues of hail, locusts, darkness and the killing of the firstborn. The Malbim explains that the first group of plagues prove that Hashem exists. Pharaoh said that the first two plagues were the result of black magic and only after the third plague did he admit that it was “the finger of Hashem.” The second group show that He involves Himself in this world, making sure that only the Egyptians suffer and not the Jews. The third group of plagues prove that there is no power to challenge Hashem who is the Master of everything.

The Rambam writes, “It is a mitzvah of the Torah to cry out and blow trumpets whenever a community suffers a tragedy. This is part of the way of teshuva because when we cry out, we all realise that the tragedy has happened because of our sinful deeds. But if people say that that what has happened was just ‘natural,’ or a ‘coincidence,’ this is the way of cruelty and causes people to continue in their sinful deeds. (Hilchos Taanis 1:1-3)

In another place he writes, “What is complete teshuva? This is when a person is in the same circumstances as before and has the possibility of sinning and has an equally strong yetzer horah but does not sin. This is complete teshuva. If a person does teshuva in his old age and has no possibility of repeating his sin, he is still called a baal teshuva. What is teshuva? If a person stops doing his sin and decides never to do it again and he regrets having sinned and the One who knows secrets can testify about him that he will not do this sin again. (Hilchos Teshuva 2:1-2).

Kiddushin (33a) brings the view of Reb Issi ben Yehuda which is the accepted halacha that we have to stand up for an elderly person, even if he is unlearned. Rebbe Yochonon used to stand up for elderly people even if they were not Jewish. He explained that any elderly person has undoubtedly experienced many crises during their lifetime and had seen many miracles. (Rashi).

Hashem is the ultimate Baal Chessed. He wants us to earn our place in the World to Come through successfully confronting our challenges in this world. And He wants us to grow through our experiences in this world. As He did in Mitzrayim, He sends many signs of His existence, of His involvement in even the mundane matters of this world and of His unmatched power. This is all for our good. However we may not always respond in the right way. Like Pharaoh, we can dismiss events as magic, luck or coincidence until we accept that what happened was truly the “finger of Hashem.” When events happen in our family, neighbourhood or community, we can fail to realise that Hashem is sending us a message. Contrary to the clear words of the Rambam, we may be tempted to carry on with our normal lives, failing to take advantage of the potential for spiritual growth that Hashem is offering us. When we see how much He helps us extricate ourselves from various crises and are aroused to thank Hashem for His many miracles, the danger is that this arousal may be short lived. We can make promises but, like Pharaoh, a few days later, we can forget them.

Finally we can fall into the “death trap”. If we have certain yetzer horas that we find difficult to overcome, we can fool ourselves into thinking that all will be well in the end. We intend to say the vidui sincerely before passing away, doing teshuva for everything. After all, didn’t the Rambam say that teshuva in old age is still teshuva, even if it is not the best teshuva. However there is a problem with this plan; the Rambam says that even if a person cannot prove his teshuva is sincere, because he has no opportunity to do that sin again, the teshuva in his heart must be strong enough that the “One who knows secrets can testify that he would not sin again.” Let’s say a person, facing death, finally realizes the folly of his actions and regrets having done them but then unexpectedly recovers and goes back to his old ways. Obviously his teshuva was not sincere. Pharaoh too, facing death during Makas Bechoros went through the motions of complete teshuva and sent out all the Jews, but a few days later, when the danger had passed, he was back to his old antics. His teshuva was not on the Rambam’s level one or level two.

Yes, we can learn from Pharaoh, not to be like him. Not to spiritually zigzag, not to promise and not keep our promises and not to claim that miracles are really just a lucky coincidence. But, on the contrary, we should take advantage of every event in our lives to grow in emuna, to become more and more certain that Hashem exists, that He involves Himself in even the mundane matters of this world and that there is no power besides Hashem. Then we will have completed our own personal yetzias Mitzrayim.

A Reservoir of Merits

“And it was on that day Hashem brought out all the hosts of the Children of Israel from the Land of Egypt.” (Shemos 12:51). In the parsha we read that following our long exile in Mitzrayim, Hashem finally brought us out. We have a mitzva to remember this unique miracle every day. However the Hagodo goes further and tells us that a person is obliged to see himself as if he himself just left Mitzrayim, no matter where he is living. This extra obligation is widely regarded as being extremely difficult to fulfil. (Women sometimes find it easier than men!) The intensity of the slavery, the continuous back-breaking work, the cruelty of Pharaoh’s decrees are so foreign to those of us who, fortunately, have always lived in peaceful societies, that we cannot appreciate that feeling of joy which the Jews must have felt when they were freed from the slavery of Mitzrayim. Is this mitzva then not relevant to us or is there some way we can have a connection to it?

The Mesilas Yeshorim (Chapter One) discusses our purpose in this world, which is to earn our portion in the next world. Were we to enter the World to Come without living through the challenges of this world, we would not feel so happy. It would be like living off charity. We will feel much happier if we earn our reward by having our loyalty to Hashem tested and successfully standing up to those tests. These tests, says the Mesilas Yeshorim, come constantly. We are often faced with difficult situations such as illness, poverty or exile during which our faith in Hashem may be challenged. At other times we may be tested by excellent health and wealth. Then the challenge is to believe that our success is solely due to Hashem and not to our business acumen or the skill of our doctor.

It is clear from the Mesilas Yesharim that every day brings different challenges. However each challenge is also to an opportunity to be used for our eternal good and shouldn’t be wasted. How can we utilise a moment when we have just escaped from a major or minor difficulty? Obviously we must thank Hashem profusely. But perhaps we can also use this moment to claim part of the mitzva we mentioned, feeling as if we have just come out of Mitzrayim. True, our suffering was not as great that of a slave in Mitzrayim but we can share some of his exhilaration on being freed. We can use even recovery from a relatively minor illness or crisis to feel part of this mitzvah.

But what about during the difficulty itself? How can we best utilise that time? The Mesilas Yesharim mentioned maintaining our faith in Hashem, so beautifully exemplified by Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin very recently. How else can we best use time of suffering, even for less serious challenges than R’ Sholom had to face?

The Chovos Halevovos gives several explanations of the mitzvah of loving Hashem bechol levovcho, uvechol nafshecho, uvechol meodecho. One is that we are obliged to love Hashem even if we have no money, no possessions and almost no life. Even if a person is suffering the tribulations of Iyov, he still has to love Hashem. But how likely is it that we will have a chance to fulfil this mitzvah? And even if we did, are on a high enough madreiga to fulfil it? It seems to be hardly relevant for us. But if we continue the theme we began earlier, it can indeed be relevant. Yes, the extreme situation as faced by Iyov is, hopefully, unlikely but we are often lacking something. We are often in some pain, physical or emotional. At any moment of challenge, before the healing or salvation has come, we can think to ourselves and even say out loud, “Despite this pain, despite not having what I would dearly like, I still love You, Hashem. You have given me life. You have given us Torah and Mitzvos. You have given us the World to Come. I still have more than enough reasons to love You.” This way we can also have a connection to one of the loftiest mitzvos, loving Hashem with all our heart, albeit on our very limited madreiga.

But now let’s move on to our most joyful moments which have pearls of opportunity hidden in them if we take advantage. Obviously these simchadik moments should be used to feel full of thanks to Hashem for His kindnesses. Yaakov said the Shema at the very moment he was being embraced by Yosef to use that moment of great simcha to express his love of Hashem. There is, however, another way we can respond to moments of simcha to earn eternal reward, if we think about it.

In the Shemone Esrei we say “ki lishuosecho kivinu kol hayom – We have hoped for your salvation the whole day.” Who amongst us actually hopes for the geula the whole day? To justify our saying this, perhaps we could suggest that our lives are divided into three aspects; when things are going badly, when things are going well and other times. When things are going badly, it is easy to yearn for the geula. When things are going well, and even very well as at a chupa, we break a glass to remind us that however great our simcha, it cannot be complete until Yerushalayim is rebuilt, with the Beis Hamikdash. So even during these happy times we still are yearning for geula. And if we are well, we have a parnoso and there are no crises, that is also a good situation to be in and we can also think that however good things are, they would be even better were we to merit the geula. So during all the different times of our life, we yearn for the geula and we can say lishuosecho kivinu kol hayom with sincerity.

Now we have a way to utilise our moments of simcha and even our everyday moments when we are not suffering, for our eternal benefit; by thinking that however good things are, how much better it would be, were we to merit the geula. Thus we can have the merit of the mitzva of “yearning for salvation” and be able to answer the question we will all be asked in the next world, “Did you yearn for the salvation?” And we can do this in any situation in which we find ourselves.

Life is full of opportunities; moments when we can create a connection to certain mitzvos which ordinarily are beyond us. It is up to us to grasp every opportunity and every moment to create a reservoir of merits for our future.

Shabbos – Our Spiritual Pit-Stop

At the beginning of Parshas Vayeitzei we read:  “ And Yaakov went out of Beer Sheva and he went to Choron.(Bereishis 28:10) Rashi asks why we need this posuk. We already know that Yaakov was coming from Beer Sheva and was going to Choron.

There are a number of answers.  One of them pertains to far more than this particular journey of Yaakov Ovinu. It is an answer which the Pirkei Ovos says is so important that we have to remember it constantly, throughout our lives. We always have to know where we have come from and where we are going to.

Where do we come from? Every Jew is a ‘ chelek eloka mimaal’. Within us we have a spark of Hashem. Our neshomos come from the holiest and purest source. As we say in our daily Brachos, “The soul that You gave me is pure. ”And when you have something so valuable, you treasure it, you make sure it remains pure.

And if we think, “Sure, our neshomo came from a holy place but now we live in this world and our neshama is bound to lose its purity.” —t hen we have to remember the next part. Where we are going to? We will all eventually go back to Shomayim. And Hashem will ask us, “How is the neshama I gave you. Is it still pure and holy?” If we remember this, we won’t let our neshama be sullied. We don’t want to be shamed by having to show Hashem that the beautiful neshomo tehora He gave us, is now impure.

The trouble is that we forget. We look at our neighbor. Compared to him or her I’m not bad. We so easily ignore our final destination. This World is so overpowering. We want to be successful in this world and sometimes a little lie, a little loshon hora would make life easier. We like to be popular and we are tempted to be one of the boys just once, just twice, just three times…How can we remember our destination and keep our neshomos untainted?

To preserve the wholesomeness of our neshamos we have Shabbos every week. True, the World is a spiritual quagmire. It’s easy to slip and fall. But Shabbos reminds us. Shabbos brings us back. And if our neshomo is not quite so clean, Shabbos is the great cleanser. It’s our spiritual pit-stop for us to re-assess, refuel our neshama and get back on track. If during the week, we veered from the narrow path, Shabbos stretches out her hands to help us back. Not with harsh words but with love and warmth.

We just have to say and hear “Lechu neranana” and we want to come back home. When we say shiru l’Hashem shir chadash we want to join in the singing. When we sing Lecho Dodi and we feel and enjoy that closeness to Hashem that we have missed for the last six days. And when we turn round and sing “Bo’i veshalom ateres baala, …toch emunei am segula,” we’re proud and happy to be part of that Am Segula, Hashem’s treasured nation. We say “Never will I go away again. Never will I leave the daled amos shel halocho. Never will I distance myself from the mechitzo of Hashem.” And if, despite all these beautiful intentions, I do slip again, next week Shabbos will again embrace me and bring me back.

Shabbos is me’ein olam habo. But not just in the usual understanding that we are removed on Shabbos from all material distractions and can concentrate on ruchnius like olam habo. It is also in the sense that we expereience the Shechina just as we will in olam habo (Reb Shimshon Pinchas).Yet there is a difference. In the real olam habo we have to present our neshomo for judgement. There are no more chances. On Shabbos, although we meet the Shechina, we have another chance. If we can be inspired to try to grow from now on, our journey through olam hazeh can still be successful. Shabbos is our weekly opportunity to get back on track, to make sure we are going in the right direction. And just in case we have temporarily forgotten, Shabbos will remind us about our true destination – where we are going to and in front of whom will we have to give din vecheshbon.

The parsha says more about Yaakov’s journey:“And he came to the place and stayed there ovenight because the sun had set. He took some stones and put them under his head and lay down for the night. He had a dream and behold there was a ladder standing on the ground and the top reached to the heavens. And behold, the angels of G-d were going up and down on it. And Hashem was standing at the top.”

If we think about it, Yaakov Ovinu’s journey is similar to the journey we travel in our own lives. We also have our dreams — what we want to achieve; how we see our future, materially, spiritually. Sometimes the malochim who represent us go up and everything we touch turns to gold. At other times our malochim go down –we have our failures, our disappointments. But as in Yaakov’s dream, Hashem is at the top of the ladder to help us, support us and when necessary to comfort us. As the pasuk continues…“And He said, I am Hashem, the G-d of your father Avraham and your father Yitzchak…I am with you and will look after you. I will guard you and will not forsake until I have fulfilled what I said to you.”

And when each of arrives at our destination, after 120 years, we will appreciate that everything which happened to us was for the best. The successes and the failures, the happy times and the disappointing times, peaceful times and times of war were all according to Hashem’s precise plan.

“And Yaakov woke up from his sleep and he said, surely G-d is in this place and I didn’t know.”

We will realise that even when we could not see Hashem, He was with us all the time.

We have to remember where we came from — the highest levels of sanctity and purity. Where we are going to– back to Hashem’s loving embrace. We should use Shabbos as our weekly inspiration to maintain the purity of our neshomos and to strengthen our emuna and our bitachon. Then when we come to our appointment with Hashem, He will congratulate us on a job well done and welcome us Home.

Thanksgiving

In 1621 the Plymouth colonists in America and the Wampanoag Indians wanted to thank G-d for a successful harvest. They organized what became known later as the first Thanksgiving celebration. Eventually it became a fixture on the calender and on the fourth Thursday in November, Americans sit down to their annual Thanksgiving  dinner. The traditional menu, I’m told, consists of turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Thanking G-d is always a good idea but in America it seems that this is the season.

Here in Eretz Yisroel, we have multiple reasons for thanking Hashem particularly at the moment. The first reason is the positive side of horrendous fires which damaged thousands of properties and caused widespread panic to huge numbers of people. This week it rained, which we will come back to later, but last week the trees were dry from months of sunshine and there was a strong wind.  Many, if not all the fires were deliberately caused by Arab arsonists. It has been called the pogrom of 5777.  Seventy-five thousand people were forced to leave their homes in Haifa. At Neve Tzuf, a moshav in the Shomron, a Molotov cocktail thrown over the perimeter fence on Shabbos night exploded into a fire which threatened all one thousand residents.  There were also fires at Zichron Yaakov, Beit Meir and other places. Yet despite the extreme threat to the lives of many people, no-one died. Firemen fought for three days in great danger. The elderly and infirm were evacuated from hospitals and old-age homes. Children were rescued from kindergartens which were within minutes of becoming fire traps. No-one was left behind. No petrol stations caught fire nor gas balloons which provide cooking fuel to older homes to. In short, there was financial damage, some injuries caused by smoke inhalation but no deaths. Boruch Hashem for this miracle, for these many miracles.

And now it has rained. In London this is nothing to talk about, and certainly not in Manchester but in Eretz Yisroel there is no rain from the middle of May to October. Even then it is sporadic and December can still be hot and dry. We read in Krias Shema about the yoreh and malkosh, often translated by “the former rains and the latter rains.” The time of the yoreh is in Cheshvan or Kislev. The Gemoro Taanis tells when the rains should start and when the people began special tefilos and fasting if it hadn’t rained yet. The Gemoro (7b-8a) also lists several reasons why the rains might be late in arriving. One reason is that people have pledged money over the Yom Tov season but have not kept their vows. Other possible reasons for Hashem not sending rain are loshon hora, chutzpa, bitul Torah and theft. The day of rain is considered as great as the day heaven and earth were created. It is a sign that our aveiros have been forgiven. So when it started raining on Thursday evening, here in Ramat Beit Shemesh, there were shrieks of joy to be heard. It continued to rain throughout Erev Shabbos until later on Friday evening. People were glad to wear their raincoats and hat covers. On Friday morning just about every child from about the age of four proudly held their coloured umbrellas on their way to school. Other parts of Eretz Yisroel also saw record amounts of rain. It has already stopped raining with temperatures forecast to go up somewhat but this is another reason for our own thanksgiving to Hashem at the moment.

However, the main thanksgiving we feel at the moment is the result of the American elections. First, we need two introductions.

The two main candidates, as we all know, were Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. Mr Trump gave a list of several policy points concerning his proposed attitude to Israel and the American Jewish community. 1. He would support Israel against Iran who are building weapons of mass destruction targeted towards Israel and Europe. 2. He does not support the idea of a Palestinian State since the Palestinians are only interested in terrorism not living in peace. 3. He would oppose the B.D.S. movement which tries its best to persuade as many countries and businesses as possible to boycott products made in Israel. 4. He wants to protect Jewish students in American colleges who are the victims of violent actions by pro-Palestinian and extreme left wing groups.

Mrs Clinton supported the agreement with Iran which, although it may have somewhat slowed their nuclear programme, allows them to become a nuclear power in a few years. She supports a Palestinian State right up to the pre-1967 lines which are considered indefensible and are known as the Auschwitz borders. She has admitted receiving into her Clinton Foundation huge sums of money given by Arab nations and terrorist supporters which were clearly intended to influence her policies. She supports the rights of any individual, no matter what his or her lifestyle, to be employed and even a religious institution (like a Jewish school) cannot refuse. An institution which refuses is liable to lose its charitable status. And her closest advisers are known to be B.D.S. supporters, the very people who try to destroy Jewish businesses and harass Jewish students at the American colleges. All the polls and expectations were that Mrs Clinton would win.

The second point of introduction is bringing up the different attitudes to the State of Israel amongst chareidi Jews. When the State of Israel was created, some Gedolim led by the Satmar Rebbe zt”l refused to have anything to do with it, to be involved in any of its institutions, to receive any funding etc. Other Gedolim like the Chazon Ish zt”l thought it correct to work within the system and fight for the rights of chareidi Jews to live according to the Torah. It is not for us, no matter who our Rebbe is, to disqualify the other opinion. Eilu v’eilu divrei Elokim chaim. (The late Gateshead Rov, zt”l once told me that Agudas Yisroel need the Neturei Karta to stop them veering). But all of those Gedolim had a great ahavas Yisroel and never wanted Jews to suffer, even Jews who did not subscribe to their opinions and even not (yet) religious Jews. However strongly one objects to the State of Israel as an institution, we should never chas vesholom support anything which would aid Israel’s enemies who, given half a chance, would happily destroy Israel together with its over six million Jewish residents. Clearly, all of us who care very much about the physical welfare of the Jews of Eretz Yisroel, preferred the more pro-Israel candidate.

This is our third “thanksgiving.” When, against all expectations, the candidate who once kissed Mrs Arafat after the latter had accused Israel of poisoning drinking water to kill Palestinian children, lost her chance to put her policies into practice, we were relieved and thankful. Certainly we need to daven every day that Mr Trump will be kind to all Jews, just as we have always davened concerning every non-Jewish ruler, but we can and should appreciate the he’oras ponim which we have been shown.

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A year later, we can look back. One well know columnist argued that in view of Mr. Trump’s moral history, Jews should not vote at all. I argued to him that Jews have always voted for who is better for the Jews, personal morals notwithstanding and I wrote to two Gedolim who confirm that this is daas Torah. President Trump’s support for Israel and his recent release of Sholom Rebashkin indicate that those who voted for him, voted wisely. Our thanks is due to him but especially to Hashem for showing us this welcome he’oras panim.

The Kedoshim will Praise You Every Day

When Yosef followed Yaakov’s request to check on Yosef’s brothers it was always going to be a risk. The pasuk tells us that the brothers hated Yosef and were jealous of him. Nevertheless, with great loyalty to his father, despite the danger, Yosef went to Shechem in search of his brothers. They weren’t there. But at the vital moment he was spotted by someone who asked what he was looking for and directed him to Doson. This led the sale of Yosef to Mitzrayim which led, eventually, to the whole family going down to Mitzrayim and their descendants being enslaved for hundreds of years. Reading the story we could think that if it weren’t for Yosef chancing upon this helpful local resident, the enslavement of the Jews would never have happened.

Yaakov Astor’s book, The Hidden Hand, (Judaica Press) recounts a very fascinating historical detail. In September 1938, Hitler had already taken over Austria; the Sudetenland, the Germanic section of Czechoslovakia was now within his sights. However there was a high chance that any attempt to capture it would have led to an ignominious defeat for Hitler and Germany. So much so, that his Commander in Chief and other highest ranking officers were planning to overthrow him, were he to tell them to attack. On the other hand, for Hitler to back down would have been such a blow to his prestige that it would also have destroyed his political career, according to historian and author William Shirer. Although he did not know it, Hitler was in a lose-lose situation. Yet on the night of 12th September, Hitler was saved, apparently by one man, England’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. At 11.00 pm he sent a telegram to Hitler offering to negotiate and he offered him the Sudetenland on the condition that he would not seek any further territorial gain. Chamberlain came back from Munich a few days later waving a piece of paper announcing “Peace in our time.” The army didn’t rebel, Hitler broke his word and the Second World War broke out, including the Holocaust of six million Jews. Just like the unnamed man in the parsha without whom shibud Mitzrayim would, seemingly, have never happened, it would appear that without Chamberlain and his late night telegram, the Holocaust would not have happened.

However, Chazal tell us that shibud Mitzrayim would have happened anyway. As Rashi comments Me’emek Chevron, me’eitza amuka she osoh tzadik hakevura bechevron, to fulfill what had been told to Avrohom Ovinu, “Your children will be strangers in a land which is not theirs and they will be enslaved for four hundred years.” (37:14) The man (Rashi says he was the malach Gavriel) was there to direct Yosef because Hashem put him there to fulfill His decree. Similarly we cannot think that the Holocaust would not have happened without the political ineptitude of one English politician. It was clearly a decree of Hashem which had to happen whether we understand it or not.

The Biur Halocho in the first chapter of Shulchan Aruch brings from the Sefer Hachinuch that the mitzvah of knowing that Hashem brought us out of Mitzrayim is not merely believing in that historical event but of believing that Hashem supervises everything which happens in this world. This is one of the mitzvos temidios, those mitzvos which we should fulfill continuously. This emuna peshuta that, for some reason that we cannot understand, Hashem decreed that the Holocaust should happen, enabled many of those who suffered terribly, those who survived and those who didn’t survive, to keep their emuna in Hashem intact.

In my sefer “The Hidden Light” I discuss the Holocaust from various angles. One is that basic Torah hashkafa requires us to believe that Hashem keeps an account for every single person. We have the well-known explanation of tzaddik vera lo and rosho vetov lo – that Hashem sometimes punishes the tzaddik for his aveiros in this world to give him unadulterated pleasure in the World to Come and a rosho can be given reward for his few mitzvos in this world to cut him off completely from the pleasures of the World to Come. (Kiddushin 40b). In the same way, if a blameless person suffers, like many who suffered in the Holocaust, because, in the big picture which Hashem wants to create, it is unavoidable, he will undoubtedly be given a glorious olom habo which will more than make up for his suffering in this world.

This could shed new light on a section of the wording in the third brocho of the Shemone Esrei , “Ukedoshim bechol yom yehalelucho – the Kedoshim will praise You every day.” Who are these kedoshim, why do we mention them in this important part of the Shemone Esre and why is the phrase in the future tense? The Avudrohom explains that Kedoshim refers to the Jewish People, Hashem’s holy nation. We praise Hashem every day because we believe that whatever happens, Hashem is in charge as we mentioned above and all is for the best. But why is this mentioned here and why in the future tense?

Perhaps, based on what we wrote earlier, we can suggest the following. We say this brocho after the brocho of Techiyas Hameisim. According to Derech Hashem and other sources, although immediately after death, the neshomo goes to the Olom Haneshomos where it receives reward appropriate to its achievements in this world, our main reward will be given after Techiyas Hameisim. Perhaps, we can extend the Avudrohom to say that the kedoshim in the Shemone Esrei refers not only to all Jews who live their life in holiness but particularly to those kedoshim who have died al Kiddush Hashem in the Holocaust and throughout history. And it will be particularly after Techiyas Hameisim, when individual accounts will be corrected and they will enjoy unbelievable pleasures which will more than make up for their yissurim which they suffered previously, that these kedoshim will praise Hashem every day.

This emuna in Hashem’s hashgocho protis, that nothing happens by chance and that everyone receives their just reward sooner or later, is so important that Chazal saw fit to include it in the first section of Shemone Esrei, immediately after the brocho of techias hameisim. This emuna is also an important tool to enable all of us to participate in next week’s festival of Hallel Vehodo’oh.

Happy Chanukah.

Rabbi Fletcher is the mechaber of Do You Know Hilchos Shabbos? Do You Know Hilchos Brachos? From Strength to Strength, Dancing in our Hearts, The Hidden Light. If you want to be put on his email list, please write to rabbimfletcher@gmail.com

Where Are We?

“You did not want to marry her to your brother. Instead she will be married to your enemy. You did not want to marry her to someone permitted to her. She will marry someone forbidden to her.” (Medrash Rabboh). Yaakov Ovinu is being criticized for hiding Dina from Eisav to prevent him from marrying her. In the end she was ‘married’ to Shechem. This Medrash has been questioned by many. Why should Yaakov have even considered marrying Dina to Eisav the rosho? Already at the age of fifteen he was reported to have been guilty of serious aveiros (Boba Basra 16b). He was the “man of the field” as distinct from Yaakov, the “man who dwelt in tents” (of Torah). The argument that she could have had a good influence on him seems weak. Would we consider marrying our daughter to a rosho because she might be able to influence him? Why should Yaakov be blamed?

A similar question troubles all the commentators in parshas Toldos. Yitzchak Ovinu was apparently prepared to give the blessing and spiritual inheritance to Eisav. He would have been the third of the Ovos, if not for Rivka and Yaakov’s last minute trickery. Was Yitzchak unaware that Eisav was a serial sinner? It does not reflect well on our holy patriarch to suggest that Yitzchak was so cut off from his son that he simply hadn’t heard what he was really like. Some mefarshim suggest that Yitzchak knew that Eisav was not the studious type, but he thought that he would be like Zevulun, providing for Yaakov who would continue in the Beis Hamedrash. But Zevulun was a tzaddik. Eisav was a rosho! Any comparison is an insult to Zevulun.

A key to some understanding in this very difficult subject is appreciating Chazal. We often learn aggadic comments of Chazal as children and accept them at face value, never deepening our understanding of what Chazal meant. This is not the place to discuss when we need to accept aggadeta as literally true and when we should understand the message of Chazal without accepting their words literally. The Rambam gives us guidance (Sanhedrin, Perek Chelek,) as does the Maharal. On the subject of Eisav, the Maharitz Chayos in his introduction to Ein Yaakov says that although Chazal said that Eisav transgressed five serious sins when he was fifteen, they did not mean that he really did them but that he was capable of doing them.  Chazal, with their depth of understanding, were commenting on Eisav’s penimius, his neshomo, his inner attitude to life, his true spiritual level. Perhaps we could say “where he was.”

When Hashem asked Odom Harishon after his sin, “Where are you?” the literal meaning is where he physically was. This was just to give him an opening to speak, as Rashi explains. But some understand that Hashem was asking a much deeper question, Where was he, spiritually? Was he still the yetzir kapov, pure handiwork of Hashem or had he veered from that level by sinning?

We imagine Eisav in secular clothes, transgressing every mitzvah of the Torah, with no connection to the Beis Hamedrash, no spiritual connection to Yitzchok, Rivka or Yaakov. Somehow, he fooled Yitzchok into thinking he was a tzaddik at least like Zevulun. This led to our questions earlier. But maybe, as Rav Avigdor Miller implies, (Behold A People p. 65), Eisav was dressed just like Yaakov, kept the same mitzvos as Yaakov, perhaps learning part of the day in the same Beis Hamedrash as Yaakov, spending the rest of the day in the field providing for the family.  Any onlooker would have thought he was indeed the classic Zevulun. Yitzchok might have thought the third of the Ovos should be a role model for all those who don’t sit in the Beis Hamedrash all day.  And he was right, as Yaakov’s life after he had received the brocho showed, which Dorash Dovid points out. But at Yitzchok’s lower level of prophecy he didn’t discern that Eisav was unsuitable for this role. It required Rivka’s depth of prophecy to know that Eisav’s heart was in the wrong place. It was “in the field.” That was his enjoyment in life. Can we describe such an Eisav as a rosho? Yes. Rabbeinu Yona describes somebody whose source of enjoyment is the pleasures of this world rather than serving Hashem, as a rosho. (Sh.T. Shaar 2:18 as explained by Lev Eliyahu Vol 1 P.13) He is on completely the wrong path despite his technical adherence to mitzvos. And he is capable of the worst aveiros even if he hasn’t done any of them, as the Maharitz Chayos explained. This is a chilling thought. We might be sitting in kollel wearing our frack or reckel but if the highlight of our day is our physical pleasures, we are an ish sodeh, Eisav’s spiritual descendant.

Zevulun may be “in the field” but in his heart he is in the Beis Hamedrash.  Yaakov worked for twenty years tending Lovon’s sheep but he remained the ish yoshev oholim.  We can be out and about, trying to provide for our families, but if the highlight of our day is our chavrusa or shiur in the evening, a geshmake Shemone Esrei rather than a geshmake pizza, we are ish yoshev oholim, Yaakov’s spiritual descendant. The question is not what we are doing but where our heart is. Just as Hashem asked Odom Horishon, “Where are you?” we have to ask ourselves, “Where are we?”

The Medresh’s comment, implying that Dina should have married Eisav is a positive message for us. Even if at the moment we still prefer a new car to a new messechta, beautiful clothes to a beautiful esrog, we can change. Under the influence of a good spouse or good friends or good rebbes or, if we are determined, even by ourselves, we can steig. We can grow from being an ish sodeh to being an ish yoshev ohalim.  Dina could have changed Eisav. And that is why Yaakov, in the words of the Medrash, was held responsible.  

Choosing Our Songs Of Praise

In our daily davening we say that Hashem is “habocher beshirei zimra” – He chooses our songs of praise. In what respect does Hashem choose our songs of praise as if He has different options? Rav Chaim Kanievski shlita explains that the non-Jews also sing songs of praise and thanksgiving to Hashem, but they only sing their songs of praise after a successful harvest or battle etc. We sing songs of praise to Hashem whatever happens. Our songs of praise reflect greater emuna because we believe that whatever Hashem does, is for the best. Also, even when a situation is challenging to us, we find certain aspects which we see as being proof of Hashem’s kindness, rays of light in the darkness. Therefore Hashem “chooses our songs of praise.”

Leah, in this week’s parsha, called her fourth son Yehuda as a demonstration of her particular appreciation of being granted more than what might have been regarded as her “fair share.” After Rochel gave birth she expressed her great appreciation that she was no longer childless. Rashi brings the Medrash Agada that she thanked Hashem that she would now have a way of explaining why a vessel was broken or why the figs were eaten. Even for such an apparently minor detail, Rochel was full of thanks to Hashem.

We explained last week that the penultimate kapitel Tehilim (149) of Pesukei D’Zimra expresses how much Hashem loves us and that we reciprocate by rejoicing in Hashem. We sing, dance and play musical instruments in our love for Hashem. Our emuna in Him is strengthened particularly during Succos when we no longer have a solid roof to protect us and we are under His sole protection. We previously explained also that a deeper lesson of Succos is to reach the level of humility that nothing has any power besides Hashem. Without Hashem, we would be reduced to dust and ashes in a moment, as Avrohom Ovinu said. With this emuna that nothing has any strength besides Hashem, ein od milvado, our enemies lose all their power. This explains the continuation of this kapitel. (ibid 4-8) “Hashem glorifies the humble with salvation. The chassidim will sing joyously as they lie on their beds.” If we have humility and emuna sheleima in Hashem, He will save us from our enemies without us doing anything as He destroyed the whole camp of Sancheriv during the night, as Chizkiyahu Hamelech and his people “lay on their beds.” If we do not merit this level of miracle, we will at least merit Hashem’s help as we wage war “singing Hashem’s greatness with a double-edged sword in our hands.”  This means that if we sing about Hashem’s greatness when we face our enemies, Hashem will help us overcome them as if we had a double-edged sword in our hands. (Metzudas Dovid).  Even if we have to fight with real arms, Hashem will enable us to “bind up their kings with chains and their noblemen with fetters of iron.”

The next mizmor which is also the last kapitel of Tehilim is naturally the high point of Sefer Tehilim. The last pasuk is the best known and we repeat it for emphasis. “Kol haneshomo tehalel koh hallelukoh. – Everyone with a neshomo should praise Hashem.”  Chazal darshan this last posuk and say “For every neshima – breath, we should praise Hashem.” On a basic level this means thanking Hashem that we are alive as evidenced by us breathing, our sign of life. But with the help of Rabbi Avrohom Katz’s Designer World, we can appreciate our breathing in a deeper way. He explains that when we breathe in and breathe out we are experiencing, through Hashem’s kindness, a most amazing miracle. We might imagine that when we inhale and exhale a few seconds later, we are dealing with the same air. Not true. The air we breathe in contains oxygen. This oxygen moves from our lungs into our bloodstream and performs vital functions without which we cannot live. At the same time our blood, which is constantly circulating round our bodies, exhudes waste carbon dioxide which leaves our body when we breathe out. Millions of oxygen cells enter our bloodstream as millions of different carbon dioxide cells leave. In the entertaining style for which he is renowned, Rabbi Katz compares this exchange of cells to a railway station where a train passes through a station. Millions of passengers jump off the moving train and at the same time as millions of other passengers jump on. This happens approximately sixteen times a minute, twenty-three thousand times a day. No railway station in existence could compare with the mind-boggling efficiency of the human body engineered by Hashem. If we breathe even once or twice during this last kapitel and think about what is happening, we will be consumed with thanks to Hashem for His constant kindnesses.

Dovid Hamelech praised Hashem in all the different situations he found himself in during his lifetime. He endured serious illness, being captured by his enemies, being pursued by Shaul Hamelech as well as celebrating moments of triumph and great happiness. Perhaps the variety of his experiences is reflected in the variety of musical instruments mentioned – the lyre, harp, drums, organ, flute, cymbals and trumpets. In all situations Dovid Hamelech has taught us to praise Hashem. What a wonderful springboard to our Shemone Esre which follows shortly after Pesukei Zimra and to this month in which we celebrate Chanukah, the Yom Tov of hallel vehoda’ah. No wonder Hashem is bocher beshirei zimra, lovingly choosing our songs of praise.

Eisav’s Tears

“Eisav is still crying.” Since the time that Yaakov received the brochos from Yitzchak, Chazal say that Eisav has never stopped crying. This is surprising for two reasons. Firstly, if we look at the pesukim, it would appear that Eisav received virtually the same brocho as Yaakov. Secondly, if there was a slight difference, why can’t he get over it? It’s been a long time. Eisav has enjoyed mighty empires over the years which we never had. Why does Eisav still cry?

Firstly let’s look at the posukim. Yitzchak blessed Yaakov as follows: “May Hashem give you of the dew of the Heavens and of the fatness of the Earth, abundant grain and wine. Peoples will serve you and regimes will prostrate themselves before you. You should be a lord to your brothers and the sons of your mother will bow down to you; cursed be they who curse you and blessed be they who bless you.”(Bereishis 27:28-29). Yitzchak blessed Eisav as follows.” Behold of the fatness of the Earth shall be your dwelling and of the dew of the Heaven from above. By your sword you shall live but your brother you shall serve; yet it shall be that when you are aggrieved because Yaakov is not worthy, you may cast off his yoke from upon your neck. (ibid 39-40) They both received dew. The fatness of the Earth which Eisav was blessed with presumably includes the same abundant grain and wine that Yaakov was blessed with. Yes, Yaakov was blessed that he should rule over his brother but Eisav was told that if he is aggrieved he will be able to cast off the yoke of Yaakov. So why the tears?

Gemoro Succah (28b) compares rain on Succos to a servant who brings a cup of wine to his master and the master pours a jug of water over him. The Vilna Gaon (Kol Eliyahu Emor) asks why the Gemoro doesn’t say simply that the master throws the cup of wine over the servant? Why bring the jug of water into the moshol? He gives an illuminating answer. Hashem has arranged Succos after Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur because He loves us. As we know, Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur are days when we are being judged. It could be that we have davened sincerely, tried to do teshuva sheleima, committed ourselves to do better next year but alas at the final count, after Neila, our merits are not quite enough. Our aveiros still outweigh our mitzvos and Hashem has no choice but to respond with harsh judgement. But He loves us and wants to give us a last chance. Therefore Hashem gave us the mitzvos of Succah, arba minim, simchas Yom Tov (which women are also obliged to fulfil) as a way of diluting the judgment which He would have had to bring on us. There are so many mitzvos which we can do over Succos that we have an excellent chance to add enough merits to tip the scales of justice in our favour. Hashem’s desire to ‘dilute’ our judgment is symbolized by the water in the Gemoro’s moshol. If Hashem makes it rain (this is clearly talking about Eretz Yisroel where it rarely rains, not a country where rain is frequent anyway) and thus denies us the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of Succah, it is like the water, which was ready to dilute the strong wine into a pleasant drink, being thrown over the servant. The undiluted wine, which symbolises strict judgement, will now remain unpalatable.  The main inspiration of this explanation, however, is how much Hashem loves us and wants us to deserve to be blessed with a successful year. He decrees a Yom Tov with its many mitzvos just at the moment that the merits acquired can tip the scale of judgment in our favour.

In Tehilim (149) we are told to “sing a new song…rejoice…praise His Name with dancing…make music with drums and a harp… because Hashem loves His People.” This could be a hint to Succos, according to the Vilna Gaon’s explanation. On Succos we can particularly appreciate how much Hashem loves us, wants us to be successful in judgement and wants to bless us. Of course we love Hashem in return and want to play our drums, harp, and other musical instruments to dance and sing in His honour which may hint to the simchas beis hashoeva of Succos.

True, Eisav’s dew, grains and wine etc were equal to Yaakov’s. That is not what Eisav cries about. He cries that Yaakov receives his blessings from Hashem: “Veyiten lecho Elokim”, whereas in his brocho the name of Hashem is not mentioned, as the Sfas Emes points out. Eisav’s brochos will come but without Hashem’s love. He might rule empires but will have no connection to Hashem. His life will lack the sweetness which a connection with Hashem produces. No beauty of Shabbos. No joy of Yom Tov. No inspiration from the Torah. A spiritual vacuum.

Yaakov was told that Hashem will bless him. His descendants will always feel His closeness. And this is the greatest brocho, which gives the greatest simcha. No wonder Eisav still cries.