By Rabbi Yoseph Kahanov, Jax., FL
Unable to afford a first rate tailor, a young peasant employed the services of a substandard craftsman to sew him an outfit for his impending wedding. One glimpse at the dismal result brought tears to the young man’s eyes.
“How do you expect me to wear a coat with the right sleeve four inches shorter than the left,” cried the distraught groom.
“It’s not that big a deal,” replied the tailor. “Just pull-in your right arm a bit.”
“And what about the pants,” demanded the shaken groom. “The left leg is six inches longer than the right!”
“You’re being overly fussy,” retorted the poor-excuse-for-a-tailor. “All you need to do is bend your right knee slightly and it will be alright.” And so it went. Every problem with the bungled workmanship was corrected with another modification in the wearer’s posture.
At the wedding, the assembled gasped in shock as the sorry looking groom hobbled down the aisle; his figure contorted so as to fit the suit. “What a disfigured young man,” noted some of the guests. “Oy, Ah Rachmunis!” sighed others, “he’s Eppes a cripple.”
Amidst all the sympathy for the apparent handicapped groom and his unlucky bride, it dawned upon one of the spectators how well the suit appeared to fit, despite the groom’s hunched-backed and deformed figure.
Upon this discovery, he exclaimed in utter amazement. “But the tailor . . . he’s got to be the most extraordinary craftsman on earth! An absolute genius!” “Indeed,” cried the crowd “An absolute genius!”
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Reb Mendel of Riminov once pointed upward and proclaimed, “Through cynicism it is possible to entirely disavow the very heaven that is blatant to our eyes; and even prove its in-existence.”
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I never quite understood why, in Western culture, the farther removed one is from a given subject the more credibility and weight his observations seem to carry. I’m told that the reason for this is because the person who is close or involved with an entity, is suspect – he is assumed to be “biased.” The outsider, on the other hand, is ostensibly neutral and hence more credible. I’m sorry, but this logic just doesn’t add-up.
To begin with, the so called “outsider” – be it an academic in his proverbial ivory tower, or a journalist whose supposed desire is only to report the facts – knows far less about the facts than the person who is intricately involved. It hence makes perfect sense to give at least as much credence to the one who has firsthand knowledge as to the one who has not.
More importantly however, it is highly doubtful whether the so called objective outsider is in the end all that objective. Does anyone really believe that the academic possesses no bias in his postulations? Has the columnist no agenda? Who are we kidding?
Show me a man with a passion and I’ll show you a man with a bias heart, especially on issues which he or she feels compelled to speak-out. Still, society tends to worship the voice of the self-proclaimed impartial expert – the voice of the street. If it’s any consolation, this phenomenon is not new. In fact, as we shall discover, it appears to trace all the way back to the primitive culture of our father Avraham.
The captivating narrative of our ancestors’ illustrious lives continues in our Parsha with particular focus on the progeny of Yitzchak. The Parsha opens with the words “And these are the offsprings of Yitzchak son of Avraham – Avraham begot Yitzchak,” (Genesis 25:19).
The reason for the redundant declaration of Avraham’s relationship with Yitzchak (“Yitzchak son of Avraham – Avraham begot Yitzchak”) is a topic that has captured the imagination of many Torah commentaries; beginning with Rashi:
“Because the scoffers of that generation claimed that Avimelech fathered Yitzchak – a tale spurred by the fact that Sara had been married to Avraham for many decades without a child and has given birth only after being taken by the Philistine king – therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, formed the countenance of Yitzchak to resemble that of Avraham so that all had to admit, ‘It was indeed Avraham who begot Yitzchak!'”
Who are these scoffers and why have they chosen this particular moment to rear their ugly heads against the most sainted man to have graced the planet – to cast aspersions vis-à-vis the legitimacy of his offspring?
Yitzchak was, after all, a man of sixty by now, married with an emerging family of his own. Should this disparagement not have been elicited upon his own birth as opposed to the birth of his children?
The Alshich asserts that the birth of Yaakov and Esav presented a unique threshold for the skeptics to disparage Avraham whilst at the same time creating the illusion that they were out to defend his very honor and reverence.
“It cannot be,” argued the mockers, “that the son of a righteous man like Avraham should be the progenitor of someone the likes of Esav. It is a disgrace to the honor of this distinguished sage to allow it to be assumed that this little tyrant is truly his grandchild.
Now that the children were born, the truth has finally come to light! Yitzchak is evidently not the son of Avraham after all; he obviously belongs to Avimelach. Just take one look at his child’s errant genetic streak. The proof is in the pudding!”
In classic scorn tradition, the skeptics attempted to spin the exciting news of Avraham’s propagation and perpetuation into an Achilles heel – to undermine its very legitimacy and impact, even as they guised themselves in a cloak of good intentions and righteous indignation.
The notion that Yitzchak has propagated – perpetuating thereby the legacy of Avraham and the Jewish people – was obviously more than they could take. This development had stirred-up the “Cynics of that generation.”
As long as there were no grandchildren – no perpetuation – the scorners laid-low; they didn’t mind that Yitzchak was the son of Avraham. But now that the legacy of Avraham and Yitzchak had taken root and become secured, it was time to activate the rumor-mill.
“Yes, you can be the miracle child of Avraham and Sara; as long as your existence doesn’t signify a sense of permanence. However, when your existence represents something real and enduring – perhaps even more real than my own ideology and creed – that cannot be tolerated.”
How non-coincidental it is that this is the week in which the International Conference of Chabad Shluchim (emissaries) was held in NY. The week in which over 3000 Chabad Rabbis and educators – from every corner of the globe where there is a semblance of a Jewish community – gathered in an awesome display of Jewish renaissance and vitality.
During this remarkable event the incredible success and reach of the Chabad – Lubavitch movement and the profound vision of its Rebbe was showcased to the world. Yet, not unlike the cynics alluded to in our Parsha, this success too tends to rouse the “cynics of the generation.”
When Chabad was a small organization, with little promise for a real future, the cynics and scorners didn’t seem to mind. They’d even praise the good work of the “ultra Orthodox” fringe group. However, now that Chabad has become a global phenomenon, growing exponentially – outpacing every Jewish organization – now that Chabad and its teachings have penetrated the so-called “main stream” and is poised for a bright and promising future, the nisht farginers are stirred.
Not that anyone has anything bad to say about the tireless efforts of the Chabad movement on behalf of Jewish continuity and their vigorous global outreach campaign. To the contrary, they praise its success and suggest that others learn from Chabad. They’re even willing to admit that the success of Chabad is nothing short of a modern day miracle, yet they tend to suggest that the child is from Avimelech.
Much of the commentary on the Chabad phenomenon tends to sell it short where it really counts: “the reason for its success.”
After heaping wonderful praise on the organization, the pundits deftly credit its phenomenal success, not to its timeless message that resonates with Jews across all lines; not because people sense higher truth in the teachings – something for which their starved souls yearn – but rather to inconsequential and mundane phenomena.
These “objective experts” do not see in all this the real spiritual renaissance that it is, but rather wish to chalk it all up to relatively trivial matters, such as “Chabad’s extraordinary administrative expertise,” (Huh?) or the “alluring charm of their Rabbis.”
One ought to realize that such praise is not much better than that of the defenders of Avraham, who were eager to ascribe his progeny to a foreign entity.
However, as Rashi notes, the Almighty saw fit to personally intervene in dispelling the prevailing myth, by making it obvious to everyone that Yitzchak was the son of Avraham and not Avimelech.
G-d will certainly dispel the current myths as well. He will make it clear for all to see that it is the Divine will and blessing that has given birth to the current renaissance and revival – a thirst for genuine G-dliness and spirituality – and not some marketing magic, or other superficial gambits.
As in the case of Yitzchak, the product will bear testimony to its divine and holy truth – a truth that may indeed allude the rational minds of the so called experts and skeptics. It will indeed bare obvious testimony to man’s essential Divine soul and its inexplicable yearning for unadulterated spirituality and religious guidance – the true word of G-d.
The latter will, of course, hasten the coming of the righteous Moshiach speedily in our time.