Dvar Torah # 1 by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states: “And Isaac loved Esau because he was a was a trapper with his mouth…” (Gen. 25:28)
This means that Esau successfully deceived his father regarding his level of righteousness.
Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler cited the Arizal (a famous kabbalist) that it is a mistake to think that Esau was a complete hypocrite and just tried to deceive his father. If Isaac made an error, there must have been good reason for such an error. The problem with Esau was that he kept all his spirituality “in his mouth,” without swallowing it. He spoke spiritual words, but did not become a spiritual person.
Therefore, said Rav Dessler, anyone who speaks ethical and spiritual words without allowing them to penetrate his heart and soul is a colleague of the evil Esau.
The essence of an elevated person is to be totally integrated: the Torah ideals that one talks about must be part of his very being. There are many different levels along a continuum. Some people are unaware of how far they are from actually feeling what they say. Such a person can say he loves everyone deeply, but a perceptive person can tell that although he believes that he feels that way, in actuality he is very far from it. It is not sufficient to just repeat words like a parrot or a tape recorder. Whenever you learn a new idea, keep reviewing it until little by little it penetrates your soul and your words truly become part of you.
Dvar Torah #2 by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
“And Yitzhak was forty years old when he took Rivkah, the daughter of Besuail the Aromite, from Padan Arom, the sister of Lavan the Aromite, for himself for a wife” (Genesis 25:20)
The Torah has already stated (in last week’s Torah portion) that Rivkah was the daughter of Besuail, the sister of Lavan, and was from Padan Aram. What do we learn from this seemingly superfluous information?
Rashi asks this question and answers that the Torah is emphasizing the praises of Rivkah. She was the daughter of an evil person, the sister of an evil person and lived in a community of evil people. Nevertheless, she did not learn from their behavior!
Many people try to excuse their faults by blaming others as the cause of their behavior. “It’s not my fault I have this bad trait, I learned it from my father and mother.” “I’m not to blame for this bad habit since all my brothers and sisters do it also.” “Everyone in my neighborhood does this or does not do that, so how could I be any different?” They use this as a rationalization for failing to make an effort to improve.
We see from Rivkah that regardless of the faulty behavior of those in your surroundings, you have the ability to be more elevated. Of course, it takes courage and a lot of effort to be different. The righteous person might be considered a nonconformist and even rebellious by those in his environment whose standard of values are below his level. However, a basic Torah principle is that we are responsible for our own actions. Pointing to others in your environment who are worse than you is not a valid justification for not behaving properly.
If you ever find yourself saying, “It’s not my fault I did this. It’s because of the way I was raised or because I learned it from so and so,” change your focus to, “I’ll make a special effort to improve in this area to overcome the tendency to follow in the footsteps of others.”
Blaming others for your faults and saying that you cannot do anything to change them will be a guarantee that they will remain with you. Make a list of the negative traits you picked up from your early environment. Develop a plan of action to improve in those areas!