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With a strike from the Angel…

November 12, 2015

“The truth is usually left for us to hunt and gather independently, if we are so inclined.” ― Raquel Cepeda, Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina

Below is Parsha (Torah Portion) Toldot in a nutshell from
Isaac and Rebecca endure twenty childless years, until their prayers are answered and Rebecca conceives. She experiences a difficult pregnancy as the “children struggle inside her”; G‑d tells her that “there are two nations in your womb,” and that the younger will prevail over the elder.
Esau emerges first; Jacob is born clutching Esau’s heel. Esau grows up to be “a cunning hunter, a man of the field”; Jacob is “a wholesome man,” a dweller in the tents of learning. Isaac favours Esau; Rebecca loves Jacob. Returning exhausted and hungry from the hunt one day, Esau sells his birthright (his rights as the firstborn) to Jacob for a pot of red lentil stew.
In Gerar, in the land of the Philistines, Isaac presents Rebecca as his sister, out of fear that he will be killed by someone coveting her beauty. He farms the land, reopens the wells dug by his father Abraham, and digs a series of his own wells: over the first two there is strife with the Philistines, but the waters of the third well are enjoyed in tranquillity.
Esau marries two Hittite women. Isaac grows old and blind, and expresses his desire to bless Esau before he dies. While Esau goes off to hunt for his father’s favourite food, Rebecca dresses Jacob in Esau’s clothes, covers his arms and neck with goatskins to simulate the feel of his hairier brother, prepares a similar dish, and sends Jacob to his father. Jacob receives his father’s blessings for “the dew of the heaven and the fat of the land” and mastery over his brother. When Esau returns and the deception is revealed, all Isaac can do for his weeping son is to predict that he will live by his sword, and that when Jacob falters, the younger brother will forfeit his supremacy over the elder.
Jacob leaves home for Charan to flee Esau’s wrath and to find a wife in the family of his mother’s brother, Laban. Esau marries a third wife—Machalath, the daughter of Ishmael.

2014-11-09 11.16.05Riding along the bicycle mecca, Beach Road in Melbourne I am constantly amazed by all the different people who ride on the road. On Tuesday I had a bit of a chuckle to myself when an overweight guy who looks like he has been growing his moustache for the last 20 years comes flying past us (I suppose with the size of his calves he could power past anyone). I find it truly inspiring that there are people in all shapes and sizes riding on the road, I love the challenge of the daily change of weather conditions in the mornings in Melbourne and trying to keep up with my cycling group. (And I really don’t mind being #Chicked along the way!)

One of the amazing things about learning the weekly Torah portion year after year is that each year I get different insights and ideas. What is even more amazing is that there is often soo much to learn on one specific point in the Parsha Bereishit, 25:22: “And the children crushed within her…” , the Commentator Rashi, says on this “And [the children] crushed: When she would pass by entrances of places of Torah study of Shem and Eber, Jacob would run and toss about to go out of his [mother’s womb] …when she would pass by entrances of idol worship Esau would toss about to go out …” Rashi, quoting the Midrash, explains that when she passed by places of Torah learning, Jacob would try to get out. The commentators find difficulties with Jacob’s behaviour. They point out that the Gemara explains that when the foetus is in the womb he is taught the entire Torah by an Angel. That being the case why was Jacob so desperate to enter places of Torah learning to learn – he was already being taught the whole Torah in the womb?!

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz’s (Aish Article) teachings with regard to this Gemara can help answer this question. He notes that when the baby is born, the Angel strikes him on the mouth and he forgets all the Torah that he learnt. He asks why the Angel performs this final action – why does he not leave the baby to enter the world with all the Torah that he has already been taught? He answers that the purpose of creation was to work and toil of his own volition. One of the main ways of doing this is through learning. Accordingly, one cannot compare the Torah that is learnt without exertion, with that which comes about after intense toiling. Therefore, the baby forgets all the Torah he was taught so that he can have the opportunity to learn it himself.

This desire to learn and re-learn spills into other areas of my life, like exercise, health & well-being, nutrition, art, history etc. It is unbelievable how many Banana Bread or oat recipe you can find if you just want to #stopboringbreakfasts.
I am always happy to read numerous articles on the same topics or listen to Podcasts by the same host. All authors/ commentators have their own views and I find there is something to learn from them all. I could not count the number of professional athletes nutrition plans I have read, insights on people such as the late Yitzchak Rabin who died so tragically 20 years ago or on Kristallnacht which happened 77 years ago. From each article or book or news feed or Podcast, I have learnt something new. (Some ideas are trends or , others are insightful and others are just over the top?)

Loren and I often comment that it is easy to cook/ bake simple foods, but if you want something really nice or different there is effort involved in the process and preparation. On Saturday searching for a veggie burger recipe we were amazed how many we found in our vegetarian cookbooks. It is easy to take the boring option, but that is too easy! Our only problem was deciding which one too make – Often this is based on trying something new, what will the kids eat and what ingredients do we have in the house (and sometime we look how many steps are involved!). Each recipe has different flavours and ingredients and only by experimenting with new ingredients and recipes can you learn what you like, improve your knowledge of food and cooking/ baking skills.

These lessons applies to all aspects of our lives, any area that comes easily to a person is of limited value unless the person strives to improve his actions, knowledge and performance further. And those areas that provide great challenges are the very areas where one can attain the most success – by working, repeating, reading, learning and struggling we gain greater insight and make the most gain.

Maybe the Strike from the “Angel” is a reminder that there is nothing wrong learning all the lessons and insights you can find on the Parsha, or doing the Beach Road ride for the 100 millionth time or relearning facts on the state of Israel and Jewish History or just searching for another banana bread recipe.

“Knowledge is almost always better than ignorance — and usually less frightening.” @JamieJBartlett in a TED talk on the DARK WEB (Not an area that I do research in or frequent, but a source of information and other “things” that I am sure many do frequent.) TED Talk


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One Comment
  1. Mom Pamensky permalink

    Good blog. Soooo true only when put in more effort the more we achieve, learn & grow. Very good comparison. Well done

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