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Rising from the Dead

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil

Last week an interesting story happened in Poland.

A lady by the name of Bogumila arrived home one day to find her elderly aunt Janina Kolkiewicz, 91, (who is in the late stages of dementia) not breathing or having a pulse. She called their doctor – Dr WieslawaCzyz who arrived and after a while declared her dead and wrote out a death certificate. She was then taken to the morgue.

After 11 hours, staff in the morgue spotted Janina moving within the body bag that she was placed. They were shocked and quickly removed and treated her. She is now back home alive and well.

Wow – she really came back from the dead! Not only had the doctor looked at her, but he was so certain she was dead that he wrote her a death certificate!

Sometimes things are not as they seem.

And in this week’s Parasha we have a fascinating encounter where Yitschak tells his son Eisav to go out and prepare him some food so that he can give him the ultimate blessing before he dies. In the end Rivka hears about this and sends in Yakov to get the blessing instead.
Eisav was hairy and dressed differently to Yakov, so in his ploy to get the blessing, Yakov had to add goats hair and wear Eisav’s clothes in order to ‘deceive’ his father and receive the blessing.

The whole episode is remarkable and I can only advise you read more into the commentators on this historical event.
However I would like to share with you one short wonderful idea on this episode.

On the verse: “And he smelled the scent of his garments – B’Gadav (Bereishit 27:27), the Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a) comments: “He smelled the scent of his traitors – BoGDov.”

This was a critical moment before Yitschak historically blesses his son. What is the Torah teaching us by mentioning he smelt his clothes?
Yitschak through his high spiritual level ‘smelt’ or internalised the clothes of Yakov.

The Gemara learns homiletically that it is referring to the future sinners amongst us.

Why should he smell the sinners and then bless?

He realised that this was only the outer smell, on the inside there lay a very beautiful odour.

There would be future sinners, but their sins would only represent clothing from the outside, the real true essence on the inside would always remain pure.

It’s at that moment that Yitschak was able to bless his son.
The Midrash Bereishit Rabah (65:22) further elaborates with a fascinating story of Yossi Mshisa. During the destruction of Jerusalem, the Romans sought to enter the Temple. “Let one of the Jewish traitors themselves enter,” they said, “and be the first to desecrate their sacred vessels.” They told Yossi Mashisa that, if he went in, he could keep whatever he found. He entered, and came out with the golden Menorah. “This is not for the likes of you,” the Romans told him, and took it away. “Go in again, and take whatever you want.” However, he refused to enter a second time. They promised him the taxes of the entire city for the next three years if he would re-enter, but he still refused. “Isn’t it enough that I angered God once,” he said, “must I anger Him again?!” So the Romans tied him to a thick plank and sawed him through. “Oy! Oy! Oy!” he cried, “that I angered my G-d!”

How powerful is the inner spark of a Jew, that even a sinner like Yossi Mashisa, wicked enough to enter the Temple and remove the Menorah, did such complete repentance that he cried out with his last strength, “Oy, that I angered G-d!”
The Talmud tells an amazing story about how Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi brought Reb Yossi ben R. Eliezer back to the path of repentance (for he had fallen very far). What did Rebbe do? He ordained Reb Yossi and gave him the title “Rabbi”. This was meant to encourage him (Bava Metzia 85a).

Rav TzaddokHaKohen writes: “It was not a lie to call him Rabbi because, when Reb Yosi’s greatness was eventually revealed, it became obvious that it had existed there from the beginning, only it had been hidden. (TzidkotHaTzaddik 113)

Why was it that Hashem orchestrated things that Yakov had to dress up like Eisav in order to receive the blessing? Was there no other way for Yakov to have received the blessing directly?

If Yitschak would have given the Beracha to Yakov then there could have been a claim against future generations. You are not as good as Yakov so you don’t deserve the blessing. Now that Yakov was dressed like Eisav he represented a new type of person. One that on the outside would be sadly affected by Eisav and the nations of the world but one that on the inside was oozing with spirituality and yearning for connection with G-d.

One of the toughest lessons to comprehend in life is that what’s in front of you is not the whole package. We look at someone and within seconds have formed an opinion of that person. He or she deserves much more time and understanding. After all, each one of us is an individual world.

At a time when people are wondering about our nation’s spirituality as a whole we take pride and encouragement from Yitzchak’s blessing – the smell might be bad, the body might look dead, but on the inside it’s alive and kicking – attend to it and don’t dismiss easily!

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