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Toldos: Children's Good Deeds Increase Merit For Their Parents

ואלה תולדות יצחק בן אברהם אברהם הוליד את יצחק.

“And these are the children of Yitzchok the son of Avrohom; Avrohom gave birth to Yitzchok.” (Bereishis 25:19)

Rashi says in Parshas Mishpatim: “Wherever it says the word eilah (these) it overrides what came previously, and if it says v’eilah (and these), it increases on what came previously.” If so, why does the verse begin with the word v’eilah,as if to add on to Yitzchok’s previous children, when he had no other children beforehand?

Rashi comments here, on this verse, that even though the Torah doesn’t immediately list Yitzchok’s children, it is referring to Yaakov and Eisav who are spoken about in this parsha.  Why does Rashi find it necessary to point out something so obvious? And why does Rashi include Eisav among Yitzchok’s children, when according to our sages(Nedarim 31a) only Yakov is considered to be Yitzchok’s offspring?

Another obvious question on this verse is why the Torah specifies that Yitzchok was the son of Avrohom, and then repeats itself by saying that Avrohom gave birth to Yitzchok.

The Midrash makes a connection between this verse and the verse in Mishlei (23:24): “Rejoice in joy the father of a tzaddik, and someone who gives birth to a wise son should be happy with him.” The verse says the word “joy” twice, to indicate that when a tzaddik is born it is a great joy that leads to even more joy. What is the connection between these two verses?

We can clarify all of these questions with the following insight:

The sages of the Gemara (Shabbos 55a) disagree whether the merit of the holy Avos (Patriarchs), Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov, still protect us today. Some sages argue that after so many generations, their merit can no longer protect us. How can our sages have such an opinion, when the Torah says clearly (Vayikra 26:42) “I will remember My covenant” with the three Avos? Hashem gave His promise that even if we would be exiled for many generations, He will forever remember the covenant.

The Satmar Rebbe said that Yitzchok had more merit than Avrohom, because he was born from a holy tzaddik and therefore was raised to do mitzvos from when he was little. On the other hand, Avrohom grew up among idol worshippers and discovered Hashem when he was somewhat older. There is a dispute among the sages at what age Avrohom discovered Hashem, but in any case he missed out on a few years of life.

With this understanding, the Rebbe interprets the verse as follows: “And these are the children of Yitzchok. The main offspring of tzaddikim are their good deeds, and Yitzchok’s good deeds were an increase to the previous good deeds. Whose good deeds? Those of his father, for he is the son of Avrohom. If so, we would think that Avrohom had less merit than Yitzchok. The verse therefore continues by saying that Avrohom gave birth to Yitzchok. This tells us that all mitzvos and good deeds performed by Yitzchok accrued merit for Avrohom. This is because the father earns merit when his children perform mitzvos. Now indeed, Yitzchok’s good deeds greatly increased on what came previously – it increased Avrohom’s merit many times over!”

We can now explain the argument in the Gemara about the merit of the holy Avos. The sages who hold that the merit of the Avos can no longer protect us base this assumption on the fact that they lived so many generations ago and there is a limit as to how much merit they could have accumulated during their lifetimes. However, we are their descendents and all of the mitzvos we perform are accruing merit for them, because they were the ones who taught us to serve Hashem. The sages are only in dispute about the original merit of the Avos, and some of them hold that the merit of their own good deeds can no longer protect us. However, both opinions agree that their merit – either their original merit or merit that was later accrued by their offspring - will protect us forever, as Hashem promised.

Yakov and Eisav were brothers,born to holy parents. If Eisav would have become a tzaddik, he would have added to Yitzchok and Avrohom’s merit, and then he would also be considered among their offspring – for the main offspring of tzaddikim are their good deeds. However, since Eisav chose a different path and strayed from the teachings of his father and grandfather, he can no longer be considered as Yitzchok’s offspring.

This is what Rashi is telling us: “And these are the children of Yitzchok – this refers to Yakov andEisav who are spoken about in this parsha.” Yes, Eisav was among Yitzchok’s offspring, and if he would have followed the path of his father he would still be considered a child of Yitzchok. The word parsha has the same root as the word poresh – to separate. Eisav chose to separate himself from his father’s ways and he therefore forfeited his previous status.

Although Eisav is no longer considered to be Yitzchok’s son, his deeds are often compared to those of his brother Yakov in order to increase Yakov’s merit. When we see how Eisav turned out, it shows us the greatness of Yakov who willingly chose the path of holiness and purity. The same applies to Yakov’s descendents. Although in today’s generation we are very distant from our holy ancestors, when our deeds are compared to the ways of Eisav’s descendants, Hashem’s love for us is reawakened.

This is the reason for the double joy when a tzaddik is born. Not only is there great joy at the time of his birth, but even in later generations his descendents will increase his merit through their good deeds and bring more joy to their father. Even if the son grows up to be better and greater than the father, the father’s merit will always be greater, because all of a son’s good deeds accrue merit for the father.

May Hashem help us speedily. After so many years in exile during which we’ve suffered so much in every corner of the world, we still try our best to follow the paths of our holy Avos. Even though we face such difficult nisyonos, we strive to remain steadfast in our traditions. The merits we accrue are tremendous! May Hashem help all of us in this zechus and bring yeshuos and refuos to everyone in need. And may we merit greeting Moshiach speedily, in our days, Amein.

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