Great and Greater!

The Torah relates there was a famine in the land of Israel and our forefather Yitzchok wished to travel to Egypt as his father Avraham had done when famine struck.

G-d appeared to Yitzchok and told him to remain in the land of the Philistines and not to advance to Egypt.

Yitzchok could not leave the Land of Israel because, as we know, Yitzchok was bound to an altar and was ready to be offered by his father. Although at the last moment, Avraham was instructed not to proceed, nevertheless, from that experience Yitzchok attained the holiness of a sacrifice, and sacrifices are regulated where they may be taken. Sacrifices of higher levels of sanctity were forbidden to be removed from the Temple area, and offerings of lower levels of sanctity were forbidden to be taken out of the walls of Jerusalem. Since Yitzchok was considered a sacrifice, he was not permitted to leave the holy limits of the land of Israel.

While Yitzchok was living in the Philistines he became very wealthy, and people became jealous of him.

The verse describes Yitzchok’s rise to prosperity as follows: “And the man became great and kept becoming greater until he was very great.”

Commentators explain that the Torah is not only telling us that Yitzchok’s portfolio wasn’t acquired in a flash, rather it steadily grew. The Torah is also teaching us that this was Yitzchok’s approach to spiritual matters as well. Yitzchok didn’t take giant leaps to attain spiritual heights, rather, his method was to continually grow in spiritual matters.

Picture a person wishing to get to a top floor of a building by climbing a ladder. If he gradually and mindfully ascends from rung to rung he will eventually get to his destination. However, if he begins by jumping onto the second or third rung his balance will be off and chances are that he might fall off the ladder and not accomplish his goal.

Yitzchok’s successful approach to spirituality was that he patiently grew and grew and grew.

The ladder can also be used as an example of how to gauge one’s spiritual growth. Suppose two people are on separate ladders. One may have reached a higher level than the next, but if he is not putting in effort for further growth and not moving forward he becomes stagnant. However, if the mindset of the person on the other ladder, even if he is on a lower rung, is to ascend further, he is potentially higher than the other, for he is striving for further growth.

In the portion of the Shema that speaks of the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, it states that looking at the tassels of the Tzitzis reminds us of the Mitzvos of G-d that we are commanded to observe. Within each of the four tassels of the Tzitzis there should be, if available, a special Techailes colored dyed string. Our Sages teach us that the blue Techailes color is similar to the color of the sea, the sea is similar to the sky, and the sky is similar to G-d’s Throne of Glory.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. asks, why doesn’t the Talmud simply state that the blue reminds a person of G-d’s Throne? Why does the Talmud use an incremental way to describe the Techailes as a reminder of G-d’s Throne?

Reb Moshe explains that the Talmud is teaching us the effective way of ascending spiritual heights. One begins with reflecting on the blue of the awesome reachable sea in this world. When he’s on solid footing he then can turn his attention to the sky above and delve deeper and ascend further in his understanding of spirituality, and with time and continual spiritual growth he can then focus on the meaning of G-d’s Throne.

Our Parsha deals with the struggle between two opposing forces, that of the righteous Yaacov, and that of the wicked Aisav. Aisav sold the birthright to his twin brother Yaacov, yet Aisav still wished to receive his father Yitzchok’s Patriarchal blessing. At the end, Yaacov disguised himself as Aisav and rightfully received the blessing.

Aisav was upset because his true evil character became exposed to his father. He begged his father for a blessing and Yitzchok gave him a modified blessing.

Yitzchok’s initial wish was for Yaacov and Aisav to work together as a team, Yaacov would study Torah, and Aisav would support him. It didn’t end up that way, rather, Aisav was an opposing force to Yaacov and his descendants.

The Torah prophetically tells us, when one of the twins is up, the other is down. Aisav and his descendants know that they are only able to rise when we are spiritually down, therefore they do whatever possible to cause us to digress and disregard our observances and beliefs. The primary way to mute and disable Aisav from causing us any harm is by remaining focused on gradually becoming great, greater and ever greater in our connection to G-d, His Torah and Mitzvos!