Parshas Toldos – FFB and BT Tzaddikim

Rabbi Yaacov Haber (the YU musmach) has an interesting piece on Parsha Toldos where he points out:

– Rashi says that Yitzchak’s prayers were answered instead of Rifkas because he was a Tzaddik, who was a child of a Tzaddik, while Rivka was a Tzaddik who was the child of a Rasha.

– This seems to contradict the Gemora which says that a Tzaddik can not stand in the place of a Baalei Teshuva seemingly because a BT has a harder job and therefore more reward. And therefore Rifka’s prayers should have been answered because she worked harder.

– Rabbi Haber says that a FFB has it harder than a BT because the BT approaches Judaism with more enthusiasm.

– Therefore Yitzchak’s prayers were answered because he was still a Tzaddik even though he was an FFB (the son of a Tzaddik).

But we all know that to many that BT enthusiasm we have to keep on learning, so here is Rabbi Rietti’s outline of Toldos. You can purchase the entire outline of the Chumash here.

#25 Esav Sells Birthright to Yaakov
#26 Rivkah in Palace of Avimelech
#27 Yaakov Takes Blessing from Esav
#28 Yaakov Goes to Padan Aram

#25 Esav Sells Birthright to Yaakov
* Rivkah is barren
* Rivkah’s painful pregnancy
* Prophecy that she will give birth to twins – two great nations
* Yaakov completely honest, Esav deceitful
* Esav sells birthright to Yaakov

#26 Rivkah in Palace of Avimelech
* Famine
* ‘Don’t go down to Egypt’
* G-d’s promise to Yitschak to be an Eternal G-d & inherit the land forever.
* Avimelech almost takes Rivkah
* HaShem makes Yitschak exceedingly wealthy
* Avimelech tells Yitschak to leave his land
* Three wells of conflict: Esek-Sitna-Rechovot
* Yitschak goes to Be’ar Sheva
* HaShem reassures Yitschak: “Don’t fear, I’m with you!”
* Yitschak builds an altar
* Agreement with Avimelech
* Esav marries at 40 years old

#27 Yaakov Takes Blessing from Esav
* Rivkah persuades Yaakov to impersonate Esav
* Yitschak blesses Yaakov believing him to be Esav
* Esav’s blessing
* Rivkah tells Yaakov to flee from Esav

#28 Yaakov Goes to Padan Aram
* Yitschak tells Yaakov to go to Padam Aram
* Yitschak blesses Yaakov
* Esav marries Mahlat, daughter of Yishmael

10 comments on “Parshas Toldos – FFB and BT Tzaddikim

  1. Ben David,
    You’re p’shat is very profound. I think baal t’shuvah are often overly cautious in their parenting out of fear that their children will chas v’shalom not be frum, which seems unbearable to them. We may be selling them short.

  2. I once heard a nice p’shat from R. Tzvi Block of Los Angelos. It goes well with the exact lashon of Rashi that the “t’filos” themselves are not domeh, ie they have a different quality, as apposed to the z’chus avos or other possible distinctions.

    R. Block explained (I am paraphrasing) that when one goes through great challenges, it can cause greater “yesh” in ones t’filos. “Please Hashem, send me my b’sherit, I want to build a house for Your honor”. And in the back of his mind he is thinking “and you know, I really deserve to find my besherit after all I went through. My parents disowned me, I had to leave my beautiful non-Jewish girl-friend, I suffered the embarrassment of having to ask for an English bentcher when every 7 year old at the table was using a Hebrew one etc etc.” But when a person grows up with a lot of good things handed to them on a plate, it is easier to feel “Ich bin gornisht”, and therefore they may daven with greater humility.

  3. An interpretation I heard was:

    The prophecy already hinted that one son would be righteous, the other wicked.

    Rivka, who had grown up around the wicked, could not bear the thought of a wicked son – and prayed that they both be mediocre.

    Yitzhak, who had seen the good done by his father Abraham, was confident the righteous son would prevail.

    So: their prayers were influenced by their experiences as BT-out-of-wickedness or FFB-son-of-a-tzaddik.

  4. The issue of a BT vs FFB’s prayers being effective is different than the Gmora’s issue of where we stand relative to each other, either in this world or the next. Even though the Gmora’s statement gives chizuk to a BT, esp. when the struggles seem overwhleming, it does not mean that we are better or more beloved to Hashem. Certainly we are not raising our children to be not-frum, we are raising them to be FFBs! So intuitively we understand that it is better to be an FFB, with understanding and love for Hashem and his Torah imbued from the earliest age. The statement that where a BT stands, an FFB cannot, means that we are able to access certain levels of understanding/ spiritual achievements that an FFB would not have access to; however an FFB can access different higher levels. No one person or type of person has a monopoly on reaching high spiritual levels.

    Perhaps one of these areas is his prayers! We know that a person’s tefila is affected by other things that person does with his speech — for example a baal loshen hara does not get his prayers answered in the same way that a person with pure speech does. So too, a person’s prayers could be affected by all he has experienced, and in the world of prayer, a tzaddik ben tzaddik has a more pure background, and thus perhaps his prayers are more readily answered.

    In any event, these is all Hashem’s calculations about spiritual worlds to which we do not have access. We know that we are all beloved to Hashem, that He was the one who created us with the parents that He did, and our job to to maximize our potential, not to try to become someone we cannot become (an FFB).

  5. Another approach used for this question is that there is a difference in praying for one’s self and praying for others. While arguably Yithak was praying to have a child and would benefit, he was really praying Rivka’s pregnancy.

  6. The contradiction Rabbi Haber points out is brought up and resolved at length in a few different ways by the Sefer Arvei Nachal.

    In brief, he says that a BT’s prayers are actually more powerful and more likely to be answered than an FFB’s. (Accordingly, Rashi’s loshon, “Ainoi doimeh tefillas tzaddik ben tzaddik …” is meduyak. If Rashi had meant to say that a BT’s tefillois are less likely to be received, then he ought to have said, “Ainoi doimeh tefillas tzaddik ben rosho …”.)

    The Arvei Nachal further explains that for various reasons, Rivka preferred that Yitzchok’s prayers should be answered and not hers. Therefore, as Rashi brings, Rivka wondered, “Why am I praying to conceive?”

    Incidentally, R’ Moshe Wolfson notes in Sefer Emunas Itecho that even if one would hold that a tzaddik ben rosho’s prayers are not as effective as a tzaddik ben tzaddik’s, that principle only applies when the tzaddik ben rosho is praying as an individual. However, when a BT is requested to daven by a congregation, then the BT’s prayers on behalf of the congregation are definitely just as effective as an FFB’s prayers would be.

  7. IMO, based on the Netziv at the end of Parshas Chayei Sarah, one can and should compare the interaction between Avraham and Sarah and Yitzchak and Rivkah and why Rivkah had to resort to dressing Yaakov like Esau as a means of understanding that while Yitzchak may have been on a higher spiritual level as a FFB, Rivkah’s perspective, based on her being raised in the far less spiritual environment was far more realistic with respect to her evaluation of the respective potential and future roles of Yaakov and Esau . One can maintain that Rivkah, just as Sarah, had a greater sense of Nvuah about these issues than her husband.

  8. “Rashi says that Yitzchak’s prayers were answered instead of Rifkas because he was a Tzaddik, who was a child of a Tzaddik, while Rivka was a Tzaddik who was the child of a Rasha.”

    I explain this by quoting Shemot [Exodus] chapter 20, also known as The Ten Commandments, in which G_d revealed that He remembers the rightous for thousands of generations and punishes the descendants of the wicked for 4 generations.

  9. Rabbi Haber’s explanation cited above is interesting, and would appeal to BT’s, but is not convincing. It’s too general and may not apply at all to the situations and thought patterns of our Avos and Imahos.

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