<i>Toldot</i> and Chronic Jewish Fatigue Syndrome

Its sufferers are "cholei nefesh."

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch,

יום העצמאות 67
יום העצמאות 67
ערוץ 7
Modern medicine has described a syndrome of contemporary man called "the chronic fatigue syndrome." Sufferers spend weeks in bed, not going to work or school, not functioning up to their capacities. Although many people are tired due to physical causes
In this week's parsha, we see such a tired young man.
(anemia, prolonged viral illnesses, etc.), the fatigue syndrome has no physical cause; its sufferers are cholei nefesh, suffering from a malaise of the spirit, a depressive emotional state that saps their will and energy .

In this week's parsha, we see such a tired young man. Eisav comes home after a long day "in the field, and he is tired." (Breishit 25:29) The Aznayim L'Torah comments that he apparently came home empty-handed from the hunt ; in other words, this man of the world felt an inner emptiness, causing a fatigue that reached deep into his emotional and physical being. In Emunat Iteinu, vol. 7, Rabbi Tzvi Tau comments on the frustrated soul of the Jew who does not act on the creative impulses of his Jewish soul, and therefore suffers spiritual malaise. To what do these people turn? To overindulgence in consumption, like Eisav who has lentil soup poured down his gullet in the manner of stuffing a goose before its slaughter.

"Hinei anochi holeich lamut," says Eisav; 'I am going to die anyways, some day, so I might as well forget about spiritual pursuits, and about positive accomplishments in building up this world. I might as well "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die" (Isaiah 22).' Interestingly, this line in Isaiah is spoken by those Jews at the time of the Churban, the destruction, of the first Temple. Destructive, and self-destructive, behavior characterizes these tired over-consumers, as we see in the Haftorah to this week's parsha: "For Edom (Eisav) says: We have been laid low, let us return and build up the ruins (the chorovot)." This can be read: "Let us build chorovot"; i.e., 'let us build ruins (not build buildings), for the building of these "tired ones" is really a ruination, a churban.

We thus see the perversion of Yitzchak's character trait of gevura, strength, which was present in Eisav. Both father and son had gevura, and Eisav inherited his from Yitzchak. Whereas Yitzchak built Rechovot, representing expansion and fruitfulness (see Breishit 26:22), his son Eisav perverted the quality of gevura and inverted the letters of Rechovot
Destructive, and self-destructive, behavior characterizes these tired over-consumers.
to Chorovot, building ruins.

One need not look far in modern Israel to see the children of Eisav, classic sufferers of the fatigue syndrome. Like an Eisav growing up in the home of Yitzchak, our Prime Minister started his political career in the nationalist Likud party. Yet, not long after declaring that he now felt "tired of fighting, tired of winning, tired of ruling over the Land of Israel and all its inhabitants," he quickly turned to the occupation of "builder of ruins," and became one of the chief architects of the destruction of Gush Katif. He now threatens to create more chorovot with his Annapolis treachery. Similarly, our Minister of Education, Yuli Tamir, has decided to project her own feelings of fatigue on a whole segment of society: older, experienced teachers.

Tamir reasons that if she is too tired to teach and build up a new generation of educated Jews, then these teachers must also be fatigued - and so they must be fired and retired. How foolish, though, will the "people of the book" look when all their wise elders, their teachers with experience, are pensioned off, and the teaching of the next generation is entrusted to a bunch of "wet behind the ears" twenty-something-year-olds. As the Haftorah concludes, depicting the proper teacher: "God's covenant is with him, (to grant) life and peace.... The Torah of Truth is in his mouth, and evil is not found on his lips. In peace and rectitude he walks with Me, and the multitudes he turns from sin. For the lips of the Cohen keep knowledge, and the people seek Torah from him; for he is truly an Angel of the Lord of Hosts."


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