Naphtali Perlberger

It’s All About the Vavs!

This Shabbos was Parshas Toldos.  In all Chumashim, the title of the parsha is spelled with two vavs.  But, in the text, there is only one vav! Is this a misprint?

The first place a vav appears in the Torah is in the very first sentence of Bereishis – “And G-d created Heaven and Earth”.  The word for “and” is the letter “vav”.  In Chapter 2 of Bereishis, it says that “These are the generations of the creating of Heaven and Earth” – Again, the words, “heaven” and “earth” are connected with a “vav”, but there is one salient lead-in — the word, “generations” is the Hebrew word, Toldos.  In its pristine state, the word has two “vavs” (look it up!). Thereafter, everywhere that word appears in the Torah, there are at least one missing “vav” – a defective connection, something less than perfect.  The only time in Tanach that the two vavs return is at the end of Megillas Esther, when we read the toldos of Peretz that winds their way down through Ruth & Boaz, ultimately to Dovid HaMelech (King David), which is the beginning of the Davidic dynasty that will culminate in the Moshiach.

Significantly, and we should not see it as a typo or misprint, there is only one place where BOTH vavs are missing.  It is in the recitation of the toldos of Yishmael — the descendants of Ishmael — with whom we are not coincidentally engaged in what our Sages predicted thousands of years ago would be our last golus.

So many today ask: “Why the death of these innocents?”  “Where is G-d?”  But, those are questions, while understandable and “logical” in a world that is hidden (the Hebrew word for “world”, olam, is also the root for the word, “hidden”, they are questions that come from a place of doubt – safek, which has the same gematria as “Amalek”.  It is our failure to see the Unity that is broken, time and again, through divisiveness, separation, elitism, and a penchant for disunity, both as a People and as a world community.

We forget that we are to be a Light unto the Nations.  What is that Light?  In a dialectic world, it would appear that Light and Darkness are separate, but as I have taught in my weekly Torah classes, the Divine purpose of separation is for the end game of reunification. The Light is the message of Achdus.  The “vav” is to teach us that everything is connected!  But, we have to be that Light!  We have to live and breathe Unity — we have to stop dwelling on differences that are divisive and are really illusions.  We cannot hope that this message will be universally accepted by all Jews, whose yetzer hara and even sectarian agendas, thrive on these differences.  But, we must strive for rov – that a majority of Jews take that message to heart and integrate it into their lives.

Only then — only then — can we seize the power of the “vav” and tell the world that we are united, unified in purpose, that our achdus is so that we be the Light unto the Nations, so that we fulfill G-d’s purpose in creation — we must emulate the Unity of G-d by being unified in purpose — in our thoughts, speech and action!

If we do that, we are invincible and our Light may filter down to the rest of the world. How can we expect to be loved by our enemies when we cannot love ourselves?  These differences have their origins in the divisiveness that began with our brothers, Yishmael and Aisav (the progenitors of Islam & Christianity).

I want to close with a parable that is found in Tractate Kiddushin, where metaphorically a wise man killed a monster with seven heads who was a menace to the Torah community in a neighboring village. How did he do it?  He chopped off the seven heads of this monster. Where did he learn to do this?

In Parshas Vayishlach, Esau is coming with 400 men to kill his brother, Jacob.  When they finally meet face-to-face, Jacob approaches him bowing seven times — when they touch, instead of violence, they “kiss”.  What changed?  The gematria of Aisav is 376. The gematria of tumah (spiritual contamination) is 50. What Jacob knew was that each bow obliterated (at least temporarily) one layer of tumah — 50 x 7 = 350.  What was left was the 26 of his name — which is the godliness deep within him, the 26 of G-d’s Ineffable Name.

May we find ways to release the 26 of each other as Jews — embrace that and unify.  When we do so and display that to the rest of the world, maybe then, we can reveal the godliness within the inhabitants of the world.  If we do not ……….

About the Author
Naphtali Perlberger is a senior lecturer for AISH HaTorah and gives weekly shiurim at Chabad of Golden Beach and Aish Chaim of the Main Line. He is one of the founders and a past president of the Philadelphia Community Kollel. He is Founder & President of Philadelphia Chapter of Children of the Holocaust, and past FJA Chairman of Men's Organizations; past President of Kosloff Torah Academy; and, talk show host for a radio show, "G-d is Listening".
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