The Man Makes the Clothes | A Guest Post

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A guest post by Rabbi Aaron Fink (my father), Dean of Ateres Bais Yaakov on Monsey NY. Part of a (sometimes) weekly Dvar Torah (Torah “Thought”) series.

Parshas Toldos
The Man Makes the Clothes

As Yaakov Avinu dons the bigdei chamudos of Eisav Harasha the impersonation of his brother is complete. He places goat skins on his neck and hands and enters the chamber of Yitzchok Avinu with the delicacies prepared by his mother. Something else accompanies him, too. As Yitzchok verifies Yaakov’s identity, he tenders a fatherly kiss, and notices a fragrant aroma streaming forth from Yaakov’s wardrobe and gives him a bracha. As he does so, Yitzchok exclaims; “re’eh reiach b’nee kreiach hasadeh asher beracho Hashem.” Chazal explain this to mean that the aroma of Gan Eden emanated from the very clothing Yaakov put on to visit his father.

One cannot help but wonder, why now? What was so unusual?  After all, the bigdei chamudos that Yaakov was wearing were the very same special clothes that Eisav himself wore when he went to serve his father. Didn’t the aroma of Gan Eden accompany them when Eisav wore them, too? Apparently not. Indeed, it is the man that makes the clothes and not vice versa.

Chazal teach that Eisav’s bigdei chamudos was really the special cloak that Eisav took from Nimrod. This garment has a long history. It was the same outfit that Hashem Yisborach kivayachol fashioned for Adam and Chava, the kosnos ohr, He used to clothe them after He evicted them from Gan Eden. But if these clothes were given to Adam and Chava after their being thrown out of Gan Eden how do they carry its aroma?

The answer is found in our understanding of that first cloak. Though the posuk spells the word ohr with the letter ayin, meaning leather, the Midrash says, that in the Torah of  Rabbi Meir, the word ohr was written with an alef, meaning light. How are we to understand this Chazal?

Life in Gan Eden before the sin of Adam and Chava was supernatural. Wheat stalks grew from kernels into the finest cakes, right out of the ground! There was no need to further refine its nature. Its spiritual potential and physical essence were the perfect harmonious blend that Hashem Yisborach intended. All that changed after the cheit of Adam Harishon. No longer would the world produce a naturally finished product. Though man could no longer enjoy the instant Kedusha which surrounded him in Gan Eden, all was not lost. Hashem still gave us the opportunity of sanctifying this world. But now we would have to do it on our own. Hashem in his infinite kindness enabled us to recreate the essential Gan Eden experience. With hard work we are able to spiritualize the world gifted to us. We can imbue all we touch with ruchniyus. We can transform the olam hagashmi, symbolized by leather, (ohr with an ayin) into light – a spiritual luminescence – the ohr with an alef! In so doing we recreate the essence of Gan Eden in our lives today. This is the message of Rabbi Meir.

Indeed, this essence of Gan Eden was mastered by Yaakov Avinu, the ish tam yosheiv ohalim. He with his middah of emes was able to impart all the qualities of His ruchniyus and transform whatever gashmiyus came his way into a cheftza shel kedusha, mastering and harnessing its total spiritual potential. This is the koach that enables Yaakov to produce the 12 shevatim. Approaching Yitzchok Avinu with the mitzvah maximized to its fullest potential, the aroma of Gan Eden was now with him as well. No wonder that Eisav Harasha could never produce that fragrant scent while he wore those clothes. Only a Yaakov Avinu could bring out their kedusha to the fullest. We, his children have that same potential. We can bring the essence of Eden to the world each day. It is our ultimate tachlis and makes Hashem so very proud of all that we, His children, can achieve.