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Vayishlach

Friday, 23rd November 2018

This weeks Torah portion ends with an account of the genealogy of Esav.  We are told of the birth of Amalek, the progenitor of the nation that would constantly strive to destroy Klal Yisroel (the nation of Israel).

“And Timna was a concubine to Eliphaz and Eliphaz gave birth to Amalek.”

The Gemara (Talmud) in Sanhedrin informs us of the background to this terrible occurrence.   Timna was a Princess, but she wanted to convert to Judaism.  She came to Avrohom (Abraham), Yitzchak (Isaac) and Yaakov (Jacob) to convert but they would not accept her .   She then became a concubine to Eliphaz, the son of Esav.  She said that it was better to be a maidservant to this nation - Israel - rather than be a powerful woman in another nation.  As a result, Amalek, who would cause Israel great pain, was born from her.  What is the reason that this incident caused Amalek to be born from her?   Because the Avos (Patriarchs) should not have distanced her.   Rashi explains that the Gemara means that they should have allowed her to convert .

It seems clear that the Avos had sufficient reason to reject Timna’s efforts to join their nation.  They were aware of the evil within Timna’s nature .  Consequently, they refused to allow her to join the Jewish people.   So, why were they punished so harshly for their seemingly correct decision?

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that we learn from here that no matter how bad a person is, they should not be totally rejected.   As long as there remains any hope that the person will improve their ways it is forbidden to distance them and thereby remove any chance of their doing teshuva (repentance).   Evidently, there was enough hidden potential within Timna that justified allowing her to join Klal Yisroel.

We learn from the incident with Timna that rejecting a person as a hopeless cause is a very serious matter.  If Chazal (our Sages) tell us that Timna, the person who produced Amalek, was deserving of a chance to join Klal Yisroel, all the more so, a person who is struggling with his Yiddishkeit (Judaism), deserves the opportunity to improve himself. Showing faith in a person is a tremendous way of helping him change his ways.

This does not only apply with regard to people drifting from Torah, it also applies to our children, students and people around us.  The Gemara in Sotah tells us that we should push away with our left hand and bring in with our right.   The right hand is stronger than the left, thus the Gemara is telling us that we should always give precedence to positive reinforcement over criticism.

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