Parsha Encounters



Parshas Toldos:  [MS Word Format available here]

The Power of Surrounding

By Binyamin Waldbaum

Parsha Encounters 

[Don't forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]

The Power of Surrounding

During this week's parsha, Yaakov and Esav are introduced.  From the very beginning we see the good tendencies in Yaakov.  Each time Rivka would pass a beis medrash he would get excited.  In contrast, Esav would get excited when Rivka would pass a "beis avodah zara."  Immediately upon reading these verses, one must wonder what is going on here.  In particular, Esav is the most troubling as his desire to do evil is so innate that we see it before he is even born!  It almost seems that Esav does not have free will.  What is the Torah trying to teach us in this troubling passage?

Even though Esav had such a strong desire to do evil, he could have chosen a righteous path.  One of our most fundamental beliefs is in one's ability to choose between doing right or wrong.  Immediately when Esav was given his name (25:25) the Baal HaTurim points out that Esav is the gematria of Shalom (376).  Not only is the Baal HaTurim pointing out that Esav could have been good, but he could have even been "shalom," the exact opposite of what he became.

If Esav could have been the epitome of "shalom," then what happened?  The Torah gives us an answer a few verses later when it tells us that when Esav grew up, he became a man "who knows trapping (25:27)."  Rashi points out that this means he knew how to trick his father Yitzchak.  Essentially, Esav got involved in hunting, which polluted his mind and led him down the wrong path.  As we said earlier, Esav could have been shalom but instead, became an expert hunter.  When one takes the gematria of Esav's (376) name and adds it to his bad influence ("Yodea Tzaed"=1941), the resulting gematria is exactly equal to the gematria of the word "rasha" (570).

The Torah is telling us loud and clear to be careful what we involve ourselves in.  If we make good choices we can become Tzaddikim.  And if we make bad choices, G-d forbid the opposite could occur.  This lesson is a universal concept that appears in many places.  One just needs to open Pirkei Avos and see how one is supposed to surround himself with good neighbors, a Rav, and all other sorts of good influences.  May we all be zoche to surround ourselves with only positive influences and to see the coming of the moshiach speedily in our days.


1 The posuk is spelled without a letter "Vuv."  Even though this letter is missing, the gematria is still correct because the word is read as if there is a "Vuv" there.  See Rashi in his mentioning of the gematria of tzitis (Bamidbar 15:38).

Binyamin, who now lives in New York was a frequent attendee of the Chicago Community Kollel.

Halacha Encounters

Hunting and Trapping

Rabbi Avi Weinrib

In this week's Parsha we are introduced to the first  set of twins recorded in the Torah. We are told that aside from their differences in physical appearance, the way they spent their time was another obvious difference. Yaakov is described as a man of the tent where he spent his time in Torah learning and prayer. Eisav is described as a man of the field where he spent his time hunting animals and similar activities1. In this week's Halacha Encounters we will discuss how Halacha views the sport of hunting as well as discuss some of the halachos pertaining to the trapping of animals on Shabbos.


The issue of hunting animals is discussed at length by many of the earlier commentaries. The consensus of the poskim is that for one to hunt just for "sport" or fun is forbidden. There are many reasons given for this. Among them are "Tzaar Balei Chayim" - unnecessarily paining animals2, "Bal Tashchis" - to destroy an item without any real purpose3, and "Moshav Leitzim,"4 among others. One of the more famous Teshuvos [Responsa] on the issue was written by the Noda Biyehuda5. He contends that there is no issue of Bal Tashchis being that one uses the skin in addition to the fact that it is not being done in a destructive manner. Furthermore, there is no issue of Tzar Balei Chayim as that issur only applies when wounding or inflicting pain on an animal. However, when killing an animal there is no issue of Tzar Balei Chayim. He does say however that hunting is an act of cruelty and the ones we find who were involved in such activity were Eisav and Nimrod, who are not exactly classic role models. Furthermore, hunting involves going into the forests. Being that the woods are full of wild animals, it is forbidden for one to enter a place which is clearly defined as dangerous. He does permit hunting when one is doing so for commercial purposes and not just for sport.


Fishing for sport with no intention to keep the fish would be forbidden because of Tzar Balei Chayim6. Fishing for eating or commercial purposes would be permissible.

Trapping on Shabbos - Setting Traps

One of the thirty-nine prohibitions which are forbidden on Shabbos is the trapping of animals. The question of permissibility often arises where one merely wishes to set up a trap. If the animal would enter the trap while one is setting up the trap it would be a violation of an issur Deoraysa. To set up a trap on Shabbos even when the animal does not enter then would be forbidden Miderabonon7. Therefore one cannot set up a mouse trap on Shabbos. However one can set up traps on Friday even if they will very likely end up trapping an animal on Shabbos8.

Freeing Trapped Animals

The issur of trapping only applies to the trapping of animals. However, freeing a trapped animal on Shabbos is permissible9.

Closing a Birdcage Door

To close the door of a birdcage on Shabbos is included in the issur of trapping. Therefore, to open and then shut the door of the cage would be forbidden. Since if the door would remain open the bird would fly out, closing it is considered an act of trapping. A simple solution would be that as one opens the door, he should place his hand or any other object in front of the door so that at no point is there a possibility for the bird to fly free. Then one can close the door, as the bird was never considered free10.

Domestic Animals

Animals which are totally domesticated are not included in the melacha of trapping11. Therefore with such animals one would be allowed to close them up in room if such a need would arise. However one must be aware the animals are muktzeh and are forbidden to move. Therefore while one may lead an animal one may not pick up the animal in any way12.


1 Bereishis 25-27

2 Pachad Yitzchak [Encyclopedia] Tzeidah

3 Shu"t Shemesh U'tzidoko 57

4 See Or Zarua Shabbos 83-17 and Shulchan Aruch O.H. 316-2

5 Tinyana Y.D. 10

6 Shalos Uteshuvos Mishna Halachos 12-432

7 Mishna Berura 316-18

8 See Shabbos 17b

9 M.B. 316-25

10 Meleches Shabbos pg. 236

11 Rema 316-12 M.B. 59 This would seemingly only apply to the owner or anyone the animal is familiar with. See Sefer Mileches Shabbos pg. 233 Sefer Lamed Tes Milochos [R' Ribiat] page 868 and Shmiras Shabas Kihilchoso 27-footnote 117

12 M.B. 25

Rabbi Weinrib learns full time in the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters.


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