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The Systems of the Jewish Year

What Did Yitzchok Order?

By Rabbi Sender Haber

On this day, several years ago, I wrote a post was about Red Lentil Soup. In it, I bravely attacked preconceived notions about Lentil Soup and questioned if anybody had ever actually seen Lentil Soup that was Red. The post was picked up by Frum Jews and Christian Bible groups, Culinary websites, scholars, laymen and Baalebustas.

People appreciated the refreshing approach to the parsha and the practical questions that I posed.

How did I do it? I teach third grade.

Third graders have the ability to approach everything practically and pragmatically. When our sages told us that we learn the most from our students, they were not exaggerating. Teaching has helped me grow far more than any other single learning endeavor that I have taken on.

One of my jobs in teaching is to reinforce Rashi’s role in his commentary on the Torah. Rashi took upon himself to answer questions that students might have as they learn the parsha. When Rashi writes we know that he is writing because he wants to answer a question. True students of Rashi strive to understand not only what Rashi is saying, but what he is trying to answer.

I told my students about the time when Rashi was travelling on a wet and cold night. An innkeeper let Rashi in to his kretchma but made him go to sleep on the floor near the fireplace. He did not give Rashi any food or drink because Rashi did not have any money. Of course, he did not know that his guest was Rashi.

The innkeeper then made two cups of steaming hot vegetable soup and sat down at the table to teach his son chumash with ... Rashi. Soon they came to a Rashi butcould not understand what Rashi wanted to explain. “What does Rashi Want!!?” the innkeeper asked. A voice was heard from the back of the room: “Rashi wants a glass of hot soup”.

I have found that my students, with their fresh approach to learning, are able to anticipate Rashi’s questions in ways that I can only try to emulate.

This year, my students were not bothered by Red Lentil Soup. They were concerned about Hot Dogs.

We estimated that our class (including the Rebbe) could eat a maximum of 20 hot dogs in one evening. Since the average goat can produce 800 hot dogs (80 pounds), it would take 40 nights for the third graders to eat an entire goat. (cows produce 5000 hot dogs or 250 nights of BBQ’s). According to Guinness, the current record for hot dog eating is 68 hot dogs (with buns) in ten minutes.

Yet, we learned in Chumash that Rivkah prepared two goats for Yitzchok’s meal - that’s 1600 hot dogs!

How could Yitzchok possibly need two goats for just one meal?!

The third graders did some research and came up with several excellent answers. One felt that Yitzchak’s request for two goats was a way to test Eisav and see if he would make the effort. Another thought that the two goats were Rivka’s idea: She used one for the meat and the other for Yaacov’s costume. A third thought that maybe Yitzchak only liked one specific part of the goat (like the tongue, for example). Two others thought that since Yitzchak was afraid he was going to die, he wanted a humungous last meal. Similiarly, two students posited that it may have been Yitzchak’s last korban before he was niftar.

Still, the overall attitude was one of wonderment and (dare I say it) disbelief. How could Yitzchok flout all records and averages to justify a menu of two goats (1600 Hot Dogs) for one night.

It turns out that Rashi was also bothered by our Hot Dog question. Rashi explains that Yitzchak’s feast was not an ordinary meal: It was the Pesach seder. Since the Korban Pesach must be eaten on a full stomach, Yitzchak needed one goat to fill him up and another goat for his Korban Pesach.

How did Rashi know that it was Pesach? Also, Why did Yitzchak just begin to worry about getting old?

These questions answer each other: We know that in Parshas Vayeira Avraham served Matzah to his three special guests because they arrived on Pesach. They told him that Yitzchak would be born exactly a year later - which was also on Pesach. Since Yitzchak’s 123rd birthday was on Pesach he began to get worried about when he would die. His mother had passed away at 127 and a person should worry about deasth within five years of his pareants demise. (As it turned out Yitzchok lived to see his 180th birthday, living just five years longer than his father Avraham).

We read about the two goats year after year and assume that they were a typical dinner. The third graders nailed Rashi’s question in a way that we could only be jealous of.

Take a fresh approach to your learning, try to anticipate Rashi’s difficulties and, above all, make a point of memorizing the records for Hot Dog eating in all fifty states.

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