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Parshas Vayeitzei - Vol. 10, Issue 7
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Rabbeinu Bechaye writes that Yaakov's dream in which he saw the angels ascending and descending the ladder was no ordinary dream, but was in fact a prophecy. However, the Rambam writes (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 7:4) that a prophet may not receive prophecy at any time that he so desires, as it can come only when a person is happy.
If we stop to consider Yaakov's circumstances at that time, it is unfathomable how he could be in a state of joy. He was fleeing from the home of his loving parents because his wicked brother threatened to kill him for taking the blessings which he had rightfully purchased. Along the journey, his nephew Elifaz came to kill him, and instead robbed him of all of his earthly possessions, leaving him with nothing. How could Yaakov be happy enough to receive a prophecy in the middle of such tremendous suffering?
The Darkei Mussar answers that Yaakov was on such a high level of trust in Hashem that his faith - and its accompanying internal joy - couldn't be shaken by any tragedy which appeared to befall him. His unwavering internal belief allowed him to realize that everything which Hashem does is ultimately for the good (Berachos 60b), even when in the midst of it we can't see or fathom the good, and to remain in a state of such elevated joy that he was able to attain the level of prophecy. As the actions of our forefathers guide us in our lives, we may derive from Yaakov that we must strive to develop within ourselves a rock-solid faith so that no matter what difficulties and suffering we endure in life, we are able to trust in Hashem and live lives full of joy and inner serenity.
Upon awakening and realizing the sanctity of the place in which he had slept, Yaakov took the stone upon which he rested, set it up as a pillar to Hashem, and poured oil on its top. Rashi writes (29:11) that Eisav commanded his son Elifaz to chase the fleeing Yaakov and kill him. Elifaz was hesitant to do so, so instead he took all of Yaakov's possessions. The Gemora in Nedorim (64b) teaches that a poor person is considered as if he is dead, and this was considered a partial fulfillment of his father's instructions to kill Yaakov. If Yaakov was robbed of all of his possessions, from where did he obtain oil to pour on the pillar?
The Paneiach Raza gives a most amazing and original answer. The one personal item which Yaakov didn't give to Elifaz was his staff (Rashi 32:11). However, this was no ordinary run-of-the-mill staff. Because Yaakov was so dedicated to his Torah studies, he hollowed it out to store oil inside so that he would always have oil available to enable him to study Torah late at night. It was this very oil which remained with him even after his run-in with Elifaz that he used to pour on the pillar.
The Gemora in Megillah (13b) relates that when Yaakov encountered Rochel at the well, he asked her to marry him. She replied in the affirmative, but warned Yaakov that her father Lavan was a trickster and that Yaakov would never be able to outfox him. Yaakov responded that if Lavan will deal with him fairly and honestly, he will happily respond in kind. However, if Lavan attempts to deceive him, he will be Lavan's "brother" in deceit and will beat him at his own game.
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein relates a fascinating legal query he once received. A young man entered a barber shop and requested that the barber give him a particularly good haircut, explaining that he was a groom who would be getting married that very evening. The greedy barber, aware that there were no competing barbers in the surrounding area and realizing that a groom on the day of his wedding would be quite pressed for time, informed his apparently helpless customer that the fee for the haircut would be double the usual price.
The groom was shocked and disgusted by the barber's greed, yet he had no choice but to agree to the unfair demands. However, at the end of the haircut, when it was time to pay, he exclaimed, "Why should I pay you even a penny for this haircut? Don't you know that I have miraculous hair that grows back to its original length just hours after it's been cut? Your haircut hasn't helped me in the slightest, and I shouldn't owe you anything for it!" The astonished barber assured the groom that if he returned in the afternoon looking as he had before the haircut, he would happily give him another one free of charge.
The groom approached Rav Zilberstein with the following legal question: since the barber treated him unfairly and forced him to pay double the regular price, was he permitted to send in his identical twin brother (who hadn't recently taken a haircut) to receive for free the second haircut which he was unjustly forced to pay for? Although the barber certainly wasn't deserving of pity, and the groom's quick thinking in his pursuit of equitable justice was quite original, Rav Zilberstein nevertheless wasn't keen on his proposed method of being the barber's "brother" in deceit.
When Rochel finally merited giving birth to a son, she commented, "Hashem has taken away my disgrace." Rashi explains that until now, whenever Yaakov wanted to know who broke something in the house or who ate a certain food, she had nobody else to blame. Now she would no longer be disgraced because the action could be attributed to her son.
This is difficult to understand, as we find earlier that Rochel was inconsolable about her inability to have children, remarking to Yaakov (30:1) "Give me a son, and if not, it is as if I am dead." Is the entire reason that she wanted a child so badly so that she could blame him for a broken plate or Yaakov's favorite food that she inadvertently ate? Was there no more lofty intent in her desire for children?
Rav Yaakov Yosef Herman answers that Rochel's primary desire and yearning for children was certainly rooted in elevated spiritual reasons. However, in expressing her thankfulness regarding this seemingly trivial point, she was teaching us an additional lesson. When it comes to a person's obligation to feel and express his gratitude, he must be appreciative for every component of the good that he has received, even down to the smallest and most minor benefit.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Rashi writes (29:11) that Eisav commanded his son Elifaz to chase the fleeing Yaakov and kill him. Instead, Elifaz took all of Yaakov's possessions, as the Gemora in Nedorim (64b) teaches that a poor person is considered as if he is dead and this was considered a partial fulfillment of his father's instructions to kill Yaakov. Why is a poor person considered like he's dead? (Gur Aryeh)
2) Were Yaakov's 12 sons born after full-term pregnancies, and if not, why not? (Seder Olam 2, Derashos Chasam Sofer 7 Adar 2 5575)
3) After Yaakov explained to Rochel and Leah that Hashem had commanded him to leave Lavan's house and return to the land of Canaan, they responded with their consent. They explained (31:14-16) that they had no hope of inheriting their father's possessions together with their brothers and had been treated by their father as strangers when he sold them and held back their money, and added almost as an afterthought that they should go as Hashem had instructed. Why did they begin with rational justifications for their agreement to depart rather than focusing on the primary consideration - Hashem's command to do so? (Darash Moshe)
4) When Lavan kissed his children and grandchildren to bid them farewell (31:55), what deleterious spiritual effect did this have on them? (Peninim Vol. 2)
5) Rashi writes (32:2) that there are different sets of angels which minister in the land of Israel and outside of it, and they may not cross the border from one side to the other. How was Yaakov, who had returned to the land of Israel, able to send angels (32:4) to his brother Eisav, who resided outside of the land of Israel? (Even Yisroel)
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