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Parshas Vayeitzei - Vol.
5, Issue 7
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Vayeitzei Yaakov miBe’er Shava vayeilech Charana (28:10)
Those who pay careful attention to the parsha while reviewing it or during its public reading on Shabbos will note a curious fact: unlike almost every other parsha in the Torah, Parshas Vayeitzei contains no breaks from start to finish. It is written in the Sefer Torah without any of the customary spaces which indicate the beginning of a new section within the parsha. As there are no coincidences in the Torah, what is the reason for this anomaly?
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that Parshas Vayeitzei contains a number of subplots: Yaakov’s flight from Eisav, Yaakov’s dealings with his tricky father-in-law Lavan, Yaakov’s relationship with his wives Rochel and Leah and the interactions between the two women, the birth of the tribes, and Yaakov’s flight from Lavan back to the land of his parents. When examining any of these episodes in its own light, a number of difficult and seemingly unanswerable questions present themselves.
The Torah intentionally structured Parshas Vayeitzei as one long and continuously unfolding narrative to teach that it is impossible to split up the various events contained therein and judge any of them in a vacuum. Rather, each episode is just one small piece of a much larger picture, one which can only begin to be understood when one steps back and views it in the context of the bigger picture.
The Darkei Mussar relates a profound story about a Chassidic Rebbe – Rav Shimon of Yaroslav – who merited living until well past the age of 100. When he was asked in what merit he had enjoyed such a long and healthy life, he responded with words packed with wisdom: “Don’t think that I’ve had an easy life. I’ve had my share of difficulties and pain just like everybody else. If anything, because I’ve lived longer, I’ve had more occasions and opportunities to suffer. It would have been very easy and natural to complain to Hashem, ‘Why did this have to happen? Why couldn’t that have turned out differently?’
“However, I was afraid that if I began demanding a justification and explanation of Hashem’s ways, the Heavenly Court would say, ‘If this Rabbi wants answers so badly, let’s call him up here and give them to him!’ So I never asked any of these types of questions. I didn’t have any more answers than anybody else, but because I never asked for them, they let me stay down here for quite some time!”
As the Torah was written for all generations, it is clear that the lessons contained therein are applicable to every person throughout the ages. The lesson of needing to view events in the context of a larger perspective can be extrapolated to the situations which occur in each of our lives. We should realize that although we don’t always understand the ways of Hashem, we nevertheless must trust that everything that happens is part of His larger master plan, which we will one day merit to comprehend.
Vayavo gam el Rochel vaye’ehav gam es Rochel miLeah vaya’avod imo od sheva shanim acheiros (29:30)
Yaakov was exemplary in his devotion to Torah study. At the age of 63, instead of traveling immediately to Lavan’s house to seek a wife, he first stopped at a yeshiva to study Torah for 14 years, where he didn’t sleep a single night as he was completely engrossed in the in-depth study of Torah (Rashi 28:11). Upon arriving at the house of Lavan, he agreed to work for seven years in order to marry Rochel. At the end of that period, Lavan tricked him into marrying Leah instead.
When Yaakov confronted him about the trickery, Lavan proposed that he would allow Yaakov to marry Rochel if he agreed to work for an additional seven years. Rashi writes that whereas the first time Yaakov was required to work all seven years before the wedding, this time Lavan allowed him to marry Rochel immediately, after which time he was to complete his obligation by working for seven years.
As it was Lavan who had intentionally deceived him and reneged on their original agreement, why did Yaakov remain to work for Lavan for an additional 7 years? Yaakov committed himself to work for 7 years to marry Rochel, and he had fulfilled this obligation. As he never agreed to work for an additional 7 years to marry Leah, why did he do so instead of returning to Canaan to study Torah?
The following story will help answer this question. Rav Aharon Kotler was legendary for his devotion to studying and teaching Torah. Once, shortly after leaving his home on his way to yeshiva, he asked his driver to turn around and return to his house. His driver couldn’t imagine what he had forgotten that could possibly be so critical, but he immediately returned to Rav Aharon’s home.
The driver offered to run inside to fetch whatever was forgotten, but Rav Aharon insisted that he would go to the house himself. The curious driver followed to observe what was so important and was astonished to observe Rav Aharon tell his wife “Goodbye, and have a wonderful day,” and return to the car. Rav Aharon explained that every day he bid farewell to his wife before leaving. That day he had accidentally forgotten, and he didn’t want to hurt his wife’s feelings. Only after expending the time to return home and personally say goodbye was he able to proceed to the yeshiva to give his shiur.
In light of this story, we can appreciate the answer given by Rav Dovid Feinstein to our question. Although Yaakov wasn’t legally required to do so, had he in fact departed prematurely, Leah would have been devastated. She would have felt that her husband viewed his beloved Rochel as being worth seven years of work, but not her. Even though the extra seven years of work came at the expense of Yaakov’s ability to study Torah and to escape the evil influences of Lavan, it was worth seven full years of spiritual sacrifice to avoid hurting the feelings of his wife Leah. The Mishnah in Avos (3:17) teaches that without proper character traits and sensitivity to others, there can be no Torah study, a lesson we should learn from the actions of Yaakov and Rav Aharon.
Vatahar od vateiled ben vatomer hapa’am odeh es Hashem al kein karah shemo Yehuda (29:35)
Jews around the world are referred to as “Yehudim.” This name has come to mean “Jews,” although it is presumably derived from the name of Yehuda. Since the Jewish people are descended from all 12 of Yaakov’s sons, why are we called by a name which specifically associates us with Yehuda, from whom we are clearly not all descended, rather than with any of the other tribes?
After giving birth to her fourth son, the Torah tells us that Leah named him Yehuda, saying “This time I will thank Hashem.” Why did she only choose to thank Hashem after Yehuda’s birth and not after the birth of any of her first three sons? Rashi explains that Leah knew through Divine inspiration that there would be 12 tribes. Since Yaakov had four wives, she assumed that each wife would merit giving birth to three of them. When Leah gave birth to a fourth son, whom she viewed as more than what she was expecting or entitled to, she decided to give special thanks to Hashem and gave her son a name which eternalized her expression of gratitude.
The Chiddushei HaRim suggests that it is for this reason that we are called Yehudim. A thinking Jew should realize that Hashem doesn’t owe him anything. Everything which we enjoy is because of Hashem’s infinite desire to give to us and to be good to us, but in no way is He indebted to us for anything we may desire or even need. A Jew should therefore view himself as a “Yehudi,” internalize the recognition that everything he enjoys in life is above and beyond the portion to which he is entitled, and give thanks to Hashem accordingly.
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Rashi writes (28:11) that before going to sleep, Yaakov placed stones around his head because he was afraid that he may be attacked by wild animals. If he was truly scared of the potential danger, how did the placement of small stones around his head – which would clearly be ineffective in the event of a real attack – allay his anxiety? (Darkei HaShleimus)
2) 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)
3) 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 deals with him honestly, he would respond in kind, but if Lavan attempts to deceive him, he would be Lavan’s “brother” in deceit and beat him at his own game. In what way do Jews living in America thousands of years later still need to protect themselves from Lavan’s deceit?
4) The Gemora in Berachos (7b) teaches that in naming her son Yehuda to express her gratitude (29:35), Leah became the first person in history to thank Hashem. How could it be that Avrohom, Sorah, Yitzchok, Rivkah, and Yaakov never once thanked Hashem? (Bod Kodesh)
5) Rochel’s intention in stealing her father’s terafim (idols) was to prevent him from idol-worship (Rashi 31:19). Does this mean that if somebody possesses something forbidden it is permissible to steal it from him? (Ayeles HaShachar, Meshech Chochmah 31:32)
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