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Parshas Vayeitzei - Vol.
8, 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.
Vayishak Yaakov l'Rochel vayisa es kolo va'yeivk (29:11)
When Yaakov encountered his future wife Rochel, he began to cry. Rashi explains that in contrast to Eliezer, who arrived at Rivkah’s house carrying fine jewelry and presents, Yaakov greeted Rochel and her family empty-handed. Although he set out with appropriate gifts along with the rest of his possessions, he was accosted on his journey by his nephew Elifaz. Elifaz was commanded by his father Eisav to chase the fleeing Yaakov and kill him, but he was hesitant to do so. Instead, he took all of Yaakov’s possessions except for his staff (Rashi 32:11), 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 Eisav’s instructions to kill Yaakov. Where is this episode hinted to in the Torah?
Rav Yehuda Assad points out that the letters comprising the words (28:10) "Mi'Be'er Sheva vayeilech Charanah – (Yaakov traveled) from Be’er Sheva, and he went to Charan – are an abbreviation for "Mi'yad ba Elifaz rasha she'hu bein Eisav vayiten Yaakov lo kol cheilo, rak nishar ha'makal – Immediately the wicked Elifaz the son of Eisav came, and Yaakov gave him all of his possessions, and all that remained was his staff. Similarly, the Gan Yosef notes that the letters in the words (29:13) "es kol ha'devorim ha'eileh" – (Yaakov told Lavan) all of the things that had happened – are an abbreviation for "al tomar ki lo haveisi davar, b'rov rechus yatzasi mi'beisi, halach Elifaz, lakach hakol" – Don’t say that I didn’t bring anything; I left my house with a tremendous amount of possessions, but Elifaz came and took them all.
V'Rochel haysa yefas to'ar vi'yefas mareh (29:17)
Every Friday night, before we begin the Shabbos meal, we sing Shlomo HaMelech’s beautiful praise of the Aishes Chayil – woman of valor. Toward the end, we declare (Mishlei 31:30) that charm is false and physical beauty is vain and empty. However, the Torah praises Rivkah and Rochel as being attractive, and the Gemora in Megillah (15a) states that Sorah was one of the four most beautiful women in the history of the world. Why do we praise the Imahos for a superficial, illusory quality?
The Vilna Gaon answers that Shlomo himself alluded to the resolution to this apparent contradiction. Immediately following the aforementioned verse, Shlomo continues to say that only a woman with proper fear of Heaven is truly praiseworthy. In other words, if a woman possesses physical beauty and uses it for the immodest and immoral purposes glorified by the society around us, it is indeed vain and empty. On the other hand, if she is G-d-fearing and uses her beauty in a modest and appropriate manner, as did the Matriarchs, it indeed becomes a positive attribute worthy of praise and mention.
Rav Pam likened physical beauty to the number “0.” If all that a woman has going for her are her good looks, she is an empty “0,” a container which is fair to the eyes but with no inner value or intrinsic worth. If, on the other hand, she also possesses other valuable and praiseworthy strengths, then adding her attractive features to the list enhances and magnifies her intrinsic value from 10 to 100 or from 100 to 1000.
Vatahar od va'teiled ben va'tomer ha'pa'am odeh es Hashem al kein karah shemo Yehuda (29:35)
After Leah gave birth to her fourth son, she 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. The Gemora in Berachos (7b) teaches that in doing so, Leah became the first person in history to thank Hashem. This is difficult to understand. How could it be that the righteous Avrohom, Sorah, Yitzchok, Rivkah, and Yaakov never once thanked Hashem?
Rav Berel Povarsky and Rav Yaakov Yosef Herman answer that the Avos and Imahos certainly gave thanks to Hashem constantly. However, many people have a feeling that once they have said “thank you,” they have fulfilled their obligation to express gratitude no matter how great the favor was that they received. Leah introduced the concept of eternalizing one’s feelings of gratitude by giving a child a name which connotes thanks. Every time that she spoke to her son or even thought about him, she would be reminded for all time how much appreciation she owes to Hashem – not just for this son, but for all of the good that Hashem has bestowed upon her.
Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Rashi writes (29:25) that in order to prevent potential trickery by Lavan, Yaakov gave certain simanim (signs) to Rochel that only she would know. When Rochel realized that her father Lavan intended to send Leah under the bridal canopy instead of her, she feared the humiliation her sister would face and related the simanim to her so that she could convince Yaakov that she was indeed Rochel. What were these simanim? (Daas Z’keinim, Kaf HaChaim Orach Chaim 240:64)
2) Besides the twin who was born with each of the tribes (Rashi 35:17), which other set of twins appears in Parshas Vayeitzei? (Seder Olam Chapter 2)
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) In which two months were no children born to Yaakov? (Yalkut Shimoni Shemos 162, Zayis Re'anan)
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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