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Vol. 5 No. 7
A Tzadik in All Circumstances
"And Ya'akov left B'eer Sheva and he went to Choron" (28:10).
Rashi explains that the departure of a tzadik from a particular location leaves a deep impression on its inhabitants. The beauty of the place has gone, and there remains a vacuum which everybody feels. That is why the Torah describes Ya'akov's departure from *Be'er Sheva* to go to Choron, though this would seem to be superfluous, since, if that is where Ya'akov was living prior to his departure, it is obvious that *that* is where he would have departed from. There is however, another way of interpreting this possuk, which we might well introduce with the Chazal which explains why Rifkah is described as being the daughter of Be'suel, the sister of Lovon and from Padan Aram - she was the daughter of a rosho, the sister of a rosho and the people of her town were resho'im, yet look how she excelled in her righteousness. People are usually influenced - deeply influenced - by their relatives and by their environment, writes the Seifer Ha'chinuch, and for a person, particularly a young girl, to excel in tzidkus in spite of such adverse circumstances, is truly remarkable.
And that is precisely the point the Torah is making here: Ya'akov Ovinu was living in Eretz Yisroel (a Holy country), in Be'er Sheva (a town unique for its powers of prayer - which is why the foot of the ladder in Ya'akov's dream was in Be'er Sheva), and in the company of such righteous parents as Yitzchok and Rifkah. He now went to live in Choron (albeit not by choice, but by force of circumstances) to the very adverse environment in which Rifkah, his mother, had grown up, and which prompted the Torah to praise her. He was to live there no less than 20 years, under the evil influence of Lovon (does not the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos warn us to keep away from a bad neighbour, and didn't G-d command Avrohom, his grandfather, to leave that very environment, to go and live in Eretz Yisroel, precisely because they were so wicked?) With anyone else other than Ya'akov Ovinu, it would not have been a question of whether his level of Yir'as Shomayim would suffer, but how quickly it would suffer, and whether he would be able to retain anything at all of his high level of Torah and Yir'as Shomayim. Yet not only did Ya'akov retain his entire tzidkus, as he himself warned Eisov later: "I stayed with Lovon and I kept all the 613 mitzvos". He actually grew spiritually, emerging even a greater tzadik and a greater personality than before (evident from the fact that he was now able to confront Eisov and to outwit him, whereas before he had had to run away from him).
Ya'akov Ovinu left a strong environment for a weak and dangerous one. The fact that he was able to remain totally uninfluenced by his new environment - a feat that Yosef his son would emulate (some 45 years later) when he left his father's house to live alone in Egypt at the tender age of 17 - is truly remarkable, and is perhaps what the Torah is coming to stress when it writes: "And Ya'akov left Be'er Sheva, and he went to (live in) Choron". The Torah is informing us, not so much of the vacuum that remained when Ya'akov left Be'er Sheva, but of the extent of Ya'akov's greatness.
The ingredients that gave Ya'akov the ability to succeed against all the odds are much the same as those that enable all tzadikim to thrive under the most adverse conditions; namely, anticipation of the problems that lie ahead and fitting preparations to handle any situation that may arise. (See for example, how Ya'akov himself prepared for his confrontation with Eisov at the beginning of Va'yishlach.) In this case, the Torah records three things that Ya'akov Ovinu did in preparing for his forthcoming ordeal: 1. He spent 14 further years in the Yeshivah of Shem and Eiver (to cope with his initial 14 years with Lovon).; 2. He travelled all the way back to Beis-El, to daven there where his father had davened; 3. He watered Lovon's sheep, thereby performing an act of chessed with the very man who was to pose him the biggest threat.
By strengthening himself in the three areas which keep the world going (Torah, Avodah [Tefillah] and Gemillus Chasodim), Ya'akov Ovinu ensured that he was well-equipped to handle the most difficult of contingencies, even after 20 years of living with Lovon.
The Five Miracles
Five miracles occurred with Ya'akov after he left B'er Sheva, writes the Targum Yonoson.
The first miracle was that the sun set before its time (because Hashem yearned to speak with him). The second miracle was that the following morning, he discovered that the four stones (representing the four wives that he was destined to marry), which he had placed at his head, had turned into one.
The third miracle was his incredible feat of strength in rolling the stone - which required all the local shepherds' combined strength to remove from the well - with one hand. The fourth miracle was that the water of the local well rose to meet him, and continued to flow freely for the full twenty years that Ya'akov was in Choron.
The fifth miracle, the Targum Yonoson concludes, was that, like for Eliezer more than a hundred years earlier, the land 'jumped' and the day he left Be'er Sheva he arrived in Choron.
Some explain that, when the Torah writes that there were angels of G-d ascending and descending 'bo', it means not 'on it' (the ladder) but 'on him' (Ya'akov), to teach us that, so important is the tzadik (whom Ya'akov, the greatest of the Ovos symbolises) that it is *he* who determines the level of the angels, whether and how far they rise, or whether and how far they fall.
In similar vein, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains (in light of the Tefilah that Ya'akov had just prayed) that the numerical value of 'sulam' is equivalent to that of 'kol' - Tefilah. The Tefilah of tzadikim, he explains, is the ladder upon which the angels climb (or descend).
When Ya'akov Ovinu left Be'er Sheva to go to Choron, he was on his way to build Klal Yisroel. It is therefore not surprising that the things which happened on the way foretold many of the major events that would affect Yisroel during their history. That is why the Meforshim find hints in his dream of the ladder - to Sinai, the four exiles, and other events of great importance.
The Ramban explains that the well, a symbol of blessing, represented the Beis ha'Mikdosh. The three crouching flocks stood for the three times annually (Pesach, Shevu'os and Succos) that Yisroel would go up to Yerusholayim (Yisroel are indeed compared - in many places - to sheep), and rolling the stone off the well in order to draw water, symbolised Ru'ach ha'Kodesh, which Chazal say, Yisroel would all draw when they went to Yerusholayim for Yom-tov.
That is what the Torah means when it writes here "And all the flocks would gather there (who 'came to Yerusholayim from Chamos till the River of Egypt'), when they would roll off the stone from the mouth of the well, (to open the fountain of Ru'ach ha'Kodesh - or of Torah, as the posuk writes "because Torah will go out from Tziyon" etc.), and they will water the sheep (with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh or with Torah) and they will return the stone on to the mouth of the well" (to close the fountain - until the next Yom-tov).
The Mitzvos de'Rabbonon
Besides the Mitzvos d'Orayso that we are discussing (see page 4), there are also seven (positive) Mitzvos de'Rabbonon (as well as many of the Mitzvos d'Orayso which apply nowadays only mide'Rabbonon, such as T'rumos and Ma'asros, Shmittoh and Yovel). In addition, there are a number of La'avim and Takonos de'Rabbonon.
Here are the seven Mitzvos Asei de'Rabbonon:
1. To read Hallel at certain given times.
2. To read Megilas Esther on Purim, by night and by day.
3. To kindle the Chanukah lights on the eight nights of Chanukah.
4. To kindle the Shabbos lights before Shabbos comes in.
5. Washing the hands before eating bread.
6. To recite a b'rochoh before benefitting from this world, and after eating, and to recite all of the Birchos ha'Mitzvos and the Birchos hodo'oh fixed by Chazal.
7. To make an Eiruv. This mitzvah incorporates three mitzvos:
a. An 'Eiruv Chatzeiros' (to enable one to carry in a common courtyard);
b. an 'Eiruv Techumin' (to enable one to walk beyond the 2,000 Amah limit outside the town, if necessary);
c. an 'Eiruv Tavshilin' (to enable one to cook on Yom-tov for Shabbos, when Shabbos falls immediately after Yom-tov.
THE MITZVOS OF TODAY
(The Mitzvos Asei)
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.
4. To fear G-d - as the Torah writes in Devorim (6:13) "You shall fear Hashem, your G-d".
The way to achieve this is similar to the way that one gets to love Him, as we explained in Mitzvah 3 - by learning about His deeds. (It seems logical to say that one gets to *love* Him by learning about His *acts of kindness*, and to *fear* Him by learning about His *mighty deeds*.) And when one feels the urge to sin, one is obliged to arouse one's spirit (of the fear of G-d) to remember that G-d watches all of man's deeds.
This mitzvah too, is applicable to both men and women alike, at all times.
Fearing G-d incorporates not mentioning His Name in vain. (The fear of G-d is Hashem's treasure - it is the thing that He treasures above everything else. It is the one thing that He has left entirely in our control. Everything else is controlled by Him.)
5. To sanctify G-d's Holy Name in public - since the Torah writes (in Vayikro 22:32) "And I shall be sanctified in the midst of B'nei Yisroel".
We perform this mitzvah by giving up our lives for Hashem, to spread faith in Him. Should someone try to force us to relinquish our faith in G-d, not only are we obliged to refuse, but we are not permitted to let him believe, even for one moment, that we will obey him (like the youngest son of Chanah, and like R. Amnon, the author of 'u'Nesaneh tokef' have taught us).
If this takes place in the presence of ten Jews, one is obliged to give one's life rather than transgress even the smallest sin, even not in the time of "shmad" (religious persecution).
At the time of 'shmad', the obligation to give up our lives for Hashem applies in full force even when there are not ten Jews present.
And when the three cardinal sins - idolatry, adultery and murder - are at stake, then even when there are not ten Jews present, and even when it is not the time of 'shmad', one must be prepared to give up one's life rather than transgress. Nevertheless, if someone gives up one's life in front of ten people, he has sanctified G-d's Name in public - and there is nothing greater than that.
Someone who transgresses, and fails to sanctify Hashem's Name when he should, has negated this mitzvah and has transgressed the la'av of 've'lo sechalelu es Sheim Kodshi' (not to desecrate Hashem's Holy Name).
This mitzvah applies everywhere, to both men and women alike.
6. To go in the ways of Hashem (as far as this is feasible) - as the Torah writes in Devorim "And you shall go in His ways".
Chazal have interpreted this to mean that just as Hashem is called gracious, so too, should you be gracious, just as He is called merciful, so too, should you be merciful, and just as Hashem is called pious, so too should you be pious. And so it is with all the thirteen character-traits with which Hashem is described (in the Parshah of Ki Siso), man is expected to (attempt to) emulate His example and to go in His ways.
This mitzvah too, applies everywhere, to men and to women alike.
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