Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 8   No. 7

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Eliyahu Zev ben Reb Yerachmiel Moshe z.l.
by his son
in honour of his 12th Yohrzeit on the 14th Kislev

Parshas Vayeitzei

For the Love of Money

The Torah introduces Lovon running out to greet Eliezer, and to invite him to stay with his family - after he saw the jewellery that Eliezer had given Rifkah. According to the Medrash, he and his family later attempted to poison Eliezer, in order to enrich themselves with the ten camel-loads of wealth that he had brought with him from Avrohom's property, relieving themselves of any obligation on their part to pay. And we find him running once more, more than a hundred years later, when Ya'akov arrives for the first time in Choron, again looking for gold and jewellery.

Lovon was certainly willing to go to great lengths to obtain money. Other negative traits of his character that stemmed directly from his love of money will soon become apparent.


Disappointed that Ya'akov had arrived empty-handed, Lovon begrudgingly condescended to give his nephew Ya'akov board and lodging, but only in exchange for a month's work. When the month expired, he gratefully accepted Ya'akov's choice of remuneration, Rochel in exchange for seven years' work. However, instead of giving her an extra large dowry (to compensate Ya'akov's generous terms, and the fact that in effect, his guest was paying for his stay, and was costing him not a penny), he gave her nothing.

Incidentally, the stark contrast between Lovon's love of money and Ya'akov, who, throughout his stay, refused to accept anything from Lovon free of charge (even when he had nothing with which to pay), is blatant.

When Ya'akov's seven-year term of work expired, and the time came for Lovon to hand Ya'akov Rochel, as promised, Lovon reneged and switched Rochel for Leah. Why did he do that? Targum Yonoson explains that Lovon was concerned that Ya'akov would take Rochel and leave and that the well that miraculously had not ceased to flow since Ya'akov's arrival seven years earlier, would dry up the moment he departed.


Not only was Lovon aware of the blessing that Y'akov brought with him to Choron, but he was also willing to go to any lengths, using fair means or foul, to ensure that the tzadik, together with his blessing, remained in Choron. So he cheated him, coolly presenting him with the excuse that his actions were based on local custom (a custom which he himself had initiated only the night before - see Targum Yonoson).

And this phase of exploitation would last another seven years, during which time Ya'akov worked himself to the bone, whilst his own family grew, and so did Lovon's wealth. Yet, in spite of all this, no dowry for either Rochel or Leah was forthcoming. Indeed Rochel and Leah would both complain bitterly later in the Parshah, how their father had sold them 'like strangers'. Also noteworthy is the fact that Lovon's sons were born only after Ya'akov's arrival (otherwise, he would not have sent his daughters to tend to the sheep), and this too, was part of the b'rochoh that Ya'akov brought in his wake.

Not only was Lovon aware of all this, he also acknowledged it verbally, when he told Ya'akov "I have divined, and (I know that) Hashem has blessed me because of you. He even went so far as to add 'And now name your price and I will give it' (30:28) though that was only after Ya'akov had informed him that he wished to take his leave of him (and who knows what negative motivation lay behind his offer). Moreover, it was only before Ya'akov began to work for himself and to prosper that he expressed it.


Ya'akov worked faithfully for Lovon for fourteen years, during which time his own family had been steadily growing. He himself had nothing to show for this, because, despite his total dedication and the incredible self-sacrifice that he displayed to ensure that Lovon suffered no losses (as he recounted to Lovon at the end of the parshah), he received nothing from Lovon other than the food and basic needs that his family required. At Lovon's instigation, Ya'akov then spent six years working to make a parnosoh. Yet, the moment he began to succeed in his endeavours, Lovon tried to put a spoke in the wheel. In six years, he switched the conditions ten (some say as many as a hundred) times, because it grieved him to see Ya'akov prosper.


At the end of six years, the Torah briefly records the extent of Ya'akov's success and prosperity. And that is when Ya'akov overheard the sons of Lovon (the very sons who owed their existence to his presence) accusing him of having stolen their father's property and of making his fortune at their father's expense. And Lovon, taking his cue from them (Seforno), later throws that at Ya'akov.

It is incredible that the same Lovon who had acknowledged that all his wealth was the direct result of Ya'akov's presence, suddenly changed his tune. He had given Ya'akov nothing and Ya'akov had taken nothing (as Ya'akov himself pointed out to Lovon after he had inspected all his belongings). Yet he had the audacity to accuse Ya'akov of having stolen all that was his, denying him the right to own any of his hard-earned property.

As the Oznayim la'Torah remarks, Lovon set the pace for the nations of the world to follow. Wherever we Jews have been during our long golus, our contribution to the society in which we live has been way above our proportion in numbers. And the nations of the world acknowledge this - as long as they are the ones to benefit from our achievements. The moment however, that we begin to climb the ladder of success, their gratitude turns to jealousy, their admiration to hatred. And they accuse us of stealing their property. As a matter of fact, Lovon was not even the first to display this trait. Avimelech, King of the P'lishtim, had preceded him (see Parshas Toldos 26:14-16).


So blinded was Lovon by his jealousy, that he would not even concede to Ya'akov ownership of his own wives and children. "They are my daughters and my (grand)sons", he claimed and what's more, he meant it, as the Gemoro in Yevomos (62b) explains.

Indeed, as Ya'akov told Lovon a few pesukim earlier, he ran away because he was afraid that he would steal his daughters from him. And the testimony of Rochel and Leah speaks for itself - "We have no more portion in our father's home. Are we not considered by him like strangers, because he sold us? Because all the wealth that Hashem rescued from our father, belongs to us and our children ... " (31:14-16).


And as Rochel and Leah stated, Hashem did indeed intervene. He rescued the dowry that Lovon did not give them, and this intervention is reiterated by Ya'akov, when he tells Lovon "If the G-d of Avrohom ... had not been with me, you would have sent me away empty-handed" (31:42). Even Lovon admitted that G-d was on Ya'akov's side, when he told him "Am I able to do you harm, when the G-d of your fathers said to me last night 'Beware not to speak with Ya'akov good or bad'?". Judging by the words of the Ba'al Hagodoh, who describes how 'Lovon wanted to uproot everything', it seems that Lovon's intentions went beyond evil words.


Lovon would soon learn that Hashem had intervened in his affairs one more time. He arrived home to discover that, during his absence, robbers had ransacked and destroyed his house and stolen all his belongings (Medrash Rabah), in fulfillment of the posuk in Yirmiyah (17:11) " ... (when) someone gains his wealth unjustly, at the expense of others, it will leave him in the middle of his life, and in the end he will be called a rosho".


Parshah Pearls

Leah's Tears

"And Leah's eyes were soft" (29:17).

Although Unklus interprets this as 'beautiful', the Gemoro in Bovo Basra (123a) disagrees. Based on the understanding that this description is a derogatory one, it explains how, when Leah heard people saying that Rifkah's oldest son (Eisov) was destined to marry Lovon's oldest daughter ..., she wept so bitterly that her eyelashes fell out. And G-d responded by granting her the privilege of marrying Ya'akov.

But did Chazal not say (Mo'ed Kotton 18b) that G-d's decree 'So-and-so's daughter for so-and-so' cannot be changed - even through tefilah? So how could Leah's destiny be changed?


Perhaps the Gemoro is referring specifically to tefilah, but when it comes to tears, Chazal have taught us 'the gates of tears are never closed' (B'rochos 32b).

Alternatively, it is a man whose prayers will not be answered if he prays for a woman who is not destined for him, because, as the Gemoro explains, He cannot deprive the man for whom she is destined of what is rightfully his. (And incidentally, the Gemoro says the same about praying for property that is destined for somebody else.)

But who said that the prayers of a woman will not be answered when she prays to marry a man for whom she was not originally destined? She, after all, is not stealing any other woman's rights, since she can share a husband with another woman, as indeed Leah subsequently did.


Lovon's Family Planning

"And Lovon said 'I would rather give her (Rochel) to you than to another man' " (29:19). The No'am Megodim explains that what Lovon really meant was that he preferred that Ya'akov marry Rochel than that someone else should, because if Rochel were to marry another chareidi man and Ya'akov, a chareidi woman, there would be two additional chareidi families in the world. Whereas, if Ya'akov were to marry Rochel, there would be only one.

In similar style, the commentaries ask why Mordechai divulged Bigson and Teresh's plot to assassinate Achashveirosh (so what if that rosho were to die?). And they answer (in the spirit of Purim) that now, it was two goyim who died, whereas, had he not divulged it, it would have been only one.


The Way of Women

"And she said to her father, 'Do not be angry with me my lord, because I am unable to get up before you, since the way of women is upon me" (31:35).

The Gro explains that Rochel was not actually lying. Chazal have said in Shabbos (82a) that idols render a person tomei through carrying, like a nidah. Consequently, since she was sitting on them, they made her tomei like a nidah (P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro).


The Pile and the Pillar

"This pile (of stones) is a witness, and this pillar will be a witness, that I will not pass this pile (to do you harm), and that you will not pass this pile or this pillar to do me harm" (31:52).


Why did Lovon refer only to 'the pile' that he would not pass to harm Ya'akov, but to 'the pile and the pillar' that Ya'akov would not pass to harm him?

The Gro explains this by equating the pillar with the watch-tower mentioned in posuk 49. There, Lovon had referred to the hidden ways in which one of them might possibly harm the other. That is why he referred to the watch-tower as 'mitzpeh' (from the word 'tzofun' meaning 'hidden').


In fact, Lovon was referring to the two types of harm that he and Ya'akov might do each other. Both of them might pass the pile of stones to attack the other physically, which is why he referred to the pile as a "gal avonim" (from the word 'goluy' meaning 'revealed'). Ya'akov however, had an additional way of harming him, namely, by depriving his daughters of their marital rights (which is what he meant when he said "If you will afflict my daughters" (posuk 50), as Rashi explains. And that was a hidden form of suffering which Ya'akov could inflict upon him, but not the reverse. That explains why he referred to himself not passing the pile to do harm to Ya'akov, but to Ya'akov, not passing the pile or the pillar to do harm to him in either a revealed or a hidden way (P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro).


Lovon's Kisses

"And Lovon ... kissed his sons and daughters ..." (32:1).


When Lovon ran out to greet Ya'akov upon his arrival in Choron, he embraced him and kissed him. Rashi explains that he embraced him because, the picture of Eliezer with ten camels laden with goodies still fresh in his mind, he was convinced that Ya'akov must have brought with him gold coins to distribute as presents. And when he discovered that Ya'akov's pockets were empty, he kissed him to find out whether he wasn't hiding jewels in his mouth.


If any proof is needed that Lovon's kisses were anything but sincere, observes the Chofetz Chayim, one need only take note how here, upon taking leave of Ya'akov, Lovon kissed his daughters and grandchildren, but not Ya'akov!.


Adapted from 'Mitvos ha'T'luyos bo'Oretz',
based on the rulings of the Chazon Ish by R' Kalman Kahana z.l.)


25. The Torah restricts the prohibition of pruning to vines, and not any other tree. Pruning other trees is an isur de'Rabbonon.

Pruning by definition, means removing whole branches or parts of branches for the purpose of improving the tree. There where one's main objective is to obtain the wood, then it is permitted, despite the fact that the tree benefits too. If however, the pruning is performed professionally, in a way that indicates that one's main objective is the pruning, then it is forbidden, even though one also wants the wood.

Similarly, one is not permitted to pick the dry leaves and twigs from the tree, though one may pick leaves from a cluster of grapes, to prevent the cluster from getting spoilt.


26. Someone who fells trees for the wood, may remove one or two trees together with their roots, but not three, unless the field is not his, in which case the number of trees he is felling is irrelevant.

If however, one is only levelling the trees to the ground, leaving the roots intact, then even in his own field the number of trees is irrelevant (because it is evident that he wants only the wood and is not concerned about preparing the ground for plowing).


27. One may fell trees in a forest provided it is for the wood (even if the forest is one's own, and) even though this will provide the other trees with more room, enhancing their growth. This is because one only tends to remove trees from a forest for their wood.


28. One may clip the branches of a weak tree if one suspects that failure to do so will cause the tree to die or the fruit to spoil. One should however, take great care to trim only what is necessary and no more (as we learned above in 13). This concession does not apply to grape-vines.


29. In the Sh'mitah year, it is forbidden to cut down a fruit-tree that has fruit growing on it, even if it does not entail 'bal tashchis' (the prohibition of destroying what is useful). The reason for this is because, bearing in mind that Hashem gave the fruit of the Sh'mitah to everyone, cutting down such a tree constitutes theft.

When does this prohibition begin? Carob-trees, from the time that 'knots' appear on the fruit; vines, from when the grapes are the size of white beans; and olives, from the time that a flower grows on the fruit. With other trees, the prohibition begins from the moment they produce fruit. Up to that point, one may cut down the tree (provided it does not entail 'bal tashchis').

One may also cut down the tree once the fruit has reached the stage when one would be obligated to tithe them (if it would not be Sh'mitah). One must then take care to treat the fruit as Sh'mitah produce - this will be explained later.


Other Forbidden Tasks

30. Weeding and trimming the grass is forbidden in the Sh'mitah, as is cutting off a 'wart' from a tree, unloading stones from the trees roots, and covering roots that are uncovered. It is forbidden to anoint trees, branches or fruit with a substance that improves them, and similarly, it is forbidden to pierce the fruit to make it more juicy.

It is forbidden to construct 'houses' for the trees or to wrap them with material, to protect them from the rain in winter or from the sun in summer.

It is forbidden to erect a plank (or a railing) around a sapling to support it, to induce it to grow straight, and it is forbidden to cover a tree with dust or any other substance to improve the quality of the tree or the fruit.


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