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

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Vol. 11   No. 7

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Eliyahu Ze'ev ben Yeracmiel Howitt
by his son
in honour of his 15th Yohrzeit
on the 14th Kislev

Parshas Vayeitzei

It's All Very Simple

"I will work for you seven years for Rachel, your younger daughter (be'Rachel bitcho ha'ketanoh)" - 29:18.

Having agreed to such a clear, unambiguous condition, asks the Rosh, how could Lavan backtrack on his word, and give Ya'akov Leah instead of Rachel?

"It is not done in our place to marry off a younger daughter before an older one!" Lavan would later excuse himself. But how could that justify such a swindle, in light of his own promise to give Ya'akov 'Rachel, his younger daughter'?


Simple, he answers. Notice, that whereas Ya'akov used the expression "bitcho ha'ketanoh", to denote Lavan's younger daughter, Lavan himself used the word "tze'irah". And therein lies the answer.

But let us first clarify the distinction between Rachel and Leah. The Torah describes Rachel as beautiful, implying that she was taller than Leah, which the Rosh considers a major aspect of beauty in a woman (in keeping with the Pasuk in Shir ha'Shirim "Your stature is compared to a date-palm").

So all Lavan had to do was to claim that he now referred to Leah as Rachel (precisely as Ya'akov had originally suspected he would). Then he had no problem in telling Ya'akov that he complied one hundred percent with his condition, by giving him Rachel, his smaller daughter, in preference to Rachel his younger daughter, which would have broken with local etiquette. The only 'minor' problem with this is that whatever the story, Lavan could not deny knowing that Ya'akov really wanted Rachel (since she was the woman that Ya'akov had initially met, and was obviously the one whom he was interested in marrying). So why did he not inform him of the local custom then, at the outset?

The answer to that is again simple. At the time that Ya'akov arrived in Charan, seven years earlier, the custom of not marrying a younger daughter before an older one didn't exist.

The night before the wedding, the Torah informs us, Lavan made a party for the men of the city. It is not at first clear either as to why he did that (particularly as Ya'akov, the Chasan, was not even invited), or why the Torah sees fit to record it.

The Medrash however, explains that the purpose of that party was to work out how to give Ya'akov Leah instead of Rachel. And that was when they hit upon the idea of introducing a new local custom, that it would no longer be considered correct to marry off a younger daughter before an older one. Yes, the custom was barely twenty-four hours old (hot off the press, one might say), specially introduced in honour of Ya'akov.

The question remains however, why Lavan did that. What interest did Lavan have in switching Rachel and Leah? What did he gain by doing so?


Once again, the answer seems simple. All we need to do is glance at the end of the Parshah, where Ya'akov describes the dedicated way in which he worked for Lavan. After pointing out that after twenty years, Lavan could not find as much as a pin of his in Ya'akov's possession, he goes on to describe his achievements and his integrity. "These twenty years, your sheep and your goats did not lose their babies, and I did not eat your rams (see Rashbam). I did not bring you animals that were eaten by lions and wolves, but I paid for them ... , as I did for the stolen animals, irrespective of whether they were stolen by day or by night. By day, the heat devoured me, and by night, the cold, and I lost sleep at night".

Is it surprising therefore that, after experiencing seven years of a laborer of such a calibre, Lavan was willing to go to any lengths, fair or foul, to ensure that he continued working for another seven years? And that he achieved by switching Leah for Rachel, knowing that Ya'akov would volunteer to remain for another seven years, in exchange for Rachel.

And what's more, he got himself an excellent son-in-law, not just for one of his daughters, but for two, without having to pay a penny for either of them (see Rashi 31:15). What a bargain! His cunning ruse certainly paid off handsomely, from all points of view.


The Chizkuni asks firstly, how Ya'akov could continue to live with Le'ah, once he discovered her identity? Why was the Kidushin not automatically negated? And secondly, how he could then go on to marry her sister Rachel, seeing as the Torah forbids marrying a wife's sister as long as his wife is alive?

In answer to the first question, he explains that the next time Ya'akov was intimate with Leah, he did so with the intention of making a fresh Kidushin. And the second question he answers with the principle that a Ger (a convert) is like a newborn baby. In that case, seeing as Rachel and Leah were both Geirim, they were halachically not related to each other, thus permitting Ya'akov to live with them both.

See also Ramban.


Parshah Pearls

A Closed Parshah

This Parshah is 'S'tumah' (closed), remarks the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos. This means that the previous Parshah ends at the beginning of the line, and this Parshah begins further along the same line, instead of on a new line (which would then be called a 'Pesuchah', which is what most Parshiyos are). And the reason for this is because Ya'akov left Be'er-Sheva in secret (not openly) to escape from Eisav.

See also the first Rashi in Vayechi.

Incidently, a Parshah 'S'tumah' is marked in the Chumash by the three 'Samechs' that precede it, a 'Pesuchah', would be marked by three 'Peys'.


A Preview of Matan Torah

"And he dreamt, and behold a ladder was standing on the ground" (28:12).

There are a number of interpretations regarding the ladder and what it represented. The following interpretation of the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. is most apt, when we bear in mind that as Avraham was the pillar of Chesed and Yitzchak, of Avodah; whereas Ya'akov was the pillar of Torah.

"Sulam" (ladder) - has the same numerical value as 'Sinai', because G-d showed Avraham Ma'amad Har Sinai.

"And behold angels of G-d" - this refers to Moshe and Aharon ascending and descending the mountain.

"And behold Hashem was standing over him" - corresponding to the Pasuk "And Hashem descended upon Har Sinai".

"And He said I am Hashem" - corresponding to the Pasuk "Anochi (I am Hashem your G-d)".


Ma'aser Kesafim

"And whatever You give me, I will take from it a tenth to give to You" (28:22).

The Medrash tells us that Ya'akov Avinu was introducing here the institution of Ma'aser Kesafim (giving one tenth of one's earnings for Tzedakah).


The Medrash also tells the story of the miyn (the heretic) who asked Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi where Ya'akov gave Ma'aser of his children (which he presumably considered to be included in the words "and whatever You give me"). The latter replied that Ya'akov designated Levi as Ma'aser, dedicating him to the service of Hashem.

'Why specifically Levi', asked the miyn?

'In keeping with the procedure that is used in Ma'asering one's flock', replied Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi. Beginning at the end (from Binyamin), like one does with sheep which generally leave a narrow pen in the reverse order to which they entered it, he counted backwards, ending with Levi who was tenth from the end.

Others explain that he began by removing the four Bechoros (one from each of the mothers), who were holy anyway, and then began counting from Reuven. When he reached Binyamin, number eight, he simply began again from Reuven, again ending up with Levi as number ten.


Leah and Rachel's Eyes

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

This means that Leah had beautiful eyes (since the word "rach" has positive connotations, like it has in the Pasuk describing the bulls that Avraham Shechted for his guests "rach va'tov"), explains the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.

Rachel on the other hand, was exceptionally beautiful in every way, except regarding her eyes, which were red from crying. She wept constantly it seems, because she foresaw that, on account of her inability to bear children, Ya'akov would divorce her, and Eisav would marry her (with or without her consent).

And who knows, perhaps if she hadn't cried constantly, that's what would have happened!

See also Rashi.


Bilhah and Zilpah

"And Lavan gave Leah his daughter, Zilpah as a maidservant" (29:24).

But were Bilhah and Zilpah not Lavan's daughters too, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.?

Indeed they were, he answers, only they were daughters from a concubine, and daughters from a concubine, as local custom would have it, were treated as maidservants.



"I have now joined my sister, and also I am able" (30:30).

If Rachel was saying that, when it comes to childbirth, she had something that Le'ah did not (since the word "Gam" [also] always means something additional), then Rachel's words are nothing more than empty bravado, comments the Rosh. Rachel neither had as many children as Leah, nor was she going to.

What she seems to have been saying, he explains, is that in her capacity as a prophetess, she knew that Leah was proud of Betzalel (the wondrous, youthful architect of the Mishkan) who would descend from her. And that is what she is addressing in this Pasuk. She predicted that not only would Betzalel's chief assistant, Oholi'av ben Achisamach descend from Bilhah her hand-maid's son Naftali, but that the chief carpenter in the building of the first Beis-Hamikdash, would descend from him, too. Two of hers against one of her sister Leah's!


It All Ties Up

"And it shall be when the sheep that became pregnant early ... " (30:41).

This is how Unklus translates the word "ha'mekushoros", explains Rashi, adding that it has no precedent in T'nach.


The Rosh however, cites a Mishnah in Bikurim, which describes how the owner would tie a piece of red thread round the fruit that ripened first, to mark it as Bikurim. Here too, he explains, it seems that Ya'akov would mark those animals that became pregnant early (that tended to be stronger than those that were born later), by tying a red thread around their feet so that he would later be able to recognize them.

Hence the Torah's use of the word "ha'mekusharos" (which means that they had a red thread tied round them).

See also Ramban, who explains the word differently.


The Hand of the Witnesses

"This pile shall be a witness" (31:48).

The Rosh describes how, after sticking a sword in the pile of stones that he had built beside the monument, Lavan announced that whoever broke this covenant would be killed by the sword and would stumble over the monument.

Chazal say that Bilam was Lavan, meaning that he was a descendant of his. And that explains why the Torah writes that Bilam's foot was squeezed against the wall (with reference to the stones of the monument). He was passing that very spot on the way to curse Yisrael, thereby abrogating the treaty that his own grandfather had entered into with the grandfather of K'lal Yisrael. And what's more, the Torah testifies that they subsequently killed him with the sword. Which sword? Why, the very one that Lavan had stuck into the pile!

All this was in fulfillment of the Pasuk in Ki Seitzei "The hand of the witnesses shall be the first to strike him, and that of all the people, afterwards".


(Part 9)

The Olah
(The Burnt-Offering)

The Olah, which is Kodshei Kodshim (the higher level of Kodshim), is Shechted on the north side of the Azarah, and its blood, which is received there in a k'li shareis, requires two Matonos which are four (sprinkling directly from the K'li on the north-east and south-western corners). And it requires skinning and cutting up into pieces, after which it is entirely burnt on the Mizbei'ach.



The Olah: Every Olah has to be specifically a male. An Olas Yachid can consist either of cattle or of sheep (incorporating goats), whereas an Olas Tzibur can never be a goat. If the Korban is a bull, irrespective of age, it requires Semichah and Viduy (confession) on the Asei or the La'av ha'Nitak la'Asei (neither of which receive Malkos, and on account of which an Olah is generally brought) that he transgressed.

The Minchas Nesachim that accompanies the Olah - incorporates one Isaron (a tenth of an Eifah - forty-three and a fifth egg-volumes) of flour mixed with a quarter of a Hin (three Lugin) of oil plus a quarter of a Hin of wine for a lamb or a kid-goat in its first year; two Esronim of flour mixed with a third of a Hin of oil plus a third of a Hin of wine for a ram (in its second year), and three Esronim of flour mixed with half a Hin of oil plus half a Hin of wine. The Minchas Nesachim requires neither waving, nor taking to the Mizbei'ach, nor the adding of Levonah (frankincense). The Minchah is salted and burned on the Mizbei'ach ha'Olah, whilst the Nesech is poured into one of the two bowls beside the southwestern Keren. Two Matanos which are four - are sprinkled below the Chut ha'Sikra (the red thread that divides the upper and the lower halves of the Mizbei'ach), like a Greek 'Gamma' (i.e. a 'Daled'), so that the blood lands on both sides of the corner (to fulfill the concept of "Saviv").

It requires skinning - after the blood has been sprinkled (and the same applies to all Korbanos, which are skinned before the removal of the Eimurim [the parts that have to be burnt]). The skins are distributed among the Kohanim of the group that is serving that week (and the same applies to the skins of all Kodshei Kodshim), and the intestines are removed and washed.

Then, after removing the 'Gid ha'Nasheh' and salting all the pieces, it is entirely burnt on the Mizbei'ach. After it has turned into ashes, it is moved to the 'Tapu'ach', the pile of ashes in the middle of the Mizbei'ach (ready to be taken out to the Beis ha'Deshen).


Zivchei Shalmei Tzibur va'Ashamos

Zivchei Shalmei Tzibur - comprise the two lambs that are brought on Shavu'os together with the Sh'tei ha'Lechem, and the Ashamos.

These are the Ashamos - the Asham Gezeilos (Shevu'as ha'Pikadon), the Asham Me'ilos, the Asham Shifchah Charufah, the Asham Nazir, the Asham Nazir and the Asham Taluy. They are Shechted on the north side of the Azarah, and their blood, which is received there in a K'li Shareis, requires sprinkling (in the same way as that of the Olah).

The body of the Asham is eaten within the curtains of the Azarah, by male Kohanim, prepared as they please, for the remainder of that day and the following night until midnight.



These are the Ashamos (the Guilt-Offerings):

An Asham Gezeilos - is brought by somebody who steals or withholds money that is not his, and then swears falsely that he didn't (even if he sins be'Meizid).

An Asham Me'ilos - is brought by someone who benefited from Hekdesh, be'Shogeg.

An Asham Shifchah Charufah - is brought by someone who has relations (even be'Meizid) with a Shifchah (a slave-girl) who has been set free by one of her two masters, and who has since become 'betrothed' to an Eved Ivri.

All of the above must bring an Asham that is worth two Sela'im. They require Semichah and Viduy.

An Asham Nazir - is brought by a Nazir who became Tamei Meis, whether be'Shogeg or be'Meizid.

An Asham Metzora - is brought by a Metzora on the eighth day of his Taharah process. It requires Semichah, though not immediately prior to the Shechitah (as is usually the case), since he stands outside the Azarah and places his hands inside, whilst performing it). The Korban requires Tenufah alive (which is unique to this Korban only) together with one Lug of oil. During the Tenufah, the Kohen places his hands below those of the Metzora.

Two Kohanim receive the blood of the Asham Metzora, one in a K'li Shareis, the other, in his right hand. The former sprinkles the blood on the walls of the Mizbei'ach, (like the other Ashamos); the latter, after pouring the blood into his left hand, sprinkles it with his right hand on to the middle section of the Metzora's right ear, and on to his right thumb and right big toe.

The Asham Metzora, which comes in the form of a lamb, requires Nesachim and Semichah.

An Asham Taluy - is brought for a Safek Shigegas Kareis, which would require a Chatas if one was certain of having sinned. It comprises a ram worth at least two Sela'im and Semichah (and presumably Viduy as well, seeing as the Torah refers to the perpetrator as 'a sinner').


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