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

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Vol. 12   No. 7

This issue is sponsored with wishes
for a Refu'ah Shleimah
for Shmuel Moshe ben Esther

Parshas Vayeitzei

Leah's Gratitude

"And she became pregnant again and she said 'This time I will thank Hashem'; therefore she called his name Yehudah" (29:35).

The Gemara in B'rachos (7b) comments that Leah was the first, since the creation of the world, to thank Hashem.

Rashi explains that Leah saw with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh that Ya'akov was destined to marry four wives who would bear him twelve sons. Consequently, now that she had born him four sons, she had received more than her share, and it was for this that she was expressing her gratitude. The Maharsha adds that this was not a prophecy on Leah's part, since the Gemara in Megilah (14a) does not include Leah among the seven prophetesses. It must be he says, that G-d placed it into her head to call Yehudah by an appropriate name, even though she did not really know why (much in the same way as all parents call their by the appropriate name without knowing why).

The Torah Temimah however, does not like this answer, as that is not what the Gemara in B'rachos seems to be saying.

He therefore points to various Medrashim which consider all four mothers to be Nevi'os, including a Gemara in Sotah (13a) which specifically refers to 'the prophecy of Rivkah' (though to my mind, this could refer to the prophecy that was said to Rivkah, and not necessarily that she herself said).


In any event, he maintains that the Gemara in B'rachos follows the opinion of those Medrashim. Commenting on the Gemara in B'rachos, R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld asks how anyone can possibly suggest that none of the Avos thanked Hashem for all the miracles that He performed on their behalf. (See for example, Rashi, 12:7, who explains that Avraham built an altar on which he offered sacrifices to Hashem upon hearing the good news that he would have children and that he would inherit Eretz Yisrael.) Why, even No'ach built an altar and sacrificed on it as a mark of thanks to Hashem for saving him from the flood.

So, citing the K'sav Sofer, he explains that to be sure, No'ach and the Avos thanked G-d for the many miracles that He performed with them. But that was only on special occasions, when it is natural for any believing person to experience an upsurge of gratitude that needs to be expressed in deed. What was special about Leah was that she thanked Hashem for the birth of a child, a natural phenomenon, which the vast majority of women undergo. The true believer can learn from Leah to thank Hashem, not only for the open miracles, but for the hidden ones too, to the point that no Divine act of kindness is taken for granted.


Chazal have indeed taught us the obligation to thank Hashem for every breath that one takes, and to be grateful for all His wonders and good that He bestows upon us 'at all times and at every hour'. But to say that this is what Chazal mean with regard to Leah's naming of Yehudah, is difficult to comprehend. Leah after all, was not thanking Hashem for her first child, or even for the second one; but for her fourth. As we explained earlier, she was expressing her gratitude for the extra son, the one over and above the three to which she felt she was entitled. It was not a natural phenomenon for which she was thanking Hashem, but a special occasion, placing it on a par with the thanks that we are assuming the Avos to have offered Hashem. So the question remains, in which regard was Leah the first to thank Hashem? What was it that rendered her different than the Tzadikim who preceded her. Incidentally, Chazal do take Avraham to task for not offering thanks to Hashem after the birth of Yitzchak (see Rashi at the beginning of the Akeidah).

It seems to me that one might perhaps draw a distinction between bringing sacrifices or other symbolisms that merely denote thanks, and actually saying thank you. No'ach and the Avos performed acts that conveyed their gratitude, whereas Leah actually verbalized her thanks. For is that not how it works in everyday life. There are all sorts of ways of displaying one's gratitude for a favour received, but nothing can replace the words 'Thank you'.


The Torah Temimah however, raises the same question, only he bases it not on the Avos, but on a Gemara in Bava Basra (14b), which lists one of the authors of Tehilim as Adam ha'Rishon. Rashi there refers to Kapitel 139, which contains the Pasuk "I will thank You, because You wrought wonders with me". There too, Adam verbalized his thanks no less than did Le'ah, so the question remains in what way was Le'ah special?

Perhaps one can further differentiate between Leah's direct thanks and Adam's more vague ones. Be that as it may, the Torah Temimah explains that Adam thanked Hashem for the miracles that He had performed on his behalf (as did No'ach and the Avos after him, as we wrote earlier). What was special about Leah was that she thanked G-d for granting her more than she deserved, and that is what distinguished her from all her predecessors.

To understand this better, we might perhaps add that it is relatively easy to acknowledge G-d's miracles, which cannot be easily denied. But to acknowledge that one has received more than one deserves, is a sign of deep humility, as most people think that whatever G-d gives them, they always deserve a little more. To admit to the contrary is a true sign of greatness, and that is what Leah did.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

Feet on the Ground, Head in the Heaven

"And he dreamed and behold 'he' was a ladder with its feet on the ground but with its head in the Heaven, and behold angels of G-d ascending and descending on account of him. And behold Hashem was standing over him" (28:12/13).

One of the many interpretations of Ya'akov's dream, explains how, although G-d controls the whole of existence, he governs via His emissaries, the angels, who hand down His instructions to the sun, moon and stars, who carry them out. The truth is that G-d's decisions are often based on the deeds and the words of the Tzadikim, as Chazal have said 'a Tzadik decrees and G-d carries out'. And if we conceive a Tzadik as someone whose life might well consist of mundane actions, but that those actions are directed by holy thoughts, we will see that this message is all contained in Ya'akov's dream.

Ya'akov dreamed that he was a ladder, whose feet and body may have been occupied with mundane matters, but whose thoughts were entirely spiritual (as the Pasuk writes in Mishlei "Know Him in all your ways"). And as such, it was not the angels, G-d's emissaries, who governed him, but their rise and fall that was governed by him. And this in turn, because Hashem stood over him, to guard him and guide him, running the world according to his dictates. (based partially on the K'sav Sofer).


They Arrived There Under Their Own Steam

"I am Hashem, the G-d of Avraham and the G-d of Yitzchak your father" (28:13).

The Torah does not write 'the G-d of Avraham and of Yitzchak', the Besht points out, but "the G-d of Avraham and the G-d of Yitzchak". And Chazal followed suit when, they inserted in the first B'rachah of the Amidah 'the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak and the G-d of Ya'akov'. The reason for this, he explains, is because Yitzchak and Ya'akov, much as they learned the traditions from their respective fathers, were not satisfied with that, but went on to pursue a deeper understanding of G-d under their own steam.


Giving a Finger To Take a Hand

"The land on which you are lying I will give to you ... and you will spread out to the east ... " (28:13/14).

G-d treated Ya'akov, says the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, like a king would treat a celebrated warrior. It was customary in those days to give a celebrated warrior a small piece of land, leaving him with the opportunity to capture the surrounding territory himself. And that is precisely what G-d did to Ya'akov. He gave him the land on which he was lying, with instructions to capture the rest himself (see also Rashi).


He Raises the Lowly from the Dust

"And your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out eastwards, northwards ... " (28:14).

One of the interpretations of the Torah's metaphor, comparing Yisrael to dust is that just like dust, Yisrael will outlive all of those who trample on them. And it is in this vein that the S'forno explains that it is only after Yisrael have sunk to the lowest possible ebb that they will eventually spread out in all directions. Because it is when they have reached rock bottom that the Redemption will take place.

Perhaps that is what Chazal mean when they say that Mashi'ach will come with 'Hesech ha'Da'as' (when one least expects him).


Bread to Eat and Clothes to Wear

"And He will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear" (28:20).

R. Shlomoh Yahalomi, the author of Peninei Torah, recalls how, in a Russian camp in Siberia, he often saw people swapping an article of clothing for a piece of bread, or a piece of bread for an article of clothing.

And that reminded him of this Pasuk, where Ya'akov asked for bread to eat and clothes to wear, as opposed to bread to wear and clothes to eat.


At Least Give Them Parnasah

"The time has not yet arrived to gather in the flocks. Water the sheep and take them to pasture" (29:4).

The Navi Yechezkel (36:38) refers to Yisrael as "holy sheep". That is why, taking the Pasuk out of context, Rebbi Meir from Premishlam used to proclaim 'Ribono shel Olom! The time to gather in the flocks (from Galus) may not yet have arrived, but at least make sure that they have what to eat and drink'.


Keeping the Chareidi Numbers Down

"It is better to give her (Rachel) to you (Ya'akov) than to give her to somebody else" (29:19). Lavan knew that Ya'akov was a Tzadik and Rachel, a Tzadekes, the No'am Megadim explains. So he figured that if Ya'akov and Rachel both married other partners, whom they were bound to make frum, there would be two more frum families in the world. So better let them marry each other, which would mean one frum family less.


Genuine Love

"And they (the seven years) were in his eyes like a few days in his love for her" (29:20). The question is that, the opposite would appear to have been more correct, comments the Apter Rav. The more powerful a man's love for a woman is, the longer the waiting period to marry her seems to drag on. If so, one would rather have expected each day to have appeared in Ya'akov's eyes like a year.

That would have been true, he replies, if Ya'akov's love for Rachel had been based on desire; only then, it would have been more apt to refer to it as self-love. From the fact that the Torah speaks of "his love for her", it is clear that it was Rachel whom he genuinely loved (for what she was), and it is in that light that the seven years were "like a few days in his eyes", because he considered her worth far more than a mere seven years work, and the wait was well worth it.


The Greatest Pleasure

"All that is not spotted and speckled among the goats ... is stolen by me. And Lavan said 'Fine, It should only be like your words" (30:33/34).

The use of the word "Lu" implies that Lavan hoped that it would be so.

The Chasam Sofer explains that Lavan did indeed look forward to finding just one spotted or speckled sheep among Ya'akov's flocks. For what would give Lavan a greater thrill than to catch Ya'akov at his own game, to be able to point a finger at him and show everybody that he too, was a swindler.


Nothing Ventured ... Nothing Lost

"And Lavan returned to his place, and Ya'akov went on his way" (32:1).

For all the years that Ya'akov the Tzadik had spent with him, Lavan had gained nothing from that relationship, says the Meshech Chochmah. The moment Ya'akov took his leave, Lavan returned to his place, back to square one, without having advanced one step forward.

On the other hand, Ya'akov Avinu continued on his way. Lavan had not deterred him one iota from moving forward on his spiritual life's journey.


As a matter of fact, the stark contrast between the two characters stands out from the final Parshah in the Sedra.

On the one hand we have Lavan, whose sole concern is his images, and who is otherwise totally unmoved by Ya'akov's departure (he cannot even bring himself to say 'goodbye'), in spite of the fact that everything that he owned was the result of the B'rachah that came with the advent of Ya'akov, as he himself admitted).

And on the other hand, we have Ya'akov, whose honesty and integrity in his dealings with Lavan, are reflected to a degree that belies the imagination, in spite of Lavan the swindler's concentrated efforts to impoverish him.

And so, at the end of the day, the Torah informs us, Lavan remained Lavan, and Ya'akov remained Ya'akov.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 214:
Not to Manufacture an Image,
Either for Oneself, Or for Anybody Else

It is forbidden to manufacture an image for someone who intends to worship it, irrespective of whether that person is himself or somebody else, even if he is a gentile, as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:4) "Do not turn to idols". And as Chazal explain in the Sifri, this applies even to making them on behalf of others. In fact, they said there that someone who manufactures an image for himself to worship, transgresses two La'avin, one because of "Lo sa'asu" and one because of "Lo sa'asu lochem".

The reason for this Mitzvah is self-understood.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... such as the difference between an image belonging to a Jew, which only becomes Asur be'Hana'ah once he worships it, and one belonging to a gentile, where the Isur takes effect immediately, as the Torah writes in Va'eschanan (7:25) "Their carved images you shall burn in fire", from which Chazal derive that the idol of a gentile becomes forbidden the moment he carves it. Whereas regarding an idol of a Jew, the Torah writes in Ki Savo (27:15) "Cursed be the man who makes himself a carved image ... and places it in secret" which Chazal translate as if it had written 'and does with it things that are performed in secret', with reference to worshipping it from which time it comes forbidden ... Things that are used to serve the idol (whether they belong to a Jew or to a gentile) only become forbidden once it has actually been used in its service ... And although someone who manufactures an idol receives Malkos, he is permitted to accept his wages for his work, even if he made it for a gentile (when it becomes immediately forbidden, as we explained), because it only becomes forbidden once it is complete, and the last stroke that completes his work is not worth a P'rutah ... together with its many other details, are all discussed in Avodah-Zarah and in Yoreh Dei'ah (Si'man 141).

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike. Anyone who contravenes it, and manufactures an image for somebody else (irrespective of whether it is a Jew or a gentile) receives one set of Malkos, whereas if he does it for himself, he receives two, as we explained. Either way, he receives Malkos whether the idol is actually worshipped or not. See also Mitzvah 27.

The Manufacture of images to be worshipped is forbidden, even if the manufacturer himself does not intend to worship them. Manufacturing them itself is prohibited per se, in order to prevent a stumbling-block. Neither does it make a difference whether one makes it oneself or one orders others to do so, as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:4) "Do not make for yourself a carved image ... ". And someone who orders others to make them is the one who causes their manufacture. This is the opinion of the Rambam. The Ramban however, is of the opinion that the prohibition of manufacturing images applies only to someone who makes them for himself to worship. He also holds that this Pasuk is not the source for the prohibition, but the Pasuk in Kedoshim (19:4) "Do not turn to images, and molten gods do not manufacture for yourselves".

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