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

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Vol. 13   No. 7

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Eliyahu Ze'ev ben R. Yerachmiel Moshe z.l.
by his family
in honour of his 17th Yohrzeit
on the 14th Kislev

Parshas Vayeitzei

With One's Feet On The Ground

Adapted mainly from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah

Some allegorical thoughts on the ladder in Ya'akov's dream, the ladder whose base stood on the ground, but whose top reached the Heavens (28:12)


It is only a person who is lowly in his own eyes (whose feet are on the ground) who is deemed important in the eyes of G-d (his head reaches the Heaven [Orach la'Chayim]).


The numerical value of "Sulam", observes the Or la'Tzadikim, is equivalent to that of 'mamon' (money). Intrinsically, money is purely material, and is therefore in itself insignificant (its feet are on the ground). Nevertheless ("its head reaches the heaven"), it is really priceless, since one can do with it wonderful things - Tzedakah and Chesed - which one is often incapable of doing with one's body. The same idea is expressed by Chazal when they explain that the Torah orders us to love G-d "be'chol me'odecho" (which they interpret to mean 'with all our money'), even after having said "be'chol nafsh'cho" (with our entire bodies).

And this also explains the Gemara in Sotah (12), that 'Tzadikim value their money more than their bodies', precisely because they realize how much one can achieve with it.


The commentaries compare man to Ya'akov's ladder. A man may have to occupy himself with worldly matters (with his feet on the ground), but he should see to it that whatever he does should always be for the sake of Hashem (with his head is in the Heaven).

And when he does, his holy thoughts affect the heavens too, as the Pasuk continues "And behold, angels of G-d were ascending and descending through him". Even the heavenly angels' rise and fall is determined by our actions; when in the course of our mundane activities, we serve G-d, then the angels rise; when we do not, they fall.


Notice how the Pasuk begins with the foot of the ladder and ends with its top, and not vice-versa.

The ladder, as hinted in most of the above explanations, represents the two parts of man, body and Soul, the physical and the spiritual. And as Chazal have said, 'One always ascends in Kedushah; one does not descend', just as the ladder teaches us.


Our sages have said that when one stands before Hashem in prayer, one's eyes should be lowered, and one's heart raised; one's eyes should be lowered, as a sign of humility, but one's heart should be raised, as a sign of good faith that G-d will not allow one's prayers to go unanswered. This too, is hinted in the ladder whose feet stood on the ground but whose head reached the Heavens.


The K'li Yakar elaborates on the Rambam's interpretation of the vision of the ladder, that "standing on the ground" signified this world, "reached the Heavens", the world of the constellations, "and behold there were Angels of G-d ascending and descending it" represented the world of the angels; whereas "and behold G-d was standing beside him", signified G-d's Throne. And the significance of the ladder in Ya'akov's dream was firstly its location - Har ha'Mori'ah where the Beis-Hamikdash, which represented those three worlds, would later be built. Or perhaps it was to teach Ya'akov that the three worlds originated from this very spot, which was also known as the 'Even Shesiyah' (the foundation Stone). And secondly, its timing. Bearing in mind that Ya'akov was running away from Eisav, it was the most natural thing for him to Daven at the location of the Beis-Hamikdash, which after all, is called the 'House of prayer'. Symbolically, no metal would be heard during its construction, and what could be a better place to pray for salvation from the clutches of the one who lived by the sword?

And the K'li Yakar explains the "Angels ascending and descending it" in the following way. The phrase, which implies two angels going up, and two angels coming down, refers to the four Camps of the Shechinah, that of Uriel (the angel of air), Micha'el (the angel of water), Refa'el (the angel of dust) and Gavriel (the angel of fire). And because it is the nature of water and dust to descend, whereas air and fire tend to ascend, the Torah appropriately presents both "ascending and descending" in the plural, just as we explained, two going up and two going down).

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Yitzchak Blesses Eisav

In the previous issue, we discussed why Yitzchak blessed (or tried to bless) Eisav, rather than take his cue from Avraham, who deliberately avoided doing so.

One problem still remains unsolved. As we suggested there, even Yitzchak knew full well that Yishmael had no claim to the birthright (even though he and His descendants may well have thought differently [see Targum Yonasan at the beginning of the Akeidah]), since the Torah writes (21:12) "because in Yitzchak will offspring be considered yours", from which Chazal extrapolate "in Yitzchak", 'and not in Yishmael'. By the same token, then, Yitzchak ought to have known that Eisav would have been disqualified too, based on the same Chazal, which extrapolates from the same Pasuk "because in Yitzchak", 'and not the whole of Yitzchak', thereby precluding Eisav from the geneology of Yitzchak.

The answer however, is simple. Whereas the first Dr'rashah (regarding Yitzchak and Yishmael) is unambiguous, leaving us in no doubt as to which brother is accepted by the Torah, and which brother is rejected, the second D'rashah (regarding Yitzchak's sons) gives no hint as to which pf the two is the chosen one. There is nothing in the current Pasuk that indicates whether Ya'akov is the chosen brother and Eisav the one who is rejected, or vice-versa. Even when, prior to the birth of the twins, G-d informed Rivkah that "ve'Rav ya'avod tzo'ir", it is not at all clear as to which brother shall serve which.

It is hardly surprising then that, given Yitzchak's recent blindness, Eisav's cunning, and with no particular reason to disqualify Eisav, Yitzchak saw no reason why not to bless him, seeing as, at the end of the day, he was born first.

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Parshah Pearls
Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah

Goings and Comings

"And Ya'akov left Be'er-Sheva and he went to Charan" (28:10).

Rashi asks why the Torah sees fit to mention Ya'akov's point of departure. The Torah told us in the previous Parshah (26:23) that Yitzchak had moved to Be'er-Sheva, so it is obvious that that is where Ya'akov departed from. So why does the Torah need to repeat it?

It is to teach us, answers Rashi, that when a Tzadik departs from a place, it leaves a void which cannot but be felt by those who remain.

Why, asks the Chasam Sofer, does the Torah then not use the same expression in Lech-L'cha, when Avraham left Charan to go to Eretz Yisrael?

The answer, he explains, lies in the fact that here, Yitzchak and Rivkah remained, because they were the ones to feel the vacuum caused by their son's departure; whereas with Avraham, the residents of Charan did not appreciate his presence when he lived there, so why should they be affected by his absence after he had left?

In similar vein, R. Bunim from P'shischa comments on the Pasuk in Toldos (26:30/31), which describes how Avimelech visited Yitzchak, ate and drank with him and left in peace. 'When a wise man visits a Tzadik, he is overawed by his greatness and he leaves his presence in a humble frame of mind. Not so Avimelech and his troop. They sat with Yitzchak, and they ate with him, yet they took their leave without a trace of spiritual elevation!


Dual Loyalties

The Beis Halevi answers Rashi's question differently. He explains that when a person travels from place a. to place b. he may be making the move in order to get away from place a. or he may be making it in order to arrive at place b. In the case of Ya'akov both motives existed ...

In the previous Parshah, his mother had ordered him to go to Charan in order to escape Eisav's wrath; whereas his father had issued him with the same instructions, only with the intention of finding a wife there.

Consequently, he was leaving Be'er- Sheva so as to fulfill his mother's wishes, and going to Charan due to those of his father.


Davenning before Davenning?

"And he 'met' the place (va'yifga ba'Makom), and he stayed there overnight" (28:11).

Our Rebbes explain, says Rashi, that the word "va'yifga" is also an expression of Tefilah. This teaches us that Ya'akov Davened there.

A few Pesukim later, the Tif'eres Shlomoh points out, the Torah cites Ya'akov's Tefilah 'If G-d will be with me, and will guard me ... '; so what was the point of this Tefilah?

Later, he answers, Ya'akov was Davening for his own personal needs. But he made a point of not doing so before having prayed for Kavod Shamayim (which was indicative of the current location). Hashem, as we know, is often called 'Makom'. "Va'yifga ba'Makom" then means 'And he Davened for Hashem', and only afterwards, did he Daven for himself.

Chazal, it seems, took their cue from here and instituted Malchiyos (in the Rosh Hashanah Tefilah), and only then, Zichronos.


When One Wakes Up

"And Ya'akov woke up ... and he said 'How awesome is this place ... " (28:17).

In Parshas Mikeitz the Pasuk describes how Par'oh woke up, and how he promptly went back to sleep and had another dream. Here, comments R. Meir from Premishlan, you have the difference between a Jew and a gentile. No sooner does a Jew wake up than he thinks about G-d and how to serve Him. A gentile on the other hand, has more important things to do. He needs to sleep some more, so he turns over on the other side and goes back to sleep.


Three Kids, Two Hands

"This time (said Le'ah) my husband will accompany me" (29:34).

The Chizkuni explains that when the first baby is born, the mother holds it in one arm; when the second baby arrives, she still has no problem ... she simply carries one baby in each arm.

And it is when she gives birth to her third baby that her inability to cope hits her with full force. That is when she turns to her husband and asks him to lend a hand and hold the third baby. And that is what Le'ah meant when she declared that this time, Ya'akov would be bound to spend more time with her when he saw that she could not cope on her own.


The First to Admit

"This time I will thank Hashem ... " (29:35).

Since the day that G-d created the world, nobody had thanked Him until Le'ah arrived, says the Gemara in B'rachos. How is it possible, asks the Tuv Gittin, that not one of the Avos, who initiated Tefilah (Avraham, Shachris; Yitzchak, Minchah and Ya'akov, Ma'ariv), ever thanked Hashem?

It depends, he answers, how one translates the word 'hoda'ah'. The question is valid if one translates it as 'thanks'.

Strictly speaking however, the word means 'admitting', in which case the question falls away completely.

Because what Le'ah really meant was that although she initially viewed Ya'akov's dislike of her as a bad situation, she now realized that in reality, it was entirely to her advantage, since on account of it, she earned the merit to bear more than her share of the tribes (as the Torah indicated when it wrote earlier "And G-d saw that Le'ah was hated, so He opened her womb"[Pasuk 31]).

So Le'ah was the first to admit that what Hashem had done was an act of kindness, even though it had initially appeared otherwise.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 43:
The Mitzvah of Yi'ud

It is a Mitzvah to perform Yi'ud with one's maidservant. This means that the master who purchased her should either marry her himself or marry her off to his son, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (21:7) "If she is bad in the eyes of her master who does not want to marry her, then he shall enable her to redeem herself". Here, say Chazal, the Torah hints at the Mitzvah of Yi'ud. Indeed, the Mishnah in B'choros specifically states that the Mitzvah of Yi'ud takes precedence over that of redemption.

A reason for the Mitzvah ... is because Hashem feels sorry for this unfortunate girl who had to be sold as a servant and for her father who had to sell her. So He commanded the purchaser to marry the girl and to turn her into a mistress, for He is a gracious and compassionate G-d. On the other hand, should the purchaser not want her as his own wife, he should marry her off to his son, for she will be happy and rejoice with his son just as she would have rejoiced with him. Failing that, he must at least help her to redeem herself by deducting the years that she already worked from the money that he paid for her, and allowing her father to redeem her with the difference. He is not permitted to force her to work the full quota of years, however much he benefits from her. All this is due to G-d's kindness with His creations, and to His superlative Midos.

Some Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Until which age a girl may be sold ... That her master may not sell her a second time (and if he does, the sale is not valid), though the father may sell her as many times as he pleases (within the prescribed period) ... In what way she is sold and in what ways she goes free, and what advantages she has over an Eved Ivri in this regard ... The Din of a Bogeres (half a year after she becomes a Na'arah at twelve), and at which stage she becomes an Aylonis (who is unable to have children) ... and all the other details are discussed in the first Chapter of Kidushin (14b). This Mitzvah applies only when the Din of Yovel is in effect. Anyone who contravenes it and fails to fulfill one of the three options mentioned above has negated it. Beis-Din are not, it seems able to enforce it, since the Torah writes "And if he did not carry out one of these three ... ", leaving the person with the option of whether to fulfill it or not. Nevertheless, someone who did carry it out has fulfilled a Mitzvah. He is worthy of a B'rachah, and deserves that good children will result from the marriage.


Mitzvah 44:
The Mitzvah of Redeeming a Jewish Maidservant

It is a Mitzvah to redeem a Jewish maidservant, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim "And he shall help her to redeem herself" (21:8), meaning that her master should assist her in redeeming herself, to allow her to return to her father's house (as we explained in the previous Mitzvah). For example, if he acquired her for the full six years, for the sum of six Dinrim, and she worked for three years and saved three, then he should claim back the three Dinrim from the father and send her home. He is not allowed to insist that she works out the remaining three years, or to demand compensation from her father, for the three years that the money was sitting idle by him, during which time he would have put it to good use; for this stems from bad-heartedness, and Yisrael are princes, merciful people, the sons of merciful people, and it is befitting for them to perform kindness with others, and especially with their own servants, even if they served them for only one day. The author already discussed a reason for the Mitzvah in the Mitzvah of Yi'ud (Mitzvah 43), and the remaining details are to be found in the first chapter of Kidushin.


Mitzvah 45:
The Prohibition to Sell One's Jewish Maidservant

Whoever purchases a Jewish maidservant is forbidden to sell her to anybody else, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (21:8) " ... he shall not have the power to sell her to a strange man", as Unklus translates it. The Torah expresses itself in this way to reinforce the prohibition, as if to say that the man to whom he sells her is from a different nation.

A reason for the Mitvzah ... is that G-d wants to give us merits, so He ordered us to employ the Midah of compassion (which he cherishes) in our dealings with others.

The author already mentioned some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah in the Mitzvah of Yi'ud (Mitzvah 43).

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