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

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Vol. 14   No. 7

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
R. Eliyahu Ze'ev ben R. Yerachmiel Moshe z.l.
by his family
in honour of his 18th Yohrzeit
on the 14th Kislev

Parshas Vayeitzei

Bilhah & Zilpah and Their Children
(Adapted from Otzar Ishei ha'T'nach)


Bilhah and Zilpah were daughters of Devorah, Rivkah's nurse and her husband, whose name was Achosah. It appears that whilst he was still unmarried, he was captured, and that Lavan redeemed him and married him off to his maidservant Devorah, who subsequently bore him Bilhah and Zilpah (Medrash).

As long as Rachel and Le'ah lived, says the Zohar, the Shechinah dwelt in their tents. Following their death however, it moved to the tent of Bilhah, where it remained (presumably until her death),.

After Rachel's death, Ya'akov moved his bed into the tent of Bilhah (Rachel's maidservant) (Bereishis Rabah). The reason for this would appear to be because the Shechinah moved there. Indeed the Zohar points out that when Reuven slept on that bed, he displayed a blatant disregard for the Shechinah that rested there. But this clashes with the Zohar's previous statement, that the Shechinah moved into Bilhah's tent only after Rachel and Leah had both died and Le'ah was still alive at that time, as Rashi explains (unless the Zohar holds that she died immediately after Rachel).

Yosef sent ten donkeys laden with all the good of Egypt (besides ten donkeys laden with corn, bread and food for the journey) - five for Ya'akov and five for Bilhah (his foster mother from the time of his mother's death), since the other Imahos were no longer alive (Medrash Seichel Tov).

Bilhah continued to serve Ya'akov in Egypt. When he became ill, she was the one to inform Ya'akov (P'sikta Rabah. See also Rashi Vayechi 48:1)).

When, after Ya'akov's death the brothers informed Yosef that he had left instructions for him to forgive them (which in fact, he had not), their emissary was none other than Bilhah (Targum Yonasan).


Dan & Naftali (sons of Bilhah)

Dan was born on the ninth of Elul. He died at the age of a hundred and twenty-five (Yalkut) and was buried in Eshta'ol in his territory (Seifer ha'Yashar).

'And the sons of Dan were alert and sharp, and there was no total to their numbers' (Targum Yonasan. See also Rashi, ).

It was on the merit of Dan that Rachel became pregnant (Bereishis Rabah).


Naftali was born on the fifth of Tishri. He died at the age of a hundred and thirty-three (Yalkut), and was buried in Kedesh Naftali (Seifer ha'Yashar).

He was as swift-footed as a hind (Sotah 2a).

He honoured his father immensely in that he would go with alacrity on any mission on which he would send him. His father received tremendous Nachas from him, and he enjoyed his nice words (Bereishis Rabah).

He also served as the emissary of his brothers, on whose behalf he would go immediately wherever they sent him (Medrash ha'Gadol).

When the brothers (Shimon & Levi?) planned to kill Ya'akov Naftali came and informed Yehudah, who saved him from death (Medrash Agadah).

When Yehudah was angry, he ordered Naftali to go and count the major market-places in Egypt. He returned in a flash with the reply - 'Twelve'! (Bereishis Rabah).

Naftali was the great harbinger of good tidings. He was the one to tell Ya'akov that Yosef was still alive (though others attribute this to Serach the daughter of Asher), and he was the one who returned to Egypt to fetch the document of sale pertaining to the Me'aras ha'Machpeilah, to prove that his uncle Eisav had no share in it (Targum Yonasan).



Why did Leah 'take Zilpah and give her to Ya'akov'? When she saw how her sister Rachel had given her maidservant to Ya'akov, and what's more, how she had born him a son, she put into practice her prophetic knowledge (that there would be four mothers, and not just three), by providing the fourth wife (Medrash ha'Gadol).

By the births of all the sons of Ya'akov the Torah mentions the pregnancy ("va'tahar ... ") with the sole exception of Gad. This is because Zilpah was still a young girl at the time, and the pregnancy was barely visible on her (Bereishis Rabah).


Gad & Asher (sons of Zilpah)

Gad was born on the tenth of Marcheshvan. He died at the age of a hundred and twenty-five (Yalkut) and he was buried in Rumya in Eiver ha'Hardein (in his territory).

Gad was born circumcised (Rashi citing a Medrash).


Asher was born on the twentieth of Sh'vat. He died at the age of a hundred and twenty-three (Yalkut) and was buried in Kedesh Naftali (Seifer ha'Yashar).

When Asher went and informed his brothers that Reuven had 'sinned', they scolded him for spreading false rumours about their older brother. But after Reuven confessed at having switched the bed of Bilhah with that of Le'ah, they made up with Asher (Sifri).

Before he died, Ya'akov passed on the secret of the Redemption from Egypt to Yosef, who in turn, passed it on to his brothers before his death. Asher in his turn, told his daughter Serach, who was still alive when the time to redeem the people arrived. She alone knew that whoever would express the words "Pokod pokadti eschem ... ", as Moshe did, was the true redeemer (Sh'mos Rabah).

* * *

Parshah Pearls

An Early Sunset

"And he arrived at the place, and he stayed there overnight because the sun set ... " (28:11).

Rashi, in Parshas Va'eschanan, informs us that G-d brought forward the Churban Beis-Hamikdash by two years (from 852 years after Yisrael's entry into Eretz Yisrael [like the numerical value of "ve'noshantem" to 850]) in order to avoid having to fulfill the Pasuk "and you will perish quickly", which is written immediately after "ve'noshantem".

In keeping with the principle 'Ma'aseh Ovos si'man le'bonim', the sun set early here - two hours before its time, says the K'li Yakar, a sign that the Churban Beis-Hamikdash (which, Chazal compare to the light of the world), would later take place two years before its time.

Considering that Ya'akov was standing at the exact location where the Beis-Hamikdash was destined to be built, and he was about to receive a hint about the various exiles, as the commentaries explain in connection with Ya'akov's dream, it was most appropriate for that hint to take place here.

And the K'li Yakar goes on to cite the Medrash that Chasidim and men of good deeds have the custom to take a stone on Tish'ah be'Av night and to place it under their heads, a custom which they base on this Pasuk, which teaches that this is what Ya'akov did when he saw a vision of the Churban. Now from where does the Medrash know that Ya'akov saw a vision of the Churban, if not from the hint that is inherent in the setting of the sun two hours early.


Derech Eretz First ...

"And Ya'akov awoke from his sleep and he said ' In truth G-d is in this place and I did not know!' " (28:16).

If he had comments Rashi, he would not have slept in such a holy place.

Incredible, R. Noson Tzvi Finkel remarks! Ya'akov Avinu had such a tremendous revelation, a major far-reaching prophecy of such proportions, and he was willing to forego it, just for the sake of Derech Eretz?

It must be, he concludes, that even a small act of Derech Eretz takes precedence over the highest levels of Ru'ach ha'Kodesh!


Along similar lines, the Mahari Horowitz points out that after such a dream, where G-d had promised Divine protection and assistance, one would have expected that, upon waking up, Ya'akov's first reaction would have been to dance with joy and offer thanks to G-d for His assurances. But that's not what happened. Ya'akov's first reaction was to berate himself for having contravened the laws of Derech Eretz - by sleeping in a holy place!


The Reason has a Reason

" ... Le'ah became pregnant and bore a son, and she named him Reuven, because" she said, "G-d has seen my torment, and now my husband will love me" (29:32).

The Gemara in B'rachos (7b) cites R. Elazar, who ascribes the name Reuven to Le'ah's statement 'See the difference between my son and the son of my father-in-law (Yitzcha'k's son Eisav). See how the latter, in spite of having sold the birthright to his brother, hated him when he claimed it'. My son, on the other hand, whose birthright will be taken away from him against his will, will go on to save the recipient of that birthright (his brother Yosef) from the pit. Hence the name "Reuven" - which is the acronym of 'Re'u Vein' 'See ... my son'.

How odd, remarks the G'ro. The Torah itself explains Le'ah's reason for naming him Re'uven. So why did Chazal see fit to look for another one. And furthermore, if they did see a reason to do so, why did they confine their search to Reuven? Why did they not also look for another name for Shimon, Levi or any of the other sons of Ya'akov?

The G'ro therefore points to the Torah's change of wording with regard to the naming of Reuven, that differs from that of all the other sons. By all the other sons, the Torah gives the reason before the name. For example, the Torah writes "And she said this time, my husband will accompany me ... that is why she called his name Levi" or "This time I will thank G-d ... therefore she called his name Yehudah".

And it is only by Reuven that the Torah reverses the order "And she called his name Reuven ... because," she said, "G-d saw my affliction". Chazal therefore understood that there must have been another reason for the name Reuven, a reason which the Torah did not record (perhaps because, unlike all the other namings, it concerned something that had not yet occurred, and was based on prophesy).


Making Ya'akov Angry

"And Rachel was jealous of her sister, and she said to Ya'akov 'Give me children; otherwise, I am (like) dead' " (30:1).

When Rachel saw that Ya'akov's hatred of Le'ah was instrumental in gaining her children, she became jealous of her, and decided to emulate her sister. She too, would get Ya'akov to hate her. Perhaps she too, would merit to have children; so she set about achieving this by saying things that would incur Ya'akov's wrath.

And it worked, for the Pasuk continues "And Ya'akov became angry with Rachel"; and what's more, she did subsequently bore him children (Kol Simchah).


Eisav Could Learn from Yosef

"And it was when Rachel bore Yosef that Ya'akov said to Lavan 'Send me, and I will go ... ' " (30:25).

The moment the 'Satan' of Eisav was born, Rashi explains, Ya'akov knew that it was safe to leave, for, as is well-known, Eisav will fall into the hands of the sons of Rachel.


However, there is a deeper interpretation of Yosef's title 'Satan of Eisav', says the Ma'ayanah shel Torah.

Eisav sought revenge from Ya'akov, who, he claimed had cheated him.

But take a look at Yosef, whose brothers did far worse than that; they sold him into slavery - for money. Yet not only did he not seek revenge, he went so far as to sustain them and their families, and showed them only love in return.

* * *


'Five miracles occurred with Ya'akov when he left Be'er-Sheva: 1. The day was cut short, and the sun set before its time, because G-d wished to talk to him; 2. When he awoke in the morning, he found that the four stones (depicting the four wives that he was destined to marry) that he had placed under his head when he lay down, had turned into one stone; 3. He rolled the stone from the well - with one hand, although normally, it required the combined effort of all the local shepherds to remove it; 4. The well began to flow and the water rose to meet him, and it continued to flow for the entire duration of Ya'akov's stay in Charan (in Pasuk 10, the Targum Yonasan will add that it flowed for twenty years); 5. The earth 'jumped' before him, and on the same day that he left home he arrived in Charan' (28:10).


'And he dreamt, and there was a ladder standing on the ground, with its top reaching the Heaven. And there were the two angels that had gone to S'dom, and that had been banished from their allotted place, for revealing G-d's secrets, and they remained in exile until the day that Ya'akov left his father's house. They accompanied him with Chesed as far as Beis-Eil, and they now returned to their place in heaven. There they beckoned to their fellow angels to come and see the pious Ya'akov, whose image was fixed on the precious Throne (of G-d), and whose image they were desirous to see. In response, all the other holy angels descended, to look at him'.


' he was afraid and he said "How fearful yet praiseworthy is this place! This is not a mundane location, but a House that is sanctified in the Name of G-d. This is a place which is ideal for prayer, exactly corresponding to the gates of Heaven. It is established directly underneath G-d's Throne of Glory" ' (28:17).


'And Ya'akov made an oath saying "If G-d will assist me, and guard me from murder, idolatry and adultery on the journey that I am making, and He will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear ... " ' (28:20).


'He was still speaking with them (the shepherds) when Rachel arrived with her father's flock, since she had temporarily been appointed a shepherd. A plague had just broken out among Lavan's sheep, and only a few remained. So Lavan relocated his shepherd, and appointed Rachel in his place' (29:9).


'And Ya'akov informed Rachel that he had come to stay with her father, and to marry one of his daughters. Rachel replied that he would not be able to stay with him, since her father was a master swindler. But Ya'akov told her that he was quite capable of holding his own, and that besides, he (Lavan) could do him no harm, since G-d was with him. When Rachel heard that, she knew that he was the son of Rivkah (her aunt), and she ran to tell her father'.


'And it was, when Lavan heard about the strength and piety of Ya'akov, his sister's son, how he had obtained the birthright and the blessings from Eisav his brother, how G-d had appeared to him in Beis-El and how he had rolled the stone (single-handedly) off the well, he ran to meet him. He hugged him and kissed him, and he brought him to his house. And he (Ya'akov) told Lavan (substantiated) all these things' (29:13).

* * *

(Adapted from the Ma'yanah shel Torah)

Destruction by Default

"You were destroyed, Yisrael, because your assistance came from Me" (Hoshei'a 13:14).

A great king once asked a Chacham how it came about that, at the time of the Churban Beis-Hamikdash, so many thousands of Jews fell. The Chacham replied that from time immemorial, the Jews had relied on G-d when going to war. Consequently, they went into battle with little or no idea of how to fight or what tactics to employ. However, they would be victorious, because G-d on His part, responded to their trust in Him, and accompanied them to the battlefront. So they fought with the combination of Divine wisdom and Divine strength. No wonder their victories were generally total, falling into the category of 'stunning'.

When, at the time of the Churban, they lost faith in G-d, G-d responded by withdrawing His support, and they went into battle lacking both the tactical ability to fight and Divine assistance, what chance did they have of survival against formidable opponents such as Nevuchadnetzar and Titus. Little wonder that their losses on the battlefield were astronomical.

And that is exactly what the above Pasuk is telling us - "You were destroyed Yisrael, because your assistance came from Me" (and you yourselves had no idea how to fight [Ahavas Yehonasan]).


Turning a Curse into a Blessing

"I will give you a king in my anger" (13:11).

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (105) explains that from Bilam's blessings it is possible to discern the curses that he had in mind to pronounce on K'lal Yisrael. For example. When he said "And his king will overpower Agag", he intended to curse them in that they should not have a king.

The Gemara there also states that Bilam set his mind to curse Yisrael early in the morning, during the split second that the kings of the world prostrated themselves before the sun, as it appeared each morning. That was the moment that G-d's fury was evoked, and Bilam's intention was to exploit it and curse K'lal Yisrael to oblivion. Only G-d upset His plans by controlling His anger during that period, so the opportunity that Bilam was waiting for, simply failed to arrive.

But how is it possible to curse an entire nation in a split second, asks Tosfos there? What can one possibly say that can be so utterly devastating, in so short a time?

In one of two answers, Tosfos explain that Bilam intended to say one solitary single-syllable word - 'K'leim' (Destroy them!) as clear a curse and as total as one could possibly wish for.

What did G-d do? He turned that curse into a blessing, whereby the letters of 'K'leim' were reversed to read 'Melech'. And that is what the above Pasuk means. 'Even when I was angry, says G-d, 'and you deserved to be cursed ('K'leim' [with reference to their unjustifiable request from Shmuel to give them a king]), I gave you a king ('Melech')' - Ahavas Yonasan.


The Heavy Yoke

"For the ways of Hashem are righteous, the Tzadikim go along them, but the Resha'im stumble on them" (14:10).

The Rasha claims that G-d must hate The Jewish people. Otherwise why does He load them with Mitzvos, which constantly interfere with their personal freedom?

This argument is false however, as is evident from the fact that Tzadikim revel in the Mitzvos, and hold them as dear as life itself. This is proof enough that the Mitzvos are in themselves not a heavy yoke at all, and if the Resha'im perceive them in that light, then that's their problem.

It can be compared, says the Dubner Maggid, to a philanthropist who arranged a grand feast for his many guests, at which only the finest and most expensive foods were served.

One of the guests, a sickly man, made himself comfortable, and like the other guests, he proceeded to partake liberally of the many exquisite dishes that were offered. However, due to his weak disposition, he became extremely ill, and began to complain bitterly about the master of the feast, claiming that he was a menace to the public by serving them with unhealthy foods that made people sick.

But the latter challenged him to ask the other guests whether the food had disturbed them. 'You are a sick man', he told him 'and you have only yourself to blame for participating in a rich feast in your weak state. I prepared only the best foods, but that was only for people whose health was sound'.

Hence the Navi says "For the ways of Hashem are righteous", and the proof of that is that "the Tzadikim go along them", thriving in the process. And if those same ways cause some people heartache, then they should know that "the Resha'im stumble on them"; their lifestyle is a sickness that does not tolerate Mitzvos. The problem lies with them, not with the Mitzvos, and certainly not with the Master of the world who commanded them!

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