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NOVEMBER 15-16, 2002 11 KISLEV 5763

Pop Quiz: How many years did Ya'akob stay by Laban?


"And Ya'akob was afraid and he said, 'How awesome is this place.'" (Beresheet 28:17)

Ya'akob Abinu was traveling to Haran when he was suddenly plunged into darkness, and he lay down to sleep. At that point, he had a phenomenal dream where Hashem revealed Himself to Ya'akob, and promised him Divine protection until he would return to his father's home. The Midrash says that he also saw the future exiles and the final redemption in this dream. And yet, when Ya'akob wakes up, his first instinct is to cry out, "This is a holy place! Had I known that, I would not have slept here!" That means that Ya'akob would have given up all of the Divine revelations and the promise that he saw in the dream, because he wouldn't want to sleep in a holy place.

From here we see that the ends do not justify the means! If we talk in shul words of Torah during the time we are not allowed to speak, such as Kaddish, Hazarah or Sefer Torah, instead of getting a misvah, we are getting the opposite. We tend to justify our misdeeds by saying, "Hashem would want me to do this for this specific reason" and yet Ya'akob, our forefather, is teaching us that it's not worth the outcome if it means doing something wrong. Let's listen to Sefer Torah, Kaddish and Hazarah, and not talk about anything, and our Torah study will be enhanced by the fact that we are doing the right thing! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"And Jacob said to his brothers, 'Gather stones!'" (Beresheet 31:46)

Ya'akob leaves his father's house and travels to the house of Laban, his uncle. Ya'akob marries, and most of his children are born in the house of Laban. At the end of his stay, the relationship between Laban and Ya'akob deteriorates, and Ya'akob is forced to escape with his family. Laban pursues Ya'akob and meets him on the road. After they meet they declare a truce. The Torah tells us that Ya'akob took a stone and raised it up as a monument. This was a symbol of his peace with Laban. Ya'akob then proceeded to build a mound, a gal, and "they ate there on the mound," as a sign of peace. In order to build this mound, Ya'akob needed help, so Ya'akob asks his brothers to gather stones. Who were his brothers? His only brother was Esav, and he was very far away. Rashi explains that the term "brothers' in this verse is referring to his sons. They were like brothers to him in the sense that they were prepared to stand by him and assist him in trouble and battle.

Why did the Torah describe Ya'akob's sons as brothers? Rabbi R. Pelcovitz explains that sons can be described as brothers, and students also can be described as brothers. This is because the relationship between father and son, and teacher and student is a changing one. It does not stay the same. In the beginning, the son or student is a recipient. He receives knowledge and guidance. As time passes, he matures and he becomes one who participates and even becomes a partner. The Talmud (Berachot 64a) says that one should refer to sons and students as builders (al tikre banayich elah bonayich). Ya'akob was entering the land of Israel to build the house of Jacob. He saw his sons as co-builders because they had reached a new level of responsibility.

A parent and a teacher must be extremely sensitive to the needs of their students. They must appreciate and recognize the process of growth which takes place in the relationship between them. Only if one appreciates one's passage from a recipient to a partner will the relationship between father and son, and teacher and student flourish. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"And Ya'akob woke up from his sleep, and he said, 'Hashem is in this place and I did not know it'" (Beresheet 28:16)

Rashi explains that Ya'akob said, "If I were to have realized the sanctity of this place I would not have slept here."

Ya'akob was fleeing for his life from Esav. He was penniless and prayed to Hashem for just the basic necessities of food to eat and clothing to wear. Hashem came to him in a dream and gave him a guarantee that He would watch over him and all would be well. When Ya'akob awoke, his initial reaction could easily have been one of extreme joy and gratitude for this promise. But what was Ya'akob's initial thought? He censured himself for sleeping at a sacred site.

A person whose main focus is self-improvement and a striving for perfection will always check over his behavior to see what needs correction. Keep asking yourself, "Have I made any mistakes?" When you do find a mistake, feel positive for the opportunity to correct the mistake for the future. A word of caution. While self-criticism is a prerequisite for character improvement, one must be careful to have a healthy balance. Excessive self-condemnation will be extremely detrimental to one's well-being. You need to master an attitude of joy for doing good, and then self-criticism will add to that joy. Every fault that is found and worked on will give you the pleasure of knowing that you are improving. (Growth through Torah)


"And Ya'akob kissed Rachel, and he raised his voice and wept" (Beresheet 29:11)

Rashi explains the reason Ya'akob cried was because he had not brought any gifts for Rachel, since Elifaz, Esav's son, had waylaid him along the way and had taken all his possessions. Esav had instructed Elifaz to kill Ya'akob. But having grown up under Yitzhak's guidance, Elifaz was in a dilemma. Should he follow his father's orders or go against everything he had been taught by Yitzhak? It was Ya'akob who helped him solve this problem by advising him to rob him of his possessions thereby impoverishing him. This would be considered as carrying out his father's command since "a poor man is considered as dead."

Let us attempt to analyze Elifaz's thoughts as he confronted Ya'akob. He sees himself as Esav's son who has been sent on a mission to kill Ya'akob, and yet he is Yitzhak's student, who has been taught the prohibition of shedding blood. The fact that Elifaz was in such a quandary indicates clearly how it is possible for one to be so mixed up in his beliefs that he becomes the ultimate hypocrite. Both good and evil are exerting a powerful influence upon this person. The basis for his intended act of murder was the very misvah of "honoring one's parents."

We find the basis for this concept mentioned in Hazal: "For those who study Torah diligently, it becomes a source of life, for those who study it laxly, it becomes poison" (Shabbat 88). The same Torah which gives life to one person becomes a deadly poison to the one who takes a carefree approach to its study. Torah knowledge may be accessible to each on his own level, but solid accomplishment on any level requires complete dedication of time and effort. Without this dedication, a person's knowledge will only be superficial. Given such superficial knowledge, he will not be able to fully appreciate the depth and scope of Jewish learning and will come to consider it irrelevant and trivial. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Ya'akob said to them, 'My brothers, where are you from?...Look, the day is still long'" (Beresheet 29:4,7)

When Ya'akob reached Haran, he saw a group of shepherds at the well with their flocks. Normally, shepherds would give their flocks to drink and would then take them back to the field to graze. However, these shepherds were just standing around. Ya'akob rebuked them and told them that the day is not over, and they should finish giving the sheep to drink, and take them back to graze. However, before he rebuked them, he first greeted them and called them his "brothers." We see from here that when one needs to offer criticism to another, he should first greet him kindly, and show that he has only good feelings toward him. The criticism will then be more effective, because the person receiving the criticism will understand that the friend has only his best interests in mind.

Question: When you give criticism to someone, do you make sure that the person understands that you are only trying to help? Do your words and tone of voice reflect this feeling? How much more likely are you to be receptive of criticism when it is said softly and with genuine concern?

This week's Haftarah: Hoshea 11:7 - 13:5.

In our perashah, Ya'akob succeeds in attaining power and wealth only with the intervention of G-d.

In our haftarah, the prophet Hoshea uses the constant obstacles that Ya'akob faced as a starting point for admonishing the Jewish people, who have begun to forget G-d. The people are worshipping idols and believe that their own ability has brought them wealth and power. They must learn from Ya'akob that all wealth, power and success come only from G-d. He is the One Who took care of Ya'akob and He is the One Who takes care of them. Ya'akob was able to succeed only because of G-d's help. This is the valuable lesson that the Jewish people forgot. (Tell it from the Torah)

Answer to pop quiz: Twenty years.

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