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DECEMBER 5-6, 2003 11 KISLEV 5764

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Pop Quiz: How old was Ya'akob when he got married?


"Ya'akob awakened from his sleep and he said 'surely Hashem is in this place...'" (Beresheet 28:17)

When Pharaoh awakened from his sleep, the Torah relates that he went back to sleep. The Rabbis point out that this is a typical difference between Ya'akob and Pharaoh. When Ya'akob awakens, he is immediately aware of the presence of Hashem and does something about it, whereas Pharaoh turns over and goes back to sleep!

In the last few years, we have seen and continued to see monumental and awesome events; natural disasters, political upheavals, besides many mind-boggling situations on an individual level. We must truthfully ask ourselves, are we "just turning over" like the Pharaoh of old, or are we following in the footsteps of our father Ya'akob, and dedicating our lives to Hashem and the Torah? Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"And it was in the morning that behold it was Leah!" (Beresheet 29:25)

Jacob had come to Haran to find his mate. Rachel was that mate, and Jacob devoted seven years of hard physical toil to win the right to marry her. Living up to his reputation as a deceitful person, Laban substituted Leah for Rachel on the wedding night. Jacob and Rachel had expected Laban to attempt such a deception, and they had prepared against it by arranging a secret signal between them. However, when Rachel saw that they were about to substitute her sister Leah for her, she confided the sign to her sister so that Leah would not be put to shame. Afterwards, Laban offered Rachel in exchange for seven more years of hard work. Jacob accepted the deal, and the Midrash explains that Jacob worked the second set of years with the same loyalty and trustworthiness as he did in the first set of years.

One is taken aback at Jacob. We see that he neither got angry nor did he fight with Laban. Jacob did not want to marry two sisters since it was his custom to observe Torah law even before the Torah was given at Sinai. But Jacob accepted it all from Hashem with love, not knowing why something like this could happen. However, we do believe that all that Hashem does is for the best. Rabbi Yosef Salant gives us an incredible insight that reveals to us how true this principle is. Even though Laban's act was the lowest possible trick, this act served as the source of the salvation of the Jewish people in the future.

The Midrash Eichah reveals that at the time of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash and the exiles of the Jews, all of the Patriarchs came to Hashem to plead that Hashem eventually allow the Jews to return. Hashem did not listen to their prayers. At that point, our Matriarch Rachel jumped and began to weep and plead our case. "Why are You angry with your nation? Is it because they worshiped idols and You are jealous that they would abandon You for other gods? Remember my wedding night when I was supposed to marry Jacob and I gave my secret signal to my sister? Well, I am only flesh and blood and made from dust, and I wasn't jealous of my sister. You, the King of kings, Who is eternally merciful, how can You be jealous of idols that are completely false and invalid?" At that point, Hashem said that she shouldn't weep, and that He accepted her prayer, and her children, the Jewish nation, will return from their exiles.

Imagine if Jacob and Rachel had a normal and uneventful wedding. What would have become of us in this long exile? We wouldn't have had Hashem's promise to Rachel that it would end. Let's apply this to our lives. Everything Hashem does is for the best. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"Any [animal] torn by wild beasts I have not brought to you, I bore the loss of it...whether stolen by day or stolen by night. I was there by day consumed by the heat and the frost at night, and my sleep was driven from my eyes" (Beresheet 31:38-40)

During the twenty years Ya'akob was with Laban, Ya'akob served him with the utmost loyalty. The worst weather did not cause him to desist from the watchful care of Laban's flock. Ya'akob paid for every accidental loss, although he bore no responsibility to do so. His extreme trustworthiness as custodian of Laban's flock was a remarkable exercise of virtue, and should serve as a model for us to follow.

Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz commented that the greatness of Ya'akob lay in the fact that he did not deceive Laban even though Laban deceived him. Ya'akob still watched Laban's flock as if it were his own. If someone were to deceive one of us even in a small matter we would feel ourselves released from any obligation toward him. Not so out forefather Ya'akob. Despite all of Laban's deceptions, Ya'akob continued to guard Laban's sheep even beyond the call of duty. (Love Your Neighbor)


Question: We have stated that, when walking to the tebah for an aliyah, we walk the shortest possible way. Yet, when carrying the Sefer Torah, we always walk to the right, even if it is longer. Why the difference?

Answer: When one is carrying the Sefer Torah, he always turns to his right. This is in keeping with a statement of our Sages: When one turns to should always be towards the right. And he returns the Sefer Torah by walking in the other direction, as the verse (Yehezkel 46) states, "Do not return through the same entrance from where you came rather through the opposite entrance." We can also add that in carrying the Sefer Torah, the shortest distance concept does not apply, because he is carrying the Sefer Torah with him, not going towards it. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


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

When Ya'akob traveled to the home of Laban, he prayed for Hashem to sustain him. One of his requests was for "bread to eat." One may ask why he needed to specify that he wanted bread "to eat." Wouldn't it have been enough for him to simply ask Hashem to provide him with bread?

People work very hard to earn their bread/livelihood. They often work long hours, travel overseas, become overly stressed and neglect their families. It may be said that rather than working for "bread to eat," in actuality "their bread is eating them." They become so absorbed in their pursuit of a livelihood that they lose sight of their priorities in life. It is said that many people, when they get older, regret that they didn't spend more time with their children, but nobody ever wishes that he spent more time in his place of business.

It was this that Ya'akob was requesting from Hashem. Not only was he requesting that Hashem provide him with sustenance, but that He provide it in a way that would not consume him.

Question: Does your job prevent you from spending enough time with your family? Think ahead to when you retire. Will you feel sorry that you didn't prioritize your time differently?


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: 84 years old.

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