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NOVEMBER 19-20, 2004 7 KISLEV 5765

Pop Quiz: Where did Ya'akob stay for 14 years before going to Laban's house?


"Behold the day is still long; it is not time to bring back the sheep." (Beresheet 29:7)

Ya'akob came to Haran to find a wife as his parents commanded him. He comes to a well which is covered by a large stone, and sees the shepherds just waiting around, wasting time. He first asks them about the welfare of Laban and his family, and then goes on to ask them, "Why are you just lolling around not doing your job? It's not time to go home." To us, it seems that Ya'akob is out of line in criticizing the shepherds. What business is it to him what they are doing? They are not his workers!

The Sforno points out that a righteous person cannot bear to see wrongdoing. When Ya'akob saw them not doing their job, it pained him to see someone stealing from his boss. Therefore, he gave them some constructive criticism. To follow this one step further, when we see something wrong and do not react, so that misdeed becomes light in our own eyes, it is easier for us to fall into that same trap. Many times, we see things which are incorrect, such as disrespectful behavior, or business practices which are less than honest or ethical. If we have the ability to say something and be heard, we should consider the right way to do it rather than just overlook it. This way we will have fulfilled the misvah of rebuking someone and we will be less prone to be influenced by that behavior. Of course, we cannot always say something; each situation must be judged separately. Ya'akob Abinu is teaching us that we should try not to get used to unacceptable practices, so that we will always remain with our proper standards of conduct. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother and that he was Rebecca's son. (Beresheet 29:12)

Ya'akob flees from Esav and reaches his destination. At the well, he meets Rachel. He introduces himself in an unusual way. He says he is Laban's brother and he is the son of Ribkah, Laban's sister. There is a slight contradiction here - you can't be both Laban's brother and nephew at the same time. Rashi gives two answers; we will study the second which is based on a Midrash. Ya'akob is telling the daughter of Laban that if Laban comes to me with deceit, then I too "am his brother in deceit." But if he is a decent person, I am also the son of Ribkah, his decent sister.

Rabbi R. Pelcovitz explains this Midrash and says we are all being taught an important outlook on life by Ya'akob Abinu. The word "ach," or brother, is a general term describing the relationship of two individuals who are like siblings. The wors implies a balance and a parallel between the two of them. But the term "ben," or son, describes one who is formed and shaped by his parents, acquiring their traits and training. Ya'akob was telling Ribkah to convey to her father that not only was he prepared to match her father's deceit, but also that he would do so correspondingly, no more and no less. On the other hand, if Laban would act towards him like a good uncle with honesty and consideration, then Ya'akob would not only match his kindness but he will respond with a greater response of generosity like his mother Ribkah. Ribkah not only gave Eliezer to drink but she gave all of his camels to drink. That's why Ya'akob used both terms "brother" and "son."?

When we respond to righteousness, we must not respond like a mirror of the other person's actions. We come from Ribkah and we should flood the other person with kindness. On the other hand, when we respond to another person's action which may be harmful, we must calibrate our response and not a drop more. We live amongst gentiles. As the children of Ribkah, we must be considerate of their needs, not to damage their property, not to disturb their peace. We must drive with utmost care, especially where children are found. However, as we enter their holiday season, which are actually three holidays, one in November, one in December and one in January, we must reject their invitations to celebrate these holidays. But our response must be calibrated, not to be rude or discourteous, but with pride in our own heritage. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"And Leah conceived and gave birth to a son and she called his name Reuben, because she said Hashem has seen my affliction, for now my husband will love me. And she conceived again and she gave birth to a son, and she said, for Hashem has heard that I am hated, and he gave me also this, and she called his name Shimon." (Beresheet 29:32,33)

In these two verses we find two thoughts. One that Hashem saw affliction and the other that He heard it.

Since we have a misvah to emulate Hashem, we need to learn from here to become more sensitive to the emotional pain of others. People express their pain through words and through variations in their facial expressions and body language. To hear someone's pain, be aware of both the content and the tone of voice of another person. The more perceptive you become, the more you will notice slight nuances in tone of voice that reflect painful feelings. Also, learn to see someone's pain even if he does not express it verbally. Be aware of slight changes in one's facial expression, skin color, breathing rate, etc., that serve as an announcement of emotional suffering. The more you are able to notice pain, the more hesed you will be able to do. (Growth through Torah)


"And Rachel saw that she was not bearing any children to Ya'akob, and Rachel envied her sister" (Beresheet 30:1)

Rabbi Shmuel Pliskin, the father of Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, used to say, "'And Rachel envied her sister' is a verse in the Torah." Regardless of how great one is, there is no escaping normal human emotions. Even though, as Rashi explains, there was a spiritual dimension to Rachel's being envious of Leah's good deeds, still there was the trait of envy. We must learn to be sensitive to the potential envy of another person. Never assume that anyone will be so free of envy that you can say whatever you want in front of him.

Avoid boasting or praising someone in the presence of a person who might feel envious. For example, if someone is poor, do not needlessly tell him about how much money you just made or about an acquaintance who is financially successful. Whenever you know that a person is missing something that is important to him, think twice before mentioning that someone has what he lacks.

This also should lessen the guilt feelings of anyone who feels envious of another person. Envy is painful in itself. When guilt feelings are added, it can make the pain very tortuous. While we need to develop attitudes that will eliminate the destructive trait of envy, realize that it is normal to feel envious: "It is a verse in the Torah." (Growth through Torah)


Question: Why is the berachah of "Noten Hatorah - He Who gives us the Torah" (in Birchot Hatorah that we recite every morning) worded in the present tense?

Answer: Hashem is continuously giving us the Torah. When someone exerts himself for the sake of the Torah, Hashem helps him to gain and understand more and more. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)


"And of all that you give me I will give a tenth to you." (Beresheet 28:22)

After Ya'akob woke up from his dream in which he saw the ladder and received blessings from Hashem, he made a vow that of everything Hashem gives him, he will give ten percent to charity. Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch comments that this does not apply only to money. The pasuk says, "of all that you will give me," which includes anything that a person receives as a gift from Hashem. For example, if someone is blessed with wisdom, he is expected to share his knowledge with others who are not as fortunate. Whether it be knowledge, craftsmanship or simply the ability to make people smile, any special talent that a person has should be used not just to benefit himself but also to help others. When one view his unique skills as gifts from Hashem, rather than as something that makes him superior to his fellow man, then he will be more inclined to share his talent with others. The Torah teaches that when one is generous with his possessions, he will be blessed that his possessions will increase. Rabbi Shimon Shkopf remarked that this applies to a person's skills also. If he shares his abilities with others, he will also receive similar blessing from Hashem. Question: What special skill do you have? Do you make a conscious effort to share this gift that Hashem gave you?


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: : In the yeshivah of Shem and Eber.

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

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