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Parshas Vayeitzei

Hakol Kol Yaakov - The Two Voices of Yaakov
by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

After receiving his father's blessings, Yaakov Avinu is forced to flee his parents home. Eisav is bent on revenge over Yaakov's deceit. Yaakov's escape to Lavan begins a long period of exile, suffering and turmoil. He must live with Lavan's treachery for the next twenty years and endure a "reunion" with his brother Eisav. Dina is abducted and Yosef goes missing for twenty-two years. Even in his latter years of relative tranquillity, he is saddled with the knowledge that his family will remain in the spiritual desert of Egypt for another 210 years.

Yaakov prepared in advance for his survival during the trying times ahead by totally immersing himself in Torah in the Yeshivos of Shem and Ever for a period of fourteen years. During this time, he did not lay down to sleep even once. The words of Torah he learnt then strengthened him, enabling him to endure the difficult years to come. Yaakov also instituted Ma'ariv, the evening prayer. Night time alludes to galus, exile. Yaakov realised that if he was to survive the darkness of galus when all seems hopeless, he must put his trust in Hashem. Just as the night leads to the morning, galus leads to geula, provided one does not lose faith in Hashem and prays for His salvation.

"Ma'aseh Avos siman l'banim" - the deeds of the Avos are a lesson and an omen for their children. Just as Yaakov was triumphant through Torah and tefilla, we too will survive the travails of galus through toiling in Torah and crying out to Hashem. As Chazal explain, "Hakol Kol Yaakov, v'hayadayim yedei Eisav." When Yaakov's voice is heard in the Batei K'nesios and Batei Midrashos, in the synagogues and study halls, then Eisav cannot raise up his hands against us.

It is with these two voices, these two weapons that we confront our enemies. But how do these two forces complement each other? Do we need both Torah and Tefilla, or can we rely on one of them alone?

While both learning and davening bring one closer to the Ribbono Shel Olam, the Master of the Universe, they do not do so in the same manner. When one davens, he is omeid b'fnei Hamelech - he is standing before the King. Tefilla is a personal conversation between the mispallel and Hashem. By asking Hashem to fulfil one's requests, one is in effect admitting that "Despite all my efforts I cannot succeed without Your assistance. I have to do my hishtadlus, but only You are in control." By actively expressing one's total dependence on Hashem, one draws nearer to Him. Hashem will then fight his battles.

When Yaakov gave Shechem to Yosef he told him that he took it from the Emori "b'charbi uv'kashti" (Bereishis 48:22), with my sword and my bow. Onkeles translates this as "b'tzlosi u'vevakashasi", with my prayer and my request. If one uses his strength and puts his total trust in Hashem when under attack or during illness, He will fight our cause. He is our sword. This is how Moshe and Yehoshua destroyed Amalek. And in the times of Achashveirosh, the Jews battled the enemy only after they davened and fasted. They therefore emerged victorious. In this light, when we pray, we are on the offensive; we attack our enemies through our tefillos.

Let us examine the second weapon. The Nefesh Hachaim explains that although one becomes medubak , attached to Hashem when learning, one does not need to concentrate on this closeness during learning. (He mentions however, that before learning one should reflect on this and purify themself.) Even so, by learning Torah for the sake of understanding its meaning, one becomes attached to Hashem. Since Torah is the will and word of Hashem, when one is attached to Torah he is actually attached to Hashem. However, one does not actively come closer to the Ribbono Shel Olam through learning, rather the d'veikus is a result of one's toiling in Torah.

The Netztiv explains that Torah offers protection from all calamities, whether it is from our yetzer hara, our enemies or from illness (Emek Davar, Bereishis 26:5 with Harachav Davar ). Thus we find that Torah is referred to as a mishmar - it guards us from all troubles. We are commanded "V'higisa bo yomam valaila"- and you should toil in it day and night. We are in constant need of the Torah's protection.

Torah is also referred to as being a sword. Rashi interprets "b'charbi uv'kashti" to mean "with my wisdom and my prayer". This means that Torah acts as a protective sword; it is a deterrent. The Gemara (Shabbos 63a) explains the passuk - "chagor charbecha al yareich gibor hodecha v'hadrecha" - "Guard your sword on your thigh, mighty one. It is your glory and splendour"- as a reference to Torah learning (see Rashi there). Just like a superpower's strong defences deter attack, so too the Torah is a sword at our side that shields us from harm. However when we slacken off and we are caught off guard, it is not enough to strengthen our learning. We need to go on the offence. We need charbi u'kashti, bitachon and tefilla. After we emerge victorious, we must then expand our learning to maintain our gains and prevent the enemy from infiltrating our ranks.

Tefilla and bitachon are actually prerequisites for sucess in Torah. Rav Aharon Kotler zt"l (Mishnas R' Aharon vol. 1) explains that when we trust fully in Hashem we will have both, plenty of time and the necessary peace of mind to concentrate on our learning. Conversely, a lack of bitachon can cause us to become overly concerned with our financial needs and too pre-occupied with our work. This leaves us with little quality time for learning. Additionally bitachon draws us closer to Hashem and we merit his hashgacha, assistance in our learning. Finally, R' Aharon says that through bitachon in one can remove all barriers and devote himself totally to him. He is than davuk , to Hashem which is the purpose of learning. Tefilla also reminds one that his success in the Beis Hamedrash is a gift from Hashem. Torah is Chachmas Elokim. How can the human mind fathom this wisdom? Rather Hashem grants Torah knowledge to those who toil in Torah as Chazal explain "Yaga'ati u'matzasi ta'amin". If one says he toiled and "found" Torah believe him. Even after toiling, it is a gift.

As our nation faces challenges both in Eretz Yisrael and abroad, at times it becomes necessary to resort to military and diplomatic means. But we must still remember that our real protection comes from learning and praying. The more we strengthen our dedication to Torah and the more we place our trust in the Ribbono Shel Olam, the more success we will see on all fronts. May Hashem answer our tefillos and see how we toil in learning despite the difficulties that we face and may He bring the ultimate geula, speedily in our days.

Daf Hashavua Kollel Beth HaTalmud Copyright (c) 2001 by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

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