Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues

Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Vayeitzei

The Broader Scheme of Things

Ya'akov departed from Be'er Sheva and went toward Charan. (Bereishis 28:10)

An excerpt from my sefer Trust Me!

This is based on Kovetz Sichos [5732], by R. Chaim Shmuelevitz, zt"l, Rosh Yeshivah of the Mir Yeshivah, Jerusalem.

It is well-known that the parashiyos of the Torah are divided into sections: either "open" (פתוחה), designated by "פ" or "closed" (סתומה) designated by "ס". These divisions of the parashiyos have been handed down as a part of the Oral tradition, tracing back to Moshe Rabbeinu. Their purpose is to leave a break between parashiyos in order to facilitate study. However, parashas Vayetzei is unique in that it is one uninterrupted unit of text, from beginning to end. The Ba'al Ha-Turim and the Da'as Zekeinim m'Ba'alei Tosfos explain that the reason for this singular occurrence is that Ya'akov's flight from Eisav took place in secret. R. Chaim Shmuelevitz asks, what is the connection between Ya'akov's clandestine flight and the lack of sections in that parashah that would aid more in-depth study? He replies that in order to understand this, we must first study another perplexing observation of Chazal:

We read in Yeshayahu (40:27): "Why do you say, O Ya'akov, and declare, O Yisrael, 'My way has been concealed by Hashem'?" Commenting on this verse, Chazal inform us that Ya'akov never made an idle statement other than this. The reaction of the Almighty was, "I am busy making his son ruler over Egypt, and he asks, 'Why have You caused this evil to me?'!" (Bereishis Rabbah 91:10)

Ya'akov regarded the loss of his son Yosef in a very limited light, viewing it as nothing more than a terrible tragedy. However, Chazal tell us that one should seek out the broader picture in which each detail takes on a different hue. This is what the Vilna Gaon wrote to his family in his famous letter, Alim l'Terufah: "Tomorrow you will cry over what you laughed at today, and you will laugh at that which made you cry today." The real tragedy in life takes place when one judges a situation only in its limited context, while in reality it is merely one link in a greater scheme.

This is the concept behind Chazal's exhortation that one should always say, "Gam zo le-tovah," "This is also for the good." Don't judge a situation by its surface appearance. Rather, say, "In the final analysis, this too is for the good." This was the practice of R. Akiva, the famed disciple of Nachum Ish Gam Zu:

A person should always be in the habit of saying, "Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good." Take, for example, what happened to R. Akiva while he was once on a journey. He came to a certain town and wanted to sleep there. However, not one of the townspeople would give him lodging. He said to himself, כל דעביד רחמנא לטב עביד "Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good." He then went into a nearby field to sleep. Now, he had brought with him a rooster, a donkey, and a candle. Over the course of the night, the wind blew out the candle, a wildcat came and ate the rooster, and a lion came and ate the donkey. As each of these things happened, he told himself, "Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good." That night, an army came and captured all the townsfolk. He [later] told [his students], "Didn't I tell you that everything the Almighty does is for the good?" [Rashi: If the candle had been lit, the soldiers would have seen me; and if the donkey had brayed or the rooster crowed, the soldiers would have come and captured me.] (Berachos 60b) R. Akiva was in a terribly frightening situation that night. All his hopes of spending the night peacefully had been ruined. He was alone in a field, without light and without even animals for companionship. Most people would have trembled in fear, but R. Akiva merely said: כל דעביד רחמנא לטב עביד "Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good." Sure enough, when day broke and the broader picture became apparent, he saw how every seemingly bitter detail was actually part of a brilliant miracle. Everything was woven together to form a grand tapestry of salvation for him.

We are now in a position to answer the question we posed above. In Ya'akov's flight from Eisav, each detail was part of a greater scheme designed to achieve a sublime goal: the building of the Jewish nation. In order to teach us that everything was connected, the Torah relates the story without a break. We thus see that all of the seemingly isolated events actually merged together to form a unified whole. Ya'akov listened to his parents' advice and fled to Lavan's house. Before that, however, he made a detour and spent 14 years in the beis midrash of Shem and Eiver. The time he spent there enabled him to later merit being father to the 12 tribes, even when he was dwelling within the spiritually tainted environs of Lavan's house. Because of his preparations, he was able to remain faithful to his fathers' tradition and to return to Eretz-Yisrael with his lofty spiritual state intact and undamaged.

Gut Shabbos!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
If you would like to correspond with Rabbi Parkoff, or change your subscription, please contact:

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel