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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


Yaakov departed from Beer Sheva and went to toward Charan. (28:10)

In the previous parsha, Parashas Toldos, the Torah records Yitzchak and Rivkah's instructions to Yaakov to leave Beer Sheva in search of a wife. Yaakov Avinu listened to his parents and proceeded to leave. The last pasuk in the parsha tells us about Eisav's quest for a wife, a search that led him to Yishmael, whose daughter he married. The Torah now reverts to telling us about Yaakov's journey, his initial encounter with Rachel and the travail that ensued prior to and during their eventual marriage. The commentators wonder why Eisav's marriage is placed in the midst of the narrative detailing Yaakov's farewell to his parents and his journey to Charan. Beer Yosef explains that the Torah is teaching us about the greatness of Yaakov. Two brothers were born at the same time: one was righteous, the other was evil - one plundered and killed, the other devoted his life to Torah study: one suffered and was forced to flee his home to protect himself, while the other lived a life of peace, calm and comfort. Yet, Yaakov, the virtuous brother, did not complain - even when his brother, the evil Eisav, found his wife immediately. Never did he question Hashem; never did he complain. He accepted whatever he encountered. This was Yaakov's distinctiveness. His faith never wavered; his commitment never faltered, his devotion to Hashem never waned. The question, concerning why the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper, a question that has plagued and destroyed so many, did not bother Yaakov. He suffered, while his brother prospered. He kept running while his brother lived in peace. He had to overcome great challenges to secure a wife, while his brother found one almost immediately. These occurrences did not bother Yaakov; they did not change his belief one iota. This perspective manifests a remarkable appreciation of Yaakov Avinu's attitude. How do we know that he did not complain or subconsciously question Hashem's manner of dealing with him? Horav Matisyahu Solomon, Shlita, derives this idea from the Torah's text describing Yaakov's departure from home. In describing Yaakov's forced departure from home, the Torah says "Va'yetze Yaakov," "Yaakov departed from (Beer Sheva)."In the Haftorah, the Navi says, "Va'yivrach Yaakov," "Yaakov fled." Which accurately reflects the reality? Did he leave peacefully, or did he flee for his life? Horav Solomon posits that both descriptions are correct. Yaakov fled; in his mind, he accepted this necessary course of events as if he were departing of his own free will. Yaakov saw only the will of Hashem. Every situation, every challenge, every trial, represented the will of Hashem. That Eisav found a mate with ease, while he, Yaakov, underwent serious hardship reflected the will of Hashem. Consequently, he accepted it with joy, never feeling pangs of envy or anger. The Navi records the true course of events, while the Torah emphasizes Yaakov's attitude to these events.

This is the way our Torah leaders lived. Everything represented the will of Hashem. Running from city to city, from ghetto to ghetto, from bunker to bunker - it was the will of Hashem. Horav Solomon cites Horav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, zl, who, together with Horav Chaim Mordechai Katz, zl, founded the Telshe Yeshivah in America during World War II, was driven by this force. He came to these shores, a broken firebrand saved from the fires of the Holocaust, with one intent: to rebuild the yeshivah. People wondered how someone who had survived the cataclysmic destruction of European Jewry, a man who had lost his family, could come here with such determination and resolve, almost with "chutzpah," to take upon himself the awesome challenge of building Torah in a strange land. His response was simple, "I have come here as a shliach Hashem, G-d's emissary, to build Torah." Nothing could stand in his way; he was on a mission for Hashem! This was the prevalent attitude of all the Roshei Yeshivah who built Torah in America. They came physically broken, but in mind and spirit they were emotionally charged with a mission. They were Hashem's messengers. The European tragedy facilitated their move. It was the signal that they were needed elsewhere. It is because of their courage and resolve, that today we are the beneficiaries of an unparalleled Torah legacy founded with mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice, and committed to the ratzon Hashem, will of G-d.

And he dreamt, and behold! There was a ladder whose foot was on the ground and whose head extended into the heavens. (28:12)

It is interesting to note that the vision of a ladder whose legs are on the ground, while the top reaches the heavens, occurred only to Yaakov and not to the preceding Patriarchs, Avraham and Yitzchak. Horav Shlomo Margolis, Shlita, attributes this phenomenon to the different lives that they lived. Avraham initiated Tefillas Shacharis, the morning prayer. He understood that life has its challenges, its trials and travail. The sun shone for him. He succeeded in life, overcoming whatever challenges may have stood in his way. He was accepted by those around him. Indeed, he was recognized as G-d's emissary, His prince. He was admired and revered. His prayer, the prayer recited when the sun shines, reflects his life's endeavor.

Yitzchak's prayer was Tefillas Minchah, the afternoon prayer, recited as the sun's rays begin to wane. He experienced his share of life's problems. The sun did not shine as brightly for him as it did for his father. Yet, he persevered, serving Hashem no matter the circumstances of his life. His tefillah, recited as the sun begins to set, reflects his life.

Yaakov Avinu's tefillah was Tefillas Arvis, the evening prayer. His life was one of darkness. It started in the womb with his twin brother, Eisav. He suffered from the corrupt Lavan; from of the misfortune of his daughter, Dinah; from the troubles of Yosef, which included the imprisonment of Shimon and near loss of Binyamin. Yaakov did not live a carefree life. The one time he asked for a respite, a change from his daily troubles, Yosef's anguish came upon him. Yaakov's prayer, recited at a time of darkness, reflects the notion that one can and should trust and pray to Hashem, regardless of the overwhelming darkness that envelops him. Yaakov taught us that the "odds" mean nothing to a Jew. He can overcome anything.

The ladder also represents this idea. Even when one is on the "earth," on the lowest rung of the spiritual ladder, having sunk to the nadir of depravity, he can still rise up and reach the zenith of spiritual purity. He can either climb the ladder, or stand there and watch as others accomplish what he reneged from doing. Yaakov succeeded, despite the darkness of life's challenges. He was shown that man can overcome anything: be it physical or spiritual darkness. He has to trust in Hashem and be willing to climb the ladder.

And it was in the morning, and behold- it was Leah! (29:25)

Lavan lived up to his reputation as a corrupt, duplicitous miscreant. Yaakov and Rachel were prepared for Lavan's certain deception. They, therefore, arranged a secret signal between them. Upon seeing that her sister, Leah, was about to be substituted for her, Rachel decided to give Leah the pre-determined sign, in order not to cause her embarrassment. Horav Aharon Kotler, zl, observes that had it not been Hashem's will that Leah marry Yaakov, then all of Lavan's "shtick," contrivances, would have been futile. One should not think that it was Lavan's dishonesty, and Rachel's magnanimous gesture, that brought about the marriage of Leah to Yaakov Avinu. Rather, it was Hashem Who deemed it so. Leah was to become Yaakov's primary wife, the mother of as many sons as the three other wives combined. Indeed, she was buried with him in the Meoras Ha'machpeilah. As Rav Aharon adds, Yaakov Avinu detected nothing wrong with his marriage to Leah, because his trenchant spiritual perception recognized that, indeed, he was with his predestined partner in life.

Horav Eliyahu E. Dessler, zl, comments about the respective roles of the two sisters. Rachel was to be Yaakov's intended mate for this world, while Leah was to be his partner in the spiritual world of Olam Habah. Yaakov possessed two names: Yaakov, signifying his physical dimension, and Yisrael, designating his spiritual role in the future. Indeed, Rachel produced Yosef, who sustained his family during the great famine. Leah, on the other hand, produced Levi and Yehudah, the progenitors of the Kehunah, Priesthood, and Malchus Beis David, Davidic Messianic sovereignty, respectively. Yaakov's destiny as Yisrael demanded that he marry Leah, an arrangement devised by Hashem.

There is, however, one aspect of the marriage that should be addressed. Suspecting Lavan's deceitful nature, Yaakov gave Rachel a special signal by which he could identify her. Selfless in nature, Rachel gave the sign to her sister, so that Leah would not be embarrassed. This is praiseworthy, but, what about Yaakov? Who gave Rachel the right to share Yaakov's private signal with her sister? True, she did not want to see her sister humiliated, but what about Yaakov? His intention was to marry Rachel - and not Leah!

Horav Sholom Schwadron, zl, cites a story within a story that gives us an insight into Rachel's action. It occurred with Horav Yehoshua Brim, zl, a distinguished Rosh Yeshivah in Yerushalyim, who had undertaken to see to the welfare of a widow and her children, whose husband and father had passed away a week before Pesach. He had arranged for a bachur, young man from the yeshivah, to lead the Pesach Seder as it should be. On Pesach night, he told his family that he would be home a little bit later than usual, since he was dropping by the widow's home to make sure everything was in order.

After davening, Horav Brim visited the widow and noticed that the bachur who was to "lead" the Seder had not yet arrived. The widow, who was understandably anxious, began to cry, bemoaning her tragic circumstances. No husband, no father, no one to sit at the head of the table and lead the Seder. Horav Brim was not going to permit this widow to suffer any more anguish. He proceeded to begin the Seder - himself. One can only begin to imagine the great joy in that home as the widow and her children realized that the great Rosh Yeshivah was going to lead their Seder personally.

Horav Brim did not rush the proceedings. He took his time in explaining the story of the exodus from Egypt. He carefully and poignantly focused upon the dire situation of the Jews of the generation, how they were liberated from servitude and swept? from misery to joy overnight. So, too, the Exodus should serve as a portent for us all, lending hope and encouragement where it is needed. As soon as the Seder was over, Horav Brim bid the family Gut Yom Tov and immediately ran home. His family, by now thoroughly puzzled by his tardiness, was waiting for an explanation. "I will explain everything soon, but first we must hurry up the Seder, so that we may eat the Afikoman in its proper time," he said. After they had eaten the Afikoman, he told them the reason that he was late. "But what about your family?" his children asked. "It is a mitzvah to help a widow, but not at the expense of your own family," they demanded. "Let me explain to you why I acted the way I did," he responded.

"When I was much younger, I once went with one of my friends to the Chazon Ish, zl, to discuss a certain situation that troubled us. At the end of the conversation, after we received the Chazon Ish's advice, he turned to us an said, 'One of your friends is in need of a shidduch, suitable mate. We must address this issue as soon as possible.' We, of course, immediately looked into the matter, and in a short while the bachur became engaged to a fine young woman. We immediately notified the Chazon Ish, who was overjoyed. He expressed his interest in attending the "vort," engagement celebration, and asked that we notify him when everything was prepared and they were about to read the "tanaim," agreement between the chason and kallah. "At the moment that they were prepared to read the tenaim, we went to call the Chazon Ish. When we came to his home, we found him speaking to an elderly couple concerning their little store which they managed. He patiently advised them in regard to every aspect of their business. This advice however took over an hour, during which time we waited not so patiently for the Chazon Ish to finish. After all, all the guests were waiting for him to appear, so that the simchah could proceed."

"The Chazon Ish walked the couple to the door and bid them good-night. He immediately took his hat and rushed with us over to the simchah. On the way, he turned to us and said, "You probably are wondering why I took so long with the elderly couple, knowing fully well that everyone at the simchah was waiting for me. You should know that these people are broken Holocaust survivors whose only source of sustenance is their little store. Why they came to me for advice, I do not know. I do know, however, that while I cannot help them financially, I can give them support, hope and encouragement."

"This mitzvah is not only my obligation; it is the collective responsibility of the entire Jewish community - including yourselves and all those who were at the simchah. By waiting for me to join them, they were taking part in the mitzvah of helping another Jew."

"So, too," continued Horav Brim, "it applies to us. Tonight, you could not be of service to the widow, but the obligation to help her still applies. By waiting for me while I led her Seder, you were taking part in the mitzvah!"

What a remarkable perspective on chesed, kindness, and its application from a Torah point of view. The obligation to act kindly with sensitivity and love to a fellow Jew applies not only to the one to whom the mitzvah is availed, but to everyone involved. However remotely one may be affected by this mitzvah, he is obligated to support it. With this in mind, Horav Schwadron comments that Yaakov Avinu also was obliged to protect Leah from humiliation. If that is the case, then Rachel did nothing wrong by giving Leah the sign she received from Yaakov. Indeed, she was doing from a favor by letting him share in the mitzvah of shielding Leah from disgrace. Vignettes on the Parsha And he dreamt, and behold! A ladder was set earthward and its top reached heavenward. (28:12)

Horav Meir, zl, m'Premishlan posits that one's dreams reflect his essence. A person perceives in his dream what he thinks about in his mind. Yaakov Avinu dreamed about a ladder reaching Heavenward. Pharaoh also dreamed. He dreamed about seven cows.


Your offspring shall be as the dust of the earth. (28:14)

Minchah Belulah observes that the dust of the earth is tread upon by everyone. In the end, however, man is buried in and covered by the dust of the earth. Klal Yisrael will regrettably also be tread upon by the nations of the world from exile to exile. In the end, they will be liberated in the Final Redemption.


Look the day is still young; it is not yet the time to bring in the livestock. (29:7)

Horav Naftali, zl, m'Ropshitz notes that every number from one to nine can be combined to equal ten except for the number five. Likewise, every number from ten to ninety can be combined to equal one hundred, except for the number fifty. Five and fifty stand alone; they have no partner, other than themselves. The "hay" and the "nun" of the word "hain" represent the numbers five and fifty, respectively. This is the meaning of the pasuk:As long as we act in the manner reflecting the letters corresponding to the word, "hain," as long as there is no unity among us, the time is not yet ripe for the ingathering of the exiles.


And he loved Rachel even more than Leah. (29:30)

Horav Levi zl, m'Berditchev adds a new twist to the meaning of the pasuk. Yaakov loved Rachel because it was through her that he was able to marry Leah. In an alternative exegesis, he explains that Yaakov develpoed an "extra" love for Rachel because of her exemplary devotion to her sister.


Let my integrity testify for me in the future. (30:33)

Yaakov Avinu is outraged at Lavan's accusations, charging that Lavan had unilaterally changed the terms of their agreement a hundred times. Consequently, Yaakov was compelled to resort to several stratagems to outwit Lavan and retain what was rightfully his. The Chasam Sofer notes that throughout history every "Yaakov," ie. Jewish person/leader, had to put up with a "Lavan." Regrettably, not every "Lavan" had a "Yaakov" that could stand up to his challenge. There is no shortage of "Lavans," but someone of the caliber of Yaakov Avinu- with his integrity, moral rectitude and fighting spirit-is a commodity hard to find.

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