Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues
by Daneal Weiner
From the Orchards of Jerusalem
Last week's parsha ended with Rivka overhearing that Eisav wanted to kill Yaakov. She tells Yaakov he has to run for his life and should go to Uncle Lavan in Padan-aram. What about dad? Like the good Jewish mother, Rivka goes to Yitschak and says, "Our sons needs a wife and if heá á marries one of these Canaanitess' I'll have to kill myself!" Yitschak suggests him going to Lavan's to find a wife. "Great idea!" Yitschak calls in Yaakov and tells him the news. The problem with Yitschak not knowing that Eisav wants to kill Yaakov is that all Eisav has to do is say, "Hey dad? I haven't seen Yaakov around. Ummm, any idea where he went???" The Torah tells us that indeed Eisav found out Yitschak told Yaakov to go to Lavan's. This is running for his life?
Then the parsha really ends with Eisav going to the house of Yishmael and taking the "daughter of Yishmael, the sister of Nevios" for a wife. Rashi goes through a calculation to show that 14 years are missing from Yaakov's life and it must be that he was hiding from Eisav in the Yeshiva of Ehver. Rashi also says his hiding could not be in Charan because he was there for only 20 years and all are accounted for.
opens saying "Vayaitsay Yaakov miBe'er Sheva vayelech Charana." "And Yaakov went out from Be'er Sheva and headed for Charan." Rashi says that since it's obvious he went out these seemingly redundant words must tell a new message. It teaches us that a Tsaddik in a city is the city's splendor and glory. When the Tsaddik leaves, the splendor and glory leaves with him.
I know what you Americans are thinking. (I'm an American. That's how I know.) Of course a Tsaddik is the splendor of the city! There are local talk shows, radio interviews, newspaper articles, dinners, tourists, coffee mugs, and T-shirts that say, "My other friend is a Tsaddik." Orphans are housed, the poor is fed, the garbage is collected, When the Tsaddik leaves, no more interviews, the tourism stops, the streets get dirty and the city goes down the tubes. Isn't that what your thinking?
Did you forget about Eisav?!?! Yaakov defined the term "low profile." The glory and splendor was his presence alone. A level of spirituality, an aura that can't help but be felt by all. But the awareness of that feeling is when it suddenly disappears. We can also understand that of all 3 Avos (forefathers) who came and went from city after city, the Torah teaches us this lesson here.
The Maharsha shows that Be'er Sheva was the learning center of the world. There were, in fact, 3 Yeshivas there. Shem's, Ehver's and Yitschak's. You're going to need the Hebrew on this one but the words in the verse "miBe'er Sheva" can be rearranged to spell "Shem", "Ehver" and "Av" (father, ie: Yitschak) And for you Wheel of Fortune fans, "Be'er Sheva" also has the letters necessary to spell the number of years Yaakov hid/learned there, "arbah asar".
Rav Wolfson explains that during those 14 years of study, Yaakov Aveinu reached a level of kedusha that was tantamount to before the sin of Adam! Of the foundation H' was building with the Avos, Yaakov was more than just the finishing touch. He was the combination or rather unification of his father and grandfather. How about; Yaakov was a center for balancing otherwise sovereign forces. (I can't take credit. I had to go to the thesaurus for `sovereign.' It was very hard trying to describe Avraham and Yitschak sans Yaakov with out, G-d forbid, making them sound, hapless and out of control. After all, I don't write for the Jerusalem Post.)
Both Avraham and Yitschak had to have a Yishmael and an Eisav, respectively- a depository, of sorts, of their spiritually impure genes- whereas Yaakov had 13 pure and righteous children. Of course he had help from his wives and b'ez'H' we'll have room for that later on. (You know me. What's one more page?!) Next week we'll see the angel of Eisav coming to fight Yaakov. Chazal say this is the Soton himself (a.k.a. the evil inclination, a.k.a. the angel of death)! Why didn't the Soton come to fight Avraham or Yitschak? Because Avraham was an emphasis in chesed. This didn't frighten the Soton because the just-be-a-good-Jew doesn't endure. The good Jew has good children who give birth to good christians. Yitschak- we'll see next week. Heh heh heh.
Back in the parsha, the next verse says that Yaakov encountered a place and spent the night. He gathered stones under his head and he lay down. When he woke in the morning the Torah indicates that there was one stone under his head. The Midrash says the stones fought to support the head of the Tsaddik and Hashem merged them all together. The Sages further tell us that these were 12 stones which became one. Most obvious of the number 12 is the Tribes of Israel. 12 forces which all combine to make the one Klal Yisrael. Yaakov's quality of unification is becoming openly manifest. Throw 12 pixie sticks on the table and you have a mess. Now add a one more ingredient. A center which binds them equally. Now the 12 sticks make a cube, a single unit. What else about a cube? It can be described as 6 sided with it's center #7.
All six days of creation we have "vayihe erev vayihe boker"-and there was evening and there was morning, which our Sages say is an indication of disharmony. Only with the sanctification of Shabbos did the universe come to rest. Shabbos saw all the days created as partnerships, She asked H' who her partner was? H' said Yisrael. Next week Yaakov will get the name Yisrael.
By the way, as long as I spent so much time on it I may as well embellish on something said back by Breishis. The Hebrew `Breishis' can be rearranged to form the words `Barah Shis'- `He created the Shis' which is Ehven Shisia. After centuries, science has finally tripped onto the idea of the big bang. All of the universe exploding from a single point. That point is the Ehven Shisia located under the Temple mount. My bringing it up now is because `ehven' means `stone', which we are talking about now and undoubtedly it is 6 sided stone with 12 edges.
Yaakov is Shabbos, in some metaphysical sense. On Shabbos we refrain from 39 activities which G-d used to create the universe. As the Ohrnet will tell you, Chazal call these 39 activities 40 minus 1 because the fortieth, activity was creating something from nothing. Not something we can do in order to not do it on Shabbos. We give it an honorable mention by calling 39 as 40 - 1. A flash of inspiration just dropped into my head that the 12 edged cube times 3 equals 36 plus the center times 3 equals 39. Ergo, from nothing, 39 Divine forces are created and bound into a point in spacelessness from which all creation came forth. The 3 is the forefathers which are all manifest in their 12 descendants. I like it. All I have to do know is find someone with a long white beard who says the same thing and we can call it emes. Otherwise, print it and wrap some fish.
Next Yaakov has a dream about a ladder with angels ascending and descending. Some say they were escorts of Yaakov. Others say they wanted to see the face they've seen carved on G-ds Throne of Glory. Rav Wolfson brings what is also found in Rav Dessler's Michtav M'Eliyahu that two of the angels were those who went to Sodom to save Lot and overturn the cities. It took them 160+ years to return from their jobs because they were punished for a slip of the lip! They said to Lot "WE are going to destroy this place." What's this `we' stuff? How about "G-d is going to..." It is only now when Yaakov is on his way to Lavan's that these two angels are finally allowed back up. How does an angel sin? An angel can only do what G-d wants it to do so if the angels sinned, they were `programmed' to. The point then is to teach us something. Isn't everything? Of course, there is a nature to it as well.
The Arizal notes that Hashem said, regarding taking the Jews out of Mitsrayim, "Me and not an angel." Why not an angel? Because Mitsrayim was so deep in shmuts that if G-d sent an angel down it wouldn't have survived! What ever that means! We do read about 2 `fallen angels' at the end of parshas Breishis. Rav Wolfson feels this must have been the situation by Sodom as well. The angels were `effected' by the evilness...evilism... evildom...by the bad people and this `caused' them to `sin'. What sin specifically? Sodomites don't recognize G-d. Neither did the angels. So why are they allowed back up now?
There are many ways to make purge ourselves of traces of sin. There is refraining from repeating the sin, financial reparation, personal suffering, praying, crying, learning Torah...all for some, some for all, depending on the sin committed. There's one more way.
Why did Yaakov spend his 14 years learning in yeshiva? Not just because it's the Jewish thing to do. Yaakov was preparing himself to descend into the bowels of impurity. Lavan was the new Sodom. The pre-Egypt Egypt. As Reb Yaakov Kamenetsy said, for 63 years Yaakov learned with Yitschak. Yitschak who was raised in the house of Avraham and who G-d did not allow out of Israel. But Shem lived through the Generations of the Flood and the Dispersion. His Torah was about surviving in a world of corruption. That is the angle of Torah Yaakov was in need of. Yaakov did not want to have happen to him what happened to those two angels. In turn, by attaching themselves to this Tsaddik, the angels received their reparation. By escorting him they were able to cleanse themselves and finally merit their place in heaven.
The thing about a Tsaddik is that they do pretty much EVERYTHING the way we're all supposed to. By associating ourselves with a Tsaddik there will inevitably be some part of him that will be exactly what the doctor ordered for us! And as we already saw, if stones have the common sense to want to service a Tsaddik, how much more so should we!
Although Yaakov had his goal in studying, he was still scared of his chances of success. The two verses we've discussed said that Yaakov headed for Charan and encountered the place. Sounds like on the way. The Gemorah Chullin knows the word `encountered' is unusual for the circumstance. It says the place came to him! At Lavan's!!! The Gemorah explains that Yaakov reached Lavan's and then he realized he passed the place where his father and grandfather called out in the Name of Hashem. So he immediately turned to head back. As soon as he set his heart to do so G-d folded the earth and brought the place to him and he `encountered' it. The place is the Temple Mount.
A few times we see the idea of Kfitsas Haderech which is a like a three day trip taking only one day. That would put the person at the place but in a miraculously short period of time. The Gemorah is definitely not saying that here. The place came to him! The message from G-d is one of comfort. Yaakov shouldn't worry about going to Lavan's. It is indeed possible for holiness to come there and return unscathed.
Yaakov establishes the evening service and he makes a deal with H' and like Avraham and Yitschak, he builds an alter. I can only briefly mention that just as this parsha falls out first in the new month of Kislev, the month of Chanukah, we already are seeing preparations for the holiday. Unlike his predecessors, Yaakov comes up with a some OIL and anoints the alter.
Yaakov makes it to a well near Charan and there are THREE flocks with Shepherds there. I've seen that number somewhere before. Rachel arrives with her flock. Yaakov kisses her and cries. Why the crying? In Chayai Sarah we discussed Rashi's answer. Another explanation is that Eliphaz, son of Eisav took all Yaakov's possessions so he was empty handed, unlike his father who sent Rivka riches. Rav Wolfson says that Yaakov kissed her just like any Jew desires to kiss something holy. But Yaakov was standing in Lavan territory. He kisses a pure and righteous 5 year old child on the cheek or forehead and all the shepherds say, "Woa! Hey! This guys is one of us!! wink wink! nudge nudge." His first taste of his new environment. And so he cried.
Lavan was certainly no better than the shepherds. Rachel could not have children for 7 more years so Yaakov offered to work that long for her hand in marriage. After being tricked he offered 7 years again although he married her a week after marrying Leah. After the 14th year Yaakov asks Lavan to let them go. Lavan says not so fast. Why break up a great act? Verse 30:28, "Specify your wage and to me and I will give it." The word in the Torah for `specify' is `nakvah'. The word for `female' is spelled the same, `nekayvah.' Lavan was saying to Yaakov, "You worked 14 years for 2 women. I have women all over the place! Just pick another one and we'll go another round!" So much for the father-daughter relationship.
30:1,2 "Rachel saw she had not given birth...and envied her sister and said to Yaakov, `Give me children.'" ie; pray for me. "Yaakov's anger flared and he said, `Am I in place of H' that I am holding from you fruit of the stomach?!'" The Midrash says H's response to Yaakov was, "This is how you answer a barren women? In your life your sons will stand before her sons!" The Be'er Yoseph knows that we're dealing with Yaakov Aveinu, not Al Bundy. What was he angry about? What did G-d mean `your sons'?
Rashi explains Rachel envied Leah's good deeds. Why would this jealousy cause her to ask Yaakov to pray for her? Just go and duplicate the good deeds!? Chazal explain that Leah's eyes were described as soft because she knew she was destined to marry Eisav and cried in prayer her whole life to overturn the decree. Verse 29:31 said that H' saw that Leah was hated. By Yaakov? Impossible! 29:30 just said Yaakov loved Rachel more than Leah! Loved less but hated?? The Be'er Yoseph says not `she's hated' but SHE Hated! Who? EISAV! Through the merit of a life of praying not to marry Eisav, H' rewarded her and `opened her womb' (meaning she was barren!) and gave her children. That was Leah's good deed and one impossible for Rachel to duplicate! She could never pray from so deep with such emotion, not having feared what Leah feared. So she turned to Yaakov for help. He's the Tsaddik ben Tsaddik. His prayers are strong.
Yaakov's response "I am in place of H' who has held from Y-O-U children?" Meaning, "I have children! If after 10 years a wife doesn't have kids she can be divorced for being barren! I put off marrying you for 7 yrs since I would not lay with you but for the chance of offspring. If you can't have kids, I'll divorce you and guess what? YOU can marry EISAV!" Rashi even comments that Eisav heard she was barren and was anticipating the day.
Yaakov couldn't possibly get angry at Rachel. He put on an act in order to give her exactly what she wanted. Now Rachel now felt herself in Leah's old position! Now she was able to pray like she had never prayed before! As noble as his intentions were, G-d let him know this is not the way things are done! "I have children!" Is that the way you answer? Yours will stand before her's.
This same method will be used by Yehoshua towards Moshe and in the Prophets by Chanah towards Pnina. G-d didn't like it any better than. (By Yoseph and his brothers it must be that his dreams, the prophecy of the stalks and stars bowing, gave him the permission to manipulate his brothers into a position to do tshuvah.)
One last big question. Granted, noone wants to marry Eisav, but what is it that crying about it merits children??? What's the connection? We said a sin is a blemish on the soul. There's another way for a soul to be blemished?
How does Yitschak, the perfect sacrifice, give birth to an Eisav? Where did such lousy genes come from? From the genes of Rivka! She was Lavan's sister! We said last week being barren and then being given the miracle of childbirth made the offspring a new lineage, no longer related. To Yaakov and Eisav, Uncle Lavan is not really an Uncle. But Rivka's DNA did come from the same house as Lavan. She had major tuma in her genes. She overcame them all and was an absolute Tsaddekes but was a carrier non-the-less.
Leah and Rachel were the Lavan's daughters! Their label's must have read "WARNING! CONTAMINATION!" They must be carriers too!? Remember the various ways of purging our souls of blemishes? Their purging of these blemishes came through the personal suffering and the prayers and tears of thinking of having to marry Eisav! Now Leah can name her first child "because G-d saw my affliction" of Lavan's genes. Her 2nd "Because G-d heard I hated" marrying Eisav. Her third because "Now my husband will become attached to me for giving him three sons" Three is a chazakah! Now it's for sure that all her offspring will all be pure & holy!!!
And once Rachel's intense prayers filled their measure "G-d remembered Rachel" and gave her a son of which she said, "G-d has taken away my disgrace" of Lavan's genes! And she call him Yoseph meaning, "May G-d add on another son" because I'm CLEAN and I don't have to worry about one of each like Rivka had!!! GEVALDIK!!! GESHMAK!!! Thank you Be'er Yoseph!!! Everybody dance!!!!!
And speaking of dancing, tap into (that really killed it, didn't it?) the energy of Avraham, Yitschak and Yaakov and all Klal Yisrael and get ready for Chanukah by having yourselves blemish free Shabbot Shalom!
Back to this week's parsha| Previous Issues