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by Daneal Weiner
May the merit of this Torah bring a refuah and yeshua shlaimah for Gidone Dov ben Yehudis, Simcha Yeshaiya ben Luba Rachel, Devorah Sarah bas Perel Raizel and Rachel bas Pelka.
Last week's parsha ended with Rivka being told that Eisav plans on killing Yaakov. That’s pretty good since Eisav only thought that to himself! Rashi says it was Divine inspiration that told her. Rivka tells Yaakov he has to run for his life and should go to Uncle Lavan in Padan-aram. What will dad have to say? Like the good Jewish mother, Rivka goes to Yitschak and says, "Our sons needs a wife and if he marries a Canaanitess I'll kill myself!" Yitschak suggests him going to Lavan's to find a wife. Great idea! Yitschak calls for Yaakov and tells him the news. The problem with Yitschak not knowing that, really, Yaakov is running from Eisav is that all Eisav has to do is say, "Hey, dad…uh…I haven't seen Yaakov around lately. Ummm, any idea where he is?" This is running for his life?
Didn’t Eisav say to himself he wouldn’t kill Yaakov till after Yitschak died? So what’s the hurry on the worry? Well, you know, when you kind of have your heart set on killing someone…accidents do happen. More than that, we’ll see that when Yaakov first meets Rachel he cries. One explanation is that he could not greet her with the same engagement gifts like those presented to Rivka. Why not? Certainly he was sent to find a wife with a wealth like Avraham gave Eliezer. But what happened was Eisav stationed his son Eliphaz on the road to Lavan’s and ordered him to kill Yaakov! When Yaakov met him the young man was torn between his father’s command and the influence of his grandfather. He wondered how he could honor both! What a guy! He appreciates a mitsva so much that even when his father’s commands him to kill he wonders if there’s a way to honor it! You think that’s appreciation?!? In certain respects the Torah compares a poor man to a dead man. If Yaakov gave everything he had to Eisav’s son, leaving himself penniless, it would be as if he were dead. As if he were killed by the one who made him poor! Yaakov appreciates a mitsva so much he gave over every penny HE had so Eliphaz could have the mitsva!!! Now that’s appreciation! Our point was to show Eisav wasn’t waiting to kill Yaakov after all. Rivka was right again. Yaakov had to hide starting right now!
The final verses last week concluded with Eisav going to the house of Yishmael and taking the "daughter of Yishmael, the sister of Nevios" for a wife. What do we care who her brother was? Rashi says the Torah is telling us Yishmael just died and the brother walked his sister down the isle. Knowing the years of Yishmael’s life and other dates, Rashi now goes through a lengthy calculation to show that 14 years are unaccounted for in Yaakov's life. It must be that he was hiding from Eisav in the Yeshiva of Ehver.
Opens, "Vayaitsay Yaakov miBe'er Shava vayelech Charana."- And Yaakov went out from Be'er Sheva and headed for Charan. Why say the obvious, Yaakov “went out”? Rashi says these seemingly redundant words tell us that when a Tsaddik- a pious man is in a city he is the city's splendor and glory. When the Tsaddik goes out, the splendor and glory goes out 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, gala dinners, tourists, coffee mugs and T-shirts that say, "My other friend is a Tsaddik." The orphans are housed, the poor is fed and the garbage is collected. When the Tsaddik leaves, no more interviews, the tourism stops, the streets get dirty and the city goes plbtlblbtlbt! (pronounced by sticking tongue between lips and blowing) Isn't that what your thinking?
Did you forget about Eisav?!?! Yaakov was hiding!! No interviews! Yaakov redefined the term "low profile." His unpublicized presence alone was the glory and splendor of Be’er Sheva. We can now also understand why out of the 3 Avos- forefathers who came and went from city after city, why the Torah teaches us this lesson here. Because everywhere else their comings and goings were public knowledge.
The Maharsha says Be'er Sheva was the learning center of the world! There were 3 Yeshivas in Be'er Sheva. Shem's, Ehver's and Yitschak's. You'll need the Hebrew on this one but the letters of the 2 words miBe'er Sheva- from Be’er Sheva, can be rearranged to spell Shem, Ehver and Av- father, i.e. Yitschak! And for you Wheel of Fortune fans, Be'er Sheva has the 6 letters necessary to spell out the number of years Yaakov learned there in hiding, arbah asar- 14.
Rav Wolfson explains that during those 14 years of study, Yaakov Aveinu reached a level of kedusha- sanctity that was last present in the world before the sin of Adam! Of the foundation for a people that Hashem was building with the Avos, Yaakov was more than just the finishing touch. He was the combination or rather the unification of his father’s and grandfather’s kochos- strengths. In other words, Yaakov was a center for balancing otherwise sovereign forces. These are Kabbalistic ideas, of course, and I don’t claim to know what I’m talking about. If I understand Rav Wolfson correctly, he is attributing to Avraham and Yitschak an independence which Yaakov brought into harmony. G-d forbid, I’m making them sound loose or out of control. (After all, I don't write for the Jerusalem Post.) Maybe these forthcoming ideas will help make this concept better understood.
Both Avraham and Yitschak had to have a Yishmael and an Eisav. A receptacle, of sorts, of spiritually impure genes which were filtered out of the forefathers and foremothers. Yaakov, however, had 13 righteous children. He couldn’t have done it without his wives, of course, and with G-d’s help we'll see more on that later on. (You know me. What's one more page?!) Next week the angel of Eisav will come to fight Yaakov. Chazal- Our Sages say this angel 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 although Avraham worked on every trait, he epitomized chesed- kindness. Chesed he perfected to it’s fullest. An emphasis of chesed doesn’t frighten the Soton because the just-be-a-good-Jew doesn't endure. That good Jew has good children who give birth to good christians. Yitschak was gevurah- might. Sounds intimidating but that too, on it’s own, didn’t threaten the Soton. Yaakov is Emes- Truth. Torah is Truth. Torah takes Chesed and Gevurah and merges them into the perfect service of Hashem. Torah threatens the existence of the Soton and well it should. Chazal say in the name of Hashem, “I have created an evil inclination and I have created the Torah, it’s cure.” Yaakov, who was Truth/Torah, the Soton came to do battle with.
The next verse in the parsha 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 now one stone under his head. The Midrash says the stones were fighting as to which would support the head of the Tsaddik so Hashem merged them into one stone. Chazal tell us that there were 12 stones which became one. Most obvious of the number 12 is that it signifies the 12 Tribes of Israel. 12 kochos which make the one Klal Yisrael. Yaakov's aforementioned qualities of harmony and unification have become openly manifest. Throw 12 pixie sticks on the table and you have a mess. Add one ingredient, a center around which each stick is harmoniously balanced and the 12 sticks become a cube, a single unit.
After each of the six days of creation it says, "vayihe erev vayihe boker"-and there was evening and there was morning. Sounds like a happy ending but Chazal say this ian indication of disharmony. The word erev itself is a root word that means mixture and that’s before adding its antithesis, boker. For the first six days Hashem saw things were good but there was still disharmony. Like all the forces of nature were struggling for jurisdiction. Only with the addition and sanctification of Shabbos did the universe come to a harmonious rest. Shabbos saw the weekdays created as pairs. She asked Hashem who her partner was? Hashem said, “Yisrael.” Next week Yaakov will get the name Yisrael. Yaakov, unification, balance, harmony, Shabbos. Remember our 12 edged cube? It can also be described as 6 sided cube with Shabbos at it's center.
In some metaphysical sense Yaakov is Shabbos. On Shabbos we refrain from the 39 m’lachos- actions by which Hashem created the universe, so to speak. I read in an Ohrnet that Chazal refer to these 39 m’lachos as 40 minus 1 because there were 40! It was the original creation of something from nothing. Since we will never duplicate that one there’s no need to talk about not doing it on Shabbos. Ergo, only 39 m’lachos. A flash of inspiration just dropped into my head. Good thing it was empty at the time so I could catch it. The 12 edged cube and it’s 13th element, the center, multiplied by the infusion of the kochos of the 3 forefathers which constitutes its make-up (13 x 3) = 39! Cool.
Next Yaakov has a dream about a ladder with angels ascending and descending. Some commentaries say the angles wanted a look at the face they've seen carved on the base of Hashem’s Throne of Glory since creation. Others say they were Yaakov’s escorts. Those ascending accompanied Yaakov within Israel and those descending were to escort him out of Israel. Rav Wolfson brings what is also found in Rav Dessler's Michtav M'Eliyahu that two of the angels ascending were the two sent to Sodom to save Lot and overturn the cities. It took 160+ years before these angels were allowed back up 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 Hashem!? They were banished from heaven. Don’t we learn an angel can only do what Hashem wants it to do? How does an angel sin? It must have been programmed to sin. The point is to teach US something from their mistake. Well, isn't everything to teach us something? Of course. And yet there is still a nature to everything as well.
The Arizal asks, Hashem said He will Personally take the Jews out of Egypt, "I and not an angel." Why not an angel? The Arizal answers because Egypt was so deep into shmuts that if Hashem sent an angel down it would not have survived! What does that means? You’ll have to ask the Arizal. But at the end of Noach the Torah says that Nimrod was a hunter. Rashi says, “He hunted the intellect of briyos- beings and convinced them to rebel against Hashem.” What’s this strange use of the word briyos? Say ‘Men’! Nimrod hunted men! We thought he was a great hunter of beast. Rashi teaches us an incredible insight, he hunted MAN as well! Not to kill them but to turn them away from Hashem! Wow! Who would have thought? Why does Rashi say ‘beings’ and not ‘men’? Because, Chazal say, Nimrod would hunt man and ANGEL alike!!! Human beings and SPIRITUAL beings Nimrod turned against Hashem! You thought that last thought was ‘who would have thought’? Well, think about this one! So whatever Nimrod did to these angels and whatever might have happened to the angel who went to Egypt, Rav Wolfson feels this must have been what happened to the angels by Sodom. They were effected by the evilness...evilism... evildom...by the bad karma and this caused them to ‘sin’. What sin specifically? Sodomites don't recognize Hashem. They caused the angles to not recognize Hashem. [Who was to learn a lesson from these angels? After Miriam’s death, Israel sent some negative karma towards Moshe about the lack of water and Moshe said, “Shall WE bring forth water from this rock?” Oy.] So why is it that after escorting Yaakov the 2 angels are allowed back up?
Hashem’s kindness was to give us many ways to purge ourselves of remnants and traces of our sins. There is regret, refraining from repeating the sin, confession, reparation, suffering, praying, crying, learning Torah...all for some, some for all, depending on the sin. There's one more way. Attaching ones self to a Tsaddik!
Why did Yaakov spend 14 years learning in Yeshivas Ehver? It wasn’t just because it's the Jewish thing to do. Yaakov was 63 years old! 63 years he already studied under Yitschak! Wasn’t that enough? [Wasn’t it time for a real education/job?] Yaakov was about to descend into the very bowels of impurity. Lavan was the pre-Amaleik Amaliek. The pre-Egypt Egypt. As Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky put it, for 63 years Yaakov learned with Yitschak whom was raised in the house of Avraham and whom Hashem did not allow out of Israel. Yitschak’s Torah was ‘Israel’ Torah. But Ehver, son of Shem, son of Noach, he knew the Torah of the times of the Generations of the Flood and of the Dispersion. His Torah was about surviving in amidst the worst corruption. ‘Diaspora’ Torah. That was the Torah perspective Yaakov was in need of on his way to Lavan. Yaakov did not want to have happen to him what could happen to even angels! He prepared himself well. In turn, by the angles of Sodom attaching themselves to Yaakov they received their atonement. By escorting Yaakov who prepared himself precisely where they failed they were able to cleanse themselves and merited their place in heaven. Reality is, a Tsaddik prepares himself in every area. By associating with a Tsaddik we will most certainly gain in the areas where we fall short.
Although Yaakov reached his goal in studying, he was still humble and scared of his chances of success. The two verses we've discussed said that Yaakov headed for Charan and encountered the place (where he gathered the stones to lie down). Sounds like it was on the way. The Gemorah Chullin knows the word encountered is unusual for the presumed context. It concludes the place came to him! Where? At Lavan's!! The Gemorah explains that Yaakov went all the way to Lavan's and only then realized he passed the place where his father and grandfather called out in the Name of Hashem. Yaakov immediately turned to head back. As soon as he set his heart to do so Hashem folded the earth and brought the place to him and he encountered it there, were he stood. The place is the Temple Mount.
There is something called Kfitsas Haderech which is a miraculous shortening of a trip. A long journey taking short time. Still, it puts the person at the place in a miraculously way. The Gemorah Chulin is not saying that here. The place came to Yaakov! The message Hashem gave Yaakov was one of comfort. Yaakov shouldn't worry about spending time with Lavan. Just as the Temple mount would not be affected by Lavan, neither will Yaakov.
Now on the Temple Mount Yaakov establishes the evening service and prays to Hashem. Like Avraham and Yitschak, before him, Yaakov also builds an alter. I can only briefly mention that this parsha falls out in Kislev, the month of Chanukah, and we are already seeing preparations for the holiday. Unlike his father and grandfather, after Yaakov builds his alter he takes some OIL and anoints it! [Even last week, the first Parsha in Kislev, Chanukah was already in the works! We’ve discussed the Menorah being placed within 10 t’fachim of the ground. In the Gemorah, Chazal discuss the height of the Chanukah candles indirectly while talking about a camel laden with produce from the field walking through the market and accidently causing a fire due to candles placed outside the shops. I could say Chazal were tired of talking about oxen and donkeys and chose a camel if (all together now) I were writing for the Jerusalem Post. The truth is our Sages saw the deepest of the deep in last weeks parsha when Rivka, who was riding on her camel [!] saw Yitschak coming in from the field [!] and quickly fell to the ground placing her entire self within 10 t’fachim of it!!! GEVALDIK, Rav Wolfson!! But I digress.]
Yaakov makes it back to a well near Lavan’s and therare THREE flocks with Shepherds already there. (Where have we seen that number before?) Rachel arrives with her flock. Yaakov kisses her and cries. Why did he cry? In Parshas Chayai Sarah we discussed Rashi's answer. Above we discussed the son of Eisav. In line with the previous insights, Rav Wolfson says that Yaakov kissed her just like any Jew desires to kiss something holy, like a Sefer Torah or mezuzah. But Yaakov was now in Lavan’s territory. He kisses a pure and holy 5 year old child on the forehead and all the shepherds say, "Woa! Hey! This guy’s one of us!! (Wink wink! nudge nudge)." Yaakov’s first experience of the filth which was to be his ‘new home’. And so he cried.
Rachel could not have children for 7 more years and Yaakov would not be with her till then. He offered Lavan to work that long for Rachel’s hand in marriage. After being tricked Yaakov offered 7 years again although he married Rachel in advance (right after His and Leah’s Sheva Brachos). After the 14th year Yaakov asks Lavan to let them go. Lavan was no different than the aforementioned shepherds. Lavan says not so fast! Why break up a great act? Verse 30:28, "Specify your wage to me and I will give it." The word the Torah uses for ‘specify’ is nakvah, the same root letters used for nekayvah- female. Lavan was saying to Yaakov, "You worked 7 years each for 2 females. I have females all over the place! Specify another one and we'll go another 7!" So much for the father-daughter relationship.
Verses 30:1-2, “Rachel saw she had not given birth...and envied her sister and said to Yaakov, ‘Give me children.’” [I.e. pray for me.] “Yaakov's anger flared and he said, ‘Am I in place of Hashem that I am holding from you fruit of the stomach?!’” The Midrash says Hashem’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. Why did Yaakov respond that way? We’ll make it worse only to make it better.
Rashi explains that 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 to overturn the decree. Verse 29:31 says, “Hashem saw that Leah was hated and opened her womb.” [She was barren!] Was she hated by Yaakov? Impossible! Verse 29:30 just said Yaakov loved Rachel more. He may have loved Leah less, but hated? Can’t be. The Be'er Yoseph explains verse 31 to mean not “she was hated” but “SHE hated”! Who did Leah hate? EISAV! Through the merit of praying not to marry Eisav, Hashem rewarded her and gave her children. That was Leah's good deed which is obviously impossible for Rachel to duplicate! So she turned to Yaakov for help. He's a Tsaddik ben Tsaddik. His prayers are at least as strong as Yitschak’s who succeeded when he prayed for Rivka. Yaakov responds, “Am I in place of Hashem who has held from Y-O-U children?” Meaning, “I have children through Leah! If after 10 years a wife doesn't bear children she can be divorced for being barren! I put off marrying you for 7 years since I would only be with you for the chance of having children. If you are barren, I'll divorce you and guess what? YOU can marry EISAV!” Rashi on 30:22 says that Eisav had heard Rachel was barren and was anticipating the day! We’ve accomplished the ‘worse’, time for the better! (and fast!)
Yaakov couldn't get angry at Rachel who he loved so much. He put on an act in order to give her exactly what she wanted. Yes, Yitschak did pray for Rivka and Rivka still gave birth to an Eisav! Although Rivka was barren and her giving birth was as a new creation, somehow there were still some remnants of impurity in her make-up which were filtered into Eisav and away from Yaakov. Yaakov came out perfect. Leah and Rachel, as daughter’s of Lavan, even after being barren they would still transmit some spiritual impurity like Rivka did. This couldn’t be because Yaakov knows the time has come and all his children most be perfect. Remember above, a short list how to purge ones self of spiritual contaminants? Leah’s tears and prayers CLEANSED her of her impurities!!! Yaakov couldn’t pray enough to accomplish that for Rachel and Rachel couldn’t pray deeply enough for that herself either! Not till Yaakov put her in Leah’s exact position! “I’ll divorce you and you’ll marry Eisav!” Now Rachel was able to pray like she had never prayed before! GEVALDIK, Be’er Yoseph!
Now we understand Leah naming her first child "because Hashem saw my affliction." The affliction of Lavan's genes! Her second child, "Because Hashem 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- a symbol of how things will remain! It's for sure that all the kids will be Lavan-free!!!
And once Rachel's newly intensified prayers filled their measure "Hashem remembered Rachel" and gave her a son of which she said, "Hashem has taken away my disgrace" of Lavan's genes! And she call him Yoseph meaning, "May Hashem add on another son" because I am CLEAN and I don't have to worry about an Eisav, like Rivka had!!! Double GEVALDIK, Be'er Yoseph!!!
But as noble as Yaakov’s intentions and as happy as the ending was, Hashem let Yaakov know He disapproved of the tactic. “With MORE grief is how you answer a grieving woman? Your children [through Leah] will be humbled before Rachel’s!”
The actions of the ancestors are a portent for the descendants. With Chesed and Gevurah- acts of kindness and prayer Hashem will overturn nature for us. Hashem also extends the merits of the ancestors to 2000 generations. In our forefather’s and foremother’s merits and in our own may Hashem grant a refua and yeshua shlaima to all Klal Yisrael.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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