by Daneal Weiner
tells the story of the birth of most of the Tribes of Israel. Paramount to this is story beneath the story. That which we’ve been working towards in all the previous parshas. The birth of the two messianic lines, the Mashiach ben Yosef and the Mashiach ben David, through Yehudah. These events are very relevant to this month, Kislev, which brings us Chanukah and the illumination of the light of Messianic times.
The messianic light of Chanukah actually stands contrary to an axiom of our Sages, that the Shchinah- Presence of Hashem never descends lower than 10 tefachim from the ground. Jewish law tells us to specifically set up our menorahs lower than 10 tefachim. Mystically they break the bonds of Din- Judgment, which hold back the Divine Presence from that final descent. With the power of these lights comes an influence of the 13 attributes of Mercy of Hashem. With each light we draw mercy from one attribute until the final night, which draws from the final six.
These ideas being part and parcel to events in our parsha, within our parsha we must find allusions to these events. With the birth of Yehudah, Leah says, “This time let me gratefully praise Hashem.” In the Gemorah Shabbos our Sages established the holiday of Chanukah with “praise and gratitude” to Hashem.
With the birth of Yosef, Rachel says, “May Hashem add on for me another son.” Regarding the dispute between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel as to how to light the candles, halacha goes according to Hillel who says to light one the first day and add on another as we go. May Hashem add on for me another son- Yosef Hashem li ben achier = 477 = Ner Chanukah l’mateh meiyud- The Chanukah lights [are placed] lower than 10.
The Zohar compares pre-messianic times to the 70 cries of a woman in labor. Responding to these cries, King David wrote the 70 words of Psalm 20, “May Hashem answer you on your day of distress.” Elsewhere, Psalm 29, King David incorporated the expression “kol Hashem”- the voice of Hashem, 7 times. The 7 correlates to the 70. The final “kol Hashem” is the culmination of the 70 cries. The 7th one goes, “Kol Hashem yecholel ayalos.”- The voice of Hashem frightens the hinds (female deer). What is the connection?
Our Sages explain that the hind has a very narrow birth canal making it difficult for her to give birth. Rashi on the verse says that the Kol Hashem is thunder which startles the hind. This reaction from fright gives the necessary push she couldn’t have mustered on her own.
The Zohar, however, says Hashem arranges for a snake to happen by and bite her at the critical moment, allowing her to finally deliver her newborn. The Zohar is undoubtedly following the lines of its previous analogy, events just prior to the arrival of our Mashiachs.
The Divrei Yoel explains a paralleling Midrash of our parsha. While Yaakov was on his way to Lavan’s he said, “I raise my eyes to the hills, from where will come my help?” We know this as the opening line of Psalm 121. Contextually, the Midrash explains that Yaakov’s grief was from having been stripped of all his worldly possessions by Eliphaz, son of Eisav. He now would greet his bride-to-be empty handed, unlike Eliezer who had 10 camels laden with gold, silver and fine clothes.
The Divrei Yoel explains that certainly Yaakov wouldn’t grieve for lack of material possessions. Rather, he knew his leaving the land of Israel portended the exile of his descendants. Having been stripped of his possessions he foresaw the difficulty Israel would have in exile. He feared that poverty and oppression would cause Israel to despair of their redemption and lose faith in Hashem. He then said, as the Psalm and the Midrash continues, “My help will come from Hashem, who makes heaven and earth.” There is no reason to despair. If Hashem can create a universe from nothing, He can certainly bring redemption when it seems farthest away. “He neither slumbers nor sleeps, the Guardian of Israel… Hashem will protect you from every evil.” From Lavan and Eisav. “He will guard your soul” from the angel of death. “He will guard your departure and arrival.” Our parsha is Vayaitsay Yaakov, Yaakov’s departure. And our father, Yaakov, wants us to have faith, for we are assured of our Mashiachs’ arrivals.
Isaiah prophecies of the day of the final deliverance in a song that will be sung in the land of Yehudah, undoubtedly a song of praise and gratitude. He says, “Open the gates so the righteous nation, keeper of the faith, may enter!” Keeper of the faith- shomer emunim = 693 = Kol Hashem yecholel ayalos- The voice of Hashem frightens the hinds. The 7th kol and the 70th cry is a matter of faith.
The Zohar writes that the 25 days of Kislev, till the start of Chanukah correspond to the 25 letters of the verse, “Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad”- Hear Israel. The L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One. The 20th Psalm with its 70 words for the 70 cries, it concludes, “Hashem hoshea hamelech ya’aneinu b’yom koreinu.”- Hashem saves! The King answers us on the day we call out. The challenge of the birth pangs of the Mashiach is our faith in Hashem, which is exemplified in the expression, Shema Yisrael. Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad = 1118 = Hashem hoshea hamaelch ya’aneinu b’yom koreinu.
Yaakov’s departing for Charan alludes to Charon af- [Hashem’s] anger flared. Yaakov’s heading from Israel was the Children of Israel’s exile from Israel, when Hashem’s anger would flare on the stone and wood of the Temple. Yaakov was preparing the way for his descendants to endure that exile.
On his way he stops in a place and has a dream. Vayifgah bamakom- he encountered the place, is how the verse says it. A Midrash says Yaakov encountered the place like hitting a wall. The Ruzhiner Rebbe would say this Midrash foretold the end of days when faith in Hashem will be like grabbing on to a smooth vertical wall.
Rashi offers a second explanation of “Vayifgah,” it’s an expression of prayer. His comment is reminiscent of the end of Psalm 20, “Hashem hoshea hamaelch ya’aneinu b’yom koreinu.” The 70th word is koreinu, another expression of prayer. Koreinu, its root korei, is also an expression of Torah study. Both prayer and Torah study speak to Hashem. Both show Him you have faith in Him. Both show, contrary to the popular opinion, recognition that our efforts are meaningless and all results are only from Hashem. So stopping to pray and/or study couldn’t possibly diminish our income. Vayifgah bamakome = 357 = Koreinu.
This place is the place of the future Temples. Yaakov sets up a monument and pours oil on it. Since we know he is empty handed where did this oil come from. It was obviously prepared for him and revealed to him from on High. This is the oil of Chanukah. Yaakov makes a pact with Hashem. The next verse says, “Vayisa Yaakov raglav- And he lifted his feet, to head east. He lifted his feet, he elevated the lowly generation of the footsteps of the Mashiach. He infused them with the belief necessary to endure their exile.
Two weeks back we were introduced to the Prophet Chavakuk. He prophesied in the time of Menashe. Israel had fallen to such an incredibly lowly state that Chavakuk had to encapsulate the entirety of mitsvos into one bite-size adherence which could bring them back to all 613. That one was V’tsaddik b’emunaso yichyeh- the righteous shall live by his faith. Vayisa Yaakov raglav = 748 = V’tsaddik b’emunaso yichyeh.
When Eisav’s angel was defeated by Yaakov the angel called him Israel. That would be his name in his elevated state. Otherwise the Torah still calls him Yaakov. The nation of Israel would also waver in their standing with Hashem. A little over 300 years later Yaakov’s descendants would be standing at the shores of the newly reunited waters of the Reed Sea. The Torah would testify at that time that Israel “Believed in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant.” At that moment they are truly a nation of Israel. At such times Hashem says of us, “Li Rosh”- You are to Me a head. This accolade is rearrangement of the letters of the word Yisrael, itself, as heard from Yirmiyah. The essence of Yisrael is alluded to in its expanded gematria (spelling out each letter); Yud-vav-dalet, Sin-yud-nun, Reish-yud-shin, Aleph-lamed-phey, Lamed-mem-dalet = 1075 = Eirastich Li be’emunah- You are betrothed to Me with faith.
When Israel falls however, we drop from Yisrael to the status of Yaakov- from ekev- heel. Our faith goes from being a matter of fact to a matter of survival. We no longer act as the betrothed faithful of Hashem but it is only our faith, in our lowest of times, which will which eventually re-elevate us to our pristine state. The expanded gematria of Yaakov is Yud-vav-dalet, Ayin-yud-nun Kuf-vav-phey, Veis-yud-sav = 748 = V’tsaddik b’emunaso yichyeh.
The oil Yaakov found was an oil of faith. It foretold of the faithful Jews who would hold firm in their faith, against an undefeatable opposition, and miraculously defeat them. With this Yaakov infused into the final generation, a “Yaakov” generation the faith necessary to overcome their enemies. With this Yaakov lifted his feet and headed to the land of the easterners. Towards the land of the easterners- Artsa b’nei Kedem = 502 = Edom Yishmael.
Yaakov reaches a well and meets some shepherds. “Where are you from?” he asks. Meicharan anachnu- We are from Charan. We are the inhabitants of that place and time where Hashem’s anger flared and He allowed the enemies of Israel to subjugate them and cast them into exile. King David assures us, with his 70 word psalm, that with prayer and study we can vanquish our enemies. The day we call out- Yom koreinu = 413 = Meicharan anachnu.
This parsha is when a lot comes to fruition. In creation, we read “the spirit of Hashem hovered over the face of the waters.” That spirit we are told, is the messianic spirit. Noah thought it merited it when he exited from the ark and planted himself a vineyard. Because in messianic times, wine will not cause the derogatory affects of drunkenness. Avraham then wanted to merit it when he prepared his Passover matzos. But they became spiritually impure. The time was not ripe.
Last week Yitschak’s prayers dug a tunnel past the attribute of Din so that his barren wife might bear children. He succeeded with Rivka but not with Tzion, who is still barren to this day.
And now with Yaakov, he tries to merit the messianic light. He sees it when he sees Rachel but raises his voice and cries because he will not be buried with her. Had he married her first, after her tragically early passing he could have married Leah and brought Yisrael to fruition without the shortcoming of marrying two sisters together. But “Arami oveid avi v’yaired Mitsraymah,” an Aramean [Lavan,] destroyed my father[’s plans or redemption] and he descended to Egypt. Lavan switched daughters and a course of exile had been set. Still, through Yaakov comes manifest the totality of Israel. Physically with the birth of 12 tribes. Spiritually with his defeat of Lavan and Eisav and the angel of Eisav. He lays the base for Israel from his time till the end of time. From the first cry of pain till the 70th. The voice of Hashem frightens the hinds and strips bare the forests- Kol Hashem yecholel ayalos vayechsof ye’aros = 1789 = Shabbos Parshas Vayaitsay.
As we get into Kislev, as we prepare for the Holiday of Chanukah, we must prepare ourselves properly. With prayer, with Torah, with grateful praise of Hashem. If the angel of Eisav drops the temperature, during this awesome month, to discourage us from going to prayer services, we see exactly where to direct our energies to defeat him as our forefather had. If our greatest “inclination” is to shmear through Pesukei Dezimrah, we see exactly where in our prayers we need to increase our focus and understanding. Pesukei Dezimrah means verses of praise. The root of Dezimrah also means pruning. It’s not just the hind Hashem’s voice frightens. It’s also the forests he strips bare. Undoubtedly our prayers, our verses of pruning expedite the arrival of that inevitable time.
May this be the day, the parsha, the time that our 70 cry will have been counted in heaven. May we merit the descendants of Yosef and Yehudah, together, and rejoice with all the children of Tzion.