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DECEMBER 8-9, 2000 12 KISLEV 5761

Pop Quiz: After what event did Ya'akob tell Laban he wanted to go home?

- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"Behold the day is still long; it is not time to bring back the sheep." (Beresheet 29:7)

Ya'akob came to Haran to find a wife as his parents commanded him. He comes to a well which is covered by a large stone, and sees the shepherds just waiting around, wasting time. He first asks them about the welfare of Laban and his family, and then goes on to ask them, "Why are you just lolling around not doing your job? It's not time to go home." To us, it seems that Ya'akob is out of line in criticizing the shepherds. What business is it to him what they are doing? They are not his workers!

The Sforno points out that a righteous person cannot bear to see wrongdoing. When Ya'akob saw them not doing their job, it pained him to see someone stealing from his boss. Therefore, he gave them some constructive criticism. To follow this one step further, when we see something wrong and do not react, that misdeed becomes light in our own eyes. Therefore, it is easier for us to fall into that same trap. Many times, we see things which are incorrect, such as disrespectful behavior, or business practices which are less than honest or ethical. If we have the ability to say something and be heard, we should consider the right way to do it rather than just overlook it. This way we will have fulfilled the misvah of rebuking someone and we will be less prone to be influenced by that behavior. Of course, we cannot always say something; each situation must be judged separately. Ya'akob Abinu is teaching us that we should try not to get used to unacceptable practices, so that we will always remain with our proper standards of conduct. Shabbat Shalom.

- Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Then Ya'akob kissed Rachel and he raised his voice and wept" (Beresheet 29:11)

When Ya'akob first met Rachel he cried. Rashi brings two reasons why he cried. He wept because he foresaw that Rachel would not be buried with him in the Cave of Machpelah. Another reason he wept was because he had come empty-handed. He wanted to give Rachel a gift of jewelry just as Eliezer, his father's servant, gave his mother, Ribkah, when they first met.

When we analyze these two reasons, it seems that the first reason is a serious one and we can understand why Ya'akob was brought to tears. This is something which touches a person's spirituality and the hereafter. However, the other reason seems almost trivial. Giving Rachel jewelry doesn't seem to involve such important spiritual consequences. Giving and receiving jewelry usually involves pleasures of this world, here and now, which doesn't occupy the mind of Ya'akob Abinu. Rabbi M. Blum explains that giving Rachel a gift at that time was the proper thing to do. Acting in a nice way, making a person feel good, is as important as any spiritual endeavor. It is as worthy to cry about acting in an unbecoming way as it is to cry about one's eternal partner. This point is very important when discussing the relationships between husband and wife.

When two people get married, all the relatives and friends bless the new couple with a blessing of building a loyal household in Israel, dedicated to all of the Torah ideals of life. May they have beautiful children, etc. Although these blessings are important, we mustn't forget the foundation of all foundations of marriage. We should hope and pray that the bride and groom act respectfully towards each other, and may they show good character to each other. These things don't seem important to many people and it is something that people usually disregard. However, this subject is of the highest priority. This is the root of peace in the home and if they don't act with respect and good character, not only will they not have a hereafter together, they will have no present together. Shabbat Shalom.


"He will give me bread to eat" (Beresheet 28:20)

According to Rabbi Yehoshua (Midrash Rabbah 70:5), Ya'akob was asking for the Lehem Hapanim - the twelve loaves which were placed weekly on the table in the Mishkan and the Bet Hamikdash. Why would Ya'akob ask now for Lehem Hapanim?

Possibly, the reference to the Lehem Hapanim was an allegory: The twelve loaves were baked on Friday and placed on the table Shabbat morning. They remained there until the following Shabbat morning. Normally, bread which is exposed for eight days becomes stale, but these loaves miraculously remained fresh. When they were removed, they were just as warm and fresh as when they were first put on the table.

Ya'akob spent his life studying Torah in the home of Yitzhak, and later in the Bet Midrash of Shem and Eber. Now he was preparing to go out into the world and encounter Laban and his contemporaries. Unfortunately, many succumb to the temptations and challenges of the world. Ya'akob feared that dealing with the world might influence him to modernize and change his approach to Judaism.

Therefore, in his prayer to Hashem, he asked for the lasting power of the Lehem Hapanim. He was alluding that in the future, his devotion to Torah and misvot would not change. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And of all that You will give me I will give a tenth of it to You" (Beresheet 28:22)

Ya'akob vows that from everything that he will receive from Hashem, he will give one tenth to charity. It may be noted from this verse that the misvah of charity does not apply only to monetary matters, but the misvah applies to anything one receives as Hashem's gift. If one is blessed with wisdom and knowledge, it is imperative for him to share this gift with others who are not as fortunate as he. Rabbi Shimon Shkopf remarked that just like one who is generous with his money merits that his possessions will increase, so too, if one is "charitable" with his skills and talents, he will be similarly blessed by Hashem. It has been noted by many, that only after volunteering and sharing their time in tutoring others, did they themselves succeed in Torah study. This is obviously in the merit of giving charity. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And Laban said: It is not done in our place to give the younger one before the older" (Beresheet 29:26)

With these words Laban included a subtle insult to Ya'akob. He said, "In our place we always insist that the older one marry before the younger one. We are not like you who took away the rights of the firstborn from your older brother Esav."

This is the way a Laban speaks. He uses sarcasm to attack others. If Laban was sincerely concerned with censuring Ya'akob, he should have spoken directly and to the point. A sarcastic remark just causes pain and is not the method of communication to use when you truly want to correct someone. Rarely does sarcasm motivate anyone to improve. Be aware of when you use sarcasm and eliminate it. When it is proper to correct someone, do it with tact and respect for the other person's feelings.

The Brisker Rav explained Laban's reply to Ya'akob as follows: Since in our place the oldest gets married first, you should have realized on your own that what I meant was for you to marry Leah and only then Rachel. This is the way of deceitful people. They claim you are at fault for misunderstanding them. It is not their problem if you do not comprehend accurately.

Beware of people who continually claim that they were misunderstood. Yes, it might be a communication problem. But if it happens frequently, be on the alert for intentional deceit. (Growth through Torah)


This week's Haftarah: Hoshea 11:7 - 12:12 (according to Sephardic tradition).

The prophet Hoshea, who lived during the times of the first Bet Hamikdash reprimands the Ten Tribes of Israel. In particular, he criticizes the rebelliousness of the tribe of Efrayim, who was the leader of the Ten Tribes. In this portion, he makes a number of allusions to Ya'akob's life experiences, such as holding on to his brother's heel in the womb, and emerging triumphant in his battle with an angel. The first pasuk of the haftarah uses a word (telu'im - doubtful), spelled with a 'taf', that is similar to a word in our perashah (telu'im - speckled), spelled with a 'tet'. Although the spelling and meaning is different, the pronunciation is the same, and therefore the haftarah serves as an instant reminder of our perashah.


Once, Rabbi Mordechai Pogremanski had occasion to travel to a distant city. It happened that he was sitting next to another traveler, a Jew who happened to be a shohet (ritual slaughterer) and mohel (ritual circumcisor). The two became so engrossed in conversation that they did not realize that they had missed their stop. The shohet looked out the window and realized that they were in a strange town quite a distance from their intended destination. To make matters worse, it was Ereb Shabbat and no other train was around that could take them back that day. They would have to spend Shabbat in this town far away from Jewish civilization.

The shohet was very worried: where would they find a Jewish family to host them? Where would they find kosher food for Shabbat? Rav "Mottel" told him, "Do not worry. A Jew never strays on the road. Every place that he comes to is Providential, ordained by Hashem for a purpose." With these words in mind, they descended the train and started out into the town in search of one of their co-religionists. They quickly learned that this was a gentile town; no Jews were to be found anywhere. The shohet worried, while Rabbi Pogremanski maintained his conviction that they were here for a purpose, yet to be revealed. After awhile, they discovered that there was one solitary Jew living in the town. They immediately proceeded to locate his home. When they arrived at the home of the Jew, a man in a state of shock greeted them. He had never before seen two Jews come to his door. Suddenly, the shock gave way to great emotion, as tears began streaming down the Jew's face. After a few moments, he was able to constrain himself long enough to welcome his guests amid great joy and emotion. "What great merit I have that Abraham Abinu and Eliyahu Hanabi have come to grace my house," he excitedly blurted out. When they looked at him in amazement, he related the following story: "A week ago, my wife gave birth to a healthy little boy. Today is the eighth day, the day that should have been his Berit Milah. My mind has been overwhelmed with the question, 'Who will be his mohel, who will give him a Berit Milah?' All day I have been standing in prayer, crying out my heart to Hashem to hear my plea. Please Hashem, send me someone to perform the Berit Milah on my son. Undoubtedly, the two of you have been Heaven-sent for this purpose. Hashem has listened to my prayers."

As mentioned, the shohet was also a mohel. He performed the Berit Milah, according to halachic tradition, with Rav Mottel serving as sandak, who holds the infant during the procedure. One can only begin to imagine the joy and happiness that permeated that home during that memorable occasion. As they left after Shabbat to return to their respective homes, Rav Mottel turned to his fellow traveler, commenting, "See, I told you that a Jew never goes astray on the road. It is all with a purpose." (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: After the birth of Yosef.

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