Dvar Torah Vayeitzei — Monuments and Meals

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    Vayeitzei — Monuments and Meals
    ויאמר יעקב לאחיו לקטו אבנים ויקחו אבנים ויעשו גל ויאכלו שם על הגל
    And Yaakov said to his brothers, “Gather stones!” So they took stones and made a mound, and they ate there on the mound (Bereishis 31:46).
    When Yaakov made a peace treaty with Lavan, a mound of stones was erected as a permanent sign of their accord. The pasuk tells us that after laying the first stone, Yaakov instructed his brothers to continue piling stones. Citing the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 74:13), Rashi writes that Yaakov’s brothers were none other than his own sons. This is because they acted like brothers, who draw close during times of trouble or war.
    The Netziv (Haamek Davar ad loc.) offers a different reason for calling them brothers, but first he asks a question on this Rashi: Why did Yaakov instruct his sons to help build the mound and not command his servants to do so?
    Yaakov strived to live in peace and tranquility with other men, no matter how they treated him. (See also Haamek Davar 32:26.) Even after the aggressive and hostile treatment he received from Lavan, he took great pains to pursue peace and even prepared a meal to draw Lavan’s heart close. Yet it was not enough for him to be a man of peace; he desired to accustom his children to pursue the same precious path. For this reason, the Netziv explains, Yaakov got his children involved and did not leave the creation of the mound to mere servants. He wanted his sons to participate and experience firsthand the lengths to which one must go for peace.
    This is why, the Netziv continues, Yaakov referred to them as his brothers, and not his sons, when telling them to lay the stones. No doubt, they would have complied had he referred to them as sons. A good son listens to his father; they would have done no less. But the lesson would have been lost. They would have schlepped the stones in order to honor their father’s wishes, not in order to pursue peace. However, by elevating them from sons to brothers, by referring to them as equals and not filial subordinates, he allowed for the righteousness of the deed itself to penetrate their psyche. They were not merely being good sons instinctively obeying a parent, but grown men and allies engaging in the pursuit of peace.
    Perhaps we can learn from here that in certain instances, it may be a good idea to take parental authority out of the equation. If we refer to our children as equals, we can afford them the opportunity to participate and grow, rather than work and obey. We must learn to walk the tightrope of knowing when to assert ourselves and refer to them as sons, and when to empower them and refer to them as brothers.
    This can be seen elsewhere in the parashah, as well. Before Yaakov left the house of Lavan, the pasuk tells us (31:4), “Vayishlach Yaakov vayikra le’Rachel u’le’Leah hasadeh el tzono — Yaakov sent and summoned Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock.” Even though he had been instructed by Hashem Himself to leave (v.3), Yaakov still wanted to discuss the situation with Rachel and Leah. According to the Shelah (Derech Chaim Tochechos Mussar, Parashas Vayeitzei 44), when a person wants something from his household, he should not force it on them. Rather, he should explain the inherent value of the action, so that they will come to the correct conclusion on their own. Which is exactly what happened here. After hearing him out, Rachel and Leah conceded that it was time to leave, acknowledging that Lavan had not exactly been treating them like a father (14-16).
    A bit later (31:54), when the Torah uses the word “brothers” in connection to Yaakov, it is not referring to his sons: “Vayizbach Yaakov zevach be’har vayikra le’echav le’echol lachem vayochlu lechem vayalinu ba’har — And Yaakov slaughtered a slaughtering on the mountain and invited his brothers to eat bread, and they ate bread and spent the night on the mountain.” After the creation of the mound of stones and the peace accord, when Yaakov ate a meal with his “brothers,” Rashi tells us that this time the word is referring to his friends, who were with Lavan.
    How can the meaning of the word keep changing? (See Sifsei Chachamim for another explanation.)
    The sefer Vayakhel Moshe (ad loc.) tells us a story to explain. Rav Elazar Rokeach, the towering talmid chacham and author of Arbaah Turei Even and Maaseh Rokeach, lived in the city of Brody. Because of his simplicity and humility, however, his brilliance and his righteousness remained a secret. He lived in dire poverty and nobody knew of his suffering. He could not remain in obscurity forever, though, and eventually word got out about his gadlus. In no time, people from cities all over Europe came with offers of positions in rabbanus. All of a sudden, Rav Elazar became very popular; everyone wanted to be his friend.
    Before he left the city of Brody, Rav Elazar made a party for his friends. He used this opportunity to address the gathering — and to deliver a bit of subtle mussar. “I always wondered why Rashi translates ‘achim’ as sons, when discussing how Yaakov told his sons to gather stones, and then switches the meaning to friends a few pesukim later, when speaking about the meal he ate with Lavan.
    “I think the answer is,” continued Rav Elazar with a smile, “because the call to Yaakov’s brothers in the later pasuk was a call to eat bread. Enjoining a stranger to partake of a sumptuous meal is no big deal. In such a case, even a stranger can become a friend, and Lavan’s buddies can become ‘echav,’ Yaakov’s brothers. The earlier pasuk, however, finds Yaakov eliciting help for a meaningful, yet strenuous, task. There was a monument to be built; manual labor was the order of the day. Lavan’s friends were — at least in regard to Yaakov — the fair-weather type; they could not be counted on for assistance. So Yaakov had to call on his foul-weather brothers, his sons, who were with him through thick and thin. They were, as Rashi says, like brothers to him, drawing close during times of trouble and war.
    “The other type of friends,” concluded Rav Elazar, “can only be counted upon for a good meal.”
    The credentials of a true friend and brother in arms are clearly visible by the support they are willing to provide.

    Reb Eliezer

    The ladder united, through its rungs, according to the Ksav Sofer, teaches us how a human being can elevate himself from the ground to the heaven with the help of others. Sulom full with a ‘vov’ is the same gematria as kol, tzom and moman each 136 together 408 as the be’zos’ yova Aharon which refers to teshuva, tefila and tzadah. Yaakov Avinu united all the rocks into one matzeva.
    Yaakov Avinu realized that the thing that separates holiness is the ego, אנכי עומד בין ה’ וביניכם, says the Baal Shem Tov ztz’l that the ego, anochi separates us from Hashem. אכן יש ה’ במקום הזה, I said, if we want holiness in a place, ואנכי לא ידעתי we must set aside the anochi, the ego.

    Reb Eliezer

    When a person speaks during davenen, says the holy Zohar in Parashas Terumah, breaks unity up as above by revealing his ego, showing that he does not care for others, and drives Hashem out who resides where there is unity.

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