Parsha Potpourri: Parshas Vayeitzei


Vayeitzei Yaakov miBe’er Shava vayeilech Charana (28:10)

Although the Torah seems to indicate that upon leaving Be’er Sheva, Yaakov traveled directly to Charan to seek a wife, Rashi writes (28:9) that this wasn’t the case. When piecing together the biographical information provided by the Torah about Yaakov, 14 years of his life are unaccounted for. This corresponds to the time that he spent studying in the yeshiva of Ever prior to setting out for Lavan’s house. If Yaakov was commanded by his parents to run away from his blood-hungry brother and to go find a wife (28:2), why did he first stop at the Yeshiva of Ever to study for 14 years and only then return to the ultimate purpose of his journey?

Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky explains that Ever had seen and lived through the generation of the flood and the generation of the dispersion. As a result, he possessed a unique “Torah” which described how to deal and interact with wicked surroundings. It was specifically at this time, on his way to live with the evil Lavan, that Yaakov felt it necessary to stop and absorb the lessons which would protect and insulate him from the spiritual dangers that awaited him.

 Rashi writes (37:3) that Yaakov taught Yosef everything that he had learned from Ever. Why didn’t Yaakov also share this Torah with his others sons, especially those who were known for their high level of diligent Torah study? Rav Yaakov explains that Rashi is referring to the teachings that he absorbed about how to deal with challenging spiritual environs, which were specifically appropriate for Yosef in his dealings with Potifar’s wife and all that would confront him in Egypt.

Vayachalom v’hinei sulam mutzav artzah v’rosho magiah ha’Shomaymah v’hinei malachei Elokim olim v’yordim bo (28:12)

Rabbeinu Bechaye writes that Yaakov’s dream in which he saw the angels ascending and descending the ladder was no ordinary dream, but was in fact a prophecy. However, the Rambam writes (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 7:4) that a prophet may not receive prophecy at any time that he so desires, as it can come only when a person is happy.

If we stop to consider Yaakov’s circumstances at that time, it is unfathomable how he could be in a state of joy. He was fleeing from the home of his loving parents because his wicked brother threatened to kill him for taking the blessings which he had rightfully purchased. Along the journey, his nephew Elifaz came to kill him, and instead robbed him of all of his earthly possessions, leaving him with nothing. How could Yaakov be happy enough to receive a prophecy in the middle of such tremendous suffering?

The Darkei Mussar answers that Yaakov was on such a high level of trust in Hashem that his faith – and its accompanying internal joy – couldn’t be shaken by any tragedy which appeared to befall him. His unwavering internal belief allowed him to realize that everything which Hashem does is ultimately for the good (Berachos 60b), even when in the midst of it we can’t see or fathom the good, and to remain in a state of such elevated joy that he was able to attain the level of prophecy. As the actions of our forefathers guide us in our lives – we may derive from Yaakov that we must strive to develop within ourselves a rock-solid faith so that no matter what difficulties and suffering we endure in life, we are able to trust in Hashem and live lives full of joy and inner serenity.

Vayashkeim Yaakov ba’boker vayikach es ha’even asher sam m’ra’ashosav vayasem osah matzeiva vayitzok shemen al roshah (28:18)

Upon awakening and realizing the sanctity of the place in which he had slept, Yaakov took the stone upon which he rested, set it up as a pillar to Hashem, and poured oil on its top. Rashi writes (29:11) that Eisav commanded his son Elifaz to chase the fleeing Yaakov and kill him. Elifaz was hesitant to do so, so instead he took all of Yaakov’s possessions. The Gemora in Nedorim (64b) teaches that a poor person is considered as if he is dead, and this was considered a partial fulfillment of his father’s instructions to kill Yaakov. If Yaakov was robbed of all of his possessions, from where did he obtain oil to pour on the pillar?

The Paneiach Raza gives a most amazing and original answer. The one personal item which Yaakov didn’t give to Elifaz was his staff (Rashi 32:11). However, this was no ordinary run-of-the-mill staff. Because Yaakov was so dedicated to his Torah studies, he hollowed it out to store oil inside so that he would always have oil available to enable him to study Torah late at night. It was this very oil which remained with him even after his run-in with Elifaz that he used to pour on the pillar.

Vayaged Yaakov l’Rochel ki achi aviha hu v’ki ben Rivkah hu (29:12)

The Gemora in Megillah (13b) relates that when Yaakov encountered Rochel at the well, he asked her to marry him. She replied in the affirmative, but warned Yaakov that her father Lavan was a trickster and that Yaakov would never be able to outfox him. Yaakov responded that if Lavan will deal with him fairly and honestly, he will happily respond in kind. However, if Lavan attempts to deceive him, he will be Lavan’s “brother” in deceit and will beat him at his own game.

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein relates a fascinating legal query he once received. A young man entered a barber shop and requested that the barber give him a particularly good haircut, explaining that he was a groom who would be getting married that very evening. The greedy barber, aware that there were no competing barbers in the surrounding area and realizing that a groom on the day of his wedding would be quite pressed for time, informed his apparently helpless customer that the fee for the haircut would be double the usual price.

The groom was shocked and disgusted by the barber’s greed, yet he had no choice but to agree to the unfair demands. However, at the end of the haircut, when it was time to pay, he exclaimed, “Why should I pay you even a penny for this haircut? Don’t you know that I have miraculous hair that grows back to its original length just hours after it’s been cut? Your haircut hasn’t helped me in the slightest, and I shouldn’t owe you anything for it!” The astonished barber assured the groom that if he returned in the afternoon looking as he had before the haircut, he would happily give him another one free of charge.

The groom approached Rav Zilberstein with the following legal question: since the barber treated him unfairly and forced him to pay double the regular price, was he permitted to send in his identical twin brother (who hadn’t recently taken a haircut) to receive for free the second haircut which he was unjustly forced to pay for? Although the barber certainly wasn’t deserving of pity, and the groom’s quick thinking in his pursuit of equitable justice was quite original, Rav Zilberstein nevertheless wasn’t keen on his proposed method of being the barber’s “brother” in deceit.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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 Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     Rashi writes (29:25) that in order to prevent potential trickery by Lavan, Yaakov gave certain simanim (signs) to Rochel that only she would know. When Rochel realized that her father Lavan intended to send Leah under the bridal canopy instead of her, she feared the humiliation her sister would face and related the simanim to her so that she could convince Yaakov that she was indeed Rochel. Even if Leah knew the simanim, why wasn’t Yaakov able to recognize that her voice wasn’t that of Rochel? (Chizkuni, Bechor Shor, M’rafsin Igri, Oz V’Hadar Levusha)

2)     Numerous explanations are given for how Yaakov was permitted to marry two sisters in spite of the Torah’s prohibition (Vayikra 18:18) against doing so. What will be their status at the time of the resurrection of the dead, and if he will only be permitted to be married to one of them, to whom will he be rightfully married? (Shu”t Rav Pe’alim Vol. 2 Sod Yeshorim 2)

3)     Why did the barren Rochel become envious of her sister Leah (30:1) only after Leah gave birth to her fourth son, Yehuda, and not previously? (In Every Generation pg. 119-120)

4)     After Rochel attempted to express the depth of her pain at her inability to conceive children, saying that without kids she was like a dead person (30:1), Yaakov grew angry at her. What was wrong with Rochel’s expression of pain that upset Yaakov? (Even Yisroel)

© 2011 by Oizer Alport.