Vertluch: Parshas Vayetzei


After Yaakov worked fourteen years for Leah and Rachel, and settles his differences with Lavan -the pasuk states. ‘And Yaakov heard the words of Lavan’s sons saying ‘Yaakov has taken all that belongs to our father, and that which belonged to our father he amassed all his wealth.’ And Yaakov saw the face of Lavan, behold, it was not towards him (in his favor) as in earlier days.’ And Hashem said to Yaakov ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your birth place, and I will be with you.’ (31; 1-3)

The first point to ponder, says Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh, is what seems to be the connection between these pasukim? Why is the commandment of return to your home prefaced with the fact that Yaakov started feeling uncomfortable in the home of Lavan? There seems to be some sort of connection between Yaakov seeing the ‘handwriting on the wall’-that he wasn’t welcome anymore-with the fact that he should go back to his land. What is that connection?

Secondly, after Hashem tells Yaakov to return to his land you would expect him to go inside, pack his bags and leave. But instead he calls both his wives out and gives a whole long explanation as to the reasons why he feels the time has come for them to leave. At the end of the conversation he adds, by the way Hashem also told me to go. His wives answer that yes it’s not so good here –‘even we’re strangers here’ (31; 15)-and then they tell him and Hashem also said to go so whatever Hashem says let’s do. Why the justification here? The response seems a bit odd. What is the whole rationalization here?

The Alter from Kelm, in the name of his rebbi, Reb Yisroel Salanter, Zt”l, offers a tremendous insight to us, which explains the unusual responses.

Says the Alter, we learn from here that every single time a person feels overwhelmed by a nisayon, and the fact that the Torah forbids this type of behavior is not enough of a deterrent, he can try a different approach. He should try to minimize the magnitude of the nisayon that is before him. He should attempt to logically comprehend why it doesn’t make any sense to succumb to this temptation. He can try to visualize the repercussions his actions may have and what is at stake to be lost. It should reach the point where is amazed that such a thought ever entered his mind. And while there is always the underlying fact that Hashem does not allow one to do it, there can be a certain element of an understanding as well. When a person develops that understanding why he logically can’t do it, it helps minimize the nisayon. What was once perceived as a daunting challenge to overcome can be easily transformed into a fleeting foolish thought.

For example, a person who knows that stealing is forbidden is presented with a deal that infringes this prohibition. The potential gain is so great and the mere fact that the Torah doesn’t allow it won’t stop him in this instance. However, the person can also think of personal reasons to prevent him from succumbing to this temptation. I may lose my income, my pride, my credibility, my job, my reputation, etc. When a person thinks that way he can really minimize the nisayon. Every person has to somehow turn it into a personal feeling of why they can’t do this ‘wrong thing’. By thinking like that, it can also become a deterrent for us and helps minimize that specific nisayon.

That is exactly what was taking place here. It was very difficult for Yaakov’s wives to just pick themselves up and leave their home. What he was doing here was that he was telling them-I don’t feel we are wanted here. He was trying to minimize their desire to remain. He then added and by the way, Hashem told me that we should go. When they responded, they did the same thing. First they rationalized why they didn’t feel the need to stay and then they said and also, of course we should go Hashem said so; whatever He says we shall do.

This can also answer the Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh’s question; it’s for this same reason the commandment for Yaakov to leave Lavan’s house was put in between these two pasukim. Not only should a human act like that but the Ribono Shel Olam does the same. Hashem makes it easy for a person to overcome that nisyaon too. We all know that Hashem only presents a person with a nisyaon that He knows they can overcome. The Torah starts off telling us that Lavan wasn’t being nice to Yaakov and his family. Hashem stuck in this commandment-for him to leave and go back to his birthplace- right here, on purpose, after he began to feel unwanted by Lavan so it would be easier for Yaakov to justify his leaving! Hashem stuck it in here as part of His master plan.

A person should understand that when Hashem gives them a challenge he has all the pieces in play to make sure that person can overcome it. That’s why the bnei Lavan were talking about him and why Yaakov, mimeila, had these feelings.

We should remember to explore all avenues when faced with a nisayon, which will ultimately help us overcome them and may Hashem give us all the siyata d’shmaya and strength to help us avoid any possible thoughts of future sinning.