Vertluch: Parshas Vayetzei

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After all the hardships that Yaakov had endured with Lavan, they made amends and feasted over a korban together. When they were finished, the pasuk says (32; 1, 2) ‘And Lavan arose early in the morning and kissed his sons and daughters and blessed them; and Lavan went and returned to his place. And Yaakov went on his way, and the Angels of Hashem encountered him.’

Rashi, on the last part of the pasuk, comments and asks ‘what does it mean that the Angels of Hashem encountered him?’ He answered that the angels of eretz Cana’an came towards him to escort him into the land.

When reading the pasuk the loshon that is used seemed a bit odd. When the pasuk described Lavan departing from Yaakov, it said that Lavan returned to ‘his place’. Shouldn’t it have said that he returned to his land? The expression that the pasuk used seems to be inaccurate?

The Meshech Chochma answers with a poignant lesson.

A person can have the z’chus of hosting a tzaddik in his home for an extended period of time, but it comes with a catch. He is expected to bask in his glory and to learn from him. To observe his ways and to watch and see how he conducts his spiritual and mundane needs. The pasuk in Mishlei (13; 20) says, ‘Haloch im chachamim’, go in the ways of talmidei chachamim.

Yaakov lived by Lavan for over twenty years! He should have learned and observed from hosting a tzaddik how to act appropriately. Not to cheat or be dishonest with others, but to be a little bit of a better person in his daily activities. The Torah is teaching us that Lavan went back to ‘his place’. He went right back to his bad habits. He was a cheater, a swindler, a liar and a person of low character; he didn’t change one iota. The Medrash added, and said, that when the pasuk said Lavan went back to ‘his place’ it means he went back to his evil ways.

On the other side of the coin, by Yaakov, it said that he went ‘on his way’; he went the way of a tzaddik. The gemara in Berachos (64; 1) says that ‘a tzaddik does not rest; not in this world or the next world.’ How can we understand this? The answer is with this same response; that the way of tzaddikim is to constantly be growing and elevating themselves. That is why the pasuk continues and says that the ‘Angels of Hashem encountered him’; to show that even after all of the trials and tribulations with Lavan, Yaakov came out shteiging. Through his confrontations with Lavan, Yaakov understood what NOT to do.

The message is crystal clear. You can host a great Rebbe or Rosh Hayeshiva at your house for a lengthy period of time and still remain the same person. If a person doesn’t make an effort to change, nothing will happen on its own. A yid has to always look to grow. If a person has the attitude of ‘I want to constantly grow’ then they will embrace each challenge that life presents to them, and grow from it.

The gemara in Berachos says that when someone leaves your presence you shouldn’t say ‘leich b’shalom’ but rather say ‘leich l’shalom’. What is the difference? The Avnei Neizer explains that if a person will say ‘go b’shalom’ it means that you’re telling that individual that he is already complete; he’s whole. Why? Because it’s a loshon of shleimus, of being complete, and it’s telling that person that they don’t have to be on the lookout to grow or to become better. But, if you were to say ‘go l’shalom’, towards being complete, you’re telling that person that they still have some work to do to become a complete person. They still have to grow to reach that shleimus; they should never lose focus and stop growing. As yidden, we should constantly be striving to grow.

There is an amazing story that I have mentioned more than once, but it is well worth repeating as it demonstrates this exact point.

In the 1950’s, a group of American ba’al habatim came to Reb Aharon Kotler ZT“L and asked for his haskama on the commencement of a new program. They wanted to implement the amud yomi as they felt that a daf yomi was way beyond the capacity of the American Jew. However, Reb Aharon’s firm rejection was accompanied with the following explanation.

Reb Aharon was privileged to attend the Knessia Gedolah in Vienna- where Reb Meir Shapiro ZT“L proposed the Daf Yomi program that would serve as the daily Torah obligation to many Jews across the globe. Reb Aharon had the z’chus of standing near the Chofetz Chaim at that time, and as Reb Meir finished his proposal he heard the Chofetz Chaim mumble (in Yiddish), “Yisroel Meir, where have you been all this time?”

Here you have a man that in his time was considered one of the gedolai hador; a person who wrote countless seforim. Someone who was close to ninety years old, who had devoted all his time, energy and work for klal yisroel. But he stills asked himself “Yisroel Meir, where were you all these years?” That’s how a Yid thinks. After contributing enormously to Torah Jewry, at the age of ninety he was still looking to grow!

HAVE A GREAT SHABBOS