At the very end of this week’s Parsha, the Torah says, “Vayashov Lavan LiMkomo. VeYaakov Halach LeDarko, Vayifge’u Vo Malachei Elokim,” “And Lavan returned to his place. And Yaakov went on his way, and angels of Hashem approached him” (32:1-2). The Meshech Chochmah comments that the Torah is calling our attention to a major difference between Lavan and Yaakov. After all of the years that Lavan spent with Yaakov the Tzadik, he was totally unchanged. “He returned to his place.” He went right back to his former level of corruption and deceit. He had not allowed Yaakov’s character to affect or inspire him at all.
Yaakov, on the other hand, “went on his way.” Tzadikim are never complacent with their achievements, but rather are always looking for the next opportunity for growth. When one actively seeks out positive experiences, he finds them and can use them as opportunities for growth and personal development. In Yaakov’s case, he went and encountered Malachei Hashem.
As we go through life, we are faced with a defining choice. Are we looking at life from the perspective of Yaakov or Lavan? Are we set in our ways? Are we satisfied with our level of observance and our relationship with Hashem, or are we on a path of spiritual growth?
As Shlomo HaMelech expresses in Kohelet, “BaBoker Zera Et Zarecha, VeLaErev Al Tanach Yadecha,” “In the morning, sow your seed, and in the evening do not rest your hand” (11:6). We cannot rest on our previous accomplishments; rather, we must constantly keep seeking new opportunities. We must incorporate the understanding that each day, each encounter, every class and lecture, all contain within them the opportunity to be inspired, motivated, and achieve even loftier heights.
Always Room for More Torah
by Yaakov Rubin
When Eisav decided to try to kill Yaakov, Yaakov needed to run away. His mother Rivkah told him to run to her brother Lavan in Charan. Unbeknownst to Yaakov, he would spend twenty years with his uncle Lavan, who was a profound Rasha. But Yaakov did not go straight to Charan; instead, Chazal teach that he went to learn in Sheim and Eiver’s academy for fourteen years.
But why did Yaakov need to go learn with Sheim and Eiver? He had been learning with Yitzchak for sixty-three years! Who could be better to learn with then Yitzchak Avinu? What did Sheim and Eiver have that Yitzchak did not?
Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky explains that for those sixty-three years when Yaakov learnt with Yitzchak, he learned in an atmosphere insulated from the corruption and evil deeds of Canaan. But Yaakov knew that soon he would be living with Lavan and his other terrible, dishonest friends. To survive spiritually through such an ordeal, he would have to learn the Torah of Sheim and Eiver, who also had to live with corrosive surroundings. Eiver had lived with those who built the tower of Bavel, and Sheim had seen the Dor HaMabul. Yaakov’s fourteen years learning with Sheim and Eiver were the reason Yaakov made it through the twenty years with Lavan spiritually unscathed. Then Hashem further prepared him for his years with Lavan, through the vision of the angels and the promise He gave Yaakov at the beginning of our Parsha. Hashem’s promise sustained Yaakov, but if not for his own efforts, he would never have even received the prophecy.
Portions Beyond Proportions
by Avi Wollman
Towards the beginning of Parshat Vayeitzei, upon giving birth to Yehudah, Leah exclaims, “This time I will thank Hashem” (29:35). Rashi quoting Chazal, says that she was thankful to Hashem for having received more than her portion of the Shevatim. Through basic math she reasoned that 12 tribes divided by 4 wives would equal 3 tribes for each wife. Therefore, she thanked Hashem upon receiving her fourth, an action for which Chazal greatly praise her. This last part of Rashi is puzzling. Why is it so great that Leah thanked Hashem for getting more than her portion? How hard is it to be thankful for getting extras; would it not be even more praiseworthy for one to be thankful to God for getting just what one needs?
Rav Dovid Kviat provides a novel approach to this question. When good things happen, it is the natural human tendency to think, “I earned that, and I am simply getting what I deserve.” As Moshe Rabeinu warns us in Devarim 8:17, we are likely to rationalize and say that everything we have accomplished is solely due to our own efforts. We believe that it is our hard work and effort that makes us so successful. It is difficult to be objective and take a step back from our PhD’s, MD’s, and high grades to realize that it was not just the work we have put in that brought us to where we are – financially, academically, or otherwise. It was also the Yad Hashem that guided us throughout.
This is why it is so praiseworthy that Leah was able to take a moment to say “I will thank Hashem” for abundance of gifts that He gave her. In fact, none of us gets exactly what he deserves either; we get much more. The close calls, the test for which we forgot to study but luckily passed, our “lucky days” and our good fortunes are all from Hashem. It simply takes a moment of one’s time to reflect and realize the good that Hashem has provided for us, far beyond the strictly warranted proportion.
by Dani Yaros
In Parshat Vayetzei, the Torah describes (29:11) how Yaakov saw Rachel, kissed her, and then proceeded to cry. Rashi poses a very obvious question: what prompted Yaakov to cry? He was meeting his future wife; he should have been overjoyed! One explanation that Rashi gives is that Yaakov had no money, and he knew that without money it would be very difficult to convince Lavan to let him marry Rachel.
To explain how Yaakov reached that state, Rashi tells the well-known story of Eisav’s son Eliphaz, who, at his father’s command, chased after Yaakov to kill him. However, upon reaching Yaakov, Eliphaz felt emotionally unable to kill his uncle, so he asked Yaakov what he could respond when Eisav would ask, “Did you kill Yaakov?” Yaakov suggested that Eliphaz take all of his valuables, which would enable him to tell Eisav, “I killed Yaakov and here are his belongings.” Furthermore, it would be like he had actually killed Yaakov, because a poor person is (in some ways) considered as though he were dead. Through this act of Chesed that Yaakov did, Eliphaz avoided being punished by Eisav.
From this story we understand the love and care that Yaakov showed to all human beings, whether or not he had reason to like them (after all, Eisav, Eliphaz’s father, did want to kill Yaakov). We must learn from Yaakov to love every person whether or not he or she is worthy of this care. We must treat every person with dignity and respect regardless of personal merit.
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