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This Issue's Halacha Article

Parshat Vayeitzei

11 Cheshvan 5767

December 2, 2006

Vol.16 No.11

In This Issue:

The Journey of Yaakov Avinu

by Willie Roth TABC '05 - Kol Torah Editor-in-Chief '04-'05

In describing Yaakov's departure from Be'er Sheva, the Pasuk says, " VaYeitzei Yaakov MiBe'er Shava VaYeilech Charanah," "And Yaakov departed from Be'er Sheva, and he went to Charan." Rashi asks why it is necessary to say both "VaYeitzei," "He left," and "Vayeilech," "He traveled." If Yaakov traveled to Charan then he must have left Be'er Sheva! Thus, Rashi explains that "VaYeitzei Yaakov" expresses the idea that Yaakov's exit greatly impacted the community, as does any Tzadik's departure. While living in Be'er Sheva, Yaakov was its pride and glory, and upon his departure all of the splendor left with him. Along these lines, the Gur Aryeh elucidates exactly what was lacking when Yaakov left. He explains that the Tzadik of a community has three roles: he guides the people in Yirat Hashem (awe of Hashem) by teaching them how to perform the Mitzvot; he enlightens the community with his wisdom and insight; he edifies the people in regards to Middot and character. Yaakov as well had these responsibilities while in Be'er Sheva. However, once he left there was no replacement for his position, leaving the community lacking a role model towards whom they could turn for guidance and direction.

The Beit HaLevi presents an alternative approach to the significance of Yaakov's departure. In general, when a person embarks on a journey it is for one of two reasons. Either his focus is on his departure because he feels it necessary to leave his current location and where his next stop will be is irrelevant , or his focus is upon his destination, because although there is nothing specifically wrong with his current place, he has a need to be in a different location. However, because of the obligation of Kibud Av VaEim, Yaakov Avinu's journey had both aspects. On the one hand, he had to fulfill Rivkah's commandment to flee Be'er Sheva in order to save himself from the threat on his life that Eisav presented. On the other hand, Yaakov had to fulfill his father's commandment not to marry a Canaani, but rather to travel to Padan Aram to marry a member of Lavan's family. Thus, the Torah describes Yaakov's exit with both "VaYeitzei" and "Vayeilech" as he was doing just that; he was specifically leaving Be'er Sheva as well as traveling particularly to Charan. Along these lines, the Netziv explains that the fact that the Torah describes Yaakov's journey with two separate actions shows that in between leaving Be'er Sheva and traveling to Charan he studied Torah at Yeshivat Sheim VeEiver. First, he fulfilled Rivkah's commandment to flee home, then he learned in Yeshiva, and afterwards he traveled to Charan, again showing the idea that his journey was a two step process.

However, the Beit HaLevi takes this idea one step further and explains that the nature of Yaakov's departure of Eretz Yisrael parallels the Galut of Am Yisrael. When Am Yisrael was sent into exile there were really two aspects of her departure. On the one hand, she was forced to leave Eretz Yisrael in order to be saved from complete annihilation. As the Torah describes (Devarim 11:12), "Tamid Einei Hashem Elokecha Bah," " The eyes of Hashem, your God, are always upon it (Eretz Yisrael)." It is a land with inherent Kedushah and consequently it cannot sustain a nation of sinners. Furthermore, the Ramban on Parshat Bechukotai explains that the Kelalot of the Tochachah are applicable to Am Yisrael only when they are in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, in order to save Bnei Yisrael from total destruction Hashem sent them into exile, focusing the Galut on the departure from Eretz Yisrael. However, Hashem did not (Chas VeShalom) simply throw Klal Yisrael into the rest of the world leaving it Hefker for anyone to control. Rather, Hashem specifically placed Klal Yisrael in the Diaspora, a place where He would still be able to watch over her and guide her, albeit in a hidden manner. Thus, part of the exile was to travel to a particular location (Bavel), a place where Hashgacha Pratit would still be felt.

Perhaps it is possible to develop this idea even one step further. Not only did the Galut have two aspects, but the Geulah also has two aspects: leaving the Diaspora and traveling towards Eretz Yisrael and the ultimate redemption. One the one hand, Klal Yisrael must first leave the mentality of the Diaspora and realize that it is not the ideal lifestyle. Am Yisrael is not supposed to be totally integrated into another nation's culture and way of life, but instead is supposed to have a culture and identity of its own as defined by Halacha. The challenge of the Diaspora is that it makes us feel comfortable to live an inappropriate lifestyle and consequently prevents us from recognizing that it is not really the ideal. Once we have departed, we can take additional steps towards our destination of Eretz Yisrael and the coming of Mashiach. However, in order to make this necessary transition between leaving the Diaspora and entering Eretz Yisrael we must imitate the approach of Yaakov Avinu. Just as he made the transition between leaving Be'er Sheva and entering Charan by learning Torah, so too we must utilize the Torah and its guidelines to help free ourselves from the Galut mentality. Once we understand the ideal lifestyle as prescribed by the Torah, we will recognize that our approach towards life might be inappropriate and we will be able to take steps necessary to facilitate our return home.

Asking for the Basics

by Mordechai Gilbert

While Yaakov sleeps on his way to Charan, he has a Nevuah in which Hashem assures him a great legacy. Hashem promises Yaakov that he won't abandon him as long as he follows the Torah. When Yaakov wakes up, he immediately builds a Mizebach. He even changes the name of the city in which he slept to Beit El, House of Hashem, because of his prophecy. Yaakov seems to be taking his Nevuah very seriously and excitedly. Why, then, does Yaakov immediately request food and clothes from Hashem? In this holy time, why was this concern significant to Yaakov?

If we analyze Yaakov's request, we can come to an answer which also teaches us an important lesson. When Yaakov asks for food and clothing, his words are (28:20), "Lechem LeEchol UVeged LiLbosh," "Food to eat, and clothes to wear." Why does Yaakov need to say why he needs these items - we are well aware of the purposes of food and clothing!

Perhaps, Yaakov is asking for clothes and food not for his own enjoyment, but because these are basic staples of life. He asks for food to eat and clothing to wear, but doesn't care or intend to derive pleasure from these things. Yaakov isn't interested in the material aspects of life; rather, he is concerned only with getting by simply and minimally in physical terms.

We should follow Yaakov's example. He had all necessary physical aspects of life and thought he had "Kol" (33:11). We have more bread than we need to survive, but we waste time and money trying to get more than we truly need. If we were less concerned with Gashmiut and more focused on our spiritual aspects, we would be able to improve ourselves and reach higher levels of spiritual purity.

Use It Well

by Yitzchak Richmond

Upon awakening from his very eventful sleep on Har HaMoriah, Yaakov seems to say something very troubling (28:16): "Achein Yeish Hashem BaMakom HaZeh VeAnochi Lo Yadati," "Surely Hashem is in this place, and I did not know." It seems from this Pasuk that had Yaakov known that Hashem's intense presence was on the mountain he would not have slept there. Considering the miracle of the rocks joining, his mystical dream and prophecy there, Yaakov should have realized that it was the will of Hashem that he would be there that night. So why did Yaakov say that he wouldn't have slept had he known Hashem's intense presence was there if it was clearly the will of Hashem that he be there?

Rav Moshe Feinstein understands Yaakov's statement in an interesting fashion. Before this incident, Yaakov thought that the only way one can serve Hashem is through purely spiritual actions such as learning Torah and engaging in other Mitzvot. However, actions such as sleeping, eating and drinking cannot be mediums through which one can serve Hashem. This can shed some light on Rashi's comment (28:11) that Yaakov did not sleep during his fourteen-year stay at the Yeshiva of Sheim and Eiver, for Yaakov thought that sleeping is not a way to serve Hashem.

Yaakov's incredulity was predicated on this understanding of physical actions. By performing miracles and causing Yaakov to sleep on the future site of the Beit HaMikdash, Hashem wanted to teach Yaakov that one can serve Hashem through physical actions as well. However, one can do so only by sanctifying the physical and using it to help others. Food can be sanctified by offering it to those in need and having a genuine appreciation of Hashem's kindness in giving it to us.

Once Yaakov understood this lesson, he made sure never to forget it. By calling the rock on which he slept "Beit Elokim" he demonstrated that something as mundane as a rock could have an attribute of Godliness in it. This explains why he subsequently requested clothes and food- he now realized the value of such things in the service of Hashem.

We should learn from the message that Hashem communicated to Yaakov that everything can be used so serve Hashem. Let's make sure that everything we do is to serve Hashem.

Learning from Lavan

by Eitan Westrich

Although Lavan was a terrible person, many Rishonim and Acharonim believe that we can learn at least one Halacha from him. In this week's Parsha, Lavan tricks Yaakov into marrying Leah. When Yaakov asks why he was given Leah instead of Rachel, Lavan explains himself by saying (29:26), "It is not done in our place, to give the younger before the older." This idea is quoted in a case presented by Tosafot in the Gemara (Kiddushin 52a). A son of R' Oshiya HaLevi was MeKadesh a daughter of a wealthy man, but did not specify which daughter he was engaging. Rabbeinu Tam rules that the older daughter was engaged, because it is the practice not to give the younger daughter before the older. The Rambam states in Sefer HaMitzvot that the Halacha requiring a younger sibling to respect his or her older sibling is derived from the Mitzvah of respecting one's parent, because a parent wants a younger child to respect an older child. The younger child indirectly respects his or her parent by respecting the older sibling. This is also relevant to our case. It is respectful to the parents to allow the older child to marry before the younger child.

This is not the only Halacha that Chazal learn from Lavan. They also learn, "Ein MeArvin Simchah BeSimchah," "one does not mix festivities together." Lavan tells Yaakov that he will give him Rachel a week later, giving a full week to separate the marriage of Leah and the marriage of Rachel. From this we learn that celebrations should be separated.

From these Halachot, we see that no matter how bad a person may be, there is always something good that can be learned from him.

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