Torah Weekly - Parshat Vayeitze

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Parshat Vayeitze

For the week ending 12 Kislev 5761 / 8 & 9 December 2000

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    Fleeing from Esav, Yaakov leaves Be'er Sheva and sets out for Charan, the home of his mother's family. After a 14 year stint in the Academy of Shem and Ever, he resumes his journey and comes to Mount Moriah, the place where his father Yitzchak was brought as an offering, and the future site of the Beit Hamikdash. He sleeps there and dreams of angels going up and down a ladder between Heaven and earth. Hashem promises him the Land of Israel, that he will found a great nation and that he will enjoy Divine protection. Yaakov wakes and vows to build an altar there and tithe all that he will receive. Then he travels to Charan and meets his cousin Rachel at the well. He arranges with her father, Lavan, to work seven years for her hand in marriage, but Lavan fools Yaakov, substituting Rachel's older sister, Leah. Yaakov commits himself to work another seven years in order to also marry Rachel. Leah bears four sons -- Reuven, Shimon, Levi and Yehuda -- the first Tribes of Israel. Rachel is barren, and in an attempt to give Yaakov children, she gives her handmaiden Bilhah to Yaakov as a wife. Bilhah bears Dan and Naftali. Leah also gives Yaakov her handmaiden Zilpah, who bears Gad and Asher. Leah then bears Yissachar, Zevulun, and a daughter, Dina. Hashem finally blesses Rachel with a son, Yosef. Yaakov decides to leave Lavan, but Lavan, aware of the wealth Yaakov has made for him, is reluctant to let him go, and concludes a contract of employment with him. Lavan tries to swindle Yaakov, but Yaakov becomes extremely wealthy. Six years later, Yaakov, aware that Lavan has become dangerously resentful of his wealth, flees with his family. Lavan pursues them but is warned by Hashem not to harm them. Yaakov and Lavan agree to a covenant and Lavan returns home. Yaakov continues on his way to face his brother Esav.




    "Yaakov said to them, 'My brothers, where are you from? ...Look, the day is still long; it's not time to bring in the livestock. Water the flock and go on grazing'." (29:4,7)

    One of the hippie bequests to the "New Age" is that everyone is "my brother." "Like, man, he's my brother." A perfect stranger is "my holy brother." Even my sister is "my holy brother." We live in a world where words have ceased to have any meaning more than the current fads accord them.

    But this was not always so.

    One of the most difficult things is to give constructive criticism. Most people close like a clam when given critical advice. Our feathers are ruffled and our defenses come up as soon as we sense that someone is telling us what to do.

    This is human nature. No one likes to think they're wrong. If someone tells me things could be better, that implies a certain degree of wrongdoing, however slight. And I suspect the intentions of the person who criticizes me. Maybe their criticism doesn't come from a selfless desire to see me do better; maybe it's really a masked put-down.

    Why did Yaakov call the shepherds "my brothers?" He had never seen them in his life. It was hardly some kind of spacey "new-age" greeting. And right after calling the shepherds "my brothers," Yaakov tells them what to do: "Look," he says, "the day is still long; it is not time to bring in the livestock. Water the flock and go on grazing." What gave him the right to start offering unsolicited advice to perfect strangers?

    When Yaakov, the father of the Jewish People, calls someone "his brother," it's not some empty hippie platitude; it meant that he literally saw them as his brothers. And the shepherds knew that's how he felt. That's why Yaakov was able to give them criticism, and that's why they were able to receive it. He really loved them and they really knew it.

    If we want to give critical advice to friends, children, spouses, etc., we must make sure that both we and they know that we are expressing our confidence in them and our love for them. That our voice is the voice of their "brother." Not Big Brother.

    • The Ponevezer Rav, as heard from Rabbi Chaim Zvi Senter


    Hoshea 12:13 - 14:10



    For a nation with a history rich with miracles, many Biblical events seem to lack one ingredient: Glamour. Where was the knight in shining armor in the episode of Yaakov's marriage? Yaakov was made to work 14 years in order to marry his chosen Rachel. Where was the mighty warrior in the story of the Exodus? Moshe, although the greatest prophet who ever lived, was far from being a mighty warrior or charismatic leader. It is to these humble beginnings that the prophet Hoshea refers the Jewish people. Sometimes we may have to work hard like Yaakov and other times we may witness miracles akin to those of the Exodus, but there are no guarantees of victory. Our leaders have not been given supernatural powers to use at whim. If through our haughtiness we forget G-d and follow our desires, then our nation will become weak enough to be driven away by the wind. However, the gates of repentance are always open no matter how far we may stray. If we return to G-d completely then we will merit His special protection.


    "And now they sin more and make for themselves molten images...they slaughter men and kiss calves." (Hoshea 13:2)

    Adam was placed above the animal kingdom when he was given free will, the ability to rise above animalistic instinct. When "just do it" becomes the byword of society, then humanity has lost its spiritual essence. This is what Hoshea tells Israel: "They slaughter men and kiss calves" -- they have sacrificed their most noble human quality in their worship of animal instinct.

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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