Torah Weekly

For the week ending 13 November 2010 / 5 Kislev 5771

Parshat Vayeitzei

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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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 Torah 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. G-d 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 Rachels 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 G-d 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.


Diamonds That Are Forever

“And Yaakov kissed Rachel and lifted up his voice and wept.” (29:11)

If you give a child a priceless Cartier necklace, he will pick it up and play with it. It’s bright and shiny. But after a few minutes he will get bored with the necklace and start to play with the red velvet-lined box that the necklace came in.

It always amazes me that children are usually much more interested in the box than the present itself.

When it comes to mitzvot we are like children.

A mitzvah is a present valuable beyond our wildest dreams. We have no idea what a mitzvah is. We have no idea of its value.

“And Yaakov kissed Rachel and lifted up his voice and wept.”

Yaakov wept because he came to Rachel penniless. While on the way to Charan, Esav’s son Eliphaz, acting on his father’s command, pursued Yaakov and was about to kill him. Eliphaz, however, had been raised by his grandfather, Yitzchak, and could not bring himself to kill his uncle Yaakov.

Eliphaz asked Yaakov what he should do. How could he let Yaakov live and yet also fulfill the mitzvah of honoring his father’s command?

Yaakov told him to take all his money. For the Sages say that someone who is poor is considered as though he were dead. In this way Eliphaz would be able to fulfill the letter of his father’s command and fulfill the mitzvah of honoring his father.

This is a very strange dialogue. If a person’s father tells him to eat a Bacon/Cheeseburger, would he be penalized for failing to honor his parents by refusing to eat the burger?

The limit of honoring one’s parents is where they instruct you to violate the will of G-d. And G-d said, “Do not murder”. So why did Eliphaz seek Yaakov’s advice how to honor his father? Clearly, there was no mitzvah incumbent upon Eliphaz.

We can see from this how great was the love of those first generations for mitzvot. Even though Eliphaz had no obligation to fulfill his father’s command whatsoever, Yaakov spent all his money and impoverished himself so that Eliphaz could fulfill the mitzvah of “Kibud Av” (honoring one’s father).

And you can’t say that Yaakov was careless with his money. The Talmud tells us that Yaakov, on his way to meeting his brother Esav, went back to retrieve some small jars. (Chullin 91)

A tzaddik realizes that the smallest gift that G-d gives us is as important as the largest. Neither may be wasted or neglected.

The Avot knew, as no one since, the value of “the diamonds in the box”. They never thought twice about giving away the box — spending all their money — because the box is only to hold the diamonds. They knew that this world and all its riches are nothing more than a velvet-lined Cartier box.

They never made the mistake, as we so often do, of keeping the box - and throwing away the diamonds.

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