Torah Weekly

For the week ending 29 November 2014 / 7 Kislev 5775

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.


Moving Mountains

“And Yaakov departed from Be’er Sheva and went to Charan. He encountered there the place…” (11:12)

Judaism teaches that when a person tries his best to become closer to G-d, he will receive assistance from Above.

In this week’s Torah portion, we see how far that assistance goes.

There’s a saying in English, “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain” (attributed to Francis Bacon, in Essays, 1625).

For Yaakov Avinu, however, the mountain came to him.

Our Sages understand that the deeper understanding of the verse, “He encountered the place…” as meaning that Mount Moriah, the site of the Beit Hamikdash, was uprooted from its place and came towards Yaakov as far as Beit El. (Rashi in Tractate Chullin 91b explains that the word “encounter” – pogga – denotes two entities moving toward each other.)

However, why should Mount Moriah be uprooted now? Hadn’t Yaakov already passed it on his journey to Charan? Why didn’t G-d halt Yaakov when he arrived there?

The answer is if Yaakov passed by the site of the Beit Hamikdash and did not stir himself to pray at that place, why should Heaven detain him there?

Yaakov Avinu was 63 years old when he set out to Charan. He had not slept in a bed for the last fourteen years while learning in the Beit Midrash of Shem and Ever. When he finally reached Charan he had just completed an extremely long journey from the south of Eretz Yisrael, a route far longer than that from the North. Nevertheless he did not want to rest even for a second.

All this because he feared he might not be able to correct the failure to exploit his opportunity of praying at the site where both his father and grandfather had prayed.

He immediately set out back to Mt. Moriah.

Only when Yaakov himself made up his mind, despite his exhaustion, to return to the future site of the Beit Hamikdash, and came back as far as Beit El, did G-d perform a miracle and transport Mt. Moriah to him.

For someone who does his maximum to elevate himself, even mountains will be uprooted.

  • Sources: Rashi to 28:17; Rabbi Rubman in Zichron Meir as seen in Lekach Tov; Rabbi E. E. Dessler in Michtav M’Eliyahu, Part 2, page 70

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