Torah Weekly

For the week ending 21 November 2015 / 9 Kislev 5776

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.


Holy Eclipse!

“And Yaakov left Be’er Sheva and went to Charan.” (21:10)

Most of us get to a certain platform of spirituality in life and leave it at that. We’re happy to move into neutral and coast on what we’ve already achieved.

If we decided to keep Shabbat, we carry on keeping Shabbat; if we said, “I’m going to keep kosher,” we carry on keeping Kosher, or putting on tefillin or whatever it is. If we went to Yeshiva, we carry on learning — sometimes less, sometimes more. At some point we feel, “Okay, I’m not that great, but I’m not that bad either.”

Truth be told, to move outside our comfort zone and do something that’s even a little bit more than other people is very difficult. It’s difficult because people don’t do more than they have to. Some of us struggle to do even that. In terms of spirituality we are a bit like herd animals. We like to stick with the crowd.

And we also tend to think, “What difference does it make to the world anyway? True, I’ll be a better person, but there are already so many tzadikim (righteous people) in the world, so what does the world need me for? Why do I need to be so religious? Aren’t there already enough “Famous Tzadik” pictures to put up in the succa?”

“And Yaakov left Be’er Sheva and went to Charan.”

Rashi explains that the Torah needed to write only that Yaakov went to Charan — what need was there to emphasize that he also left Be’er Sheva? He answers that when a tzadik leaves a place it leaves an impression. When a tzadik is in a city, his presence causes radiance and a luminous, spiritual brilliance to settle on the city, and when he leaves, the radiance is lost.

The question arises, “Was Yaakov the first tzadik to leave a city? Didn’t both his father Yitzchak and his grandfather Avraham both leave places? Why does the Torah emphasize Yaakov’s leaving over theirs?”

The difference is that when both Avraham and Yitzchak left places, they left no tzadik of their stature behind, whereas when Yaakov left Be’er Sheva he left his parents, Yitzchak and Rivka, two great tzadikim. One might have thought that since Yitzchak and Rivka remained, Yaakov’s departure would not dim the spiritual light of the place. Therefore, it is specifically here that the Torah emphasizes the reverse — holiness never eclipses itself. The spiritual light that three holy people radiate is much greater than two.

When we think that our meager efforts at being close to Gd are eclipsed by the great and the holy people of our generation, we should remember that holiness is never eclipsed, that our every holy thought or action adds immeasurably to the cosmos.

  • Sources: Kli Yakar in Talelei Orot

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