Parashat Vayetze

true love

By Yitzy Adlin

Our parsha details how Yaakov made a deal with Lavan that he would work for his daughter, Rachel, for seven years & then he would get to marry her. After Yaakov worked seven years, the posuk tells us regarding those years ויהיו‭ ‬בעיניו‭ ‬כימים‭ ‬אחדים‭ ‬באהבתו‭ ‬אתה‭ ‬,and they seemed like a few days because of his love for her.

How do we understand that? We all know that when we want something & have to wait for it, each day seems to take forever; so how did seven years seem like a few days? Just the opposite would make sense. Harav Eliyahu Lopian explained as follows, a person sits down to a meal & the chef asks what do you want to eat? The man answers, “I really love fish”, so the chef goes to the kitchen to prepare the fish for him.

There was a simple fellow sitting nearby who heard this exchange. He thought that this man who loved fish was waiting for someone to bring him a tank of water with fish inside so he could watch them, feed them & enjoy being with his “loved ones “. How shocked was this simple fellow when he saw that they brought a big fish on a plate & this man who claims to love fish, sticks his knife & fork in it, starts cutting up the fish, puts it into his mouth & chews & eats the fish! The simple man turns to the other man & says “is this what you do to the ones you love?? It can’t be that you really love fish, for if you did you would never treat them this way!”

In reality, he’s correct. If the man really loved fish, then he would never have them served to him as food. So, what does he love? He loves himself & enjoys the taste of fish. Since he loves himself, he treats himself to the fish.

Continued Rav Lopian, most people make a mistake in what the word love means. Most people think that love is a pleasant feeling that fills a person when he finds a person who defines himself as your friend. However that’s not true. True love is wanting to do for a friend; one wants to keep giving & doing all good for him. Rav Dessler explained that when two people have a good connection, it’s when they reach the level of giving, when each one just wants to give to the other. If one is just looking out for himself & says, “hey, I did this for you, now you have to do this for me”. That is love that won’t last.

The only time that it feels like forever when one is waiting for something, is if it’s something one wants for his own enjoyment. Then a person can’t wait to get it. However, the love Yaakov had for Rochel was true love that he wanted to give to her. He wasn’t looking to take. Since this was a pure love, the years seemed to fly by like just a few days.

There are three different forms of love taught in the Torah. This story is the first, teaching us the way a husband & wife should love each other.

The second is ואהבת‭ ‬לרעך‭ ‬כמוך,where it says to love your friend like yourself & the third is teaching us a love for Hashem ואהבת‭ ‬את‭ ‬ה׳‭ ‬אלקיך, This, says הרב‭ ‬עמיאל,is like a threefold thread that’s not easily broken. If one is missing, the other two won’t stand. He says that they go in order; first a person has to have love for his wife & family & only after that he could come to love everybody else. Only after a person has the love for his wife & then for all other people can he begin to come to loving Hashem . We have to learn from here how to treat our spouse, to always be the one to give. After we master that, we can go on to help out other people & then finally come to the ultimate love – the love for Hashem!

facts of life: take this serious

Thinking positively has the ability to create a reality!

By Rabbi Yisroel Reisman

At the end of this week parasha we find that Rachel steals the Terafim(one of Lavan’s idols) and when Lavan comes to look for them she hides them on the camel and sits on them. Here we have an old question. Why didn’t Rachel just throw away the Terafim. Why didn’t she just bury them or throw them in the ocean. Why is she carrying it with her? It took a lot of guts and courage to sit on the Terafim in front of her father. For what purpose? Why do it?

Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl in Parshat Vayeitzei he quotes from the Zohar. The Zohar says that Terafim were not just idols, were not just graven images (an object of worship carved usually from wood or stone) to which people bowed down to using their imagination as if it had power. The word Terafim is used for graven images which do have Kochot Hatumah which are somehow connected to the negative forces in the world. Lavan’s Terafim had such power. The way to destroy the power of Tumah(Impurity) is not just to take them and throw them into the garbage, but the way to destroy the Kochot Hatumah is to be Mevazeh them, to give them Bizyonot, (to treat them as nothing).

Therefore, Rachel deliberately took the Terafim and sat down on them, used them to cushion the space between the humps of the camel and in that way being Mevazeh(denigrates) them. We have a source for this at the beginning of Masechet Chullin as explained by the Ohr Gedalyahu where he teaches that Kochot Hatumah the powers of magic and witchcraft have power for people who show respect for them, who alter them. But somebody who believes only in Ain Od Milvado(Hashem), someone who holds that he has no power. Someone who is Mevazeh them and Mevayeish(embarrass) them is able to destroy the power that they have. Therefore, Rachel understood that just throwing the Terafim away would not be enough. Lavan would still be able to connect to the Kochot Hatumah and the way to destroy it is to be Mevazeh it.

Now, although this discussion starts off specifically about Terafim, Rav Nebenzahl goes on to explain in the name of his Rebbi Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz that there are many areas where Machshava (thought) creates the reality. Where what a person holds to be dear takes on a real part of his life. Things that he holds to be insignificant cannot affect him as much.

We know for example that it is that way with stress in life. A person who has good things and difficult things in his life. Someone who for example has family issues which are difficult and financial issues which go well or the reverse. If he lives a life of focusing on his negatives he will have high blood pressure. If he lives a life focusing on his positives he will be healthy. What changed? What drove his blood pressure up? Only his thoughts, only his Machshava (thought). A person’s Machshava (thought) has the ability to create a reality.

Rav Chaim Volozhiner as is well known writes about this in Nefesh Hachaim first in the first section of Nefesh Hachaim Perek 9 from the Zohar. He brings the idea of Hashem Tzilcha( Hashem is your shadow), that a person who is able to live with joy brings a Hashpa’a (an influence) of joy from up on high, and the reverse. Later, more famously in the third section of Nefesh Hachaim in Perek 12 he writes, if a person in his heart can be Mevateil and consider it insignificant all of the physical dangers, physical shortcomings, physical failures that he has in this world and he will not pay attention to any other power, and concentrate only on spiritual things and on G-d, if he will do that, also Hashem will behave with him the same way.

Other things won’t be able to have a negative effect. It is sort of like when a person walks in the street and there is a dog. If you ignore the dog the dog will ignore you for the most part. Somebody who looks the dog in the eye causes the dog to pay attention to him. The same thing with Kochot Hatumah. The more you are Mevateil it, the more you ignore it, the more you behave as if it is insignificant, then indeed it will be insignificant.

A person who runs away from a pursuer, if he is constantly looking back over his shoulder at the pursuer it slows him down. If you are running away from the Yetzer Hora don’t look back, look forward. Look for the positive things you can do in Avodat Hashem(Service of G-d) and then that has a reality. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, the Shmuz to which Rabbi Nebenzahl refers is in the Sichot Mussar when he talks about this regarding Bitachon(Trust). The more one has faith the more he creates the faith. The reverse with Rachel, the more she denies the reality of the Avoda Zorah the less it exists.

something to think about

וידר‭ ‬יעקב‭ ‬נדר‭ ‬לאמר‭ ‬אם‭ ‬יהיה‭ ‬אלקים‭ ‬עמדי‭ ‬ושמרני‭ ‬בדרך‭ ‬הזה‭ ‬אשר‭ ‬אנכי‭ ‬הולך‭ ‬ונתן‭ ‬לי‭ ‬לחם‭ ‬לאכל‭ ‬ובגד‭ ‬ללבש‭. ‬ושבתי‭ ‬בשלום‭ ‬אל‭ ‬בית‭ ‬אבי‭ ‬והיה‭ ‬ה‮’‬‭ ‬לי‭ ‬לאלהים‭. ‬והאבן‭ ‬הזאת‭ ‬אשר‭ ‬שמתי‭ ‬מצבה‭ ‬יהיה‭ ‬בית‭ ‬אלהים‭ ‬וכל‭ ‬אשר‭ ‬תתן‭ ‬לי‭ ‬עשר‭ ‬אעשרנו‭ ‬לך‭.‬

Yaakov swore an oath, saying: “If G‑d will be with me and guard me on the path I walk, giving me bread to eat and returning me in peace to my father’s house, and Hashem will be for me my G‑d, then this stone that I have raised as an altar shall be the House of G‑d, and everything You give me I shall tithe, I shall tithe for You.”

Yaakov recognized the great dangers that faced him on his way, and thus made this vow to doubly tithe his possessions, giving one fifth of all his earnings as a gift to Hashem.  Although we arenormally discouraged from making vows, Tosefot explains that in times of danger it is quite advisable to make a vow to charity, in order that its merit might protect us from harm.

Whereas all Mitzvot earn great reward, tzedakah is the only Mitzvah for which we may actually test the Creator and see with our own eyes that in reward for tithing our earnings for charity, we are certain to receive His blessing.  The Gemara thus states:

Rebbe Yochanan once came across Reish Lakish’s son and asked him which verse he was learning.  “Asser ti’asser – You shall tithe,” the boy answered.  “What is the meaning of this possuk?” he then asked R’ Yochanan.

“Tithe (asser) in order that you may become rich (tisasher),” answered R’ Yochanan.

“How do you know this is true?” asked the boy.

“Try it and see,” answered R’ Yochanan.

“Is it permitted to test Hashem?  Does the possuk not state, ‘Do not test Hashem’?” asked the boy.

R’ Yochanan answered, “R’ Hosheia said that this prohibition does not apply to tithing, as the verse states, ‘Bring all the tithes to the silo, and let there by food in My house, and test Me please with this, says Hashem the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of Heaven and pour upon you blessing without end.’

Tzedaka is truly a wondrous segulah which brings success, good fortune and protection upon those who practice it.  The Gemara states that whereas salt preserves meat, the proverbial salt that preserves wealth is חסד (kindness), or according to some versions חסר (detracting).  The two versions of the Gemara represent two aspects of tzedakah.  On the one hand, tzedakah’s virtue is kindness, since it benefits the poor.  On the other hand, tzedakah has another virtue, in that it trains us to overcome our greed by willingly detracting from our wealth.

Tzedakah furthermore has the power to prolong a person’s life, as Shlomo HaMelech said, צדקה תציל ממות  “Charity saves from death.”  This is the fair and fitting reward, middah k’neged middah, since by giving charity one enlivens the poor by relieving the deathlike depression and despair that accompany poverty.

The power of tzedakah to rescue from death is well illustrated by the Gemara:

Binyamin HaTzaddik was the custodian of a tzedakah fund.  One time, a woman approached him during a year of famine.  “Rebbe, support me,” she said.

“I swear by the service of the Bait HaMikdash that there is no money left in the tzedakah fund,” he said.

“Rebbe, if you do not support me, a woman and her seven sons will die,” she said.  He then used his own money to support her.

Years later he fell sick and was close to death.  The ministering angels said before Hashem, “Maser of the Universe, You said that anyone who saves the life of one Jew is considered to have saved the entire world.  Binyamin HaTzaddik saved a woman and her seven sons from death.  How could he die so young?”

Immediately, the judgment against him was overruled and twenty-two years were added to his life.

The Vilna Gaon explains this Gemara with a brilliant calculation.  The Gemara states that someone who gives charity to the poor is blessed with six blessings, but someone who comforts the poor with kind words is blessed with eleven blessings.  Since Binyamin comforted eight souls (the poor woman and her seven sons), his eleven blessings were multiplied by eight, for a total eighty-eight.  In Masechet Sotah we learn that even if a person is subject to a decree of death, sufficient merit can preserve his life for another three months. Binyamin had eighty-eight merits, which multiplied by three months earned him a total of 264 months, or twenty-two years.  He was thus blessed with another twenty-two years of life.

Tzedakah is always an important Mitzvah, but in times of personal or national danger it becomes the crucial key to our survival.  For this reason, when danger hung over Yaakov’s head, he vowed to tithe his possessions in order that this great merit would protect him.

In our times as well, spiritual and physical danger threaten the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael and abroad.  Therefore, let us all make extra efforts to be considerate and helpful to one another, with kind words and generous hand, and may we soon merit the fulfillment of the the verse.

First Aliyah: aakov left Be’er Sheba and headed towards Charan, to his uncle Lavan’s home. While traveling, Yaakov encountered “the place” (Mount Moriah) and since the sun had set, he lay down to sleep. In a dream he saw a ladder reaching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending its rungs. G‑d appeared and informed him that He would bequeath the entire land to his descendants, and that He would safeguard him until he returned to Canaan. Yaakov awoke, and now recognizing the holiness of the location, he erected a monument to G‑d, named the location Beth El (“House of G‑d”), and vowed to tithe all his belongings when G‑d’s promise of a safe return would be fulfilled.

Second Aliyah: Yaakov continued on his journey, and arrived at a well located on the outskirts of Charan. Upon seeing Rachel, Lavan’s younger daughter, arriving with her father’s sheep, Yaakov single-handedly rolled off the heavy rock that sat atop the well, and gave water to the flock. Rachel told her father about the new arrival, and Lavan rushed out to greet Yaakov. Yaakov went to Lavan’s home, and after spending a month, Lavan offered Yaakov the job of tending to his herds, and asked Yaakov what he wished in terms of wages.

Third Aliyah: Lavan had two daughters, the aforementioned Rachel, and her older sister Leah. Yaakov loved Rachel and offered to serve Lavan for seven years in exchange for her hand in marriage. Lavan accepted the deal. After the seven years of service passed, Yaakov asked Lavan to make good on his word. Lavan arranged a wedding feast, but switched daughters, giving Leah instead of Rachel. When Yaakov protested, Lavan offered to give Rachel too—in exchange for another seven years of service. One week later Yaakov married Rachel, and began serving an additional seven years. Leah gave birth to four children – Reuven, Shimon, Levi, and yeudah – but Rachel remained barren. Rachel and Leah both gave their handmaids to Yaakov as concubines. Rachel’s maid, Bilhah, bore two children – Dan and Naftali – and Leah’s maid also bore two children—Gad and Asher.

Fourth Aliyah: One spring day, Reuven picked jasmine plants from the field, and brought them to his mother. Rachel asks Leah for some of them, and Leah agreed, provided that Rachel relinquishes her turn with Yaakov that night. Leah gave birth to another two sons – Issachar and Zevulun – and one daughter—Dinah. Eventually, Rachel, too, gave birth to a son, whom she named Yosef. At that point, Yaakov asked Lavan for permission to take his wives and children and return to Canaan. In response, Lavan pointed out that his divinations revealed that his great wealth and blessings were due to Yaakov’s presence in his home.

Fifth Aliyah: “Specify your wages,” Lavan told Yaakov. “And I will give it!” Yaakov proposed that all the streaked and spotted sheep that would be born to Lavan’s sheep would constitute his payment. In return, Yaakov would continue caring for Lavan’s flocks. Lavan immediately removed all the existing spotted and streaked sheep from the herd and put them under his sons’ charge—thus differentiating between the current ones, which belonged to Lavan, and the to-be-born ones, that would belong to Yaakov. Yaakov made striped poles for the strong and robust sheep to view while they were mating. As a result, the sheep gave birth to striped offspring, and Yaakov became fabulously wealthy—despite Lavan’s deceptive practices, and his continual changing of the terms of Yaakov’s pay. After an additional six years of service, G‑d commanded Yaakov to return to Canaan. Yaakov summoned his wives, who agreed that the time has arrived to leave.

Sixth Aliyah: Seizing an opportunity when Lavan was away, Yaakov took his family and belongings and slipped away. Before departing, Rachel stole one of Lavan’s idols. Lavan pursued them. On the night before he reached them, G‑d warned Lavan in a dream not to harm Yaakov or his family. Lavan reached Yaakov on Mount Gilead and complained that he was deprived of the opportunity to bid them an appropriate farewell, and protested the theft of his idols. Yaakov suggested that Lavan search for his idol amongst his belongings, but Lavan turned up empty-handed in his search.

Seventh Aliyah: Lavan and Yaakov made a peace treaty and erected a stone monument to seal the pact. Lavan returned to Charan, and Yaakov continued on his way. When he entered Canaan, he was greeted by a delegation of welcoming angels.

simcha corner

A man realized he needed to purchase a hearing aid, but didn’t want to spend a lot of money. “How much do they cost?” he asked the salesman.

“Anything from $2 to $2,000.”

“Can I see the $2 model?” said the customer.

The salesman put the device around the man’s neck, and said: “You just stick this button in your ear and run this little string down into your pocket.” 

“How does it work?” asked the customer.

“For $2, it doesn’t work,” said the salesman. “But when people see it on you, they’ll talk louder.”

———————–One day, Bill and Tom went to a restaurant for dinner. As soon as the waiter took out two steaks, Bill quickly picked out the bigger steak for himself.

Tom wasn’t happy about that: “When are you going to learn to be polite?”

Bill: “If you had the chance to pick first, which one would you pick?”

Tom: “The smaller piece, of course.”

Bill: “What are you whining about then? The smaller piece is what you want, right?”