Parshas VaYetze 5758

This edition of Parsha insights is dedicated to R' Hershel Wagschall and Family in honor of their latest children and grandchildren
May they always have A Sach Yiddishe Nachas!


"And Yaacov left from Be'er Sheva and went to Charan." (Bereishis 28:10)

The Midrash Rabbah (Bereishis 68:7), offers a number of interpretations of the phrase "And Yaacov left from Be'er . . . ". One interpretation is truly amazing.

Rebbi Brachya said, he left from the well (Be'er) of blessings. Yaacov fled from Esav so that Esav would not corner him and contend that he took his blessings through deceit. "Then", said Yaacov, "all of the efforts of my mother would have been for nothing."

This Midrash needs explanation.

Rifka, the mother of Yaacov and Esav, was a singular figure in our history. Rifka was always clear headed and focused. She always knew exactly what to do.

When Eliezer, the servant of Avraham went to Charan to find a wife for Yitzchok, he reasoned that only a young lady who exemplified the quality of Chesed would be fitting to join the household of Avraham. So he devised his plan, whereby he would request water for himself to drink. If she also offered to water the camels, that would be a sign of her true quality of Chesed.

But how would such Chesed mesh with the stern Gevurah of Yitzchok? Maybe Eliezer should have looked for a young lady who more exemplified Gevurah?

In the second circuit of Simchas Torah, which is the circuit of Yitzchok Avinu, we call out Hadur Bil'Vusho, Hatzlicha Na (resplendent in attire, grant us success). Hadar is an aspect of Gevurah. Here the Gevurah is called attire, something which only enclothes that which is underneath, but is not that thing itself. The Gevurah of Yitzchok turns out to be only a garment, not his essence.

Rifka's incredible Chesed overshadows her Gevurah. She always knew what to do.

She never, ever entertained any doubts. When she met Eliezer, she knew to water his camels despite the time and energy it would take. When he asked her numerous questions about her family, she knew to answer each one in the proper order. When her mother and brother asked her if she would agree to go back with Eliezer to become the wife of Yitzchok, she answers in one word, "Elech!" (I will go.)

When she was barren she knew to pray to Hashem and she knew the right prayer. When she felt the bickering in her belly, she knew that this was not the quality of the Tzaddik that she was supposed to give birth to. She went to the sages to inquire and was relieved to find out that she was going to have twins. One would indeed be a Tzaddik, one not.

When she heard that Yitzchok was going to bless Esav first, she again knew just what to do. Without any wavering she prepared Yaacov to receive the blessings instead.

This quality of Gevurah underlies the Chesed which we normally associate
with Rifka.
Rifka was Gevurah enclothed by Chesed.
Yitzchok was Chesed enclothed by Gevurah.
That is indeed a match.

Yaacov being Tiferes, was the true progeny of the union of Yitzchok and Rifka.

Yaacov, understanding this thought to himself, "How can I let my mother's efforts go to waste? She did what was proper and necessary as always. There should be no question in my mind as to whom the blessings of our father belong." So Yaacov fled to Charan, with the blessing still intact.


"Yaacov awoke from his sleep. 'Hashem was in this place', he said, 'but I didn't even know.'" (Bereishis 28:16)

R' Yisrael of Tchortkov commented on the words, ". . . but I didn't even know". Because the "I", the ego, "didn't know", didn't assert itself, I was therefore granted a glimpse of the divine presence.


"And if You will give me food to eat and clothes to wear, And Hashem will be my G-d." (Bereishis 28:21)

At the wedding of the grandson of R' Yisrael of Tchortkov to the daughter of the Mittler Rebbe, R' Dov Ber of Chabad, the father of the groom R' Mordechai, the Maggid of Chernobyl, went around to each and every one of the guests, poured them a glass of schnapps, and wished them L'Chaim with the added blessing for success in Ruchnius and Gashmius (in spiritual matters and in material, financial matters).

On the other hand, his mechutan Rebbe Dov Ber, wished his guest L'Chaim with the additional appellation for success in Gashmius and Ruchnius (the reverse order) according the Chabad custom.

When R' Mordechai of Chernobyl asked him about this, Rebbe Dov Ber answered that we learn from Yaacov Avinu who asked for food and clothing before he expressed his devotion to Hashem. Therefore, we also precede a blessing for Ruchnius with that of Gashmius.

R' Mordechai however, would not let the matter rest. "Do you think", he replied, "that the Gashmius of Yaacov Avinu is like ours!?"


". . . and Hashem (Adonoy) will be my G-d (Elokim)." (Bereishis 28:21)

Said the Baal ShemTov, " Know Him in all your ways." (Proverbs 3) That means whether for the good or for the bad. If a person experiences something which seems bad then should contemplate how that experience is actually a kapporah. (atonement)

From Tzaddikim we learn how to take this process one step further. When a Tzaddik has an experience which is positive, he becomes concerned that maybe he is using up his merits which are his to enjoy in the world to come. Therefore, the Tzaddik is always careful to constantly be adding merits, to replace those which he might have used up.

This then is the meaning of the verse. Hashem, who represents Chesed and goodness, will be my G-d, (Elokim), my judge. The Tzaddik never is content to rest and enjoy the good he experiences from Hashem. Rather he judges what the consequences of every experience might be. Therefore he continually adds more and more Torah and mitzvohs to that he will never run short or merits.


"And Yaacov saw Rachel, the daughter of Lavan his uncle, with the flocks of his uncle Lavan. Yaacov approached and rolled the rock off from the mouth of the well, and he watered the flocks of his uncle Lavan." (Bereishis 29:10)

As was mentioned last week in Parshas Toldos, there is a special relationship between the Avos and the (water) wells.

Avraham dug wells and the Philistines stopped them up. Yitzchok redug those wells and as well as new ones. Yaacov uncovered a well already in service by rolling off the rock on top of it.

Each new instance of uncovering or revealing wells, was a revelation of a source of living waters, and water means Torah. The Avos made Tikkunim (healing or rectifications) by way of revealing wells. It is a Hisgalus haTorah and of a new path in Avodas Hashem (divine service). Each one of the Avos charted new ground when he uncovered a well. Each one with his own special quality revealed for us a new path in Avodas Hashem.

Avraham worked according to the trait of Ahavah (love). He dug wells, but the Philistines stopped them up with dirt. Why does the Torah specify with what the wells were stopped up? Dirt, represents material desire, and the drive to replace the desire and love for Hashem with the desire for material gain. Because of Avraham's great love for Hashem, nothing could stop up those wells as long as Avraham was alive.

R' Moshe of Kobrin, in describing the great love of Avraham Avinu for Hashem, said that it was amazing the oven which he was cast into in Ur Kasdim, did not itself burst into flames from the fiery love of Avraham for Hashem.

Yitzchok returned to redig the wells of Chesed of his father using his quality of Gevurah (yirah or awe). (Bereishis 26:18) He showed that although Yirah is a lower level of service than Ahavah, one must first master this quality to be able to serve Hashem with Ahavah.

Yaacov, rolled the rock off of the well. "Well" represents the Torah, while "rock" represents the Yetzer Hara. The Talmud states (Kiddushin 30b), "I (Hashem) created the Yetzer Hara, and I also created the Torah as the antidote".

Yaacov means "heel" the lowest part of the body. He represents self-nullification and elimination of the ego. This is a vital factor in being able to reveal the Torah of Hashem, particularly in the time before the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.

Yaacov served Hashem with the Chesed of Avraham and with the Gevurah of Yitzchok.

Yaacov represents the exertion needed to progress in Avodas Hashem. When Yarolled the rock off the well, he did the work of many men with his little finger. Yaacov was 84 years old before he finally began to see the fruit of his labors and he fathered the first of the 12 Tribes of Israel.

The "Path of the Just" explains Yaacov's amazing strength in Kedusha. In the beginning it comes through effort, in the end it comes as a gift from Hashem.

Our inheritance from Yaacov is the ability to stay on the path, increasing the level of service every day. Hashem's gifts are bestowed on those who exert themselves to serve him.


"This time I will thank Hashem." (Bereishis) 29:35

What is special about name Yehuda that we Jews are called Yehudim as opposed to Reuveinim or Shimonim etc.

Leah knew with Ruach HaKodesh that she was destined to be one of four mothers. That meant. A simple calculation gives each one 3 children. When Leah had her fourth son she thanked Hashem for receiving more than her fair share.

This is the essence of a Jew, constantly thanking Hashem. A Jew understands that everything that Hashem gives is a gift. In reality, we don't deserve anything, nevertheless Hashem gives. And we thank Hashem for it.


Once a Chassid from a neighboring town came to Reb Hirsh Riminover and begged him to somehow intercede so that his father-in-law would die. "What!" exclaimed Reb Hirsh, "What are you talking about."

"Well, my father-in-law is very old, already more than 100 years" explained the chassid, "And he has to be watched over all the time. He can't really do much for himself, and he is miserable most of the time." "He doesn't learn and doesn't daven any more. He has had enough of life already, but he just keeps hanging on day after day, week after week, year after year."

R' Hirsh didn't really know what to say, but he reasoned that a Yid who lived to such an age must have some kind of merit. He commanded the chassid to bring in the old man to speak with him. The chassid protested saying that his father was too old and too feeble, but R' Hirsh wouldn't relent. "Bring him in anyway as I have requested," he ordered.

So they picked up the old man and brought him to Riminov. They carried him in on a bed and placed him in front of R' Hirsh. R' Hirsh began to ask him questions.. He soon found out that the old man had been a simple, boorish Jew. He had been a Ba'al HaAgaloh (wagon driver) all of his life. He davened in the morning, but his real interest was to get to breakfast. He went to Shul on Shabbos, but the cholent (Sabbath stew) was his goal.

R' Hirsh peppered him with more questions to find out of the old Jew could remember any reason that might account for his many years. Maybe there was some special mitzvah that he did once or some experience, maybe he had been to a Tzaddik on some special occasion.

Then the old Jew recalled once some Avrechim had asked him to take them for Shabbos to a town about a half a days journey away called Lizhensk. The pleaded with me but I didn't want to go. I told them that I like Shabbos at home with my bed and my cholent. But they promised me a good wage and the same food that I would eat at home and then some. So I finally agreed and we set off. We got there not long before Shabbos and they set me up in a nice hotel".

"Sure enough, right after the davening, they showed up with a great meal, everything, just as I like it. They came back a little while later and they asked me I wanted to go with to some kind of gathering, but I told them that I didn't come for that kind of thing, and they should let me sleep. So, being decent guys they did."

"In the morning after the davening, they again brought me a good meal with a cholent even better than what I would have gotten at home. I ate my fill and went to sleep."

"When I got up from my nap it was close to dark and nobody was around. I waited awhile but none of my passengers showed their faces. So I went to look for them. I came to the Shul and I heard the loudest singing and wildest dancing you can imagine. It sounded like they were all shikker (plastered). I peeked inside and there were empty bottles on the table and these guys were singing and dancing like anything. When I went in I saw that they were in a circle and they were all dancing around with one of them in the middle. He must have been the chief shikker or something because he was tall and his face was red like fire and he was dancing with his eyes closed and they were all singing and dancing around him."

At this point R' Hirsh stopped the old man exclaiming that now he understood everything. The tall one in the middle with a face red like fire was none other the Rebbe, R' Elimelech of Lizhensk. He explained that there it is well known that anybody whoever saw the even just glimpsed the face of R' Elimelech would not be able to leave the world until he had done Teshuva.

Then R' Hirsh turned towards the old man and started to explain to him in a gentle fatherly way how Hashem created the world, and how everything in it was put there for our benefit. He described the beauty of the creation, how every aspect of it is perfect, existing together in total harmony.

Then he began to explain the nature of the Jewish soul. He described how every Jew is like one Neshama, we are only separated by the physical bodies that we bear. Later, he gave us the Torah and its Mitzvos, specific instruction for serving Hashem and understanding His will.

The old Jew sat and listened but didn't utter a sound.

So R' Hirsh continued. He began to describe how we were given the Shabbos to further bring ourselves closer to Hashem. We welcome the Shabbos, and Hashem comes to us and so to speak, sits at our table with us sharing our food and company.

At this point the old Jew turned his head and stared dreamily out the window. A moment passed and he let out a deep sigh. R' Hirsh (who was a Cohen) quickly ordered all of the Cohanim to immediately leave the room (Cohanim even today are forbidden contact with the dead). The old Jew, heaved one more sigh of remorseful repentance, and left this world for the world to come.

A Guten Shabbos!

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