Parshas VaYetze 5759

Parsha Insights is dedicated this week
In memory of our mother
Rachel Spitz Harris,
Rachel bat Yitzchak Elchanan and Zelda Ita
by her loving children
Joanna, Sandy & Arnold

The Tzaddikim in each generation are the flames ignited by the spark of divinity in every Jew.

"And Yaacov went out from Be'er Sheva and headed towards Charan." (Bereishis 28:10)

"The departure of a Tzaddik from a place makes an everlasting impression. When the Tzaddik resides in a city he is it's glory and it's splendor. When the Tzaddik leaves, so departs the city’s glory splendor and light. (Rashi on Bereishis 28:10)

The influence of a Tzaddik on the generation can be compared to the sun. Even though it is 192,000,000 miles away, it's warmth and light reach into every corner of the world. Likewise the Tzaddik; the generation in which he lives, enjoys tremendous spiritual benefit from his presence. Only the ones who deliberately distance themselves from the Tzaddik, are left in the darkness.

Every person in Klal Yisroel has a spark of the divine in him, and this spark is fully lucent when it ignites the heart of Jew by striking a close connection with one of the Tzaddikim of the generation.
(R’ Avraham of Slonim, Sefer Toras Avos, p.48)

The key to successful Avodas Hashem is consistency.

“And Yaacov arrived in a (familiar) place and spent the night there since the sun had already set. He took some stones and placed them around his head and lay down to sleep. He had a vision with in a dream. A ladder was standing on the ground, and it’s top reached up to the heavens. Hashem’s angels were ascending and descending on it.” (Bereishis 28:11-13)

Yaacov embodies the quality of Tiferes (beauty) which is associated with Truth. It is a perfect blend between the Gevurah of his father Yitzchok Avinu and the Chesed of his grandfather Avraham Avinu. It is more than just a blend, rather a complete new entity in the world. Like truth, which never wavers or changes, Yaacov Avinu conducted himself in a consistent manner his whole life. Even when he faced difficult challenges in his life, and it seemed as if Hashem was hiding from him, his Avodah was always consistent and unwavering. “Happy is the one who toils in learning Torah and is a source of delight to Hashem.” (Talmud Brochos 17a) Yaacov followed this advice, trying always to be a source of delight to Hashem. Therefore his Avodah was strong and consistent, always focused. This was the quality needed to be the father of the twelve tribes, the cornerstone of the Jewish nation.

When night fell, Yaacov prayed the Ma’ariv service, and like many Tzaddikim, retired to sleep immediately afterwards until midnight, when he arose for study and meditation until the morning prayer at sunrise. Yaacov did this every night, not out of mindless habit, but because his service was conscious and committed. He strove to serve Hashem in truth, and every day he succeeded a little more until he became a perfect vessel for Hashem’s service. This is the essence of Tiferes - truth.

It is a time honored custom of Jews to sleep not only on Shabbos, but before Shabbos in preparation for the holy day. R’ Shlomo Karliner said that this pre-Shabbos nap is of such importance, that he is surprised that it wasn’t included as part of the ten commandments!

R’ Chaim Meir, the previous Vishnitzer Rebbe, successfully fled the Nazi inferno of WWII. Once it was Erev Shabbos and R’ Chaim Meir and his nephew R’ Baruch were fleeing the Nazis across the Rumanian border through a field of tall wheat. Suddenly R’ Chaim Meir stopped and announced that it was Erev Shabbos, and one must sleep in order to be well rested for the Avodah of the Holy day. As his nephew looked on in utter astonishment, R’ Chaim Meir laid down amongst the wheat stalks, shut his eyes, and actually fell asleep for a few minutes. He then jumped up and they continued their flight across the border.

Consistency is the mark of a Tzaddik. One becomes a Tzaddik through a consistent Divine Service. 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. Through this type of Avodah one can become “. . .a ladder standing on the ground, whose top reaches up to the heavens”, one whose feet are firmly planted on the ground while his head and heart soar in the heavens, rapt with the splendor of the Divne presence.
(Based on R’ Avraham of Slonim, Sefer Toras Avos, p.48)

The special qualities of Rivka Imanu.

"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.

Rivka, the mother of Yaacov and Esav, was a singular figure in our history. Rivka 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, as it is written, “How abundant is Your goodness, which You have hidden for the ones who fear You!” (Psalms 31:20)

Rivka's incredible Chesed overshadows her Gevurah. She always knew what to do. She never entertained any doubts. When she met Eliezer, she knew to water his camels despite the time and energy it would take, and despite the fact the he had his own water jugs. 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 Rivka.

Rivka 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 Rivka.

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

Spiritual and physical can be relative terms.

"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!?"

Who is a Jew?

"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 Him 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 davven 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 davvened 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 transport 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 davvening, 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 davvening, 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.

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