Parshas Vayeitzei

VOLUME 68 NUMBER 6
November 8, 2013
KISLEV 5, 5774
Candle-lighting Time 4:31 PM

Incredible MidosMan

In the few brief moments before I am overcome with sleep, I occasionally dream of creative little money-making ventures. Perhaps an electric converter which transforms X-mas lights into Chanukah decorations or a Jewish mother doll—you pull the string and she says, “Again with the string?”

Recently I thought of another kind of doll—a family of Jewish superheroes: *Midosman, Wonderfulwoman and The Marvelous Kinderlach. They wouldn’t be known for their super strength, just for their super strength of character. They may not bring me the big bucks, but they might garner a dusty shelf in the synagogue gift shop.

Jewish heroes are champions in the race to the ultimate perfection of the human personality. Able to leap over tall insults without responding in kind, faster than a speeding bullet at spotting an opportunity to help someone in need, more powerfully responsible than a locomotive. These are the people we look up to—the most gracious, the humblest and the most considerate of others. Not the most popular, the prettiest or the most athletic.

In this week’s parsha is a larger than life portrait of one such superhero, our Foremother Rachel.

As Jacob approaches his uncle Laban’s house, he first meets Rachel. Destined for one another, two halves of the same soul, they know instantly that they will marry. However, they also know that Rachel’s father Laban must agree.

In the Jewish superhero product line Laban is the archenemy. He is the greedy, deceitful trickster who will try everything in his power to cheat Jacob for all he can get. Knowing this, Jacob and Rachel devise a plan to prevent Laban from spoiling their intended marriage. Jacob gives Rachel a special sign. With the sign, she will be able to identify herself to him despite any attempts by Laban to trick them.

Sure enough, after Jacob works seven years as Laban’s shepherd for Rachel’s hand in marriage, the big day approaches. And sure enough, Laban plans to pull a fast one, just as they feared. Instead of Rachel marrying Jacob, Rachel’s older sister, Leah, would be substituted in her place.

At that moment, Rachel ran into the nearest phone booth and changed into Ms. Super Compassionate. With her x-ray vision she saw into the future, deep into her sister’s heart, and she realized that on her sister’s wedding night, after the great feast was over, in the intimate darkness alone with Jacob, she would be asked for the sign. She would not have it, and she would be utterly humiliated.

Our Super Foremother then sacrificed (as far as she knew) the love of her life, her betrothed, Jacob. She would not be a Foremother of the Jewish People, she would give up her destiny, she would watch as her sister married her husband.

To prevent her sister from such embarrassment, Rachel gave Leah the sign. “And it was in the morning, and behold, it was Leah!” The rest is history.

As a reward for her incredible, superhuman self-sacrifice to shield her sister from humiliation, Rachel was also able to marry Jacob. It even earned her an extra measure of love and respect from him. (See Kli Yakar 29:30) And it earned her an eternal place in the midos hall of fame, as the Jewish superheroine who taught us how to place other people’s feelings before our own.

*Midos are character traits.

Is It Really Me?

by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

En route to Lavan’s house, Yaakov experienced a vision of a ladder ascending to the heavens and Hashem ‘standing’ at the top guaranteeing him that he would return in peace from his journey. Yaakov vowed that if Hashem’s promise materialized, upon his return he would daven on that spot to thank Hashem for His kindness. Additionally, from all of his profits he would give a tenth. The Talmud states that it is preferrable that one should not make vows because he may forget to fulfill them. Why wasn’t Yaakov concerned that after many years he might also forget to fulfill his vow?

Furthermore, the commentaries explain that although there is a fear that one may forget to fulfill his obligation, nonetheless, in times of distress one may still accept the responsibility of a vow.  Perhaps we need to ask why one should make a vow specifically during times of distress? Are we only required to enhance our relationship with Hashem when we are experiencing a difficult situation?

The Sages say that Hashem ‘desires’ the prayers of the righteous. Therefore, He orchestrates that they be placed in precarious situations which require them to open their hearts in prayer. Does that mean that their prayers are contrived and not genuine? On the contrary, when we are in a difficult situation, we develop a heightened awareness of Hashem that we might ordinarily not perceive. When we have that opportunity to relate to Hashem on that elevated level of perception, we also merit the prospect of elevating ourselves to an entirely different level of connection that we had not experienced before. Therefore, when we encounter a challenge it is truly a struggle as to whether or not we will utilize the potential appropriately or not.

Perhaps we can view our own moments of distress and travail in a similar fashion. When we are faced with adversity, how do we react? Do we assume that this is simply a normal event that everyone at one point or another has to deal with? Or do we approach the situation with the understanding that everything that occurs is truly an ordeal determined by the Heavenly Court that we should have to deal with. If we truly perceive it as a test of our allegiance to Hashem, then we have a clear comprehension of what is going on. Subsequently, it necessitates that we take appropriate action. When we vow to enhance our devotion to Hashem under such circumstances, it clearly demonstrates that we understand that we are being tested to improve our lives.

The commentators explain that the trials and tribulations that Yaakov had to endure during his lifetime were examples of the hardships that we would eventually have to endure during our many centuries of exile. Just as he was called upon to react properly during his ordeals, so too, we need to assess our lives within that context as well. As the exile drags on and hopefully comes to a meaningful conclusion, we must realize our responsibility as members of the Jewish nation and respond in kind to the various needs and concerns that face our communities specifically and our nation in general. The way that we respond to these various situations will determine our allegiance to Hashem and to the Torah.

A BYTE FOR SHABBOS

Yaakov was forced to flee from his home to the house of Lavan. Just as one who kills inadvertently must escape to one of the Cities of Refuge, similarly, Yaakov also pushed Eisav further away from Hashem. Perhaps if he would have tried harder to encourage a change in his behavior, Eisav would have responded and repented.

S’FAS EMES

Joke of the Wee
A boiled egg is… hard to beat.

GOOD SHABBOS

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