Thursday, December 04, 2014

even an excused absence has consequences

1. Rashi comments on the words, “Im Lavan garti” that Ya’akov observed the tarya”g mitvos (same letters as garti) and did not learn from the actions of Lavan.  Rav Amiel in his Hegyonos El Ami asks: if Ya’akov observed tarya”g mitzvos, doesn’t it go without saying that he did not learn from the ways of Lavan?  Maybe it’s me, but unfortunately I don't think it's that hard to imagine people who keep the technical do’s and don’ts of mitzvos, but in their demeanor, attitude, outlook on life, learn from Lavan and live in his world. 

2. Rav Gifter asks what Ya’akov was so afraid of in this encounter with Eisav.  He was the bechir of the Avos; Eisav was a rasha.  Why would Hashem not protect Ya’akov?  Maybe it’s me again, but I don’t see why this is a question.  Sadly, there are many examples in our history of great tzadikim suffering at the hands of evildoers.  Perhaps the Avos were different, in which case the question is very narrow in scope. 

Be that as it may, he answers with a story from his days in Slabodka.  A student was ill and was not in yeshiva for Yom Kippur.  When he came to the Alter afterwards, the Alter gave the student sharp mussar.  Even though the student was ill – it was an excused absence, if you will – the Alter explained that the very fact that the bachur found himself in that situation was a sign that in shamayim they did not want his avodah.  The bachur told the Alter that in fact he had been able to daven and he did fast despite his illness, and then the Alter kissed him and praised his great effort. 

The Alter’s chiddush is based on the Mishna that speaks of rain on Sukkos being a sign that Hashem rejects one’s mitzvah of yeshivas sukkah.  True, if it rains one is exempt from the mitzvah, but the very fact that one finds oneself in that situation is a sign that something is wrong. 

Ya’akov had been away from home for years and years.  He had not been a position to fulfill the mitzvah of kibud av; he had not been in a position to fulfill the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz.  He had a great excuse for his absence – but the very fact that he needed an excuse bothered him!  Perhaps his inability to do these mitzvos, combined with Eisav’s ability to do them, was in some way an indication that his avodah was lacking and not fully accepted.

Adds Rav Gifter, if Ya’akov was so afraid that these two mitzvos of kibud av and yishuv ha'aretz would give Eisav power over him, what does that tell us about the tremendous power of a single good deed!  (See Rambam in the Peirush haMishnayos at the end of Makkos.)  Furthermore, what does it tell us about the zechus of yishuv ha’aretz if Eisav, who certainly did not say a “l’shem yichud” before coming to Eretz Yisrael, did not even consider it his real home (which was in Se’ir), and did not have any thoughts about kedushas ha’aretz when he came there, could accrue such great spiritual benefit just from being in the land!

I hate to throw cold water again, but, coming back to the Rashi I started with, Ya'akov in fact boasts that he did in fact observe all tarya"g mitzvos.  As for kibud av, Rashbam comments that when away from home he was obeying his parents' directive to go to Lavan's home and find a wife.  So could Ya'akov's fear really be based on a concern that he was missing something in his avodah? 

3. If you take the PATH train in NY from WTC toward Hoboken, you can’t help but notice a huge billboard on the way down to the tracks advertising a new game for your device.  The ad says, “Make your day Divine.”  You have to feel sorry for those people who think "divine" is all about looking at little candies on a screen.


  1. Mordechai from the Megilla.

  2. Rav Rudderman said exactly as you say in #1 at an Agudah convention after some scandal involving our people- you see from here that you can keep all the Taryag and behave like Lavan.

  3. Regarding #2, I don't know why you can't see the question. In your parshas vayeishev, you quote a maharal that the avos are different and we can't humanize them. Yes although tzadikim have suffered and feared, but by the avos its not the Same.
    Also regarding the last question, I had that question and answered that There's a halacha of There's noone else you can disrupt learning to do a mitzva. By mordechai there was noone else. So Why did he get demoted?? The answer is it's not an onesh as a punishment but as metzius and reality of consequence. since the fact mordichai wasnt as involved as before, then he mmeila went down a level. Since yaacov was away and Yizchok felt pain then yaacov needs to go through it to.

    1. The terutz I heard was that of course someone had to do it, but the fact that Hashem picked Mordecai showed some kind of relative defect compared to the other Gedolai Hador who were available. Same as the mehalach of the Alter quoted here.

      BTW, having been exposed to many stories of the Alter, I suspect that he knew what the bochur would answer, and put him through the mussar so that he could build him up at the end.

    2. >>>Yes although tzadikim have suffered and feared, but by the avos its not the Same.

      Ain hachi nami, you could say that, but isn't the point of the Torah recording these stories is because they have a limud for us? Once you start saying "the Avos were different," then it becomes harder to apply what they went through to our lives.

  4. Yes we should learn from the avos, but not project our base instincts on them.
    I don't think it's a svara that yaakov avinu, the face of the merkava and the bechiras ha'avos had a not so mature level of bitachon that he was simply afraid.

    We can learn from the avos what to be like and aspire to. It's very difficult to say we learn from their "mistakes "(I never understood the ramban on the avos ).. also you do have to make a palginan, that the avos were on higher levels, but since it's written in the torah ldoros then I can learn the lesson

  5. >>>but not project our base instincts on them.

    I'm not projecting fear onto Ya'akov -- the Torah says he was afraid. To use your other example as a contrast, the Torah never said Avraham did anything wrong in going down to Egypt.