Wednesday, November 22, 2017

va'yeitzei or va'yivrach?

There is an interesting contrast between the way our parsha describes Ya'akov's departure for Lavan's house -- "Vayeitzei Ya'akov... vayeilech...," which sounds like Ya'akov was leaving for a vacation trip -- and the way the haftarah describes the same event -- "Va'yivrach Ya'akov," Ya'akov fled.  See Sefas Emes 5634.  Maybe the difference is that our parsha is speaking about what happened after Ya'akov spent 14 years learning in yeshivas Shem v'Eiver.  When he first departed, Ya'akov was in fact running for his life.  Then he paused and took stock and immersed himself in Torah.  He had to continue the journey, but now it was a different journey, one which he embarked upon with a different attitude.  Ya'akov now had a sense of calm and purpose, a sense of mission.  

Rashi (28:17) writes that Ya'akov passed by the makom mikdash en route to Lavan's home but continued without stopping.  He later said to himself, "Have I passed by the spot where my forefather's prayed without stopping to pray there myself?" and he turned to go back.  According to Rashi, Hashem then miraculously moved the makom mikdash to Ya'akov to spare him the trip.

R' Shteinman (in his Ayeles haShachar -- and have in mind when you learn this torah that it should be a zechus for a refuah sheleimah for him) makes a nice diyuk in this Rashi.  Ya'akov doesn't say, "I passed the makom mikdash without stopping."  It's not the place itself which he bemoans missing. What he says is maybe I missed "the place where my forefather's davened."  Places themselves are not inherently meaningful or special.  It is what we do there that endows them with significance.

Parenthetically, where do we see that the other Avos davened at the makom mikdash?  Targum Yonasan (25:21) on "va'ye'etar Yitzchak la'Hashem," a phrase we discussed last week, writes that Yitzchak went to Har HaMoriah.  My cousin-in-law R' Avraham Wagner in his sefer Na'ar Yehonasan on the Targum quotes a Zohar and other sources which indicate that Yitzchak went there to offer a korban.  Maybe you can learn k'peshuto that Yitzchak simply went there to daven, as we see from Rashi that the makom mikdash was a makom tefilah for the Avos.

So Ya'akov gets to Lavan's house and discovers that he has two daughters, Rachel and Leah.  Rachel is beautiful, but Leah is described as "einey Le'ah rakos," her eyes were sore.  Rashi, quoting B"B 123, explains that Leah thought that since she was the older daughter, she would have to marry Yitzchak's oldest son, Eisav.  Therefore, she was constantly crying.  Chazal say that Leah got a tremendous reward for those tears.  "Va'yar Hashem ki senu'ah Leah" doesn't mean Leah was hated by Ya'akov -- it refers to Leah hating Eisav, her crying over her plight.  G-d saw that hatred Leah had for Eisav and as a result, "Vayiftach es rachmah," Leah was blessed with children.

The Iyun Ya'akov on this gemara asks: Chazal attribute the tragedy of Dinah being taken by Shechem that we will read about in next week's parsha to Ya'akov failing to give her as a wife to Eisav, which would have pushed Eisav to do teshuvah.  How can Chazal be critical of Ya'akov for not giving Dinah to Eisav as a wife when they praise Leah for not wanting to marry him?   If Leah is justified in not wanting to marry Eisav, why is Ya'akov not justified in not allowing Dinah to marry him?

R' Ya'akov Neiman in Darkei Musar answers that what we learn from this Chazal is that Hashem does not use the same standard yardstick for each of us when he evaluates our behavior.  Hashem measured Leah against the yardstick appropriate for her, and viz a viz where she was holding, it was meritorious for her reject Eisav.  Hashem used a different yardstick when it came to measuring Ya'akov Avinu, one appropriate to the level he was on.  Relative to the expectations for someone on that super-high level, Ya'akov was found wanting in not wanting Dinah to marry his brother.

He offers a second suggestion: Leah was only Eisav's cousin; Ya'akov was a brother.  It may be appropriate for a cousin to reject an Eisav, but a brother can't reject another brother even if he is an Eisav.

The Tiferes Shlomo notes that while Chazal explain to us how "Va'yar Hashem ki senu'ah Leah" is actually a praise, they don't explain why it is that we find only by Rachel and Leah the next phrase of "vayiftach es rachma."  Why not just say "va'tahar va'teiled?"  And how does the first half of the pasuk tie together with the end, "ki Rachel akarah?"

Contrary to what a simple reading of the text might suggest, Leah and Rachel cared for each other very deeply.  Brothers have a responsibility toward each other, and so do sisters.  Why did Leah deserve to have children?  Because "vayftach es rachma," the well of rachmanus in her was open, "ki Rachel akarah," because what bothered her more than her own plight was the fact that her sister was barren.  

1 comment:

  1. was it (partly) because Rivka raised even the hava amina that Yaakov might take a wife mi'bnos ha'aretz (27:46), that her granddaughter Dinah got into trouble while looking bi'bnos ha'aretz (34:1)?

    and what of Rivka instructing Yaakov to flee, b'rach lecha, 27:43, to Lavan, rather than to Shem (whom she herself had consulted at 25:22)?

    and was Eisav deserving of Dinah for wife, inasmuch as he did not try to beat his brother to Padena Aram (while the latter sat in yeshiva) to take Leah? that is, Eisav left daughters, plural, for Yaakov's choosing, only because his father said so (mi'bnos Lavan, 28:2); such was Eisav's kibud av (who took instead a daughter of Yishmael for a wife, again out of kibud av, for Yitzchak had once cooperated with his half-brother in the burial of Avraham, 25:9)