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Rav Soloveitchik ZT'L Notes ( Volume 3)
Lecture delivered by Rabbi Soloveitchik on Saturday night, December 16, 1978
This evening we shall explain a few aspects of the word, "Vayaytze" (and he went out). Rashi’s interpretation is that the word "Vayaytze" denotes that the departure of a "zadik" — a righteous person leaves a profound impression. When he is in a town, he is its glory, its grandeur, its beauty. "Vayaytze yaakov mibayr shova vayaylech chrona." (And Jacob departed from Ber Sheva and went to Choron.) Where does Rashi derive this conclusion about the departure? Where is his source for this statement? It was no longer the B’er Sheva which it previously was. He felt that semantically Vayaytze tells a story. It contains a message B’er Sheva became a desolate place which previously it was a beautiful city.
In Hebrew the word Vayaytze appears with many suppositions as demonstrated in various places in the Torah. In chapter 11, sentence 8 of Sedra Bo in Chumash Shemot we find: "Vayaytze mayim paroh b’chori af." (And Moshe went out from Pharaoh in great anger.) We find it combined with the word "ays" when Pharaoh asked Moshe to pray for him and he answered that he could not pray here. "I will go out and spread out my hands to G-d!" There are three suppositions connected with "Vayaytze". It is combined with the words "ays", "m’ays" and "min" — all meaning "going out from". It means a physical departure — not a spiritual one. For instance, we find in Sedra Vayakal (section 35, sentence 20): when Moshe sent the people to obtain the ingredients necessary for the "chel moed", "Vayaytze kol adas bnai Yisrael milifnai Moshe." They went out to attend to important business — to return shortly with the "offering for the Mishkan." This is a departure not for ever but for a short time. They went just to get what they needed. It is a physical departure for a short time but not permanent. The same applies to what Moshe said to Pharaoh, "I’ll walk out to the city gate to pray." Again it is physical, "B’tzasi ays" — not "min". "Ays" is departure from a person — Moshe’s leaving Pharaoh. These are the semantics of the word. When it is combined with the word "min" (or a contraction of "min") it means something different; it means "permanent — forgotten."
Thus in "Vayaytze Yaakov mi’ber — means "I had to move away from something dear — something I loved. A "force" has displaced me. This is what Rashi means "Mi Be’r Sheva". He didn’t want to go but was uprooted. More over, "Vayaytze min" refers to something tragic — something sad which is reminiscent of a catastrophe — his moving from B’er Sheva. How do we know he felt like that? B’er Sheva felt it and Jacob felt it. It is hard to imagine a B’er Sheva without the personage of Jacob. They were one entity; he belonged to the city. His distinction was strange and foreign to him and he felt that he could never learn to live there. His tragedy was the necessity to live minus his father’s home. Why did he experience this in such tragic terms? Of course, it is understood that no one wants to leave his father and mother and the home he loves. But this was not Jacob’s main reason for he was not a child. The Torah would not talk merely about sentimental terms. The Patriarchs were not in the habit of turning natural events into tragedies.
There is a posek in Tehilim which reads, "I lift up mine eyes to the mountain; from whence shall mine help come!" This "posek" of Tehilim refers to Jacob when he left Be’r Sheva to go to Choron. It was a spiritual moment of tragedy for him. Interestingly, however, after he spent the night "B’mokom" (at the place), he became light-headed, happy — because he had experienced an encounter with G-d and assurance of Divine help. But it was not due merely to an encounter with G-d and not only the promise of protection and assurance. What did G-d tell him?
Abraham introduced the Covenantal Community. It was signed and sealed by G-d and it imposed an obligation not only on man but on G-d. It involved each side of the covenant. Was it unconditional or did Abraham have to meet certain conditions and obligations? Certain definite conditions were introduced as we find in Chapter 18, line 19 of Sedra "Vayera".
"For I know that he will instruct his sons and his community after him to observe the ways of G-d to do charity and righteousness in order that G-d will bring to Abraham that which He has promised concerning him."
He must transmit all his teaching to future generations. If Abraham leaves no "will", there is no obligation by G-d. It is said that every member of the Covenant must write two wills. There is the normal will which disposes of his personal wealth and belongings. But there is another will, the one of observing "Derech Hashem" (G-d’s way). "He (Abraham) will entrust the spiritual treasure to his children."
According to Rambam, a "mitzvah" is not merely a commandment but "m’tzoa she’ bal peh" — an utterance or a will. The word "mitzvah" is synonymous with the word "Tzavoah" (will). If it were not carved out, the covenant would have terminated.
Abraham was the first teacher, not to a few but to tens of thousands, according to Rambam. The Community consisted of "Talmidim" — students. The main thing was the "Teacher-father," not merely based on the biological factor but on the teaching aspect. Rambam calls it, "the nation which is in love with G-d." This is how he termed the Covenantal Community. We find in Tehilim often the phrase, "Shigoyun L’Dovid" as it introduces a psalm. The word "Shigoyun" means the "Madness of David." He was madly in love with G-d. Abraham’s responsibility was to see that there is someone to pass it on to. This was the type of community which Abraham passed on to Isaac and which Isaac then passed on to Jacob. It was "love of G-d" and it was consummated at Sinai.
Where in Torah do we find that "Yitzchak" took over the lead? In Chapter 26, line 25 of "Toldos" it declares, "Vayiven shom mizbayach" — and he built there an altar. Once he built the altar, he was now the teacher. Now he became the successor.
We also find that Abimelech, the King of Gror, recognized this greatness as did the previous Abimelech of Abraham Here, immediately after being told that Yitzchak built the "Mizbayach" Abimelech came to sign a treaty. "Now I see that G-d is with you. Let there be a treaty between you and me." A king does not sign a pact with an ordinary person but with a person of equal importance. In Chapter 22 of "Sedra Vayera", Abimelech made a treaty with Abraham and recognized him as a king. Also, he wouldn’t have done this with an ordinary man. Thus, with both Abraham and Isaac we find them recognized as kings. Therefore, lineage succession is clean. Now as for Jacob, where do we find the leadership turned over to him? We find it in the second "Brochos" or blessings bestowed upon him by his father Isaac before Jacob left his home. Chapter 27, line 4: "And may He bestow upon you the blessings of Abraham." Isaac never intended these blessings for Esau. He intended for Esau only "M’tal Hashamayim" — the dew of heaven — the physical riches. The second ones, "Birchas Avrohom" were for Jacob. "Travel and spread the words of G-d. Tell the people who G-d is!" That is the trusteeship of the Covenantal Community. "Love of G-d." Interestingly, here we find the name of G-d written as "Kal Shadai" In the first blessing it is written Elokim. Shadai means "limitation," not too big — not too much — limited. Jacob’s role would now involve a limited group of people.
Jacob understood all this but there was something he didn’t understand. If he is the leader of the community, he thought it only could be carried out in Eretz Yisroel. He knew that his father Yitzhak wanted to leave the land but G-d stopped him. "You are the leader of the Community — one entity and cannot leave."
Here suddenly Jacob’s father tells him to leave the land with the "Birkos Avraham," — (Abraham’s blessings). This is what he couldn’t reason. We are told by Rambam that B’er Sheva was the "Ir M’Kudeshes" — the city as holy in the Patriarchs’ time as Jerusalem was destined to become. It was the center of Abraham’s activities. From time to time we are told that Abraham left B’er Sheva to expand his activities but invariably he returned to the city. Thus, if the city had such stature, Jacob couldn’t visualize leaving B’er Sheva. In fact, he was uprooted and taken by force from B’er Sheva. "It is not your place." These were his fears for he thought that his role would be taken away from him. It was hard for him to realize that he could be a leader — a teacher in a place of Pagans. B’er Sheva indeed lost a great man! The holiness is not B’er Sheva per se. It is not holy more with his departure and is similar to Mt. Sinai. Now it means nothing per se. "The moment the shofar "Tkiah G’Dolah" was sounded at Sinai and the "Shechina" departed, there was no longer holiness. Similar is B’er Sheva. Jacob was frightened! Perhaps, not only was Kedusha (holiness) taken from B’er Sheva but maybe from him too. Maybe there is another man. This was his great fear. This is why he declares almost hysterically, "Where shall I turn my eyes, etc." "Can I build a community in Choron? It is an impossibility." Why did G-d send him to Choron? Why start from scratch? Why lose the tens of thousands who Abraham trained, who Yitzhak trained? Apparently, the community was destroyed. However, it was G-d’s inscrutable will. In Choron he did start the community with a handful of children — with twelve people. Only this did G-d want! He left thousands and came back to an old blind father with a handful. Why?
I believe that G-d tried to teach Jacob this "Yehodus" — faith is recognizable and understandable even on the moon. If he didn’t leave, the community would have been limited only to Eretz. "Yehodus" wanted Jacob to realize this and to start from scratch. It also shows us that we can start from scratch.
There was "Churban rishon" — Churban sheni — destruction after destruction, and yet we picked up the threads and started from scratch. Yitzhak told him, "Lach Padena Arom" (go to Padan Arom). And Jacob had to experience this — not only Jacob but later Joseph. G-d wanted Jacob to experience "Golus" (Diaspora) — to be a stranger — to be rejected — not in a known land — to be exposed and persecuted. But why twice? First, it was father and then the son. Joseph resembled Jacob physically and also resembled Jacob’s awesome experiences. Jacob had to experience it in poverty and hard work. Joseph had to experience it both ways — in poverty and as a successful man with material wealth. It was to teach us, the later generations, that we can be part of the Covenantal Community under all conditions in all places.
This is what G-d wanted for Jacob. "Go, forget all your friends and your people — go to Choron. Try to convert the young girls - your wives - your children." And from the twelve cornerstones come the nation. There will be a Mokom Kodesh, a holy place, but not B’er Sheva. There he became happy with "B’Mokom" (the mount where he slept the night). "I realize I don’t have to worry. ‘B’er Sheva’ is not the place of destiny. It will be in time to come in another place."
Yaacov made a vow on his way from Be'er Sheva to Charan: "The Almighty will be a G-d for me" [Bereishit 28:21]. As Rashi explains, his prayer was, "Let me be worthy of His name from beginning to end, let there be no fault in my offspring." This was years before he had any children, but he already prayed that his children would continue in his path. And in the end, Yaacov achieved what his father and grandfather did not. As far as Avraham was concerned, Yitzchak was the only one who continued his way. Similarly, for Yitzchak, only Yaacov continued on the righteous path. Yaacov himself is not sure of his sons, asking, "Is there some fault among you? Is there anybody who does not stand with me in following G-d?" [Rambam, Hilchot Keriyat Shema 1:4]. The reply is: "Hear, Yisrael - that is, hear us, our father Yisrael - our G-d is one. And he replied, Blessed is the honor of His kingdom for ever." [Rambam, ibid].
This desire, to pass on the yoke of heaven to all his children, without any exception, is Yaacov's guiding principle throughout his life. At his first meeting with Yosef, after 22 years of separation, he didn't fall over him and kiss him, but he "recited the Shema" [Rashi, Breishit 46:29]. In spite of the fact that his sons had told him that Yosef had been killed by an animal, he still feared that they had a hand in his death, acting in a way more befitting Esav than Yaacov. When he saw that Yosef was indeed still alive, he cried out, "Shema Yisrael - I am happy that all my children follow the path of G-d."
But Yaacov is concerned not only with his own children but with all of mankind. That is how Rashi interprets the first verse of Keriyat Shema: "G-d, who is only ours for now and not the G-d of all the nations, will in the future be a single G-d, as is written, 'Then will I change the nations to speak clear language, that they will all call out in the name of G-d' [Tzefania 3:9], and it is written, 'On that day, G-d will be one and His name will be one' [Zechariya 14:9]." [Devarim 6:4]. The mitzva of "Love your G-d" is not concerned only with the Jew himself and his family, but is interpreted to mean, "Cause Him to be loved by all mankind, as was your father Avraham, as is written, 'and the souls which he made in Chevron' [Bereishit 12:5]" [Sifri, Devarim 6:8].
Rabbi A.Y. Kook wrote in "Teudat Yisrael U'Leumi'uto" as follows: "It would be a mistake to leave nationalistic feelings in their natural state, in terms of materialistic desires, related to nothing more than the needs of life. It is necessary in addition to this to attempt to understand and to explain how our nationalistic feelings are related to the lofty goal of love for all mankind. This is our ultimate goal and desire." Yaacov's great vision, from the time he escaped all alone to Aram, and from then on, was that there should be no fault not only in him and his children, but in all of mankind as well. Back To Top of Page
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From Rabbi Yissocher Frand hide details 5:05 pm (6 hours ago) reply-to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com to firstname.lastname@example.org date Nov 15, 2007 5:05 PM subject CORRECTED: Rabbi Frand on Parshas Vayeitzei mailed-by torah.org Images from this sender are always displayed. Don't display from now on.
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The Tzadik Does Not "Flee" He "Leaves" (With Dignity and Confidence)
Last week's parsha ends with Yitzchak sending Yaakov to his Uncle Lavan to find a wife. The narrative concludes with Yitzchak blessing Yaakov and the latter leaving for Padan Aram. The pasuk [verse] then interjects that Eisav noticed that his Canaanite wives were evil in his father's eyes and therefore went and married Machalas the daughter of Yishmael, son of Avraham. [Bereshis 28:5-9]
Parshas Vayetzei returns to the narrative of Yaakov's departure and restates the fact that "Yaakov left Be'er Sheva." [Bereshis 28:10] From a literary perspective, it would have made far more sense to not repeat Yaakov's departure from Be'er Sheva for Padan Aram, but rather to immediately begin the narration of Yaakov's dream: "He encountered the place..." beginning in pasuk 11. It would seem almost as if the Torah was "side-tracked" by the interjection of Eisav's marriage, such that it had to retrace its steps and refresh our memory of what was taking place with Yaakov.
T he Be'er Yosef by Rav Yosef Salant says this "diversion" implicitly compliments Yaakov Avinu. We notice a vast difference in the lot of Yitzchak's two sons, in their ability to land the type of shidduchim [marriages] they are seeking. Yaakov needs to travel to Padan Aram. He needs to negotiate with the notorious Lavan. He gets tricked by Lavan and winds up having to work for 14 years to get two wives, only one of which he really wanted to marry. Eisav goes off and marries Machalas, one-two-three!
For those with the experience of having sons in "shidduchim," this is the equivalent of having one son who marries the first girl he ever goes out with, while the other son travels from New York to Baltimore, week in, week out, for years, without ever finding a shidduch.
What are we to say about such a dichotomy? We might say "Nu, some people have it easy and some people have it hard." But who has it easy and who has it hard? The righteous Yaakov has it hard. The wick e d Eisav has it easy!
The Be'er Yosef says that this is why the Torah uses the words "Vayeitzei Yaakov" at the beginning of the parsha. The verb Vayeitzei [and he went out] teaches us that despite the fact that Yaakov could have had complaints to the Almighty and questioned the fairness of the relative difficulty he was having finding a marriage partner in fulfillment of his parents' wishes, he nevertheless did not question Him. Yaakov had no complaints.
Rav Matisyahu Solomon asks on this insight of the Be'er Yosef: where do we see that Yaakov did not have complaints to G-d regarding the difficulty he was experiencing with shidduchim? Rav Matisyahu Solomon explains that we see that Yaakov did not have complaints from the pasuk "And Yaakov left from Be'er Sheva and he went to Charan." This teaches us that he went serenely and calmly, always with a smile on his face, and without complaints.
How do we see that? A pasuk in the Haftorah mirrors the pasuk at th e beginning of the Parsha: "Yaakov fled (vayivrach Yaakov) to the fields of Aram..." [Hoshea 12:13] The wording in our Parsha (vayeitzei / vayelech) implies that he went quietly, confidently, not rushed and not hurried, with the greatest serenity. "Vayivrach Yaakov Sedei Aram" means he ran for his life! Which one is correct?
In truth, he did flee for his life. Rivka saw what was happening. She knew that her son Yaakov would be in mortal danger if he remained in Canaan much longer. "So now my son, heed my voice and arise; FLEE to my brother Lavan to Haran." [Bereshis 27:43]
Really, both pasukim are true. He was running for his life, but he did not perceive it as such. He perceived that this was part of G-d's plan. G-d was taking him by the hand, so to speak, and saying "Yankele, now we need to go to the field of Aram and this is where you are going to find your marriage partner. I am leading you." Even though objectively he was fleeing, he perceived it to be a d eparture of dignity and purpose, which did not present cause for worry or anxiety.
There is no difference in any of our life's journeys, whether we have a Pillar of Fire at night that leads our way, as was the case in the Exodus from Egypt, or whether the journey resembles any of the other numerous sojourns that Klal Yisrael has taken in Galus all these thousands of years. It is always the same. Whether obvious or not, G-d is always leading us by the hand.
He prepares the steps of man (ha'mechin mitz'adei gaver). We are supposed to be in a certain place at a certain time and G-d sees to it that this will happen. It is Yaakov Avinu's unbelievable confidence and faith in the Almighty that allows him to take in stride, all the trials and tribulation that confronted him in finding his marriage partner.
It is with such an attitude that Yaakov was able to maintain a sense of calm and dignity represented by the word "vayetzei" (he departed in an orderly man ner) during a situation that objectively amounted to a "vayivrach" (fleeing for his life).
I recently attended a dinner in Chicago for the Telshe Yeshiva. The Roshei Yeshiva there spoke about the history of Telshe. Rav Avraham Chaim Levine was yet a young boy when they started the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, Ohio. He remembered what Rav Elya Meir Bloch said in the early days of the Yeshiva in America.
Rav Elya Meir Bloch saw the Telshe Yeshiva in Europe burn to the ground with his own eyes, with virtually all of its students at the hands of the Nazis, yemach shemam [may their name be blotted out]. The Telshe Yeshiva in Europe and all its students were destroyed. Two of the Roshei Yeshiva, Rav Elya Meir Bloch and Rav Mottel Katz were miraculously spared.
When Rav Elya Meir came to the United States as a refugee who had lost his family, he immediately decided that he was going to start a Yeshiva. He went to Rabbi Teitz in New Jersey for consultation. They fas ted so that they should merit picking the right city. They picked Cleveland, Ohio.
Some people argued with him: "How can you start a new Yeshiva? You are fresh off the boat! You are a refugee. You cannot start a new Yeshiva in a strange country in a strange land!" Rav Elya Meir responded that when the future King Dovid did not know whether King Shaul was about to kill him or not, he made up a sign with the King's son, Yonasan (recorded in the famous Haftorah of 'Machar chodesh'). "If I say this to the boy: 'Behold, the arrows are beyond you!', then go (lech), for this is a signal that Hashem has sent you away." [Shmuel I 20:22].
The pasuk does not use the term "berach" [flee], just "lech" [go]. "For this is a signal that Hashem has sent you away." This is part of your mission from the Almighty. This is part of G-d leading you by the hand and telling you 'This is where you are supposed to go.' This is all part of the Pillar of Light that leads you at night. It m ay not be readily perceived as such and things might look bleak, but in truth, it is all the same. The Tzadik proceeds confidently in the bleakest of situations, secure in his faith that the Almighty is leading him in the appropriate direction.
This write-up was adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tape series on the weekly Torah portion. These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape #570, Tuition And Maaser Money. Good Shabbos! Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail email@example.com or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.