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Perashat Vayetze

At the end of last week’s Perashah, we learned that Yaakov received the Berachot from Yitzhak, and for this reason his brother Esav wanted to kill him. So his mother Rivkah told Yaakov to run away to her family in Haran, to her brother Lavan’s home until Esav would calm down from his anger. Vayetze, this week’s Perashah, begins with Yaakov on the way to Haran. Yaakov stops off to sleep at what will become the future Bet Hamikdash. Before Yaakov lies down to sleep, he places twelve stones around his head to protect himself from wild animals. So the question is asked: "How is putting twelve stones around his head going to protect him from wild animals?" One explanation is that Yaakov had to make only the minimum hishtadlut (effort) to protect himself from the animals and not rely on a miracle that Hashem will protect him. There's another commentary that says, Yaakov’s journey symbolizes B'nei Yisrael going into exile (Galut). The most important thing that we as Jews must do now that we're in the Diaspora, is protect our minds from the foreign ideologies and cultures of the other nations of the world. We must always protect our minds and our children’s minds from the negative influences of the society around us. We must know that we as a people are Kedoshim. The word kadosh means “holy” and implies separation – we are separate! That night Yaakov had a dream: “He dreamed that there was a ladder going from the ground up to the Heavens with Malachim (angels) going up and down the ladder.” One interpretation of this dream is that it symbolizes the growth in spirituality, which should be taken one step at a time and one rung at a time: ketzat, ketzat (little by little). Also, the fact that the ladder is rooted on the ground but the top reaches the Heavens symbolizes that we as religious Jews should know that even though our feet are on the ground, our head and our minds should be focused on Hashem and spirituality. Today, many people look for shortcuts in business with a view to getting rich quickly. Similarly, there are people who want to grow in Torah and become religious very quickly. Although it is commendable to want to grow in Torah, one should not try to accelerate the process, because there's no quick fix in Torah. In order to grow in Torah, we must 'Amal b’Torah': 'Toil in learning Torah'. We will then enjoy the fruits of our labor that much more. Just as with earning a livelihood, it is a greater achievement if we build our business on our own as opposed to it getting handed down to us from our fathers. The Perashah continues as Yaakov reaches Lavan's home, where the first person to greet him is Rachel at the well. Right away, Yaakov decides that he wants to marry Rachel. He makes a deal with her father Lavan to work for seven years in order to marry her. Yaakov was warned about the nature of Lavan and that he would probably try to trick him into marrying his older daughter Leah first. So Yaakov gives Rachel special signs for the wedding night to protect him from Lavan's tricks of "Bait and Switch". When the night of the wedding arrives and after waiting seven years to marry Yaakov, Rachel feels sorry for her sister Leah. She is being switched as a bride and so Rachel gave Leah the signs so that she will not be embarrassed. Rachel is willing to sacrifice her love for Yaakov and her place as one of the mothers of Kahal Yisrael. To embarrass someone is a very big sin. The Ten Commandments include the injunction lo tirtzah, Do not kill, but killing according to our rabbis does not refer only to the physical taking of life, but also to spiritual death. When you embarrass someone, you can see all the blood rush to their face as they blush and turn red. They have been diminished and injured on a spiritual level. Some years later, Leah had four sons and Rachel was still childless. In perek 30 pasuk 14, a strange dialogue occurs : "Reuben went out in the days of the wheat harvest; he found dudaim in the field and brought them to Leah his mother and Rachel said to Leah, Please give me some of your son's dudaim. But Leah replied back to her, Was your taking my husband insignificant? And now to take even my son's dudaim!" Rachel replies, “Therefore, he shall lie with you tonight in return for your son's dudaim." The dudaim were used for fertility purposes and since Rachel didn't have any children yet, and this caused her great unhappiness, she merely asked Leah for some of Reuben's dudaim. What is going on here? How can Leah be so ungrateful? Rachel gave Leah the secret signs that enabled her to get married to Yaakov avoiding humiliation. Now, Leah reprimands Rachel: "You took my husband and now you want my son’s dudaim?" How could Leah be so insensitive? We have to understand the magnitude of the Hesed that Rachel did for Leah. Rachel was extremely compassionate when she gave Leah the codes to save her embarrassment or make her feel that she owed her anything. Rachel could have constantly reminded her: "Don't forget, you know what I did for you!" Instead, Rachel performed the ultimate mitzvah, following the precepts of Hashem in her considerate behavior. Allow me to give you an analogy to explain the greatness of Rachel. Imagine you have a friend who doesn't have a livelihood. Very discreetly you help him start a business and you even send him customers. Ultimately he becomes very successful. Years later, you come on hard times and you go to your friend for help and he says, "I'm sorry, I can't help you right now because I'm busy!" You remain silent and don't bring up how you helped him in the past. This demonstrates the extent of the Hesed, which was so complete that the friend did not even know that he was given anything. Because Rachel was so discreet in her generosity and kindness, Leah did not know that she was indebted to her. Rabbi Diamond always taught us from the Halacha that the highest form of Hesed is to help someone completely anonymously without bringing any attention to yourself. This is what Rachel Imenu did for her sister Leah and on that merit we can understand why she is remembered so dearly, as we see in the famous Haftarah that we say every Rosh Hashana. In Yirmiah, perek 31, pasuk 14, Hashem is speaking to Rachel: "A voice is heard on high, wailing, bitter weeping, Rachel weeps for her children; she refuses to be consoled for her children, for they are gone. Thus Hashem said: Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for there is reward for your accomplishment - the word of Hashem - and they will return from the enemy's land. There is hope for your future - the word of Hashem - and your children will return to their border. These words from the prophet Yermiah also inspired the beautiful song "Mama Rachel" by Yaakov Shweky. There's a modern day story that its validity is not verified but it's message is very inspiring. The story touches on this attribute that Rachel Imenu did for her sister Leah but its about Thomas Edison the famous inventor. One day, as a small child Thomas Edison came home from school and gave a paper to his mother. He said to her “Mom, my teacher gave this paper to me and told me only you are to read it”. Young Thomas asked, "What does it say? Mom?" Her eyes welled with tears and she read the letter out loud to her child. "Your son is a genius! This school is too small for him and doesn’t have good enough teachers to train him. Please teach him yourself". Many years after Edison’s mother died, he became one of the greatest inventors of the century. One day he was going through a closet and he found the folded letter that his teacher wrote to his mother that day. He opened it and the message written on the letter was “Your son is mentally deficient. We can not let him attend our school. He is expelled." Edison became emotional reading it. Then he wrote in his diary: "Thomas Edison was a mentally deficient child, who’s mother turned him to be the genius of the century". We see here how a positive word of encouragement can help change a person’s life. May we all go through life with the goal of helping our friends in need but also with the awareness that we should do it in the most discreet way to avoid any embarrassment to them. As parents, teachers and friends, we must always remember to use only positive words of encouragement which can make a world of difference in the life a child! Shabbat Shalom! Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of Rabbi Amram Sananes Leiluiy Nishmat.... Eliyahu Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Garaz Sarah Bat Chanah Malka Bat Garaz Shulamit Bat Helaina Yaakov Ben Rachel Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Rav Haim Ben Rivka Meir Ben Latifa Yitzchak Ben Adele Esther Bat Sarah Chanah Bat Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana Moshe Ben Garaz Rafael ben Miriam