BEGIN WITH A GRIN
Nechama, tell me, what’s the name of that hotel we were in last year?
I don’t remember, what difference does it make?
It makes a difference. What’s the name?
Is it important?
Give me a second; I’ll check the towels.
LIFE ON THE ROAD
Parshas Vayeitzei begins with Yaakov running away to Charan. Yaakov spends twenty years in the house of the
biggest swindler in history, none other than his uncle, Lavan the Arami, until, by the end of the parsha, he and his
family return to Eretz Canaan.
Starting from parshas Toldos and concluding with the end of Chumash Bereishis, the Torah tells us about the “select
one of the Avos,” Yaakov Avinu. In no fewer than seven parshiyos is Yaakov’s name mentioned as one of the main
protagonists in the Torah narrative. What stands out about Vayeitzei is this is the only parsha of the seven in which
the Torah tells about Yaakov when he is outside of Eretz Yisrael. Even parshas Vayechi which talks about Yaakov’ life
in Egypt, tells of the seventeen best years of his life, a special time of tranquility. In contrast, and as opposed to the
other parshiyos, Vayeitzei, from beginning to end, is about Yaakov’s life in… galus!
And not just any galus, but the worst galus of all. He was in Charan (”the anger of G-d in the world”), the lowest of
places on the globe. He lived with Lavan, the worst trickster ever, and he worked like a donkey (not like Moshiach’s
donkey) for twenty years, barely earning a salary.
Yaakov’s situation in the parsha is so bad that the Medrash and the Zohar explain that starting from the very first
verse in the parsha, “And Yaakov left Beer Sheva and went to Charan,” the Torah is alluding to the descent of the
Jewish people to exile among the nations of the world.
Conversely, it was specifically in Charan that Yaakov attained true perfection in life, materially and spiritually. There,
he wed and established his household. There, most of his children who are the foundation of the Jewish people,
were born. There, he was able to educate his children in the ways of his forefathers in a way that “his bed was
complete.” There, he refined all the sparks that he was meant to refine, to the point of the spiritual (and material)
elevation of “and the man became very, very wealthy,” and all in a manner peace (“and I will return in peace to my
ALL ROADS LEAD HOME
Some will say, “peace, peace and there is no peace.” Lavan and his sons chased after Yaakov and his family. There
was danger, the possibility of a massacre, G-d forbid, However, according to the explanation of the Baal Shem Tov,
which is brought in the teachings of Chassidus at length, the opposite is true. The reason that Lavan pursued Yaakov
was because Yaakov left some holy sparks with Lavan, sparks that needed to be refined by Yaakov. Those sparks
were letters of the holy Torah which is why Lavan ran after Yaakov, in order to give him those letters, and from
those letters another parsha was added to the Torah, the parsha that tells of Lavan’s pursuit, which appears at the
end of the parsha.
That means, not only wasn’t the pursuit in order to harm Yaakov (despite Lavan’s worst intentions), it was positive,
in order to help Yaakov in his holy work and bring him to shleimus until the end of the parsha where it says that
Yaakov met with two groups of angels, angels of outside Eretz Yisrael and angels of Eretz Yisrael, and they helped
him, as an honor guard, return home safely. The linkage between these two group of angels represents the unique
ability of Yaakov to unite the holiness of Eretz Yisrael and the reality outside Eretz Yisrael. Yaakov changes the reality
of outside of Eretz Yisrael and infuses it with the holiness (angels) of Eretz Yisrael.
“The deeds of the fathers are a portent for the children” – particularly when speaking of Yaakov Avinu, a
comprehensive soul like Adam HaRishon, which included all the Jewish souls for generations to come. When a Jew is
deep in exile and it seems to him there is no refuge, he should know that specifically in exile he can (and must) get to
work! He has the means to overcome challenges. He has the power to contend with opponents, he has the ability to
change the world from exile to redemption, from war to peace, even to change the skin of his enemy from enemy to
friend! Specifically in exile he can meet with angels, angels that were created from his mitzvos!
As in the story with Yaakov, those angels he met were the angels that he sent (at the beginning of the next parsha)
to his brother Eisav. So too with us, these angels that are created from a Jew’s service while in exile, by keeping
Torah and mitzvos, are the angels that go to announce to the world that “we are ready,” we’ve finished the job of
taking out the sparks. We’ve polished the buttons and we are ready to welcome Moshiach!
TO CONCLUDE WITH A STORY
We will end with a story that appears in a letter of the Rebbe Rayatz about the Chassid, Shmuel Chaim, the melamed
from Tcherei who was sent by the Rebbe Maharash to the city of Luchin.
In the city of Luchin, although it had Chassidim who were great in the haskala and avoda of Chassidus, most of the
balabatim (people of means) and especially the common folks, were very coarse. Many were involved in disputes
and slander, filled with jealousy and bad character traits. People would antagonize each other to the point of
informing to the authorities against one another.
In 5627, the people of Luchin wanted the Rebbe Maharash to send them a rav and he chose the Chassid, Shmuel
Chaim from Tcherei who was outstanding in good character, loved people, very involved in education and guidance
and very successful in this.
Upon arriving in Luchin, he was very sad and worried by the low spiritual state of the balabatim and common folks,
but he didn’t lose his composure. And for five or six years of work with self-sacrifice and much patience, he was able
to effect radical change in the people of Luchin. The Rebbe Rayatz ends with, “The avoda of mesirus nefesh of the
rav of Luchin… is the reason the soul descended to the body.”
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