Monday, November 4, 2013

Vayeitzei 5774

The Torah Portion of Vayeitzei 

The Torah Portion of Vayeitzei begins as a "Parsha Stuma" (in English: "a closed Torah Portion")

[Note: When the end of a Torah Portion is marked by three Hebrew letters of Samech, and the new Torah Portion begins on the same line, this is known as a "Parsha Stuma".] The reason the Torah Portion of Vayeitzei begins as a "Parsha Stuma" ("a closed Torah Portion") is because Yaakov fled from Lavan in a closed, hidden way.  And also all the existence of the congregation of Israel is closed and hidden; that is to say, how it can be that after so many years of exile they are still living and existing -- and the reason for this is only because the Holy One Blessed Be He saves us from the hands of those who wish to destroy us.

"And Yaakov went out..." (Bereisheet 28:10)

Rashi explains "its brilliance went away, its splendor went away, its majesty went away".  And it can be asked, why is it not written with regards to Avraham and Yitzchak when they went away that "its brilliance went away..."? The answer is that Avraham and Yitzchak were very wealthy and they had servants, and certainly when they left, everyone felt the effects of their departure immediately.  But regarding Yaakov who was sitting inside tents (to learn Torah), apparently it should not have been recognizable when he left.  Nonetheless, the brilliance and majesty of the place went away, and his departure from the place made a great impression.

"...and he took from the stones of the place..."  (Bereisheet 28:11)

It is written in the beginning that "he took from the stones of the place", in the plural, and afterwards it is written "..and he took the stone.."  (Bereisheet 28:18) in the singular.  The reason for this is that the stones began to argue with one another; one said "on me the Tzaddik (Righteous Man) will lay his head", and another one said "on me he will lay it".  Immediately the Holy One Blessed Be He made them all into one stone.  And the difficulty with this explanation is that also now the head of the Tzaddik would be resting on only one place, and if so, what is the benefit if they are all made into one stone?  But the answer is, that if they are united together and there are no arguments, then there will not be any complaints from anyone at all.

"And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set down on the earth and the top of it reaching to Heaven..." (Bereisheet 28:12) 

The Hebrew word "Sulam" ("ladder") has the same Gematria (numerical values of the letters) as the Hebrew word "Mamon" ("financial wealth").  Thus we see that there is some equivalence between a Sulam and Mamon based on the Gematria.  If one merits, the top of it (i.e., the financial wealth) reaches to Heaven, when one does with it Tzedakah (charity) and Chesed (kindness).  And if one doesn't give Tzedakah (charity), its feet are set down on the earth and the money goes down to get lost in the depths, G-d forbid.

"And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set down on the earth and the top of it reaching to Heaven..." (Bereisheet 28:12) 

Only when a ladder is bent at an angle is it possible to use it.  Thus, someone who wants to go up in the heights of the Torah and fear of Hashem needs to be submissive and bend himself down like a ladder.

"And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set down on the earth and the top of it reaching to Heaven..." (Bereisheet 28:12) 

The three letters of the word "Sulam" are Samech, Lamed, Mem, and these are the Roshei Teivot (in English: "initial letters") of the "Seudah Livui Malka" (in English: "Meal of Escorting the Queen", that is to say, the meal we eat after Shabbat ends, which is commonly known as a "Melaveh Malka").  Its feet are set down on the earth, and there are people who are careless about it (that is, about the Melaveh Malka meal), but the top of it reaches to Heaven.  It is told about the wife of the Gr"a ztz"l that one time she wanted to fast a whole week from Shabbat to Shabbat.  After Havdalah (the blessing at the end of Shabbat said over wine, spices and candle) the Gr"a asked where his wife was, and they told him that she already went to sleep.  He commanded to wake her, and told her that if she would miss the meal of Melaveh Malka her fasting for the entire week wouldn't be worth anything.  It is told that one time the Gr"a was sick on Motzei Shabbat (the nighttime after Shabbat is over), and before the beginning of daybreak he requested from his family to put into his mouth a Kazayit Pat(Halachic minimal amount of bread for a meal) in oder to fulfill the Mitzvah of Melaveh Malka.

The Melaveh Malka Meal

Its written in Seforim (Holy Books) that the three meals of Shabbat are connected to the three Avot (the Fathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov), and the Melaveh Malka meal is connected to David HaMelech o"h.  And why did David merit to be the fourth foot of the Throne of Glory?  It was because when he fled from Avshalom, Shimi ben Geira cursed him on the way with a very severe cursing and Avishai ben Tzruya therefore wanted to kill Shimi. But David didn't give him permission to do so and he said that Hashem told Shimi to curse and that everything was from Heaven.  Therefore David merited to be the fourth foot of the Chariot.  And generally during all the three meals of Shabbat people sit in a manner which is honorable and nice, but at the meal of the Melaveh Malka there are those who are careless about it.  And it is written in the Shulchan Aruch that are man should always arrange his table on Motzei Shabbat, even if he doesn't need to eat more than one Kazayit (Halachic minimal amount of bread for a meal).  And behold, it is written in Tehillim Chapter 39 verse 13:  "For a stranger I am with you, a sojourner like all my fathers".  In Hebrew, this verse begins "Ki Ger Anochi".  "Ki Ger" (which means "for a stranger" in English), has the same Gematria (numerical value of the letters) as "Regel" (in English: "Foot").  "Anochi" (which means "I am" in English) hs the same Gematria as "Kisa" (in Englsih: "Throne").  The hint here in this Tehillima is that David is complaining that "I am the fourth foot", and why don't people sit down at my meal "like all my fathers", like at all the meals of Shabbat that are intended to be connected to the Fathers (Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov).

"...and He will guard me on this way..."  (Bereisheet 28:20)

The Sages say that Yaakov requested from the Holy One Blessed Be He that he should not stumble in the sin of Lashon Hara (forbidden speech).  And see the Introduction to the book "Chafetz Chaim", that by sinning in Lashon Hara it is possible to transgress 17 negative commandments, 14 positive commandments, and 3 curses. 

"...and she said 'This time I will give thanks to Hashem'; therefore she called his name Yehudah..." (Bereisheet 29:35)

The Sages say that from the Creation of the World there wasn't anyone who thanked Hashem like Leah.  And it has been asked, weren't there many Tzaddikim (Righteous People) before her, and certainly they gave thanks to Hashem?  The explanation is that Leah wanted to give thanks constantly, and therefore called her son Yehudah, which can be explained as thankfulness without interruption.  (Translator's note:  The name Yehudah is related to the word for thankfulness in Hebrew.)  When she saw Yehudah she immediately began to thank Hashem, and at every time that Yehudah would come and go, and eat and sleep, she would always give thanks.

"...therefore she called his name Yehudah, and she stopped giving birth."  (Bereisheet 29:35)

It has been asked, isn't thankfulness a good thing, yet in this verse the meaning seems to be that because she gave thanks to Hashem, she ceased to give birth?  The explanation is that everyone needs to give thanks about the past and to pray about the future.  Therefore when a man is asked "How are you?", he answers "Baruch Hashem V'yeracham Hashem"  (Bless Hashem and may Hashem have mercy).   But Leah only gave thanks about the past and didn't request on the future, and therefore she stopped giving birth.  

What did Yaakov do in the house of Lavan for 20 years?

The Sages ask, what did Yaakov do in the house of Lavan for 20 years?  One says that he said all the entire book of Tehillim (Psalms), and another says that he said all the Shir HaMaalot (15 chapters of Tehillim from chapters 120 through 134).  We see from this the great elevation of saying Tehillim. (from Midrash Vayeitzei)

WORDS OF CHIZUK (Words of Strengthening and Encouragement)

"One who removes his ears from hearing Torah, also his Prayer is repugnant." (Mishlei 28:9)

It is written in Mishlei (Proverbs) Chapter 28 Verse 9: "One who removes his ears from hearing Torah, also his Prayer is repugnant".  Why isn't it written "from learning Torah"?  The simple explanation is that when someone tells someone a Dvar Torah (a lesson from the Torah) and he says "I already heard", then the Holy One Blessed Be He says to him, also "I already heard" the prayer that you said yesterday, and why are you requesting another time?  (from Masters of Mussar)

"How beautiful are your steps in shoes..." (Shir Hashirim 7:2)

It is written in Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs): "How beautiful are your steps in shoes".  The Sages say that a man doesn't know the reward, even for shining his shoes for the honor of Shabbat.  (Brought from the Rav HaKodesh M'Apta in the name of the Midrash)

The Torah Portion of Vayeitzei has 148 verses. Haftora: "Vayivrach Yaakov" (Hoshea 12).

We say Borchi Nafshi.

May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.  Shabbat Shalom.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

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