(Torah Portion Vayaitzai) Impressions!
The Parsha discusses the journey our forefather Yaacov took to Charan, the homeland of his mother Rivkah, to look for a wife. Yaacov arrived and after meeting his cousin Rachel they decided to get married. When Lavan, Rachel’s father, insisted that Yaacov work for him before he got married, Yaacov offered to work for seven years. Lavan only agreed to give over his daughter after the completion of the seven years of work.
At the wedding, the deceitful Lavan switched Rachel, the intended bride, with Leah, her older sister. When Yaacov took Lavan to task for switching his bride, Lavan gave an excuse and told Yaacov he could marry Rachel on the condition that he works for another seven years.
Despite Lavan’s almost daily deceitful behavior toward Yaacov, Yaacov remained truthful and honest and whatever he touched brought prosperity to Lavan. After twenty years of working for Lavan, G-d appeared to Yaacov and instructed him to leave with his wives and family, which at that point consisted of eleven sons and one daughter.
The Torah relates that before setting out to leave from Lavan, Yaacov conferred with his wives. He broached the subject slowly. He introduced the idea to Rachel and Leah by reviewing how he put up with all of Lavan’s deceitful lies and yet retained his own commitment to truth. Only then did he express the mandate from G-d that they should return to Israel.
The Shelah Hakadosh derives an important lesson: A husband, though he is the head of the household, should not impose his authority nor use intimidation on his wife and family. Rather, he should use persuasion and gentle reasoning to induce them to follow his suggestions. Yaacov employed this amicable and mild approach when speaking to his wives, teaching us this important lesson.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. focuses on the reaction of Rachel and Leah. Rachel tells Yaacov we really have nothing to gain in staying with our father, for he has already written us off, and whatever G-d tells us to do, we will do.
Asks Rabbi Feinstein; why did Rachel and Leah tell Yaacov reasons and rationale why they should leave? Why didn’t they simply say, “Whatever G-d tells us to do we will do?”
Answers Reb Moshe; the Torah is recording how our righteous matriarchs reacted and viewed a challenging dictate from G-d. G-d commanded them to leave their birthplace, their family and the place they raised their family. Although they knew and believed that anything that G-d says or decrees is for the good, they went a step further exploring to see for themselves how in fact it was the best for them. This way G-d’s command would not be a challenge.
A special benefit and advantage of their positive attitude towards G-d’s command was that their children sensed and watched that they went about G-d’s command with a smile and a charge and not in a begrudgingly manner.
The smile, good feeling, positive manner and energy that we exude when performing Mitzvos and accepting our beliefs, speaks volumes, and inculcates in our children and those around us a positive attitude towards our tradition.
This past weekend we attended a very uplifting and inspirational convention, where I met a man who remembered my mother o.b.m. He related that he had many beautiful memories of her. With tears in his eyes, he recalled that forty five years ago he was a ten year old camper in Camp Mogen Avraham, where my father was the rabbi and my artistic and creative mother was in charge of arts and crafts. He still remembers her ever-present beautiful smile, her exceptional caring, and how he noticed how adoring and considerate my parents were to each other.
My mother lost her mother at a tender young age and was placed in a foster home in Switzerland where they were rather inconsiderate of her. She then immigrated to the USA with her family and could have had many excuses to be bitter or resentful. But with her rock solid belief in G-d, her love and appreciation of the Torah and Mitzvos, and with her special talent (that she got from her father) to reflect on the most difficult situations with humor, she was able to make the best of every situation. She emerged as a most happy, content, creative, sensitive, caring, and sweet person, who positively impacted on her children, family, friends, students, acquaintances and just about anyone with whom she came in contact!
A smile and the upbeat and positive attitude we apply to whatever we do, imparts the most enduring impressions!
Have a most enjoyable, restful and peaceful Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks