(Torah Portion Vayaitzai) Seeing Beyond!
Our forefather Yaacov travelled from Israel to Charan, where his uncle Lavan lived, to find a wife. The Torah relates that before going to sleep on his way, Yaacov took stones and set them around himself for protection. Yaacov then slept and dreamt a prophetic vision.
When Yaacov awoke he realized that he had slept in a holy place; in fact this was the place where the Temple in Jerusalem would eventually be built. He also realized that the twelve stones he had arranged had forged into one large stone.
Our Sages teach us that the 12 stones represented the 12 tribes that would emanate from Yaacov. They fused into one to indicate that although the children will have diverse personalities they would be unified in their purpose of serving G-d. In fact, the stones Yaacov arranged were the very stones his grandfather Avraham used to build the altar when G-d told him to offer his son Yitzchok as a sacrifice.
During Yaacov’s trip to Lavan he became aware that the goal of his marriage was to produce the 12 tribes of Israel.
Yaacov began his travels with gifts and possessions, but his hateful brother Aisav sent his son Elifaz to kill him. Yaacov was able to reason with Elifaz and negotiate that he take all his possessions which would then categorize Yaacov as a poor person, and the Talmud teaches us a destitute person is like he is dead. Since Elifaz grew up in close proximity to his righteous grandfather Yitzchok, he was instilled with the ability to make the correct decision and spare Yaacov from death. Thus, Yaacov arrived in Charan penniless.
When Yaacov arrived in Charan he met Rachel, the daughter of Lavan, and they decided to marry. Lavan agreed to the match if Yaacov would work for him, and Yaakov set the terms that he would work for seven years before marrying Rachel.
The question raised is why did Yaacov specifically choose seven years? Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. explains: When Yaacov left his parents’ home to find a wife, his mother intimated that Aisav’s intense anger to kill him would last for seven years. Therefore he was uneasy and anxious during this time and felt it was not an opportune time for marriage and rearing children. Yaacov didn’t use his personal anguish as an excuse not to work diligently during this time. Quite the opposite, the Torah testifies that Yaacov worked far beyond the call of duty.
Lavan was a very deceitful person. The joke is that the only thing ‘white’ and not shady about Lavan was his name – which means white.
When the seven years of work were up, Yaacov asked for Rachel. The Torah relates that Lavan gathered the entire town and made a party. Generally, a party is prepared before the people arrive. Lavan invited the people first, to inform them of his deceitful plan to switch Rachel, the bride, with her older sister Leah. Only after they agreed to keep it a secret from Yaacov did Lavan make the party. Commentators go as far as to say that Lavan was so stingy that he made everyone bring food to the wedding, therefore it was only after they arrived that the party could be set up.
Yaacov, aware that Lavan might switch Leah with Rachel, devised a code with Rachel. When Rachel saw that Leah was being given over instead of her, with great compassion and self sacrifice, she gave the code to Leah to protect her from public humiliation.
Why did Yaacov rely on a code and not just identify Rachel by kindling a light? The Kaf Hachaim quoting a Yalkut says that Yaacov and Rachel got married on a Friday and since Yaacov observed the Shabbos he was forbidden to kindle a light to identify his bride.
In the morning Yaacov realized that he had been given Leah and although he could have dismissed her, because his marriage was in fact an error, he kept her as a wife. Lavan agreed to give him Rachel in marriage if he worked another seven years.
Why didn’t Yaacov dismiss Leah? The answer is that Yaacov saw that Leah’s intentions were pure; she genuinely wished to bear children to form the 12 tribes of Israel. Indeed, she produced six of the tribes including those from which the Levites and the monarchy emerged.
Commentators explain that we have much to learn from how Yaacov levelheadedly weighed and dealt with a very challenging and tricky situation. Had he stood on principle and dismissed Leah without taking into account Leah’s pure intentions it would have affected the entire future of the Jewish people, for six tribes would not have been produced!
Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos
Rabbi Dovid Saks