(Torah Portion Vayaitzai) Sincere Intentions
There are two incidents recorded in the Torah involving children proactively stopping their fathers from worshiping idols. The first is only alluded to in the Torah where our forefather Avraham completely destroyed his father Terach’s idol inventory. The second is mentioned in our Torah portion where Rachel, the wife of our patriarch Yaccov, stole her father Lavan’s idols.
It is worth focusing for a moment on the fact that our patriarch Avraham and our matriarchs Rivka, Rachel and Leah were raised in idolatrous families, yet they willfully, valiantly and successfully freed and released themselves from their idolatrous environment and spiritually rose to the highest level achieving the status of father and mothers to our nation.
The Torah relates that Yaacov, his wives, and children, clandestinely picked up and left the homestead of his deceitful father-in- law Lavan. Before they left, Rachel stole her father’s idol. Rachel wanted to remove her father from idol worship and also wanted to prevent the idol from informing Lavan, through occult powers, where they had escaped to.
The Medrash states that the idol that Rachel stole from her father was actually the skull of Lavan’s firstborn son. Lavan slaughtered his firstborn son to the idol as part of the pagan worship. These types of sadistic ceremonies were usually accompanied by pounding of drums to drown out the horrific cries and screams of the person being sacrificed.
The decapitated skull was then preserved and petrified in a process that included salt and fragrances. A gold plate containing occult writing was placed under its tongue. The skull was then placed on a wall of one’s home. Candles were lit in front of the idol and the owner bowed towards it. The idol would then tell the future through the powers of the occult.
Lavan chased after and caught up with Yaacov. He then asked him why he stole his idol. Yaacov did not know that Rachel took it, and responded, “The person who took it should not live (a long life).” Because of Yaacov’s innocent statement, his young wife Rachel died during the birth of her son Binyamin. Our Sages tell us that from here we see the power of a statement. Even something that was unknown to Yaacov and he would never have wished upon Rachel came to be, because it was uttered by the pure mouth of Yaacov.
The idea that one must be careful with what he says is found very often in our lexicon. When we point out something that may call attention to ourselves we almost instinctively says the following caveat, “Without an Aiyin Hara – not to cast an evil eye.”
Despite the fact that Avraham fought idol worship and human sacrifice his whole life, when G-d commanded him to sacrifice his son Yitzchok, which was contrary to what he taught, neither he nor Yitzchok hesitated to fulfill the command of G-d.
Our Sages make an astonishing statement: The ashes of Yitzchok sit prestigiously – for our merit – right by G-d’s Throne. This begs an obvious question. Yitzchok was never sacrificed! Where did the ashes come from?
The answer is, if one has a sincere interest or will to serve G-d or to assist one’s fellow, but for a reason out of his control, the opportunity was taken from him and was not actually fulfilled or accomplished, G-d in His Supreme Knowledge of all of our intentions, considers the deed as if it was performed, and we will be rewarded for it! There is a Divine reckoning far beyond our comprehension. Thus, the ashes of Yitzchok who intended to be sacrificed are a reality on High.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks