This week, our Parshat HaShevua; Parshat Vayeitzei is being sponsored by David & Julie Morris and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for Bracha, Hatzlacha and Simcha for our children and all Am Yisrael. To the Morris family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued your kindnesses throughout the years.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
In previous years, when writing on Parshat Vayeitzei, this author discussed the attributes possessed by Rivka Imeinu of unconditional kindness and bringing unity, as well as her ability to discern when the use of cunning was appropriate L’Shem Shemayim (in the Name of Heaven) and to pass these attributes, i.e. discerning kindness from cunning, compassion from cruelty L’Shem Shemayim on to her son Yaakov Aveinu. In the times in which we are living, this message is meaningful, as is the message of Yaakov’s dream on Har Moriah, while laying on the twelve stones which Hashem merged into one.
We learn near the end of Parshat Toldos, that both Yitzchak and Rivka counseled Ya’akov, in leaving and taking flight from the wrath of Eisev, to travel to Padan Aram, to the house of Rivka’s family — to her Father Betu’el, to her brother Lavan, and there to take a wife — a daughter of Lavan.
Midrash indicates (“The Midrash Says” on Sefer Breish’t, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman, page 273) that Eisev sent his son, Elifaz to kill Ya’akov, but the two arrived at an alternative solution; that Ya’akov was relieved of his possessions, for there is a principle that one bereft of his possessions is as if dead. Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, in the “New Hirsch Chumash”, on the other hand, notes in a commentary on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 27, posuk 42 (page 592-593):
…Ya’akov emerges disadvantaged in every way…. Ya’akov leaves poor and empty-handed, and to establish a family he must hire himself out as a servant.
Many commentators have wondered why Yitzchak — who… was a very wealthy man — should have sent his son off in this manner, empty-handed, with nothing but the staff in his hand. The answer to this question is…. After Ya’akov… had attained the Bracha…., it had to be made perfectly clear that neither Ya’akov nor Rivka had been motivated by greed. Eisev should not be able to report so much as a pin missing.
Sages indicate that Ya’akov learned at the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever for 14 years prior to arriving at the house of Betu’el and Lavan. (Artscroll, Stone Edition Chumash commentary on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 28, posukim 10-22).
Our Parshat Vayeitzei opens with Ya’akov leaving the family residence in Be’er Sheva enroute to Haran (seemingly synonymous with Padan Aram) when he encountered “the place” which the Sages understood to be Har HaMoriah (Mount Moriah) which we know to ultimately be the site of the Batei Mikdashim (many know it today as the Temple Mount).
The Artscroll, Stone Edition Chumash renders and comments on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 28, posuk 11 (pages 144-145):
“He [Ya’akov] encountered the place and spent the night there because the sun had set; he took from the stones of the place which he arranged around his head, and lay down in that place.”
The Sages interpret… “encountered,” to have… prayed, so that Ya’akov’s primary encounter was not with a geographic location, but with Hashem. Since the posuk states that this took place just before he retired for the night, the Sages credit Ya’akov with instituting Arvit [the Ma’ariv tefillah], the evening prayer. (Rashi)
Midrashically, the Sages render that he took several stones. The stones began quarreling, each one saying, “Upon me shall this righteous man rest his head.” Thereupon Hashem combined them all into one stone. That is why [Sefer Breish’t, Perek 28] posuk 18 reads: “and [he] took the stone“, in the singular. (Rashi)
Sefer Shem Mishmuel, by Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, the Sochaczever Rebbe, as rendered to English by Rabbi Zev Belovski, renders Sefer Breish’t, Perek 28, posuk 18, and discusses the twelve stones becoming one (pages 49-51):
…After he had dreamed and awakened, we discover:
“He took the stone which he had set under his head and erected it as a monument.”
The Midrash notes the discrepancy between the two verses (was it one or many stones?) and assumes that the many stones actually became one:
Rabbi Yehudah said: “He took twelve stones, as Hashem had decreed that he would establish twelve tribes….. ‘If the twelve stones became one, then I will know that I will establish twelve tribes.’ When the twelve tribes became one, he knew that he would establish twelve tribes.” (Breish’t Rabbah 68:11)
…Let us consider one aspect of unity: how it is destroyed. My holy Father said that it is a fundamental principle of unity that if one adds something to a complete set, not only does the set have an alien member,but it is spoiled entirely. Chazal indicate that if one needs to bind together the arba minim [4 species: Lulav, Etrog, Hadassim and Arovim], … the tied bundle forms a discrete entity. If so, the addition of an extra item, for example, a banana, will completely ruin the bundle. It will not be arba minim plus a banana, but rather nothing at all. (citing Sanhedrin 88b)
We may apply this principle to the nature of the twelve tribes. The Torah tells us:
“And there was a King in Yeshurun when the heads of the people gathered the tribes of Israel together .” (Sefer Shem Mishmuel rendering of Sefer Devarim, V’zos HaBracha, Perek 33, posuk 5)
The Artscroll, Stone Edition Chumash provides a fuller rendering of the above posuk (pages 1113-1115):
“He became King over Yeshurun when the numbers of the nation gathered — the tribes of Israel in unity.”
Sefer Shem Mishmuel continues discussion of a complete set, or as the Artscroll Stone Chumash renders the above bracha — unity:
The Torah here describes Klal Yisrael as a united entity — a perfect and complete national body. Adding to it or subtracting from it will spoil its uniqueness and beauty. Together, working in harmony, Yisrael is a world unto itself, pulsating with the vibrancy of unity… If there were some interference or attempt at adding to the heavenly array, a disaster of cosmic proportions would ensue…. If any addition or subtraction were to befall Klal Yisrael, then its very purpose would be frustrated.
Klal Yisrael comprises many different people, each with their own distinct personality. How, then, is this prized unity to be achieved and maintained? Each member of the nation must subjugate his own needs and desires to those of Hashem. In this way alone can true unity be achieved, enabling the Klal to function as one organism with a single overall purpose.
So, how do we define the unity of Ya’akov’s twelve stones into one in the context of our contemporary generations? Didn’t the Jews have their own distinct personalities and personal matzavim (challenges) and yet re-accept Torah in face of Haman’s dire threat of Judaism’s destruction and eradication? But, contemporarily, don’t Jews subvert their disunity and fractionalism only when faced with a dire existential threat, only to return to their disunity and fractionalism once the major crisis has abated? Is such short-lived unity for all of the right reasons?
What is unity when no three or more Rabbanim or governmental leaders are on the same page as to Jewish national mission? What is unity when an MK calls other Jews “goyim” because these other Jews happen not to be observant, or not observant to his/their level or satisfaction? What is unity when a segment of a sector of the observant make a whole religious ceremony for all to see out of bludgeoning and decimating an i-phone? What is unity when Jews selfishly, and self-centeredly cut corners to save shekalim by employing enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication in the building trades at the inevitable costs of maiming or taking the lives of their Jewish brethren in that enemy’s WAR of terror against Am Yisrael?
Can Jewish unity be likened to the team culture of a major league organization in any sport where talents and strong-points of each of a group of athletes are meshed together in hopes of producing the greatest team in their respective sport?
It appears that we have yet to see the twelve stones into one paradigm unity among Rabbanim across-the-board in defining and laying out the Jewish National Mission, without prejudice, on many fronts: the proper balance between tefillah and learning with attention toward intent and understanding, rather than robotics; kindness, respect, understanding, and, if need be, outreach between fellow Jews not exactly like you or them; how Jews are to conduct war on the battlefield in a milchamah shel Torah (a war for Torah, for Jewish survival), and more.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of 1 1/2 years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Note: Upon Jonathan Pollard’s eminent release/parole from prison, he must remain in the United States for at least five additional years, and is thus under constant danger of being re-arrested and re-incarcerated on trumped-up, politically-motivated spy-related charges.
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.