Parshat Vayeitzei 5781: Learning to Apply Discernment Regarding Cunning and Kindness

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat Vayeitzei vort is being sponsored by Avraham and Miriam Deutsch and family of Efrat lilui nishmas for the yarhtzeit of Avraham’s Mother Sarah Reitza bat Tzion bat Avram Yaakov. To the Deutsch family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

Friends, 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.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3


Parshat Vayeitzei 5781: Learning to Apply Discernment Regarding Cunning and Kindness

by Moshe Burt

When Yaakov left his father’s home, fleeing from the possible wrath of Esav, we learn that his destination was Haran in Padan Aram, after a detour of fourteen years learning in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever (citing Artscroll Stone Chumash page 144 attributed to “a fact that the Sages deduce from the chronology of the period.”).

The Artscroll Stone Chumash (ibid., page 144) cites Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky who explains:

He [Yaakov] would now be living in Haran among people who were Lavan’s comrades in dishonesty. To survive spiritually in such an environment, he needed the Torah of Shem and Ever, for they too had been forced to cope with corrosive surroundings: Shem… in the generation of the Flood [Mabul] and Ever had lived with those who built the Tower of Bavel [Migdal Bavel]. Yaakov’s fourteen years… [learning under Shem and Ever] made it possible for him to emerge spiritually from his personal exile.

And so, when Yaakov left the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever and continued on to Haran, it seems that he carried with him an increased spirituality as well the sense, inculcated to him by his Mother, Rivka, an ability to discern with whom to be kind, and when and why to employ cunning.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Breish’t (page 110) on Parshat Chayei Sarah opines that:

Rivka emerges as the more perceptive parent. She alone sees their two children, Yaakov and Esav, for who they really are, and she alone acts with strength to perpetuate Avraham’s legacy through Yaakov. (Rav Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t , Perek 27, posukim 1-46, Parshat Chayei Sarah)

We learn that from her pregnancy struggles — the two nations within her, to the birth of Yaakov and Esav, to the divergent life directions of both sons, Rivka brings great insight to her decision to instruct Yaakov to present himself to his father as if Esav.

We learn that Yaakov was “totally honest, a man of great integrity” but was also master over the trait of being “tam”, a “‘plain man’, … without trickery (Rashi commentary on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 25, posuk 27) . This means that Yaakov did not allow this “Ish Tam” character trait to dominate him. He knew when and where to act otherwise. We knew that from his demand for the birthright from Esav in exchange for the lentil soup. These traits surely seem to have been inculcated to Yaakov as a result of Rivka Imeinu’s nurturing. We later learned that when Yaakov introduced himself to Rachel upon removing the stone from atop of the well, he told her (citing of Sefer Breish’t Perek 29, posuk 12 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash):

“‘…He[Yaakov] was her father’s relative.”

Artscroll Stone Chumash provides a commentary on Sefer Breish’t Perek 29, posuk 12:

“‘…He was her father’s relative.” [literally, brother] In addition to the plain meaning that Yaakov introduced himself to Rachel as her relative, Rashi cites the midrashic interpretation; He [Yaakov] intimated that should Lavan try to cheat him, he could defend himself as being Lavan’s brother in deceit; but if Lavan dealt honorably, Yaakov would act with all of the integrity expected of the son of Rivka. Or HaChaim elaborates that Yaakov was surely not threatening to match Lavan’s thievery. Rather, he meant to say that he would defend himself strenuously, but only within the law.

To continue in the above context, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Breish’t (page 150) summarizes events toward the conclusion of our Parshat:

After Yosef’s birth, Yaakov informs Lavan of his intention to return to Canaan with his family. Lavan convinces Yaakov to remain and work for wages. Six years pass, during which time Lavan continuously attempts to cheat his nephew.

At the end of the six-year period, Yaakov tells Rachel and Leah that Hashem has commanded him to return with his family to Canaan.

The members of Yaakov’s family gather their belongings and flee without Lavan’s knowledge. Rachel secretly steals her father’s house idols [terafim]. After three days, Lavan discovers Yaakov’s escape and pursues him and his family, overtaking them at Har Gilad.

Lavan and Yaakov exchange harsh words, Lavan searches usuccessfully for his idols, and Yaakov and his uncle finally agree to part ways.

The entire Yaakov/Lavan experience seems a lesson regarding situations where one needs to confront cunning with cunning, and regarding situations where truthfulness, honesty and kindness are a necessity.

We see cunning politicians, particularly both here in Israel as well as in the United States, mask hypocrisy with cunning. Recall how then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon masked the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif in the bogus rationale of “forty years of peace,” when in fact there was no peace at all, but continual rocket fire, fiery ballons and terror emanating from Gaza, from the areas of Gush Katif to this very day.

And we need look no further than the ridiculous and cruel actions, backed by bogus rationalizations, which evolved as a result of the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic as opportunities to stamp out religion and spirituality, both here in the State of the Jews and in the United States. We see where it is forbidden to have more than 10 men together outside, masked and socially distanced, in a davening capsule while thousands are permitted daily demonstrations near the Prime Minister’s home unmasked and not socially distanced. And in the United States, where prayer services are restricted; where some states mete out punishment for prayer services, even outside, even where families take part in their cars while, at the same time, whole sections of many cities lay in ruins due to the arson and looting of so-called “peaceful demonstrations” by hundreds or thousands of marauding unmasked, not socially distanced criminals.

And then contrast the above cunning and cruelty with all of the Rabbanim, gabbaim, doctors, and medical professionals of Beit Shemesh/Ramat Beit Shemesh who have guided the entire populace and served the community with care, kindness and valor during the now many months of this corona pandemic.

The Hozeh of Lublin quotes the Sages saying;

“Whoever is compassionate where he should be cruel will eventually be cruel where should be compassionate.” He continued by saying that “a person needs to be master over all of his traits. If he fails to apply so-called negative traits in their proper times, he will end up applying them when it is wrong to do so.” “A person needs to know how to act in different circumstances, sometimes one way to further the will of Hashem and other times the exact opposite way for the same end.” (”Growth Through Torah” by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin on Parsha Toldos, pages 62-63, “Torah Gems” by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, on Parsha Toldos, page 203)

May we, the B’nei 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 and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and can come home to Eretz Yisrael once his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha completes her treatments for cancer. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half 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 prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.