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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayetzei

Parshat Vayetzei

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Vayetzei
10th of Kislev, 5777 | December 10, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Mrs. Feigy Lieberman
Meet Rachel and Leah

ועיני לאה רכות ורחל היתה יפת תאר ויפת מראה

Leah’s eyes were tender, while Rachel was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance (Bereishit 29:17)

In this week’s Parasha, the Torah tells us about the differences between Leah and Rachel. While Leah was older and thereby destined to marry Eisav, she cried profusely wishing not to do so. Tears swelled up within her eyes and streamed down her cheeks, leaving them red and soft. Rachel, on the other hand, was known to be destined to marry Yaakov and is depicted as beautiful and beloved by her husband.

On a symbolic level, Rachel represents someone who is lovely, sweet, calm and charming. She glows with a special aura. The numerical value of Rachel is in fact 238, the same as the words, “Vayehi ohr,” let there be light. Whenever Rachel walks into a room, a charming and glistening light accompanies her.

Leah’s name, on the other hand, comes from the word “Nil’ah,” meaning weary. She represents someone who faces great challenges in life and will never have an easy and calm ride.

On a personal level, we have both combinations of Rachel and Leah within ourselves. Part of us is Rachel who possesses a calm personality and is graced with an internal and external beauty. The other part of us is the Leah, always struggling and fighting to achieve that which we cry and yearn for.

When a boy and girl look to get married, they are sure that they are marrying a Rachel. “He is so perfect” and “She is so perfect,” they tell themselves. It is only after marriage that we realize that the other person is human and that they, just like ourselves, have imperfections. We come to recognize that there is a Leah in our life. And that is when we start panicking. All of a sudden, our expectations of the other person turn out to be untrue. But the real truth is that Leah is the person who is actually right for us in our lives. It is Leah who forces us to step out of our own narrow world, think beyond ourselves and grow from our challenges into the greatest person we can become.

While we might wish that everything always goes smoothly and our marriage be perfect, we may often experience ups and downs. But that is exactly the way our marriage becomes that much stronger. By facing those formidable challenges and surmounting them, we grow together and enjoy many years of life as beloved husband and wife.

Mrs. Lori Palatnik
Marriage and Love

ויעבד יעקב ברחל שבע שנים ויהיו בעיניו כימים אחדים באהבתו אתה

And Yaakov worked seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him like a few days because of his love for her (Bereishit 29:20)

Whenever I meet with couples soon to be married, the usual impression they have is that I will be informing them of the ins and the outs of the wedding ceremony. While I most certainly touch upon that, what I really want to talk about with them is not the wedding, but marriage. As a rabbi in Toronto once remarked, “If people would only spend as much time planning their marriages as they do their weddings, we would be a lot better off.”

The first session I have with any young, naïve couple sitting before me is called, “Scare them Straight.” While I do not openly tell them this, I first ask them, “Of all the people walking down to the chuppah, how many of them end up with a divorce?” “50%” they say. “Of the remaining 50% who actually remain married,” I continue, “how many have a happy marriage?”

Any time I have asked this question while speaking to a married audience, the answers range from 10% to 50%. So I tell the couple, “Let’s be generous and say that 50% end up happily married. Yet what does that mean? One-fourth of those who get married and stay married are actually happy.” By this time, the boy and the girl are a bit nervous. “So,” I say to them, “you don’t want to be a statistic? Now let’s learn.” And with that, I begin to share with them some of the following insights.

First of all, let us define our terms. What is happiness? Love? Marriage? When speaking to soon-to-be husbands and wives, I hand them two pieces of paper and ask each one of them to write down their definitions of love and marriage. Years ago, I used to ask them to first write down what they believe love is and only then what marriage is. But, in truth, the opposite should be done. As anyone who has ever been married can attest, the love a husband and wife have for one another on the day of their wedding cannot compare to the feelings of love they have for each other many years later. First comes marriage, and only then, after many years of growing together, comes true love.

Yet, here this young boy and girl are with their definitions of marriage and love. I then ask them to show me their papers. And what do I often see? Two different definitions. Here is a couple about to embark on a wonderful journey together, yet cannot mutually define what the journey is about. At the very least, an agreement as to what marriage and love is about must be reached before anything begins.

What in fact is the Jewish definition of marriage?

It is very easy to remember: oneness. In Kabbalah, it is taught that before a person is born, the neshama (soul) of that person is whole. Hashem then divides the neshama into two and sends the two souls into this world. The person you marry is thus your “other half.” He or she is your “soulmate.”

Yet, how does Hashem divide the soul in half? Like a puzzle. Each piece needs the other to be whole, and it is only through unifying them together that they reach completion.

The mistake people often make is looking to marry someone who is exactly like themselves. When that is done, you are only marrying more of yourself. A wonderful marriage, though, takes spouses who possess unique and diverse characteristics and coalesces them to solidify and strengthen one another.

I once met a man in Los Angeles who was a wonderful boy, yet was having a hard time finding the right one. After asking him to describe himself, I asked him to explain what type of girl he was looking for. And guess who he described? Himself. “It is wonderful that you love yourself so much,” I said, “but maybe that is the issue here.” Who we are looking to marry, though, is not ourselves, but the individual who is the other part of the puzzle and will bring out the best within us.

This is why opposites attract. Extroverts often marry introverts, people who are organized marry people who are artsy, and people who like the thermostat up marry people who like the thermostat down. But that is perfectly fine because you are half a soul looking for completion.

Yet, once marriage is underway, another dilemma arises. Those same qualities which complete us are the same qualities that bother us immensely. “Why can’t you be more social, punctual and organized!” But the truth is quite the opposite. Instead of resenting those qualities, embrace them. Those are the exact characteristics you need to work with in order to actualize your potential. Not ironically, you marry your homework.

Now, what is love?

There are three aspects. Firstly, it is the emotion you feel when you focus on the virtues of another person and identify with those virtues. We feel this way about our children constantly. If we are asked about them, we immediately extol their good qualities and characteristics. We become good bragging parents. Yet, if the same parent would be asked, who knows your child’s challenging qualities better than you, there would be no one else. How then is it that parents who know both their child’s best and worst qualities always find the good aspects to highlight? The answer is love. Parents identify with their children’s good characteristics despite knowing their weakness and failures. That is exactly what we are meant to do in a marriage. Love is the choice of focusing on the good qualities of our spouse every day, every hour and every minute.

The second definition of love describes the attitude and perspective we are meant to develop and ingrain. And that is, “What is important to you is important to me.” Personally, I saw this truism brought to life between my parents.

My mother loves music and art. As such, she subscribed for seasonal tickets to the Toronto Symphony. Yet what happens? My father, who has little to no interest in attending a symphony, nevertheless accompanies my mother, sits right next to her throughout the entire orchestra and tries his hardest not to fall asleep. The same happens in the reverse. While my father is an avid hockey fan, my mother could care less. But that doesn’t matter. Accompanying my father to hockey games, she sits next to him and does her utmost to take interest in the logistics of the game she thinks is foolish.

Why exactly do my father and mother act this way? One simple word: love. They love each other and know that what most clearly demonstrates such love is showing that “What is important to you is important to me.”

The third and last definition of love is that which Rav Eliyahu Dessler discusses. Addressing the classic Jewish philosophical question as to whether love leads to giving or if giving leads to love, Rav Dessler explains that it is the latter. This is clearly illustrated by the love developed for a child. Why is there no greater love than that of a parent for a child? It is because the parent gives, gives and gives to the child day and night. Even before a child’s first day of life, parents wholeheartedly give of themselves to the child’s well-being.

But there is one important step that must take place prior to marriage and love. And that is dating. What should one look for in a prospective spouse? Once again, there are three elements.
Firstly, do you both have the same meaningful life goals? It is not so much about what your house will look like, but what your house will feel like. What will be your values when building a Jewish home and raising Jewish children?

The second aspect to be aware of is physical attraction. While this is something not to be taken lightly in the initial stages of dating and marriage, it most certainly develops and grows over time.

I was once told by Rebbetzin Chana Weinberg a”h that whenever her husband, Rav Yaakov Weinberg zt”l, would pull up to the driveway and begin making his way toward the door, she would immediately run to put on lipstick, fix her hair and spray some perfume. Only then would she walk to the front door and greet her husband after a long day.

One night, however, overtaken by fatigue, Rebbetzin Weinberg fell asleep on the couch. Yet there was Rav Weinberg walking up toward the front door. With the children having seen what their mother would do every time before their father entered the house, they began to panic. “Tatty is on his way and Mommy is sleeping!” And so, this time, they took the necessary preparations into their own hands. Quite literally. Rushing to get her cosmetics, they began smearing lipstick on her, brushing her hair and spraying her with perfume.

While this may be a cute little story, the true message is that which Rebbetzin Weinberg sent her children day after day. She cared more about what her husband thought of her than anyone else in the world.

Of the last question to consider when dating, it differs for men and women. For a man, it is unquestionably important that he be respected by his wife. A woman must therefore ask herself, “Is this someone I respect and can respect for the rest of my life?” As an educator once said, “Treat your husband like a man you respect and he will become a man you respect.” That is the key.

For a woman, on the other hand, she needs to feel loved by her husband. A man must therefore ask himself, “Will I be able to make her happy for the rest of my life?” It may entail much patience, but it is surely worth every ounce of effort.

Before I got married, I asked Rebbetzin Weinberg what my job as a wife is besides the obvious responsibilities. And she said something which I still remember to this very day. “It is to take a good guy and make him great.” “How do I do that?” I asked. “By pointing out his mistakes in the very best way possible,” she replied. I then understood that it would be my job to help develop my husband into the best person he could become, yet do it in a way that builds him instead of breaks him. The same is true of a husband for his wife.

Dating, marriage and love are all avenues wherein we grow as people. They may include many ups and downs and at times challenge us in ways we never imagined, but that is exactly what these stages are all about and ultimately what life is all about. The key is not to resist the challenges, but embrace them. And when that is done, we most certainly can look forward to building homes and marriages that last for eternity and lighting up the way for the next generation.

A Short Message From
Mrs. Adina Mandel

One of the many complimentary traits of women is their ability to multitask and smoothly and quickly transition from one job to another. In this light, when Chazal state, “Nashim daa’tan kalot,” it is in fact highlighting one of the many virtues of women. Their minds are “kalot,” easily flexible, enabling them to simultaneously remember multiple activities they wish to accomplish, quickly move from one task to another and efficiently carry them all out.

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