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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayeitzei

Parshat Vayeitzei

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Vayeitzei 5781                                                         Print Version
12th of Kislev, 5781 | November 28, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Jonathan Rietti
Billions in a Second

The Gemara (Shabbos 105b) tells us, “Whoever gets angry, it is as if he worships idols.” When considering this, it seems quite harsh. Anger is synonymous with idol worship. Yet, looking at it in another way, your perspective will likely change. “Anyone who denies the validity of idol worship, it is as if he has fulfilled the entire Torah” (Nedarim 25a). If you are provoked to serve an idol and you refused to do so, in that one moment, by denying the veracity of idols, you have fulfilled 613 mitzvos (commandments).

Now, consider this. The Rizhiner Rebbe cites the Arizal who explains that, given the above equivalence between anger and idol worship, when the Torah makes mention of idol worship in the Torah, it also alludes to anger. As such, says the Arizal, every time a person is provoked to anger, and denies that triggering to anger and overcomes it, they are in fulfillment of 613 mitzvos. Thus, in that one moment of overcoming the inclination to become angry, we receive 613 mitzvos.

But Chazal tell us more. In Avos D’Rebbe Nassan (Ch. 3), our Sages state that a mitzvah done amidst difficulty and hardship is one hundred times greater than performing a mitzvah easily. As such, if you are provoked to anger, and you contain your anger amidst great difficulty, you have just received 613 mitzvos x 100 for a total of 61,300 mitzvos.

Yet, if you do a mitzvah with joy, is that the same as doing a mitzvah regularly without joy? The Orchos Tzaddikim (Gate of Simcha) writes that any mitzvah done with joy is equal to 1,000 times a mitzvah done without joy.

So, now with this calculation, if you are provoked to anger and you refuse to get angry, that is 613 mitzvos. But it is not easy to contain your anger, yet you do. That is 61,300 mitzvos. Yet, if you not only contain your anger, but you do so with joy, that is 61 million, 300 thousand mitzvos. All in one second.

Does Hashem love us to give us so many mitzvos in one moment?

But there’s more. If it is Shabbos and you perform a mitzvah, the Ben Ish Chai writes that it is equal to 1,000 mitzvos. If you learn one Mishna on Shabbos, it is equal to 1,000 Mishnayos. If you learn one page of Gemara, that is equal to 1,000 pages.

Thus, if you are provoked to anger… and it is not easy… and you take it in with a smile… and it is Shabbos…

That is 61 billion, 300 million mitzvos in one second.

Now why would Hashem place us in our enclosed homes with our entire family for so many days? While we can never know the ultimate answer, what we do know is that we are now being given an incredible chance to perform countless mitzvos so many times. We are being placed in a space where we can work on our middos and perform miztvos.

If you now look at the words in Shema, you will notice something profound. The Pasuk states, “וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ – Teach them thoroughly to your children and speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise” (Devarim 6:7). The Steipler Gaon, Rav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky zt”l, writes that the word for teaching our children – וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם – comes from the word shinayim, “teeth.” The literal translation of the verse is thus, “When you teeth to your children.” Yet what does that mean?

When you show your teeth to your children, when you smile to your children, that is the greatest way you teach your children. Your smile, your warm and positive attitude, will be the long-lasting lesson your children glean from your home. Within the Shema, the most powerful place where we declare our love for Hashem, we are guided to internalize that at a moment when we may be tempted to grow angry with our children, if we can instead show our smile to them, we are demonstrating our true mettle and teaching them a most valuable lesson for life.
The opportunities for working on our middos and accruing innumerable mitzvos these days are countless. Quite literally.

Rabbi Shaya Cohen
Changing the Equation

The Gemara (Taanis 25b) relays how amidst dire times of there being no rainfall, R’ Eliezer stood up in front of the Ark and recited twenty-four blessings in the hope of eliciting Hashem’s compassion and bringing an end to the drought. Yet it was to no avail. Following this, R’ Akiva ascended before the Ark and recited two verses from Avinu Malkeinu, whereupon rain immediately began to fall.

Upon witnessing such a scene, the surrounding rabbis were perplexed as to why R’ Eliezer’s prayers did not bring the rain, whereas R’ Akiva’s did. A Bas Kol (Heavenly Voice) emanated and remarked, “It is not because R’ Akiva is greater than R’ Eliezer; rather R’ Akiva is maa’vir al midosav, overlooks the wrong done to him, whereas R’ Eliezer does not.”

Rav Yisroel Salanter asks the obvious question. If R’ Akiva overlooked the wrong done to him, while R’ Eliezer did not, then by virtue of that, R’ Akiva should have been considered the greater of the two. Why did the Bas Kol say otherwise?

Rav Yisroel Salanter explains that in truth R’ Eliezer was a student of Bais Shammai, whose approach to life was to strictly and principally stand up for the wrongs which compromised or bended the respect due to the Torah. There was little room for easygoingness or loose parameters as it pertained to Torah-related issues. On the other hand, R’ Akiva was a student of Bais Hillel, whose approach was one which articulated a less rigid approach to matters, although always in line with Torah law.

Yet the difference between these approaches, and therefore between R’ Eliezer and R’ Akiva was that R’ Akiva, given his attitude, was more inclined to forego the wrong done to him. Therefore, although R’ Akiva’s approach and method did not make him greater than R’ Eliezer, or more of an accepted halachic opinion, this attribute of R’ Akiva did mean that he had the unique ability to change the equation and engender Hashem’s compassion. In reciprocal measure to R’ Akiva being maa’vir al midosav, Hashem would do the same and move from meting out strict justice of no rainfall to exhibiting compassion. It was therefore specifically R’ Akiva who was able to bring about such a change in Heaven.

The effects we create when we overlook and forego the ill-treatment we may have received from others, whether justified or not, is nothing to be made small of. Such an attribute of being maa’vir al midosav is a true reflection of greatness.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Top of the Ladder

One of the key components of Yaakov Avinu’s dream in this week’s Parsha is the ascent and descent of angels from heaven to earth on a ladder. Yet the obvious question begs. Why allude to the angels traveling up and down specifically on a ladder? Why not allude to their travel along a road or up and down steps?

Hashem chose ladder for a very specific purpose. Whenever traveling along a road, a person looks downwards toward the road as they move along. The same is with steps. When descending a stairwell, a person looks down at the steps to monitor their movement. When it comes to a ladder, however, whether you go up or down, you are always looking up. Hashem thus meant to emphasize to Yaakov Avinu, that despite the many travails and tragedies he will undergo, he will always be looking up. He will be able to handle it and he will make it through. And that is because, as the Torah itself attests, “Hashem was standing over him” (Bereishis 28:13). At the top of the ladder stood none other than Hashem, supporting and shouldering Yaakov Avinu.

In the world we live today, unfortunately, there is a lot of pain. Boys and girls have difficulty getting married; once married, there are challenges with infertility; once there are children, there is heartache when, for those who choose, they sadly leave the fold of Yiddishkeit. Then there are illnesses, addictions, and emotional distresses that affect Jewish communities worldwide. At no point in life is there no potential for trauma or tragedy.

But what we must remember throughout it all is that when a ladder is placed against a wall, the part of the ladder that rests on the wall is the top. And Hashem told Yaakov Avinu before he went into his dark and deep exile, “I am at the top of the ladder. You are going to go up and you are going to go down, but you need to know that the whole ladder is leaning on Me. Whichever way you are moving, whether up or down, just keep your head up. Because I am right above you, supporting you and protecting you.”

Rabbi Meir Goldwhicht
Clouds of Confusion, Clouds of Clarity

It is noteworthy that the Annanei HaKavod, Clouds of Glory, held a primary position in the Jewish people’s travels and encampments throughout the desert. Why was that so? What significance do Clouds have that they represented Hashem’s manifestation and led the ways for the Jewish nation?

Moreover, our Sages (Sifri, Re’eh 85) teach that the verse which says, “After Hashem your G-d you shall follow” (Devarim 13:5) is a reference the Clouds of Glory. But what exactly does that mean? Is this Pasuk just meant to underline how the Clouds of Glory served as a means of navigation for the Jewish people through the desert?

Let us go back to the first time we find mention of clouds in the Torah. In reference to the creation of Adam, the Torah states, “And moisture rose from the ground and watered the entire land. And Hashem formed man, dust from the earth, and He blew into his nostrils a living soul, and man was a living being” (Bereishit 2:6-7). Our Sages explain that the moisture which rose from the ground formed into a cloud, which then moistened the dust, from which Adam was created (Rashi ibid.). Yet why was it necessary for Hashem to have clouds formed from which water would be taken to create Adam? Why didn’t Hashem simply use water from the oceans or lakes and form Adam?

The answer is that, within the creation of man, Hashem wished to demonstrate to mankind that even our physical bodies also contain something which comes from the Heavens. It is none other than the clouds that come from Heaven above which contribute to man’s creation. This is why the word for “physical life” is termed gashmiyut, for it comes from the word geshem, rain, as it refers to the clouds which provided moisture and water from which to create man. Gashmiyut, the word which is used to refer to physicality, is not to be used with a condescending tone, as if it is something to be denigrated and looked down upon. It is rather to remind a person that not only is his soul holy and from Heaven above, but even his body – his eyes, mouth, nose, arms, legs – also come from Heaven. They too are spiritual constituents.

This is not the only time we find mention of clouds in the Book of Bereishit. After the Flood as well, the Torah tells us that Hashem placed His sign – the rainbow – “in the clouds” as a reminder that He would never again destroy the world (Bereishit 9:13).
We as well find mention of clouds as Avraham Avinu journeyed to Har Hamoriah to offer his son, Yitzchak, as an offering to Hashem. “Avraham raised his eyes and saw the place from afar” (Bereishit 22:4). Rashi explains that Avraham and Yitzchak saw a cloud hovering over the mountain and recognized it to be symbolizing Hashem’s presence. Our Sages emphasize that both Avraham and Yitzchak saw this cloud, and not Eliezer, Avraham’s servant, and Yishmael, Avraham’s other son, who did not.

What is the meaning of this?

When Avraham and Yitzchak first saw the cloud over a mountain, Avraham understood that it symbolized the Presence of G-d, but Yitzchak did not understand what it meant. His father, Avraham, held onto a knife, wood and fire, but where was the animal offering itself? “Where are we going?” Yitzchak asked his father. Avraham replied, “All my life, I always walked, even though I didn’t know where I was going. But one thing I do know… and that is what we don’t clearly see here, we will see there. Even if I don’t understand, I continue forward in my faith and trust in G-d. Are you willing to come with me?” To this, the Torah states, “And the two of them went together” (Bereishit 22:8). Yitzchak replied, “Yes, I will go with you.”

The message is that even when there are clouds in life – when the situation is unclear – we continue to move forward. When such is our approach and attitude in life, we merit having these clouds of confusion turn into clouds of clarity. These clouds become the open revelation and presence of Hashem. And indeed, the site upon which Shechinah (Divine Presence) rests is Har HaMoriah, the site of the Beit Hamikdash.

And this is why the Clouds of Glory are the symbol for us “following in the ways of Hashem,” as it was for the Jews in the desert. The Clouds represent our trust in Hashem that matters which are unclear today will become clear at a later time, when Hashem’s presence is revealed to us. We may not understand everything which occurs in life, but we can take comfort in the fact that Hashem is leading the way. He has a master plan to everything, and when we are guided and carried in His Clouds, we are the safest we could ever be.

Rabbi Label Lam
What to Look Forward To

Nobody has seen the Next World, and even if they did, they wouldn’t have the sufficient vocabulary to describe it. Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt”l though once remarked that if you want to gain an inkling of what the Next World is like, just pass by a sports stadium and hear the giant roar and applause of the fans. That is a small sample of what to expect in the Next World.

Now, I do not know if Rav Miller ever visited a sports stadium, though when I was a child, my father ran the concession stand at Yankee Stadium, and I attended hundreds of games. I was there many times for Old-Timers Day, and the one of the great thrills would be when they would call out the old players and they would receive a smattering of an applause.

I vividly remember the time they called upon the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Catcher, Roy Campanella, whose career was cut short after he was in a car accident and became a quadriplegic. They wheeled him onto the field and the people showered him with a 15-minute standing ovation. You could see how he would take in their love with his eyes. That is all he could move.

I can only wonder if that scene is a small sample of what the Next World is all about and what we have to look forward to.

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