• Dvar for Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:1)

    On his journey to Charan, Yaakov (Jacob) sleeps and dreams of a ladder connecting heaven and earth, with angels climbing and descending it. In the dream, G-d promises Yaakov the land upon which he is sleeping. When he wakes up, Yaakov “lifted his feet” and went on his way (29:1). Why does the Torah use such strange wording for Yaakov continuing his journey?

    Rashi quotes the Midrash that explains that after hearing good news, Yaakov was in a good mood, adding a pep in his step. The Lekach Tov further explains that before his dream, Yaakov thought that his journey was derailed due to his circumstances, having to run away from his brother’s fury. His dream confirmed that his experiences are part of his adventure and that it was all part of the plan. The dream taught Yaakov and us an important lesson: Where we are is where we’re meant to be, so seize the present, lift our feet and look forward.

  • Dvar for Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:1)

    This week’s Parsha, Vayetzei, finds Yakov fleeing to Charan to escape the wrath of Esav. Yakov camps and sleeps, dreams of a ladder with angels ascending and descending to/from G-d. When Yakov wakes up, he exclaims that G-d is present and that he did not know (28:16). The phrase he uses is “lo yad’ati,” which means “I did not know,” but Yakov precedes it with the word “va’anochi,” which also means “I.” If you put it all together, it seems that Yakov says, “I, I did not know.” Why did Yakov choose such strange wording?
    Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz suggests a beautiful twist on this expression. He explains that Yakov was able to know that G-d was there by “not knowing the anochi,” or by subjugating the “I.” Yakov was able to know that G-d was there when he moved beyond the “I” of his ego. We see this hinted in the very next Passuk (verse) when Yakov further proclaims that the place where he stands is awesome and that “this is none other than the house of G-d,” once again highlighting that G-d exists where there is “none” – a submission of ego. We become truly transcendent when we stop thinking of ourselves and experience the world through selfless eyes.

  • Dvar for Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:1)

    In Parshat Vayetzei, Yaakov (Jacob) begins a journey to find himself a wife, and essentially begin his life. But when he sleeps and dreams of G-d telling him that the land he’s sleeping on is Holy, he is compelled to bring sacrifices, and promises to give a percentage of what he has back to G-d as Maaser (tithe – which we still practice today). In the Torah, however, it says that “Yaakov woke up from his sleep and said “Surely Hashem is present in this place and I did not know” (28:16), and shortly later it says that “Yaakov woke up early in the morning and took the stone that he placed around his head and set it up as a pillar” (28:18). Did Yaakov go back to sleep? It seems that he woke up twice. Furthermore, why did he suddenly feel compelled to promise to give a percentage of what he earns?

    One way to answer these questions is by examining the dream Yaakov had. In the dream, G-d told Yaakov that the land he was sleeping on would be his, for his children, that He would protect Yaakov, and eventually return him to his land. Why would the land, which is the least spiritual thing in the world, be so important that G-d had to assure Yaakov that it would be his, and that he would be returned to it? The answer to this question is also the reason Yaakov ‘woke up’ the first time…He didn’t physically wake up, but merely realized how much potential land had. As Yaakov put it….”This is the gate to heaven”. Through working on the land, and through using it to fulfill G-d’s will, we can create a gate to heaven. Land is no longer just land, but has now become more sacred, simply because it gives us more opportunities to do Mitzvot (positive deeds), thereby becoming more spiritual. Giving a percentage of what we earn to charity is ALSO a way of using a very earthly item (money) for a higher purpose, which is why Yaakov saw it necessary to commit to it right then.

    We too must realize that there is nothing in this world that can’t be used to elevate us spiritually, and it’s our job to find ways to do just that. So we use Email to read Dvar Torahs, which is great, but it shouldn’t stop there. We must use food, clothes, money, and even nice scenery to bring us closer to the “gates of heaven”. The sooner we realize how much potential there is for us to grow spiritually in this world, the sooner we can “get growing”.

  • Dvar for Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:1)

    In this week’s Parsha, Vayetzei, we can learn an incredible lesson. The Torah relates how when Leah had her fourth son, Rachel became envious. The obvious question is why wasn’t Rachel jealous when Leah has her first three sons. As Living Each Week explains, Leah named her first three sons based on her emotions; that 1) now her husband will love her, and 2) now she won’t be disliked, and 3) now my husband will have to help me. But it is the fourth one that got to Rachel. When Leah named her son “Because now I can be grateful to G-d”, that’s when Rachel became envious. Rachel realized that she couldn’t achieve the same level of gratitude to G-d that Leah could. What an incredible virtue: To want to have a reason to thank G-d, just for the sake of thanking Him.

    We have three chances a day to thank G-d through prayer, but do we? And if/when we do daven (pray), is it with enough meaning/concentration? Are we as grateful as we should be even when we DO have a reason? We can all emulate Rachel’s desire to show gratitude by studying prayers, learning about ourselves from them, and improving ourselves through them.

  • Dvar for Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3)

    In Parshat Vayetzei, Yaakov (Jacob) begins a journey to find himself a wife, and essentially begin his life. But when he sleeps and dreams of G-d telling him that the land he’s sleeping on is Holy, he is compelled to bring sacrifices, and promises to give a percentage of what he has back to G-d as Maaser (tithe – which we still practice today). In the Torah, however, it says that “Yaakov woke up from his sleep and said “Surely Hashem is present in this place and I did not know” (28:16), and shortly later it says that “Yaakov woke up early in the morning and took the stone that he placed around his head and set it up as a pillar” (28:18). Did Yaakov go back to sleep? It seems that he woke up twice. Furthermore, why did he suddenly feel compelled to promise to give a percentage of what he earns?

    One way to answer these questions is by examining the dream Yaakov had. In the dream, G-d told Yaakov that the land he was sleeping on would be his, for his children, that He would protect Yaakov, and eventually return him to his land. Why would the land, which is the least spiritual thing in the world, be so important that G-d had to assure Yaakov that it would be his, and that he would be returned to it? The answer to this question is also the reason Yaakov ‘woke up’ the first time…He didn’t physically wake up, but merely realized how much potential land had. As Yaakov put it….”This is the gate to heaven”. Through working on the land, and through using it to fulfill G-d’s will, we can create a gate to heaven. Land is no longer just land, but has now become more sacred, simply because it gives us more opportunities to do Mitzvot (positive deeds), thereby becoming more spiritual. Giving a percentage of what we earn to charity is ALSO a way of using a very earthly item (money) for a higher purpose, which is why Yaakov saw it necessary to commit to it right then.

    We too must realize that there is nothing in this world that can’t be used to elevate us spiritually, and it’s our job to find ways to do just that. So we use Email to read Dvar Torahs, which is great, but it shouldn’t stop there. We must use food, clothes, money, and even nice scenery to bring us closer to the “gates of heaven”. The sooner we realize how much potential there is for us to grow spiritually in this world, the sooner we can “get growing”.

  • Dvar for Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3)

    In this week’s Parsha, Vayetzei, the Torah relates how when Leah had her fourth son, Rachel became envious. The obvious question is why wasn’t Rachel jealous when Leah has her first three sons. As Living Each Week explains, Leah named her first three sons based on her emotions; that 1) now her husband will love her, and 2) now she won’t be disliked, and 3) now my husband will have to help me. But it is the fourth one that got to Rachel. When Leah named her son “Because now I can be grateful to G-d”, that’s when Rachel became envious. Rachel realized that she couldn’t achieve the same level of gratitude to G-d that Leah could. How incredible a virtue! To want to have a reason to thank Hashem, just for the sake of thanking Him.

    We have three chances a day to thank G-d through prayer, if we do it with enough meaning and concentration. We can all emulate Rachel’s desire to show gratitude by studying prayer, learning about ourselves from them, and improving ourselves through them.

  • Daily Aliya for Vayetzei, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Lavan answers that the women are his daughters, that the children are his children, and the animals are his as well. Yakov and Lavan make a pact and form a mound of rocks as a sign of their agreement. Yakov offers a sacrifice to G-d and swears to the covenant. In the morning, Lavan kisses his children and grandchildren, blesses them, and returns home. Yakov continues on his journey and encounters angels on the way, Yakov names the place Machanayim.

    What was the pact for? Did they agree on something? They disagreed about the mound of rocks, Yakov calling it Galed and Lavan calling it Yegar Sahadutha. But then Lavan agreed that since the mound is a witness to the truce between them, he would call it Galed. They went on to agree to stay away from each other in peace, but were only able to do so once they appreciated and respected the others’ perspective, as shown by Lavan’s willingness to call the mound Galed. This is an important blueprint to overcoming conflict in our lives, as well.

  • Daily Aliya for Vayetzei, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Yakov prepares to leave. Meanwhile, Rachel takes her father’s idols in his absence. When Lavan becomes aware of Yakov’s departure, he sets out in pursuit. G-d appears to Lavan in a dream and warns him not to harm Yakov in any way. When Lavan catches up to Yakov, he confronts him about the unannounced departure and the missing idols.

    Yakov answers in kind, expressing his anger at Lavan’s repeated attempts to cheat him. As to the idols, Yakov permits Lavan to search for them and boldly declares that the one who took them shall not live. Lavan fails to find his idols because Rachel convinces him not to search her person or belongings. Had it not been for G-d’s protection, Yakov tells Lavan, you would have left me with nothing.

  • Daily Aliya for Vayetzei, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: “Specify your wages,” Lavan told Jacob. “And I will give it!” Jacob proposed that all the streaked and spotted sheep that would be born to Lavan’s sheep would constitute his payment. In return, Jacob would continue caring for Lavan’s flocks. Lavan immediately removed all the existing spotted and streaked sheep from the herd and put them under his sons’ charge—thus differentiating between the current ones, which belonged to Lavan, and the to-be-born ones, that would belong to Jacob. Jacob made striped poles for the strong and robust sheep to view while they were mating. As a result, the sheep gave birth to striped offspring, and Jacob became fabulously wealthy—despite Lavan’s deceptive practices, and his continual changing of the terms of Jacob’s pay. After an additional six years of service, G‑d commanded Jacob to return to Canaan. Jacob summoned his wives, who agreed that the time has arrived to leave.

    So Lavan tries to take all of Yakov’s possessions by renegotiating their agreement, Yakov ends up with a massive flock despite Lavan’s best efforts, Yakov sees in Lavan’s face that something has changed and his welcome has officially worn out, G-d tells him to leave, and he still finds it necessary to call Rachel and Leah for a private conference in the field, explains his reasons for wanting to leave, and doesn’t decide until they both give him permission to do as G-d says. If ever there’s a model for treating a spouse with respect, Yakov would be it!

  • Daily Aliya for Vayetzei, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: One spring day, Reuven picked jasmine plants from the field, and brought them to his mother. Rachel asks Leah for some of them, and Leah agreed, provided that Rachel relinquishes her turn with Jacob that night. Leah gave birth to another two sons – Issachar and Zevulun – and one daughter—Dinah. Eventually, Rachel, too, gave birth to a son, whom she named Joseph. At that point, Jacob asked Lavan for permission to take his wives and children and return to Canaan. Lavan acknowledges that he has been blessed because of Jacob.

    For many years Rachel could not conceive, and when she finally did, the Passuk describes how “G-d remembered Rachel”, which Rashi explains to mean that he remembered how Rachel gave her sister the signs to convince Yakov to marry Leah, and how selfless that act was. What’s between the lines is that although Rachel had been praying for children for all those years, she never used her previous act of kindness as leverage, or as a complaint for her not having children. Rather, G-d independently remembered what she had done. All those years of her sister benefiting from her kindness, and not once did Rachel regret or even mention her actions that allowed her sister to thrive.

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