Illuminations #182, Kislev, 5779, Parshat Vayetzei

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Illuminations #182, Kislev, 5779, Parshat Vayetzei

Torah Gems

The Torah tells that when Yaakov was ready to lie down to sleep, “He took from the stones of the place which he arranged around his head” (28:11). When he arose the Torah says, “And took the stone that he placed around his head” (28:18).

Obviously, there is a distinct change in the facts surrounding the “Stones.” When he went to sleep there were many and when he arose there was only one. Rashi brings us the explanation that the Midrash offers. He says that the stones began quarreling with one another. One said, “Upon me let this righteous man rest his head,” and another said, “Upon me let him rest his head.” Immediately Hashem made them into one stone.

This sounds like a fanciful story bordering on a fairy tale. The truth, however, is that the Midrash is endeavoring to teach us a significant message that we should be aware of constantly. The Jewish people have all kinds of individuals. Many have varying opinions of what Judaism stands for. These opinions may differ widely and some may stray far afield. Some may hold theories that are so distant from what Judaism really is.

When it comes, however, to the survival of the Jewish people, we should all be united. We may be different in our thinking like the many stones that Yaakov gathered, but when it comes to our continued existence, we should all be united and stick together. We are all responsible for each other and must be like the one stone that Yaakov took when he arose from his dream.

Parsha Pearls

 Yaakov leaves Lavan’s house and territory without informing him. Lavan is incensed and along with his people chases after him. What are his intentions? One would think that he was prepared to kill him. Hashem appears to Lavan in a dream and cautions him: “Beware lest you speak with Yaakov either good or bad” (31:24).

This is a strange warning, that he should not talk to him good or bad. Because of this odd warning, and because Hashem does not warn him not to kill Yaakov, the Zohar Hakadosh concludes that Lavan’s intentions were not to kill him because he realized that Yaakov’s forces were greater and more powerful than his. He rather intended to kill him with witchcraft by casting an evil spell on him.

We see from this that you can kill a person, not only through physical force but also through verbal assault. Chazal in the Midrash tell us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

One must be mindful that his verbal abuse of another can often do him more harm than physical violence.

Glimpses of Greatness

This time I’ll thank Hashem” (29:35). There was a couple with children that had good midot and yirat shamyim. Their older daughter was looking for a match and waited longer than usual for the groom, but finally there was one match that went very wellThe two had already met two times, and were on the way towards engagement but suddenly the other side decided he did not want to continue.

The disappointment was so hard for her after waiting so long. Late that evening, the parents were sitting and trying  to think why this might be happening to themAfter a lot of thinking, the mother said, “Perhaps the reason is that we are not grateful enough to Hashem.” At that moment, the parents decided to pray and give appreciation for everything.

The next day, the phone rang and the family that canceled the engagement said, “The groom does not want to give up in any way, he wants this girl,” and their previous answer was a mistake.

Halacha Weekly

Q. What’s the reason for the Jewish custom not to raise one’s hands in prayer? [I-YD 9-248]

A. Rabbi Akiva Eiger in his chidushim on Shulchan Arach (OrechChaim 260-69) rules as Beer  Sheva (16, R. Issachar Eilenbergof Posen Z”L) who says  the reason we do not raise our hands in prayer is that after the Nations of the World began to pray in this way (by raising their hands above to Heaven in public displays, I.e. before their idols), we are no longer accustomed to pray this way. However,  there are independent reasons having nothing to do with the similarity to non-Jewish practices that we should avoid raising our hands in prayer.

Maharshah Daat Torah (Orech Chaim, 96-3) writes that the Mekor Chaim (Orech Chaim, 95-3, R. Yair Bacharach Z”L) brings (another reason) that this practice of spreading hands has become a practice of a minority (of Jews). This is so because, according to us, the spreading the palms requires deep kavanot(kabalistic intentions). [Therefore, people in general refrain from doing so.]  Petach Hadebir (95-2. R. Chidah Z”L) writes still a different reason, that raising hands [to Heaven] requires a condition be satisfied. Namely that one’s hands are clean from robbery and theft and if they are not ‘clean’ all the more so will one bring remembrance to his sins. And in this orphaned generation, who among us is clean from robbery and violence? Yafeh Lalev (1-95-5, R. Rachamim Nissim Yitzchak PalagiZ”L) writes, however, that there is a reason to be lenient in the case of one who is leading the prayer [because he is representing the  entire congregation collectively to raise his hands above] when he repeats the amidah prayer.