Archive for the 'Vayeitze' Category

Don’t Embarass Your Sister

December 23rd, 2005 by Yaakov Ellis

ויבא יעקב מן השדה בערב, ותצא לאה לקראתו ותאמר אלי תבוא כי שכר שכרתיך בדודאי בני, וישכב עמה בלילה הוא

And Yaakov came from the field in the evening, and Leah went out to him and said ‘Come to me, for I have hired you with my sons duda’im‘, and he slept with her on that night

Bereishit 30:16

The gemara in Megilla 13b explains how Rachel told Leah about the signals that she had pre-arranged with Yaakov. Even though this is what allowed Leah to take her place under the chuppah, Rachel did this in order that Leah not be embarassed.

In the passuk above, Leah returns the favor. Leah had already negotiated with Rachel that in exchange for the duda’im that Reuven had found, Leah would be able to spend the night with Yaakov instead of Rachel. The Netziv explains that Leah went out to greet Yaakov as he was returning because she wished to avoid causing any embarassment to Rachel. If Yaakov had returned from the field and gone to Rachel’s tent as he had been planning, only to leave a few minutes later after being told that he was to be spending the night with Leah, everyone would see this, and Rachel would be embarassed. Instead, Leah went out to meet Yaakov and tell him. Even though this was not the ideal in terms of modesty, Leah felt that it would be better to do this if it would lessen the embarassment of her sister.

Carrying One’s Legs

December 11th, 2005 by Yaakov Ellis

וישא יעקב רגליו, וילך ארצה בני קדם

And Yaakov lifted his legs and walked to the land of the people of Kedem

Bereishit 29:1

We know from the context of this verse that Yaakov was travelling from the Land of Israel to Charan. If this is so, why doesn’t the verse simply say וילך יעקב חרנה – “And Yaakov went to Charan”? Why do we need to be told that Yaakov “lifted his legs” and that he went to “the land of the people of Kedem”.

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The Netziv explains this by way of analogy: If you were walking along a path with which you are very familiar, there would be no need for you to be watching every step you are taking. You could trust in your legs to do the walking. In other words, your legs are carrying you. However, if you are walking along an unfamiliar way, it would be dangerous for you not to pay attention to each and every step. In this case you are carrying your legs.

Yaakov was not only going to Charan. He was going to a place which presented spiritual challenges and dangers that were very different from the ones he faced while living in his father’s house in the Land of Israel. He was going to the land of the people of Kedem. Kedem has already been identified in the Torah as the destination of the Bnei Keturah (Bereishit 25:6) and the origin of Bil’am (Bamidbar 23:7). Kedem is not a place of idolatry like Canaan was in those days. Kedem was a place where people engaged in Kishuf and Nichush – sorcery, incantations and divinations. People sought to find out what was destined to occur in the future. This is a very serious spiritual offense (the Torah prohibits it explicitly).

Yaakov had so far lived his whole life in Canaan, in the house of Avraham. He had conditioned himself against temptation to idolatry and was able to carry on his day to day life without having to actively avoid idolatry. Thus, one could say that while in Canaan, Yaakov’s legs carried him.

However, when Yaakov was leaving the Land of Israel to a place on a lower spiritual level (as every place is compared to the Land of Israel) and a place where there were new spiritual temptations (exhibited by the people of Kedem) that could potentially entrap Yaakov during his sojourn in Chutz L’aretz Yaakov would need to start paying much closer attention to everything he did, every step he took. He would have to start carrying his legs.