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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayetze

Vayetzei

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The story of our father Yaakov as portrayed in this week’s parsha was always seen by the commentators to Torah as being the matrix for the future events and trials of the Jewish people in their long centuries of exile and subjugation amongst the nations of the world. In truth the first word of the parsha - vayetzei - illustrates much of Jewish history in the Exile. Jews are constantly on the move, restless and nervous. Even when Jews find themselves seemingly comfortably ensconced within the general society they are notoriously uneasy and dissatisfied. And eventually, this unease is proved to have been prescient for all of the places of exile have closed down and the Jews have been forced to move on and find a new home for themselves. The Jews were in Spain for eight hundred years; in Central and Eastern Europe for almost one thousand years but eventually their stay in those areas came to an end. Vayeitzei has haunted Jewish existence for millennia. The ground under Jewish feet was always unsure and uncertainty was the omnipresent condition of Jewish life. Only in the Land of Israel did the Lord promise us that we would live in a place of menucha v’nachala - secure rest and permanent inheritance. Yet even there we were forced out of the country twice and in fact most of Jewish history has occurred outside of the Land of Israel. And even now when the Jews have returned in their millions to their homeland the sense of impermanence and restlessness inculcated within us over the ages of exile remains a striking characteristic of our existence as a people.

It is interesting to note that the rabbis of the Mishna listed ten tests and challenges that our father Avraham faced and overcame in his lifetime. They made no such list nor did they mention explicitly the many tests and challenges that our father Yaakov faced. In this week’s parsha alone Yaakov complains that Lavan cheated him ten times regarding his wages. The incident of the substitution of Leah for Rachel, Rachel’s barrenness and her tragic death, the necessity to flee from his home because of his brother Eisav, and the further necessity to flee from the house of Lavan are but some of the factors and occurrences that could be listed if we were to record Yaakov’s challenges in life. And over the next few parshiyot of the Torah other challenges, tests and seeming tragedies in the life of Yaakov will be listed and described to us. None of the serenity that was apparent in the life of Avraham, in spite of his ten tests, was present in the life of Yaakov. Even when he wished to live in security and peace those ideals were never achieved. That is the source of our restlessness and uncertainty in the Exile. Would that we would be able to shed those feelings here in Israel when he have finally arrived at our menucha v’nachala! I think that once we realize that our future here in our land is God’s gift to us we will emerge triumphant from this parsha of Vayeitzei in Jewish history and life.
Rabbi Dov Berl Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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