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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayetze

Parashat Vayetze

“What’s the Rush?”

Rabbi Yossef Carmel9 Kislev 5766
2817
Dedicated to the memory of
Hana Bat Haim
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Upon arriving in Charan, Ya’akov engaged the shepherds at the well in conversation and ascertained that his cousin, Rachel, was coming with her flock to the well. In an apparent lack of manners, Yaakov commented: "There is much daytime left; it is still not the time to gather the flock; Give the flock to drink and lead them to graze" (Bereishit 29:7). The shepherds duly explained the rationale of gathering at the well and waiting until all arrived. Why did Yaakov feel compelled to rush the locals, and why did the Torah find it significant enough to expend a few p’sukim to describe?

There are a few interesting possibilities. On a practical level, the Netziv explains that Yaakov wanted the shepherds to leave so that he could have a more private, first meeting with his cousin, later to be wife. There are midrashim that say that the wait at the well was a mystical reference to a future exile of his descendents, which Yaakov was working to somehow shorten.

However, let us concentrate on the straightforward explanation, which Rashi brings from Chazal. Yaakov was disturbed by what appeared as irresponsible laziness on the shepherds’ part. If they were hired hands, they were stealing their employers’ time; if they were self-employed, then they were plain lazy. It is interesting that the Torah does not mention Yaakov’s zealousness when dealing with the likes of the treacherous and deceitful Eisav and Lavan. Yet, a lack of respect for the value of time "set him off."

This attribute of Yaakov is particularly poignant in light of our discussion of last week. As opposed to his brother, the hunter, Yaakov spent his time in the tents of Torah. He did not lounge around, but studied to an unusually intense and demanding degree (see Rashi to 28:11). However, he did not occupy himself with life outside the tent. This could be for one of two reasons. Yaakov could have adopted a philosophy that matters outside the tent of Torah are inconsequential. The longer he spent in the Torah’s light, the more he would have realized the lack of other matters’ value. On the other hand, he could have adopted a philosophy that other areas of endeavor were of value and to be taken seriously. The Torah was worth so much to him, not because nothing else counted, but because Torah counted more. To the contrary, Torah needed to prepare him to correctly and ethically do everything in his life.

The "proof in the pudding" was when Yaakov left the tent. For all of those years, he had studied how, among other things, to respect time’s value, most certainly including in the work place. The fact that he reacted to the apparent lack of workers’ dedication shows that work outside the tent was a value and that doing it ethically was critical. Yaakov did not only make demands on others. He demonstrated exemplary dedication to his job, tending to Lavan’s flock, despite the fact that he had an excuse to get even with Lavan (see 31: 38-42). This is but one lesson to learn from the "choice of the patriarchs."

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