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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayishlach

The Danger of Slow Travel

Various Rabbiskislev 5769
903
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Upon returning to the Land of his Fathers, Yaakov took a slow path southward, as he had told Eisav he would (Bereishit 33:14). Hashem was less than happy with the delay. In Bereishit 35:1, He prodded Yaakov along, telling him to go already to Beit El and make an altar to Hashem who revealed Himself to Yaakov when he fled Eisav. According to one version of Rashi, Hashem had punished Yaakov with the troubles to his daughter, Dina, because he had spent too long on the road. According to another version, it was for not fulfilling his oath to erect a house of worship at Beit El. The Chizkuni asks that Rashi seems to contradict himself, for on 32:23 he writes that the troubles regarding Dina were a punishment for not allowing Eisav to marry her, as she could have had a positive influence upon him. He answers that the two factors were technically related (see there). It is worthwhile to investigate if there could be a deep common denominator between the two pieces of criticism.
Let us proceed with a simple question. Why did it take Yaakov so long to make it home, especially considering his parents’ age (actually, Rivka died soon before he returned)? The following suggestion could not only answer the question but also shed light on the previous issue. Yaakov told Eisav that he had to go slowly, according to the pace of the children. Perhaps he was referring to their spiritual development. He had taken them out of the influence of their grandfather, Lavan, but as we see from some of the stories (see Bereishit 35:2), a process of purification was needed. Perhaps Yaakov felt that it was not yet the right time to present his children to his holy father, before they reached his expectations.
If this is the case, then there is a connection between Yaakov’s delay and his refusal to have Dina marry Eisav. He lacked sufficient trust in his children’s spiritual ability to cope with challenges. Generally, being extra careful because of the concern that one’s child is not ready to cope may be prudent. However, when one refrains from an important mitzva, in this case, honoring one’s parents or saving one’s brother’s spiritual state, underestimating the children can be a serious offense. The unnecessary delay also prevented his children from being positively influenced by Yitzchak and, to the contrary, they struggled with tests along the way.
We can now answer the following question. If Yaakov was late in fulfilling his oath, why did that happen? Actually, Yaakov said that his side of the deal would begin when Hashem would enable him to return in peace to his father’s home (Bereishit 28:21). Yaakov had not yet returned, so how was he late? The answer is that Hashem had done His part in enabling him to return. The fact that he was unnecessarily hesitant did not entitle him to say that he had not returned; therefore, he was already obligated to build the "house of Hashem."



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