Sunday, December 18, 2016


Read fascinating essay by rav Chanoch Waxman about how Yaakov returns the birthright to Eisav/apologizes for taking it, when he meets him.

Read it in Torah MiEtzion, my hunch is that this presents a shorter version.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Vayeitzei: Even Yisrael

Vayeitzei is a unique parsha (I believe) in that it is one parshiah, it has no breaks. It reminds me of when I sometimes write and have so much to get out that I don't stop the paragraph, because the writing reflects how my life is feeling non-stop. I think Yaakov probably felt pressured, had a hard time catching his breath, and this is reflected in the style of how this parsha is written breaklessly. Yaakov was like a rock in how he kept going. He was steady, patient. He didn't lose it (except once to Lavan at the end of the parsha and he's actually in the wrong about something there but doesn't know so).
It's not for nothing that the Torah calls Yaakov Even Yisrael (in Vayechi Yosef is described, by Yaakov, as being loyal to Yaakov - Even Yisrael). And it's purposeful, as well, that stones, rock solid ones keep appearing in the parsha. Yakkov takes one to sleep on. (Seforno says they were left out for that purpose for visitors. Ibn Ezra says that despite the midrash that says that he took several stones that joined into one, the verse actually says that he took [one] of the stones of the place.) Then the stone becomes a standing pillar like altar, which mirrors the ladder of Yaakov's dream, the the head reaching up in holiness and the foot of it grounded (the way a person should be).
Next, Yaakov gets to town and the first thing he sees is a stone covering a well. (It is a unit representing the disunity and distrust of the shepherds who won't allow anyone to get water till they all do.) He takes it off the well in one shot, inspired by his love and feeling of connection for his wife to be (and then he cries, and tradition has it that it's because in this moment of the unity he felt, and that the stone represents, he saw that even with the love of his life there would one day be separation, in death and burial [-When a matzeivah is put up]).
And then one thing happens after another - work, marriage, work marriage, children, more children, "if it's not one things it's another. And then this parshah/parshiah ends with things coming full circle like a stone. There's that stone again, which is used as a standing altar, a sign of hopeful peace, despite tension, between Yaakov and Lavan.
Stones represent wholeness as well as fragmentation. they protect us, they build buildings, even holy ones. And they break our bones and harm us. In this non-stop story of the building of the Jewish People the stone is an apt symbol of the development of Yaakov Even Yisrael, Jacob , the Rock of Israel. When Yirmiyahu is chosen he doesn't want the job. G-d shows him a vision of a potter creating vessels on his stone. Metzudat Tzion says that one creates via stones, that was the message to Yirmiyahu, he was being chosen and needed to embrace his being the receptacle - the kli kibul - for recreating, shaping, the Jewish People. On a similar note, when we're told of the rapid birth rate of the Jews in Egypt, the birthing stone is mentioned in the context of the creation of a nation.
May we be blessed to be rock solid and to build up our nation and the world as our great prophets and ancestors did before us.