Friday, November 24, 2017

Dvar Torah for Parshas Vayeitzei & Podcast

       In Parshas Vayeitzei, Yaakov leaves his home to travel to the house of his uncle, Lavan, intent on building his family. As a direct result of Lavan’s trickery, he ended up marrying four women from whom he had the twelve shevatim, while he originally intended to marry only Rachel. As much as Yaakov prepared for Lavan tricks, he couldn’t do enough.
       The story is well-known, about the group of shepherds Yaakov met upon his arrival. While they waited for enough people to gather to help remove the large stone placed on top of the well, they were lounging with their flocks around the well right in the middle of the work day. Yaakov immediately strikes up a conversation with them, asking all sorts of questions you would expect a friendly, perhaps naïve, tourist to ask, but not a man on a mission like Yaakov. He begins with a simple question, “מֵאַ֣יִן אַתֶּ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ מֵֽחָרָ֖ן אֲנָֽחְנוּ “…Where are you from? And they said, ‘We are from Haran.” (Bereishis 29:4). He then begins to grill them about Lavan. “וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם הַיְדַעְתֶּם אֶת לָבָן בֶּן נָחוֹר הֲשָׁלוֹם לוֹ“And he said to them, ‘Do you know Lavan the son of Nachor?...Are things well with him?” (29:4-5). While these seem to be innocent questions of a man checking up on his relatives, the Kli Yakar explains that Yaakov was doing research.
       He asks two questions on the language used in the pasuk. First, why would Yaakov refer to Lavan as the son of Nachor, his grandfather? He should have referenced his father, Besuel. Secondly, when asked if they knew Lavan, the shepherds replied, “יָדָֽעְנוּ”, “we know.” Why wouldn’t they have said, “we know him”?
       Once Yaakov heard these shepherds were from Lavan’s town, he knew they must know of him. The Kli Yakar explains that Yaakov was trying to find out the character of Lavan. Nachor was a righteous man while Besuel was a depraved person. Yaakov wanted to know if Lavan was following the path of his father or his grandfather. Furthermore, Yaakov was checking to see if there was any question as to Lavan’s lineage. By referring to Nachor, he was making sure Lavan was completely part of the family line. The shepherds responded, “We know”, we know he is Nachor’s grandson both in terms of actions and lineage.
       However, Yaakov was not convinced with one question. He decided to ask another, “Are things well with him?” Charan was mostly made up of reshaim; Yaakov knew that any tzaddik living there would be the subject of harassment and ridicule. When the shepherds replied that everything was well with Lavan, to the extent that he sent his young daughter out alone in the fields with all those men, Yaakov knew he couldn’t possibly be a tzaddik.
       This was just one of the preparations Yaakov made to protect himself from Lavan’s trickery and lies. While he wasn’t able to defend himself from every shtick Lavan tried to pull, ultimately he was successful in the most important aspect. Even though he spent 20 years in Lavan’s house, grew a large family and became a wealthy man, he and his family were not affected by the bad influence of Lavan in the slightest. He remained totally connected to Hashem until the day he left. In our galus we face many challenges from our surroundings. We must recognize what is right and proper and keep our course in that direction, regardless of the niceties that tempt us on the road.

Shabbat Shalom! 

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