It all started with a kiss in Choron
Lommer unfangin (let’s begin). When last we encountered Yankif (Jacob), he was mamish running for his life. His older brother Eisav wanted to kill him and we are taught that Yankif slipped into the famous Yeshiva started generations earlier by Shaim and Ever, Noiach’s son and grandson. Efsher taka (maybe indeed) this was the first time someone slipped into a yeshiva to avoid danger but zicher not the last, and bazman hazeh (in our times), many Yeshivas are thriving due to enrollment from people wanting to avoid war and other things they perceive as being dangerous; a job comes to mind, if you chap. As Parshas Vayetzi opens, it’s 14 years later and by the time we finish reading the entire parsha, another 20 amazing years in Yankif’’s life will pass. We’ll cover some of it in under ten minutes: Halt kup (pay attention), lots going on this week, lommer lernen (let’s learn).
Unfortunately, Yankif will again find himself in mortal danger later in the parsha when his shver Lovon, upset that Yankif had enough of his, Lovon’s, shenanigans, packed up his entire mishpocho and left Choron. Lovon gave chase with the intention of killing him. Ober a near brush with death ended well when the RBSO intervened, warned Lovon not to harm Yankif, his own son on law, and a peace treaty ensued. With the RBSO as the peace-broker, that one lasted. Lommer huffin (let’s hope) that the treaty entered into just yesterday with another mortal enemy will last as well. Maybe it’s time to get the RBSO more involved in the peace process? When all is said and done, seemingly it will take His intervention to solve this crisis once and for all.
Yankif Oveenu, now 77 years old and still single, is quite the eligible bachelor and finally graduates the all-boys and men’s Yeshiva after 14 years of shteiging and flipping. Though a shtikel advanced in years, it’s seemingly never too late to start a family, especially for a guy, and certainly Yankif needs to make up for lost time. The good news is that he didn’t grow attracted to any of the yeshiva boys he shared a cave with and is still interested in girls. Nu, what mother wouldn’t want a nice young man of 77 for her single daughter, and in Parshas Vayatzei, Yankif will finally get married not once but four times, sire a dozen children, become a shepherd, do ok for himself and, like many eydims (sons-in-law), though zicher not the Oisvorfer, who has enjoyed kimat 25 years (next week a full 25) of bliss mamish, with his shver, he will have a huge machloikes (fight) with his one shver (father in law). And those are just part of the highlights. Raboyseyee, you mamish have to learn this special parsha, it’s a romantic thriller mamish.
Efsher you’re wondering what Yankif was studying while in yeshiva for 14 years, so do others. Was there a curriculum? Ver veyst. Was he left back or just hanging around hoping that Loit’s daughters, more than familiar with caves, would join him? Ver veyst. Though this amazing Toirah story takes place hundreds if not thousands of years before the printing press and though we taka have no clue what he used for study materials, one thing is avada givist (known). When Yankif came out and needed to make a living, he made a bee line for Choron, met the love of his life and shoin: a few days later he had a job, a girlfriend and life was looking a shtikel more promising. As you make your way through the parsha you’ll come to learn that at a minimum he picked up some givaldige life skills which came in quite handy. Ershtens (firstly) he immediately got a job with Lovon in the family business, chapped and then married his two daughters and their handmaids who, according to the medrish, were also Lovon’s daughters from one of his many concubines. They were? That’s correct. And according to a few medroshim, not just were Lea and Rochel full sisters born to Lovon and Mrs. Lovon but Bilha and Zilpa too were sisters born to Lovon the minuvil and one of his pilagshim. At 77, Yankif hit the jackpot: Four wives and only one set of in-laws! Not many can get away with marrying two sisters, let alone four, but no one the Oisvorfer knows can manage four wives and one set of in-laws. Efsher this yeshiva did mamish teach real life skills. Yankif immediately got to work, both during the days and seemingly also at night, if you chap, making up for lost time. Gishmak.
And how do we know that Yankif was now 77 and that he spent 14 years in Yeshiva hiding from Eisav and also learning? Nu, so says Rashi quoting the heylige Gemora (Megillah 17a) and who are you to disagree? If it makes sense to them who are you to argue? So what, if according to their calculations, Yankif was 77 and Rochel was as young as 3, is that a problem for you? Was it a problem for Yitzchok when he met and married a 3 year old? Shoin and it’s none of your business. Isn’t it at all possible that 3 year olds were quite mature in those days? Ver veyst. Would you want people questioning your proclivities? And so what if a yeshiva was not the best hiding place for Yankif who feared that Eisav wanted to kill him, is that a problem for you? Wasn’t Yankif known to be a Yoishev Oiholim (a yeshiva boy) and if you were Eisav, isn’t that the first place you would look for your bother? Not to worry because according to at least one medrish, Yankif gave Eisav the slip by switching Yeshivas in the middle of the z’man (semester), much like many do today when they’ve had enough of some maniacal lunatic inviting them to his house near midnight for a bedside talk. Seemingly there were two yeshivas and, says the medrish (Tanchuma Yoshon, Vayishlach 9): “[Yankif] left the Beis Medrash of Shaim and moved over to the competing Yeshiva being run by Ever. Gishmak mamish (most enjoyable pshat).
Some taka ask why Yankif at 63 didn’t heed advice from his parents and go straight to Lovon’s house to try and find a suitable wife. Ober Raboyseyee says the heylige Gemora (Megillah 16a) azoy: we can derive that Toirah study is greater than honoring one’s parents, a marketing tool Yeshivas have ben pushing for years; oy vey! And what does the Gemora use as proof? Yankif was seemingly punished by the RBSO by having his own favorite son Yoisef go missing for twenty-two years, the same number of years that he was away from his parents in pursuit of a marriage partner. However, he was not punished for the 14 years he spent valgering in caves at the Yeshiva(s). This must be because Toirah study is so paramount that it engenders no punishment even though it involves being away from one’s parents and maybe disobeying a direct order to do otherwise. Shoin, proof positive but does everyone agree with this logic? Zicher nisht (of course not) and the response Chasam Soifer asks, “How is this conclusive? Perhaps honoring one’s parents is greater than Toirah study, and his logic which avada makes sense to most parents goes like this: Yankif was taka punished for the fourteen years he spent in the Yeshiva’s cave and wasn’t punished for the fourteen years that he had to labor for Lovon the con artist in order to chap both Rochel and Leah. Efsher the mitzvah of pursuing a wife or wives and being fruitful is greater than honoring one’s parents. Which is it? Ver veyst.
Why would someone at 63 find the need to enroll in a yeshiva? Didn’t he learn all that he needed to from his heylige tata Yitzchok? Nu, says R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky azoy: The Toirah of Yitzchok was good for someone who was completely sheltered from the outside world. However, when Yankif left his father’s house heading to Uncle Lovon, a known swindler and conniver, he needed different Toirah and some life skills. He seemingly acquired or more fully developed those over at the famous Yeshivas of Shaim and Ever, they being the same folks who diagnosed Rivka’s gynecological issues during pregnancy. Zicher they knew more than just plain text; they knew to look beneath the surface, if you chap. And it was there that Yankif developed the skill set necessary to deal with Uncle Lovon, and boy did he need those skills. Interestingly enough, next week, we will read how Yankif states (through Rashi, and who knew more or better) that though he lived with Lovon, he somehow still managed to keep the entire Toirah. Gishmak mamish! And says Rashi that Yankif taught Yoiseph all the Toirah he learned from Shaim and Ever. Why did he teach yeshiva Toirah from them and not what his father had taught him? The answer is that Yankif knew that Yoisef would be in a similar situation, that he too would require a healthy set of life skills to navigate the pitfalls that lay before him, especially Mrs. Poitiphar wanted to lay on him, if you chap, about whom we’ll be reading in a few short weeks; halt zich eyn (keep your pants on), Yoisef did.
Some say that Yankif knew all about this Lovon character way before he arrived to Choron. He knew that Lovon was a deceitful no-goodnik. And how would he taka have known? Nu, is it possible that since his mother, a blood relative mamish, sent him in this direction, to Lovon’s house, and that she, Rivka, was the one that concocted the entire plot that led Yankif to outwit Eisav from his birthright, that he, Yankif, was already well trained and on high alert for trickery and deficit? Did it run in the family? Es ken zeyn, no? Accordingly Yankif spent his time at the yeshiva sharpening his life skills.
And what job did this Yankif get after so many years in Yeshiva? Nu, like other famous Toirah personalities, he became a shepherd; who knew that running around with sheep could lead to such material wealth? It did? Indeed yes, and the Toirah tells us that Yankif accumulated great wealth during his 20 year stint in Choron. Ober es veyst zich ois (it’s quite apparent) that this profession not only paid well but also included excellent fringe benefits in the form of marriage and concubine opportunities, all of which he availed himself of, why not? Nu, after seeing how well Yankif made out as a shepherd, it’s mistama no wonder that other famous personalities and leaders followed suit. Avada you all remember or should, that other important people including none other than Moishe Rabaynu and others, also became shepherds. And says the Mishnas Rebee Eliezer, (ch. 8) azoy: This profession is a most desirable one, seeing that all the prophets occupied themselves with it. Regarding Yankif it is written, “I will again feed and keep your flock”; regarding Moishe it is written, “And Moishe was shepherding the flocks of Yisroy” (Shmois 3:1); regarding Dovid Hamelech it is written, “And He took him from the sheep pens”; regarding Amos it is written, “I am a herdsman” (Amos 7:14). Veyter.
Nu, let’s roll back the clock and review the events of day one, the day Yankif arrived in Choron. He stopped off at the well, seemingly the only stop needed when wife hunting by him and others. Vos epes (why) a well? Seemingly the well was instrumental in at least three notables meeting their bashert. Says the medrish: Three people found their spouses at a well: Yitzchok, Yaakov and Moishe. Concerning Yitzchok it is written (Bereishis 24:62), ‘And Yitzchok came from the way of the well of Lechai-Roi.’ Avada you all recall that just two parshas back, Rivka met Eliezer at a well. In this week’s Parsha the posik tells us: ‘And he saw, behold, a well in the field.’ And in a few weeks we’ll learn that Moishe Rabaynu, who earlier in his life fled Mitzrayim after getting wind that Paroy wished to kill him, also found his wife-to-be Tzipoira near or at the well. Says the heylige Toirah (Shemois 2:15), “And he dwelled in the land of Midyan, and sat at the well”. What’s so magical about a well? Ver veyst but the well is mentioned 12 different times during this love-at-first-sight romance between Yankif and Rochel. Nu, efsher single boys should be digging wells instead of digging for gold, if you chap. The well must have had some magical romantic powers because moments after Yankif laid his eyes on Rochel and got the rock off, if you chap, he kissed her and then introduced himself. Hello, he did what? Says the heylige Toirah azoy:
|11 And Yaakov kissed Rochel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.|
|12 And Yaakov told Rochel that he was her father’s brother and that he was Rivka’s son; and she ran and told her father.|
|13 And it came to pass, when Lovon heard the tidings of Yaakov his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Lovon all these things.|
Couldn’t be any clearer; he saw her, he kissed her and then introduced himself. Avada we all know that there are 70 ways to learn pshat in the heylige Toirah but what about the regular meaning of the words, don’t they count? Avada they do, and taka we just read that Yankif Oveenu, father of the Yiddin – we are all avada known as his children- met Rochel, kissed Rochel, raised his voice and then began to cry. Was the kiss so terrible? And as you can only imagine, many were in an uproar over this kissing incident as it flies in the face of everything they taught you in yeshiva about what you should not do to a girl. Kissing was avada very high on the verboten list, though I suspect and taka recall that other zachin, though lower, if you chap, ranked a shtikel higher. Chapping was zicher not allowed. And the question everyone wants answers to was: how could Yankif, holy person that he was, kiss Rochel who at that time was a stranger mamish? Nu, let’s see what some had to say. Was this allowed? Are we allowed? Are you?
Says the Radak: “Since she saw that he had done all this for her”, she accepted his kiss. The kiss may have been a reward Yankif gave himself after removing the big rock blocking the well. Getting rocks off is avada good, no? She was ok with it too.
Says the May’am Loi’ez (Ladino commentary on the entire Toirah): Yankif cried out loudly after publicly kissing Rochel because he realized what a terribly unseemly thing he had done. Citing rather ascetic traditions, he states empathically that men are expected to distance themselves from women. They are not permitted to smell women’s perfumes or look at the flowers that adorn women’s hair. He recalls that in ancient times, the Sanhedrin (Supreme Court of Israel), used to beat violators without compassion, and not release them until they vowed to keep away from women, and not raise their eyes to gaze at them. Taliban anyone? Many men taka heed his words, mostly post marriage.
One thing is zicher, the medroshim were fascinated (efsher obsessed) with this kiss and wanted details, most of which they seemingly made up. Some say that Yankif did not kiss Rochel on the lips, but rather on her head or her shoulder. And how do they know this? As proof they suggest that otherwise, Scripture would have specifically written that he kissed her on the face. Shoin! Says the Ibn Ezra: Yankif did not kiss her on her face, but rather on her head, shoulder or cheek, as was customary in those days in that region. Ober most other commentators, including Rashi, agree that he kissed her on the mouth. Shoin and settled. Seemingly he kissed her on the mouth and guess what? The RBSO still loved him.
Says the Medrish Rabba: he cried following the kiss because some suspected him of pritzus (lustfulness) for kissing Rochel. In other words, others either saw the kiss or heard of the kiss and this could avada besmirch his reputation, not good for a single bochur at 77 and zicher such behavior could affect his shidduch value. And isn’t that the only reason for good behavior to begin with? Says Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov HaKohein Traube: Yankif cried mamish loudly because he saw that in the future oisvorfs like many of you, would incorrectly interpret his kissing Rochel as an act of passion.
And says the Netziv( R’ Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin): we see from the crying, that his kissing Rochel was not meant to be a frivolous sexual act, but rather an expression of closeness and fondness for a relative. And even if the kissing took place in public, he would not be scorned. And adds the Seforno quoting this medrish that this was taka the reason why Yankif, following the kiss, told Rochel that she was his cousin: shoin, kissing cousins and all was kosher. Yes? Nu, are you satisfied with these answers? You should be because what you’re going to read next may affect your mood.
Says Rabaynu Bachya that one of two things might have taken place: either Rochel was under 3 years old at the time and certainly no one would suspect a 77 year old of lusting after a 3 year old. Alternatively, he kissed her hand or forehead and not her lips. Nu, his ideas may taka conflict with the earlier medrish but so what? Is this the first time two medroshim were in conflict? No big deal though the idea of a 3 year old Rochel when we’re just getting over the 3 year old Rivka is a shtikel unsettling.
And says Shadal (Samuel David Luzzatto): it appears to him that Rochel must have been a very young child at the time of the kissing incident since she ran to tell her father and not her mother. What’s pshat? Seemingly she was still young enough to hang around with her dad and other men and not yet at an age where tznius (modesty) was an issue. Shoin!
Says Rashi: Yankif cried because, through Ruach Hakoidesh (the Holy Spirit), he foresaw that Rochel would not be buried with him in the Machpelah cave, but would die roadside after giving birth to Binyomin. Rashi offers yet another possibility: he cried because unlike Eliezer who brought ten camels laden with gold, silver and jewelry when searching for the proper wife for Yitzchok, he, Yankif came empty-handed to Rochel’s family in Choron.
Why we need all these unusual interpretations is another question altogether. If Loit could and did bed his two daughters and still be considered a good guy, and if Yankif could marry four of a kind and be considered the father of the B’nai Yisroel, and if Avrohom who had several wives plus a healthy number of concubines was the first of our holy Ovois, and if it was quite ok with the RBSO for Yitzchok to have married a three year old, what’s the big deal about Yankif kissing Rochel at first sight? The kiss seems to have worked. Seemingly, she accepted the kiss, felt the magic and efsher we should bring this model back? He saw her, he liked what he saw and he kissed her. They fell in love, got married and all was good until future tragedies befell them, no big deal.
Exactly what happened to the heylige Toirah and to us emulating our forefathers and foremothers? Seemingly the RBSO accepted them for who they were and loved them all. Maybe we should go back to this style of meeting at the well and a shtikel kiss, would it be so giferlich or could it lead to mixed dancing? Ver veyst.
And as many of you avada recall, though he loved Rochel at first sight and worked seven years to win her hand in marriage, on the wedding night, Lovon, efsher the first bait and switch man, gave him Leah instead of Rochel. What taka happened here? Let’s review.
Yankif loved Rochel, wanted to marry her, worked 7 years to get her, arranged the wedding, got married, took the bride home to consecrate the marriage, did just that, but in the morning – oy vey- he awoke to find out that it wasn’t Rochel he chapped but her ugly and older sister Leah! Yikes! And a himmel gishray mamish (outrageous). Can you just imagine the scene? What’s pshat and how could such an incident take place? How could Rochel allow this to happen? Didn’t she love Yankif? How could Yankif take the bride home, get into bed, spend the night chapping the bride and not know that it was the wrong kallah? Is this what happened? Seemingly it is because that’s what the heylige Toirah tells us and if that’s what it says, avada that’s what took place. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 29:25) azoy: “and it came to pass in the morning and behold it was Leah.”
Does this entire myseh (story) bother you? Did it bother those holy people who wrote Medrish and others books? Seemingly it did and let’s taka see what a few had to say about this disturbing incident. Says the Radak: Yankif was mamish an extraordinarily modest individual and so too was Leah. According to him, neither of them looked at each other nor spoke the entire evening, like many married couples today, if you chap, and therefore it was difficult for Yankif to distinguish her voice or looks from the sister he loved. And like many before and after, he closed his eyes, did his business, rolled over and fell asleep. Efsher he had a cigarette, ver veyst.
Ober says the heylige Gemora (Megillah 13b) that what really went down besides Yankif was that he was fooled not just by Lovon, his shver, but also by the love of his life Rochel, who was seemingly in on the plot. So kind and nice was Rochel that feeling bad for her sister Leah, she gave away the signs that she and Yankif exchanged to ensure that Yankif who already suspected Lovon of chicanery, would get the right wife. Apparently, Yankif was onto Lovon and prepared; what caught him off guard was that his intended eishes chayil was plotting behind his back. Not the first and zicher not the last time that an eishes chayil would be involved in some conspiracy. Shoin.
Efsher you’re wondering if the marriage was taka legitimate or was it a classic case of mekach taois (fraudulent conveyance) and that the marriage could’ve been annulled; efsher Yankif could’ve backed out. He didn’t! Efsher pshat is that taka Yankif’s surprise came the morning after, as do many, if you chap, yet he still accepted Leah and came to love her as his wife too. Why not?
A gittin Shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv
Yitz Grossman, Lawrence, New York.