A very special mazel tov to very long time friends Beverly and Leon Mehl upon the wedding of their daughter Amanda to Amir. Just a few years back, the Oisvorfer was in attendance when Beverly and Leon got married; OMG!
And in a public service announcement…Rabbi Tzion Menachem, a highly regarded mikubal (mystic) from Israel is in New York for one more week. Those who believe and would like to visit with him can schedule a visit by calling this number 347-601-7655.
Raboyseyee and Ladies:
Is beauty only skin deep?
Were our Ovois (forefathers) too focused on external beauty? We will address that very interesting question later but first…
Shoin, we have previously said good bye to Odom & Chava and the Noiach family, all but Shaim who was seemingly still very much alive and running his yeshiva. We’ll talk about that yeshiva in just a moment. We also did previously bid adieu to Avrohom and Soro and Yitzchok and Rivka; these two couples and the Odom mishpocho are, according to tradition, buried in the Meoras Hamachpelo which Avrohom bought for full value. We don’t know where the Noiach’s are married. Last week we said hello to the first set of twins we will encounter in Sefer Bireishis. We will meet another set in two weeks born to Tamar and Yehuda, ober chap nisht. A few medroshim will suggest that maybe Kayin and Hevel had twin sisters and others will suggest that the holy shevotim – we’ll meet them in this week’s parsha- also had twin sisters; ver veyst. And as we discussed last week, there was some bad blood between Eisav and Yaakov. In plain English, Eisav, still smarting about being outsmarted twice, intended to kill his younger brother but that story will climax next week. For now as we study parshas Vayetzei, Eisav is still mad as hell. Ober parshas Vayetzei interrupts the story of the feuding brothers to tell us more about Yaakov; how he arrived to Choron as a penniless single yeshiva bochur and left 20 years later with four wives, at least 13 kids and loads of cattle. He was rich! Vayetzei features romance, love, aphrodisiacs, deception, more deception and then some. Lovon fooled Yaakov by switching Leah for Rochel, Rochel, according to the medrish, helped her sister fool her husband to be, Rochel fooled her father and eventually Yaakov got to get some revenge on Lovon and walked away with some of his wealth. Gishmak.
Of course you are all very familiar with this parsha because it describes in great detail how Yaakov came to meet Rochel at the well – on his own, without a shadchan (matchmaker)- say it’s not so- how he kissed her at first sight and yet, still retained the moniker of Yaakov Ovenu and how Yaakov ended up marrying not just Leah and Rochel but also Bilhah and Zilpa, the two handmaidens of Rochel and Leah.
Let’s begin our review with a very interesting exchange of words between Yaakov and Lovon which takes place at the very end of the parsha. Let’s look at the words and then we’ll examine what took place. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 31:50) azoy:
|If you afflict my daughters, or if you take wives in addition to my daughters when no one is with us, behold! God is a witness between me and you.”||נ. אִם תְּעַנֶּה אֶת בְּנֹתַי וְאִם תִּקַּח נָשִׁים עַל בְּנֹתַי אֵין אִישׁ עִמָּנוּ רְאֵה אֱ־לֹהִים עֵד בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ:|
Says Rashi quoting Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer (ch. 36) azoy: the double usage of the words “my daughters, my daughters” teaches us that not just were Rochel and Leah sisters, both born to Lovon, but that Bilhah and Zilpa, their handmaidens, were also sisters and guess what? Their father too was Lovon.
|…my daughters…my daughters: Twice. Bilhah and Zilpah were also his daughters from a concubine. –||בנתי בנתי: שתי פעמים, אף בלהה וזלפה בנותיו היו מפלגש:|
Ober why was Lovon so concerned with Bilhah and Zilpa? Says Rashi referencing Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer (ch. 36) azoy: Bilhah and Zilpah were also his daughters from a concubine. Gishmak! In effect, they were half-sisters to Rochel and Leah; nice. Was Yaakov then married to four and not two sisters? Yes and no. he was, in the end, married to two full and two half sisters; efsher the first real modern family. Why did Yaakov need four wives? Ver veyst? Efsher we can kler that since Yaakov enjoyed learning in yeshiva, that one wife wasn’t enough to support the gantze mishpocho; seemingly four was the magic number. Over in Lakewood and other such institutions of permanent higher leaning where work is strictly verboten, they are considering a similar model. Yaakov was taka a lucky man; he chapped four of a kind, only one shver and but two shviggers (mothers-in-law).
Let’s read these pisukim one more time and try to chap what just happened but first, let’s set the scene. Yaakov, frustrated with Lovon’s chicanery, picks up the mishpocho and leaves. Lovon gives chase and finds them. And when they meet, Lovon has this very strange conversation with Yaakov which began with the possik quoted above. Is that it? Is that why he traveled three days? Do these words make any sense? Not until we read Rashi who chapped the entire episode and tells us azoy. The entire conversation was about sexual relations! It was? Lovon, the concerned father that he was and understanding that Yaakov had four wives to service and satisfy, if you chap, warns Yaakov not to afflict his daughters. And how would Yaakov have afflicted these girls? Says Rashi azoy quoting the heylige Gemora (Yuma 77) azoy:
“If you afflict my daughters, or if you take wives in addition to my daughters when no one is with us, behold! God is a witness between me and you.”
|If you afflict my daughters: By depriving them of their conjugal rights.||אם תענה את בנתי: למנוע מהם עונת תשמיש:|
The Gemora says what? Lovon travelled all this way to warn Yaakov to deliver the goods to his four daughters? Nu, who are we to argue with the Gemora. And next year when you read the Hagadah-shel-Pesach and when you come across the paragraph that describes Lovon as this terrible person, remember that he may have taka been a swindler and a cheat but he chapped that his daughters had needs, if you chap, and insisted that his son-in-law deliver such needs. It’s more than likely that no father-in-law since has had a similar conversation with his eydeim (son-in-law). And the bottom line on Lovon? When a father-in-law tells his son-in-law to give his daughters plenty and he doesn’t mean jewelry, he’s a tzadik.
Of course you can always click here http://toirahruv.com/
Efsher you recall that just last week, we jumped ahead and learned that Yaakov, like his father Yitzchok before him, also attended the famous yeshiva of Shaim Vo’ever. Unlike his father who may have been there as many as three years and unlike his mother, who may have spent an afternoon at the yeshiva, Yaakov did 14 years. Exactly what he was learning ver veyst; it does appear that upon graduation, he had brushed up on his life skills. By the time we get through parsha Vayetzei, we will see his newly acquired skills on display; they will come in handy. Though we delved into this famous yeshiva just two weeks back, it’s worth a few more paragraphs during which we will learn how Chazal, our wise sages, figured out why he went there and for how long. Lommer lernin (let’s learn). Were we, as did Rashi and many others, to review Yaakov’s life, we would find a 14 year lacuna(hole). There’s no accounting for 14 years of his life and of course this very much bothered the Gemora and many others. You know how angry you get when your kid goes missing for a few hours, imagine how upset the Gemora and others were when they couldn’t account for 14 years of Yaakov’s life? What to do? Where was he? Nu, as we learned just last week, whenan important person goes missing, the heylige Gemora will tell us that he was in the yeshiva. And tradition tells us that between Parshas Toldois and Vayeitzei Yaakov spent 14 years hiding out (from Eisav and maybe also learning) in yeshiva. And they base this on Rashi who quotes the heylige Gemora (Megillah 17a). Shoin, let’s also accept this as fact. Veyter.
Now let’s look at a few questions that might be on your minds. Of course you’re still bewildered how Yaakov will end up with two sets of sisters and how he apportioned his time and attention, if you chap, to each. And mistma he was challenged in that area as evidenced by this shver making sure that Yaakov was on his game. And the first kasha might be azoy: Why would Yaakov hide out in a yeshiva? Did his parents instruct him to go to a yeshiva? They did not! The man was already 63 years old. Didn’t they instruct him to go directly to Padon Arom and find himself a wife? They did! Did he listen? Not! Moreover, didn’t Eisav and everyone else know that Yaakov was not a hunter and did not enjoy the outdoors? Wouldn’t that be Eisav’s first stop? Was Yaakov hiding out at his rebbe’s house, ver veyst? Doesn’t the heylige Toirah tell us that Yaakov was, as we said last week, a יושב אוהלים, one who dwells in tents? It does! Was Yaakov hiding in a yeshiva, maybe the only one in town, the wisest idea? Was he Boy Scout dwelling in a campsite? Avada nisht (of course not). Instead as Rashi, and who knew better, will tell us, he was dwelling in the tent of the famous yeshiva of Shaim and the yeshiva of Ever. Were these two different tents? We’ll come back to that very deep kasha in a moment. And didn’t we learn that Ever was Shaim’s partner and that the yeshiva carried both names? We did. But wait, we have more questions. We recall from two weeks back that Rivka, after having unexplained pregnancy pains in her womb, made her way over to Shaim to seek his counsel and avada you also recall that Shaim was able to explain why the pangs were occurring. Nu, given that this all took place before the advent of automobile and before most other modes of transportation save the donkey, and since we have to also assume that mistama she wasn’t going to ride the donkey for fear that her skirt might lift up in an untzniisdike (immodest) fashion and we have to assume that she didn’t wear pants………sheltz zich do shaylo azoy: where was this yeshiva? Just around the corner or down the block? Ver veyst but too far likely it wasn’t? Was Yaakov then hiding in plain sight mamish around the corner? Was he under his shtender? Did the yeshiva have shtenders? If not, was it a real yeshiva? A yeshiva needs real wood, and taka most have an overabundance, if you chap. In any event, are we to believe that Yaakov successfully hid from a raging Eisav for 14 years mamish around the corner? Ver veyst.
And before we discuss the headline as to why Yaakov decided he wanted Rochel over Leah, a kasha worthy of a good answer, let’s see how the heylige Gemora answers an earlier question, and when you read this answer, you will be convinced of just how clever the heylige Gemora was and remains ad hayoim hazeh (until today). Earlier we asked why Yaakov, knowing that all knew that he was a yeshiva boy, would hide out at the famous yeshiva of Shaim Vo’ever and it was gantz a gutta shaylo (excellent question). Ober the Gemora’s answer makes this kasha look like mamish a klutz kasha. Says the heylige Gemora (Meigillah) azoy: where was Yaakov learning…err we mean hiding for 14 years? Pay close attention to the words. The Gemora does not say Yaakov went to hide in the Yeshiva of Shaim. Nor does the Gemora say he went to the Yeshiva of Shem & Ever. The Gemora (See מהרש”א מגילה שם) says Yaakov went to hide in בית עבר, the yeshiva of Ever. Ever had his own yeshiva? Was it a breakaway or a franchise? What’s taka pshat? Seemingly, this was not the same yeshiva mentioned by name as the place where Yitzchok and others studied and it was not the same place Rivka went to question Shaim. Gishmak or what?
Were there mamish two different Yeshivas? Shaim had a Yeshiva and Ever had a Yeshiva? And how does the Gemora deduce this? Shoin we need to revisit the words of the last weeks parsha where we learn that Yaakov was an ‘ish tom, yoishev oiholim (יושב אהלים) – in other words, notice the plural usage of the word Oiholim or tents. Which means therefore that he sat in more than just one tent; he sat in at least two? Which two? Shoin- seemingly he first enrolled in the tent of Shaim and later moved over to the tent of Ever. Fartig and settled! And says the medrish (Tanchuma Yashan, Vayishlach 9) mamish so gishmak azoy “[Yaakov] left the Beis Medrish (yeshiva) of Shaim and went to the Beis Medrish of Ever”.
It’s taka emes that Yaakov spent as many as 50 years over at Shaim’s yeshiva ober the medrish will tells us that when Shaim passed away (he was over 600 years old) , and with Eisav now looking to kill him, Yaakov realized that he could easily be found over at Shaim’s yeshiva. What to do? Where to run? Shoin, as we have stated in the past, the yeshiva has always been and remains a good place to hang out and to hide out; Yaakov left one yeshiva and enrolled into Ever’s yeshiva. Maybe the name attracted him, ver veyst?
Ober asks Rav Kaminetsky azoy: why did Yaakov need to go learn there? Wasn’t he already learned enough? Hadn’t he spent 15 years learning by his zeydeh Avrohom and hadn’t he already spent 45 years learning with his own father Yitzchok (let’s recall that he was 63 when he finally left the house,) why did he need 14 years of additional study in yet another yeshiva? Maybe we can kler that he was, as mentioned earlier, brushing up on life skills he would need to protect himself form a cunning Lovon, ver veyst.
Shoin does everyone agrees that Yaakov did the right thing by taking a14 year detour over to a yeshiva? Seemingly not and our sages will teach us that Yaakov was punished severely by the RBSO for this move. We will learn in a few weeks mamish that some attribute Yoisef’s disappearance (two weeks ahead) and his father’s suffering during that time, as payback. They will tell us that because Yaakov didn’t listen to his parents, didn’t go straight to Padan Arom and didn’t immediately marry and didn’t return with his new wife and wasn’t able to then give his parents some nachas, Yoisef’s disappearance and his inability to give his father some nachas, was mamish a payback from the RBSO who pays back middah keneged middah (measure for measure). You hear this? That cannot be good news for most of the readership, if you chap. Then again, Yom Kippur not too far off.
Shoin, back on page one…we made mention of beauty and asked if our forefathers were taka very or too focused on the outward appearance of their wives. As it turns out, Yaakov’s natural inclination to be attracted to beauty was efsher in his blood, in his genetic makeup. Didn’t Yitzchok marry the beautiful Rivka? Doesn’t the heylige Toirah go out of its way to tell us that Rivka was beautiful and doesn’t the heylige Toirah also tells that Soro, Avrohom’s wife, was also quite beautiful? It does. And didn’t both Avrohom and Yitzchok end up lying about their relationship because they were afraid that the beauty of their wives might put them in harm’s way? They did! Is beauty the one trait that they were drawn to? Aren’t we taught and don’t we sing weekly the song Eishes Chayil and doesn’t the last sentence tell us that sheker hachain, v’ehevel hayofi (beauty is a waste)? What’s pshat here? Nu, let’s look at the words in this week’s parsha.
|טז וּלְלָבָן, שְׁתֵּי בָנוֹת: שֵׁם הַגְּדֹלָה לֵאָה, וְשֵׁם הַקְּטַנָּה רָחֵל.||16 Now Lovon had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rochel.|
|יז וְעֵינֵי לֵאָה, רַכּוֹת; וְרָחֵל, הָיְתָה, יְפַת-תֹּאַר, וִיפַת מַרְאֶה.||17 And Leah’s eyes were weak; but Rochel was of beautiful form and fair to look upon.|
|יח וַיֶּאֱהַב יַעֲקֹב, אֶת-רָחֵל; וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶעֱבָדְךָ שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים, בְּרָחֵל בִּתְּךָ, הַקְּטַנָּה.||18 And Yaakov loved Rochel; and he said: ‘I will serve thee seven years for Rochel thy younger daughter.’|
Does the heylige Toirah tell us that Yaakov was drawn to her because she had a good shidduch resume? Because she went to a good yeshiva, camp HASC for many summers and because she was otherwise a fine bas Toirah? It does not? Yaakov, like his father and grandfather, seemingly was drawn to her for her good looks and excellent shape. And because she was beautiful and fair to look upon, he loved her, and was willing to work 7 years, instead of marrying Leah and returning immediately to his parents’ home. This is not medrish raboyseyee, this is Toirah text!
Was Yaakov straying after his eyes? Shouldn’t he have been looking to her middois toivois (her fine character traits)? Why was Yaakov, about to be father of the holy shevotim (tribes), focusing on outer beauty, ver veyst?
Ober says the Ralbag azoy: it’s taka emes that Yaakov was drawn to her beauty -not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Moreover, most men barely live well with their wives even when they are quite beautiful; can you only imagine the sholom bayis when living with a very unattractive wife)? After all, how can a man live with a wife he’s not attracted to? Ober says the Ralbag that Leah herself was no slouch and also quite attractive. She was? Ober didn’t he heylige Toirah tell us that she had weak and teary eyes? It does ober pshat is like this. She was taka pretty but she had an eye disease. Shoin! He wanted Rochel so that the children he would have from her would be stronger and more complete. Nu, and the fact that she was also quite beautiful was just a bonus.
Ober doesn’t the heylige Toirah also make mention of Rivka’s and Soro’s beauty? Can we whitewash Avrohom’s and Yitzchok’s choices by suggesting that all the alternative girls had eye disease?
And as you can imagine, many were bothered by this issue ober said the Ibn Caspi azoy: Our Ovois (forefathers) were (also) human beings! They were but following their heart’s desire; is that bad? Yaakov was mamish a romantic. He laid his eyes on her, kissed her and the rest………..a nice love story. Gishmak!They weren’t always motivated by halachic concerns or deep spiritual reasons. Shoin, attraction to one’s wife is seemingly a good thing and should not be discounted.
And listen to this bombshell mamish….later in the parsha we will learn that Leah was quite fertile while Rochel was nebech baron. Leah kept popping out the children while Rochel was nebech brokenhearted. Ober whom did she blame? Her husband of course and listen to this exchange.
|א וַתֵּרֶא רָחֵל, כִּי לֹא יָלְדָה לְיַעֲקֹב, וַתְּקַנֵּא רָחֵל, בַּאֲחֹתָהּ; וַתֹּאמֶר אֶל-יַעֲקֹב הָבָה-לִּי בָנִים, וְאִם-אַיִן מֵתָה אָנֹכִי.||1 And when Rochel saw that she bore Yaakov no children, Rochel envied her sister; and she said unto Yaakov: ‘Give me children, or else I die.’|
|ב וַיִּחַר-אַף יַעֲקֹב, בְּרָחֵל; וַיֹּאמֶר, הֲתַחַת אֱלֹהִים אָנֹכִי, אֲשֶׁר-מָנַע מִמֵּךְ, פְּרִי-בָטֶן.||2 And Yaakov’s anger was kindled against Rochel; and he said: ‘Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?’|
Says the Ralbag azoy: Rochel at first, suspected that Yaakov, efsher because she was taka so beautiful, didn’t want to mar her body with pregnancy and was therefore mamish at fault. In plain English: he was efsher deliberately holding back children from her. Ober how: though practicing dash mibifnim vezoreh bebachutz (coitus interruptus, if you chap). Shreklich (OMG) mamish! Would Yaakov mamish pull out of the station, if you chap, just to maintain her beautiful body? This is Yaakov Ovenu! And would this be the first time or last time the heylige Toirah would make mention of such a possibility? Seemingly not.
Nu, efsher you recall that way back in parsha Bereishis- at aliya chamishi mamish- we learned that Lemech had two wives. And says Rashi that one was for having children and the other, mistama the prettier one, was his sex toy. In other words, Lemach may have been the first to practice contraception with one of them to preserve her beauty.
Moreover, in two weeks we will briefly meet Er and Oinon, both married to Tamar and we will learn that the RBSO did not like either of them. He abhorred them because seemingly they, too, made withdrawals and failed to make timely deposits, if you chap. They wanted to maintain Tamar’s beauty.
And considering that the posik relates that Rochel was very pretty, and that he loved her more than Leah, one could argue that this is what Rochel suspected Yaakov of doing — having children through Leah, and keeping Rochel for her beauty, and thus taking steps to preserve her as she was. Of course we would never suspect Yaakov of such dastardly behavior and therefore Yaakov responded to her accusation azoy with some anger and said azoy: ‘Am I in the RBSO’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?’
The bottom line: the heylige Toirah tells us that our forefathers and foremothers, though selected by the RBSO for greatness, were also but human. They had real feelings; they had emotions and were naturally also attracted to good looks. Looking good, whether naturally or with a little help from clothing, Botox or even some surgery when called for, is not so giferlich and can lead to continued attraction. Is that bad?
Happy thanksgiving and a gitten shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv