Home Seniors Programs Special Needs Mommy and Me Join a Study Group Bat Mitzvah Program for Women of All Ages One on One Learning Giving
Opportunities
Parsha Points About Us Contact Us

Vayetzei
The mothers named all of the tribes Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 November 2017

After each tribe was born, Yaakov did not get involved in naming the children. His wives were given the space to choose each child’s name and speak from the heart as they explained its significance:

Leah’s first four sons:

Reuven: “God has seen my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”

Shimon: “Since God heard that I am the hated one, He also gave me this one.”

Levi: “This time my husband will be attached to me, for I have born him three sons.”

Yehuda: “This time I will praise God.”

Bilha’s sons were named by Rachel as they were considered to be her surrogate children:

Dan: “God has judged me. He has also heard my voice, and has given me a son.”

Naftali: “With God’s bonds, I have been joined to my sister. And I have also prevailed.”

Zilpa’s sons were named by Leah as they were considered to be her surrogate children:


Gad: “Unexpected success has come.”

Asher: “It is in my good fortune that women will consider me fortunate.”

Leah’s other sons:

Yissachar: “God has given me my reward because I gave my handmaid to my husband.”

Zevulun: “God has given a goodly portion. Now my husband will make his main home with me for I have borne him six sons.”

Rachel’s sons:

Yosef: “God has removed my shame. May God add to me another son.”

As Rachel’s soul was departing, she named her son BenOni (son of my sorrow).

With Leah, we see that the names of her children are connected with the fact that she is appreciative of God as well as hopeful that she will become closer to Yaakov.

Rachel is optimistic when naming the first three and honest when naming her last child at the point where she no longer had any hope.

Radak explains that Rachel was in a lot of pain when she named the baby BenOni as she had a difficult childbirth and her soul was leaving her body so the name could have negative connotations. Yaakov chose to change the name slightly to the more positive Binyamin,“son of my right” and “beloved to me” as he was happy to have this baby who was born during his old age, despite the circumstances.

Ramban’s opinion differs from the other commentators. He believes that Yaakov didn’t actually change the baby’s name. When Rachel used the word “Oni” she was referring to mourning. Yaakov on the other hand translated “Oni” as strength (the same way that he later used the word “Oni” in his blessing to Reuven). Yaakov called him Binyamin “the son of power or strength” for in the right hand (yamin) there is strength and success. Yaakov wanted to keep the name that Rachel had called him, for all his children were called by the names that their mothers had called them. Therefore he called him Binyamin, a positive spin on the name BenOni.

 
Wedding Practices Dating Back to Lavan Print E-mail
Thursday, 15 December 2016

At the end of Parshat Chayei Sarah we read about Rivka’s marriage to Yitzchak and in Parshat Vayetze we read about Yaakov’s marriage to Leah. In both of these stories we see practices that are still part of Jewish weddings today.

When Avraham’s servant went to find a wife for Yitzchak, Lavan and his mother were not in a rush to let Rivka go so soon. They wanted her to wait ten or twelve months before sending her off to get married. The servant explained that he could not wait so long and that he had to get back. At that point (Breisheet 24:57) Lavan and his mother said that they would call her and ask her.

Rashi states that from here we learn that a woman may not be given in marriage unless it is with her consent.

They called Rivka and asked her if she wanted to go and she said “I will go.”

In Breisheet 24:60 “They blessed Rivka and said to her, ‘Our sister may you become thousands of myriads and may your descendents inherit the gates of their foes.’”

Many still bestow his same blessing on the bride before she enters the chupah.

When Rivka saw Yitzchak for the first time (Breisheet 24:65) “…she took her veil and covered herself.”

This is where the tradition comes from that the bride’s face is covered with a veil.

In Vayetze, it is pretty clear that the bride’s face was covered and therefore Yaakov didn’t know that he was marrying Leah instead of Rachel.

In order to avoid this problem, before the chupah (ceremony) takes place the groom makes sure that he has the correct bride and then lowers her veil in a ceremony called the badekin.

In Breisheet 29:22, we read: “Lavan invited all of the local people and he made a wedding feast.”

From here we see that a wedding was celebrated with a feast as is done today with a seudat mitzvah. In those days the entire community was invited. The custom to invite the whole community is still practiced today on kibbutzim in Israel.

When Yaakov saw that he had in fact married Leah and requested to also be able to marry Rachel (his chosen bride), Lavan explaind that he would have to wait until after the week of celebrations (Breisheet 29:27) “Complete the marriage week for this one (Leah), we will then give you the other one (Rachel) also…”

From here we learn that the wedding celebrations lasted for an entire week- similar to the way that we celebrate Sheva Brachot with a different party in honor of the bride and groom each night.

We see from here that many of our wedding traditions date back to the time of Lavan and what was done in his community. However, some of the traditions that Lavan had we are forbidden to practice including marrying two sisters to the same man and setting up a wedding under false pretenses including where the groom doesn’t know which bride he is marrying. To avoid this, we have a Ketubah (marriage contract) where the names of the bride and groom are clearly stated and pairs of witnesses who sign the Ketubah and witness the ceremony.

May we witness many weddings in the Land of Israel and throughout the world.

 
Rachel the Shepherdess Print E-mail
Thursday, 19 November 2015

In Parshat Veyetzei, Breisheet 29:9 we read “…Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.”

 

According to Ramban, Lavan did not have any other shepherds aside from Rachel, his daughter.”

 

How did Rachel end up being in charge of all of Lavan’s sheep?

 

Ramban presents two opinions as to why Leah, Rachel’s older sister was not able to be a shepherdess:

  1. “Leah’s eyes were tender”, the strong sun would have hurt her tender eyes and therefore she would not have been able to handle staying outside in the sun for long periods of time.
  2. Leah was of marriageable age and it would not have been befitting for her to be working with men who may try to take advantage of her.

 

Rachel was permitted to be a shepherdess as she was still a young girl so Lavan wasn’t worried about the men bothering her.

 

All seven of Yitro’s daughters were also shepherdesses as he didn’t have any sons.

 

Why wasn’t Yitro concerned about Tziporah and her sisters, who were of marriageable age, having to encounter the shepherds each time that they went to the well?

 

Ramban explains that since Yitro was the Kohen (Priest) of Midian, he was well respected so he was sure that the men wouldn’t cause his daughters any trouble.

 

How did it happen then that the day that Moshe arrived at the well (Shmot 2:16-17) the shepherds chased Yitro’s daughters away and Moshe had to come to help them?

 

According to Rashi, Yitro abandoned idol worship and therefore the Midianites lost their respect for him and shunned him and his family.

 

When Moshe married Tziporah, he took over the job of being the shepherd as we see in Shmot 3:1: “Moshe tended to the sheep of his father-in-law Yitro…”

 

Once Yaakov began to live with Lavan’s family, he started to work as a shepherd for Lavan right away. Yaakov took over the job as shepherd from Rachel.

In Yaakov’s case as well as in Moshe’s, the women only worked as shepherdesses until there was a man available to take over the job.

 

What is the reason for this?

 

Midrash Yelamdenu teaches that God miraculously watched out for the women who would end up marrying righteous men and kept them safe from harm as it says in Tehilim 34:8: “ The angel of God encamps round about those who fear him and he delivers them.”

 

We see from here that the women only worked as shepherdesses when there was no other choice as it was a dangerous job. As soon as a man was available to take over for her she was relieved of her duties.

 

Rachel was unique as she tended all of the sheep on her own. The name Rachel actually means ewe or sheep. We see Yaakov use the word later in our Parsha while speaking to Lavan (Breisheet 31:38) “For these twenty years that I was with you, your ewes (rechelecha) and she goats never miscarried…” We also find the word in the beginning of Parshat Vayishlach as part of the gift that Yaakov is preparing for Esav, (Breisheet 32:15) “Two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes (richelim) and twenty rams.”

 

I have a student named Hillel who lives at the Beit Sababa nursing home at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. Hillel was a shepherd for many years in the Lower Galilee. He told me that it is an extremely difficult job for one person to be able to handle all of the sheep by themselves.

 

Rachel’s difficult work as a shepherdess may have helped her prepare for the difficult life that lay ahead.

 

 

 
The Fulfillment of Yishayahu’s Prophecy Print E-mail
Thursday, 19 November 2015

In Parshat Vayetzei, when Yaakov sees Rachel for the first time, he finds the energy to lift a heavy rock that would normally take a group of shepherds to lift.

 

Ramban uses the pasuk from Yishayahu 40:31 to explain that God gave Yaakov this extra energy: “But those whose hope is in God will have renewed strength; they will grow wings like eagles; they will run and not grow tired, they will walk and not grow weary”.

 

The last few months in Israel have been very difficult, from the kidnapping and murder of the three boys, the rockets bombarding Israel from Gaza, Operation Tzuk Etan (Potective Edge) where we lost too many of our finest soldiers, terrorists attacking innocent civilians on the streets, at train stations as well as in a shul, attacks being carried out with a construction vehicle, knives, screw drivers, guns, cars and trucks as well as constant stonings, fire crackers and grenades.

 

Despite all of these attacks, Israelis continue to go about their day to day lives with more strength than they had before.

 

Rabbi Yehuda Glick who was shot four times in the chest by an Israeli Arab terrorist not far from my home in Jerusalem is recovering and has been released from the hospital this week. Rabbi Glick is gaining the “renewed strength” that Yishayahu was describing.

 

Seventy families and ninety singles from North America made aliya last week and 660 Bnai Menashe made aliya from India this past year including a group this past week. These flights of Jews returning to Israel sound like “growing wings like eagles”.

 

Finally, we have a wonderful team protecting us: the army, the police and the officers of Mishmar HaGvul (border patrol) are also part of Yishayahu’s prophecy “they will run like eagles; they will run and not grow tired, they will walk and not grow weary”. These officers are willing to give their lives if necessary to save innocent Israelis. We unfortunately saw this last week when two Arab Israelis attacked a Jerusalem synagogue in Har Nof killing four rabbis. Zidan Sayif, an Israeli-Druze policeman saved numerous lives when he engaged the two Arab terrorists in a gun battle. Sayif was the first of two officers on the scene. As a result of Sayif’s heroic actions, the terrorists were forced to stop slaughtering worshipers and instead concentrated on attacking the policeman. Unfortunately, Sayif passed away from his head wounds later that day.

 

Policemen, soldiers and civilians have used their renewed strength to try to save as many people as possible at each of the unfortunate attacks that have taken place recently.

 

May God continue to protect our soldiers, our border police and all Israeli civilians.

 
A Man is Ready to Marry When He Can Support His Wife and Family Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 November 2013

 

In Parshat Vayetzei, after Lavan asked Yaakov what his wages would be, Yaakov answered (Breisheet 29:18): “…I will work for you for seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”

 

Why did Yaakov obligate himself to work for seven years, a relatively long period of time, in order to marry Rachel?

 

According to Chizkuni, Yaakov should have only said a year or two but he didn’t think that Lavan would give him a woman as beautiful as Rachel if he only worked for a short time.

 

Sforno points out that Yakkov, the Tzadik (righteous man) would not marry a woman and have children if he wasn’t able to support them with food and clothing. Lavan, a man of means would not let his daughters marry a man who could not support them.

 

As we know from Breisheet 32:11, Yaakov arrived at Lavan’s house with only his “makel”, his staff.

 

Rashi comments that Yaakov didn’t have silver, gold or cattle, he only had his staff.

 

Since Yaakov didn’t have any flocks when he arrived, he had no way to make a living. He had to work as a shepherd for Lavan in order to marry Rachel. The money that he earned would go towards her “mohar”, bride price or dowry.

 

We learn from Yaakov that a husband is required to support his wife and children. If he is not financially independent he is not ready to get married.

 

There are communities today that believe that the wife should support her husband or that the parents or in-laws should support their children and grandchildren. This viewpoint is actually contrary to Halacha (Jewish law). In the Ketubah (marriage contract) the husband obligates himself to support his family for the duration of the marriage as well as pay alimony in case of divorce.

 

Although Yaakov had a wealthy father-in-law, he did not expect Lavan to support them. Yaakov didn’t want to be dependent on his father-in-law and Lavan would have never agreed to support them anyway.

 
Feeling God’s Presence in Jerusalem Print E-mail
Friday, 02 December 2011

 

In Memory of my Grandfather Harry (Tzvi) Dubrow z”l Who Passed Away this Past Friday

 

Immediately after Yaakov woke up from his dream about the ladder with the angels going up and down we read in Parshat Vayetzei 28:17: “He was in awe and said: ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of Elokim and this is the gate of heaven.’”

 

Rashi comments that this “place” is the same “place” that Avraham saw from afar on the way to the Akeda (the binding of Yitchak), meaning Har HaBayit (The Temple Mount).

 

Living in Israel, we may start to take these holy places for granted.  

 

I live right neat the Tayelet in Talpiot, the promenade where Avraham stood when he saw “the place” from afar. Even though we live so close, each time we visit or pass by, the view is still breathtaking. When we visit the Tayelet with friends who are here on vacation and see their excitement it reminds us to not lose sight of the fact that we can visit these sights on a regular basis.

 

This past Sunday, I went with the Midreshet Devora students to the Kotel for Shacharit on Rosh Chodesh Kislev. It was the day of my grandfather, Harry Dubrow’s z’l funeral in Connecticut. Even though I could not be physically at the funeral, I spiritually felt connected as I was literally standing and praying on his behalf at the “gate of heaven.”

 

On Wednesday, my two younger sons, Moshe and Yehuda decided to come with me and the young women from Midreshet Devora to Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb) and Maarat HaMachpela (The Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs) in Chevron. They had just learned about Rachel Imenu (Mother of the Jewish People) as her Yahrzeit (anniversary of her death) was last month in Cheshvan. Moshe was studying Parshat Chayei Sara in school and learned about Chevron and its holy sites. In addition, they didn’t mind missing a day of school!

 

Seeing the holy sites with my children and my students who had never visited before opened my eyes to the deep holiness of the places and how the Jewish people from all over the world strive to have the opportunity to come to Israel to visit these sites and how we as Israelis must take time from our schedules to remind ourselves why we are here.

 

What my children were most surprised about was the fact that there are playgrounds and schools and houses in Chevron and that it is not just the city where our forefathers and foremothers are buried, it is a city of Jewish life.

 

I remember the fond memories that my grandparents Dorothy and Harry DuBrow z”l had of the Land of Israel from their one visit in the early seventies. They enjoyed seeing first hand how the ancient and modern cultures meshed together. My grandparents were very generous, giving Tzedaka to hospitals and orphanages and were partners in helping build up the State of Israel, they were true “Bonei Yerushalayim”, “Builders of Jerusalem.”

 
Yaakov Needed a Good Lawyer Print E-mail
Friday, 12 November 2010

Dedicated in Honor of Shani Schwartz

 

When you put together a contract, don’t leave any stone unturned.

 

In Breisheet 19:18 we read: “And Yaakov loved Rachel; and said (to Lavan her father): I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter”.

 

We know that the Torah does not waste words so Rashi asks why this pasuk is so descriptive, why does Yaakov have to say Rachel, your younger daughter? Why isn’t just saying the name Rachel enough?

 

The answer is that Yaakov knew that Lavan was a rogue. If Yaakov didn’t say Rachel, your daughter, then Lavan could later say “I thought that you were talking about a different Rachel from the marketplace”. Therefore Yaakov had to clearly state: “your daughter”.

 

Why did Yaakov have to say “your younger daughter”? Yaakov had to be clear because he didn’t want to take a chance of Lavan switching Leah’s name to Rachel and saying: “Here is my daughter Rachel”.

 

Nechama Leibowitz points out that Lavan’s language was ambiguous in 29:19: “Better that I give her to you than give her to another man. Stay with me”. There was no commitment or promise from Lavan’s side.

 

Even though Yaakov took all of these precautions, it still didn’t help him, Lavan cheated him just the same and gave him Leah instead of Rachel.

 

What Yaakov needed was a good lawyer and a formal contract. It also wouldn’t have hurt to check under the veil before the wedding ceremony.

 
Is it a Blessing to be Compared to Dust? Print E-mail
Saturday, 06 December 2008

IN MEMORY OF RABBI GAVRIEL & RIVKA HOLTZBERG, RABBI ARYEH LEIBISH TEITELBAUM, RABBI BEN TZION KRUMAN, NORMA SCHWARTZBLATT-RABINOWITZ, YOCHEVED ORPAZ WHO WERE MASSACRED IN MUMBAI

 

In Parshat Veyetze (Breisheet 28:14) God tells Yaakov: “Your descendents shall be as the dust of the earth. You shall spread to the west, to the east, to the north and to the south…”

 

Sforno comments that after the Jews will be in the lowest possible condition (as the dust of the earth), then they will arise and spread out across the Land of Israel. God will only bring salvation after the Jewish people have been in the lowest possible state.

 

Rabbi Yochanan states in the Talmud in Sanhedrin 98a:  “If you see a generation upon which numerous troubles come like a river, expect the Mashiach as it says in Yishayahu 59:19 ‘For distress shall come like a river with the spirit of God devouring within it’ and next to that verse it says ‘uva letzion goel- a redeemer shall come to Zion’”.

 

Accoding to HaDrash VeHaIyun, Israel is compared to three things, stars, sand and dust. Each star stands alone and has no connection with the others. The pieces of sand are all next to each other but are not connected. The dust is the only one of the three that sticks together. God’s bracha to Yaakov is that if his children will live in complete unity and stick together like dust, then they will be able to spread out (or as Rashi says become strong) across the entire Land of Israel.

 

With headlines like “Israeli troops fight Jewish settlers in Chevron”, it looks like we have reached our lowest point. Let’s hope and pray that the prophecy of  “a redeemer shall come to Zion” will be fulfilled speedily in our day.                                                                         

 
The Power of Prayer Print E-mail
Thursday, 15 November 2007

Parshat Toldot ended with Esav saying in his heart (Breisheet 27:41): “The days of mourning for my father are approaching, I will then kill my brother, Yaakov.” Rashi explains that Rivka  was informed of what Esav was planning through Ruach HaKodesh, Divine Inspiration. Rivka therefore told Yaakov to leave the Land of Israel and go to Charan until Esav calms down. Yitzchak blesses Yaakov and tells him to go to Padan Aram and get married there. Eventually Yaakov will have children, return to the Land of Israel and inherit it.

Parshat Vayetze begins with Yaakov’s journey out of the Land of Israel. In Breisheet 28:11 we read the words “vayifga bamakom”, “Yaakov reached the place”. Rashi teaches us that the word “vayifga” is a term for prayer. We learn from here (Tractate Brachot 21) that Yaakov prayed at “the place” and established aravit (maariv), the evening prayer.

Shem MiShmuel comments that although Yaakov was going through such a dark part of his life, he didn’t give up. Yaakov gathered up all of the energy that he had left and used it to pray.

According to the Gemara in Eruvin 65a, one who is coming from a journey should not pray for three days. It would be impossible for that person to have kavana (proper intent) since they have not settled from the weariness of the journey. The Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 98:2 states that this does not apply today since our level of kavana is different.

Yaakov was actually exempt from prayer. The prayer that Yaakov prayed was therefore voluntary. Torah Temima points out that since Yaakov’s prayer was voluntary, the maariv service was established as a voluntary service throughout the generations. Rambam states in Hilchot Tefillah, Laws of Prayer 1:6 that although aravit started out as a voluntary prayer, it has now been taken on as an obligatory prayer.

Why would Yaakov who was not just on a journey but rather fleeing for his life take it upon himself to pray a voluntary prayer at this time?

Sometimes spontaneous prayer, especially at the time of danger, can be the most meaningful prayer with the most kavana. Even during this most difficult time, Yaakov set aside time to pray that his journey should be safe.

At the end of Parshat Vayetze, when Yaakov is heading back to the Land of Israel, Breisheet 32:2 we read “Yaakov went on his way ‘vayifgeu bo malachei Elokim’, and the angels of God met him.” Just as Yaakov was protected on his journey leaving the land of Israel, so too was he protected when returning to the Land of Israel.

Considering how dangerous the roads in Israel have become, it would be wise for us to say Tefillat HaDerech, prayer for a Journey with intense kavana when setting out on a trip. 

 
Our Inner Strength Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 November 2006

In Parshat Vayetzei, Breisheet Chapter 29, Yaakov traveled to Aram to flee from his brother Esav as well as to look for a wife. When Yaakov arrived in Aram he saw a well. The Torah goes into a long description of how Yaakov couldn't understand why the shepherds were gathering around and waiting at the well as opposed to feeding their flocks. The Torah then recounts the conversation that ensued. The shepherds explained to Yaakov that they needed to wait for all of the shepherds to work together to lift the heavy rock off of the well.

In sentences 9-10 we read "While Yaakov was still speaking with the shepherds, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. When Yaakov saw Rachel, the daughter of Lavan, his mother's brother with the sheep of Lavan, his mother's brother, he stepped near and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well."

According to Rashbam, Yaakov himself lifted off the rock. This shows Yaakov's strength.

Ramban comments on Breisheet 29:2 that the Torah recounts the story in detail in order to let us know that "they who wait for God shall renew their strength" (Yishayahu 40:31). For here Yaakov is coming from the journey and he is tired yet he alone rolls away the stone, a task which required all of the shepherds. The many shepherds and all of the watchmen of the three flocks of sheep could not shift the rock.

Maharam adds that as soon as Yaakov saw Rachel, Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Presence) rested upon him.

When Yaakov saw Rachel, an inner strength emerged.

It is often the case that when one is faced with challenges, one is able to cope in ways that one may never have imagined.

In Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's address to the Knesset on July 17, 2006 he commented: "I had the privilege of witnessing these inner strengths in the years when I was Mayor of Jerusalem. For years, our capital was subject to the most murderous terror attacks. The resilience, patience and restraint of the residents of Jerusalem and the entire citizens of Israel are exemplary".

"I recall a conversation with Rudy Giuliani, who was Mayor of New York during the terror attacks of September 2001. I called to offer encouragement to him and the residents of New York following the collapse of the Twin Towers, and he replied: ""Ehud, if the New Yorkers can withstand it like the Jerusalemites do, then we will defeat terrorism"".

Let's hope and pray that this inner strength will help us get through the difficulties that we are facing in Israel and throughout the world.

 
Jerusalem the Gate to Heaven Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 December 2005

When Jewish people throughout the world pray, they face towards Jerusalem. Those in Jerusalem pray towards the site of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple). When the Beit HaMikdash stood, prayer was focused on the place of the ark, the "even shtiya" (foundation stone) in the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holy of Holies).

Why do we pray towards Jerusalem?

In Parshat Vayetze, Breisheet 28:12, Yaakov has a dream, "He dreamed and behold a ladder was set up on earth and the top of it reached toward heaven, and behold angels were ascending and descending it."

Sforno says that this was the site of the Beit HaMikdash.

In Breisheet 28:17, Yaakov says: "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven."

Rashi comments that this is the gate where prayer ascends to heaven. According to the midrash in Breisheet Raba, the Heavenly Beit HaMikdash is situated directly above the earthly Beit HaMikdash.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan comments: Just as our prayers go through Jerusalem in order to reach God, God's blessings in turn emerge through Jerusalem. As it says in Tehillim (Psalms) 128:5 "God will bless you from Zion". God sends the blessing to Jerusalem and from there it flows to the entire world.

Our prayers are like the angels going up the ladder and God's blessings are like the angels going down the ladder in Yaakov's dream.

As the famous saying goes, you can speak to God from long distances and he will hear you, but in Jerusalem it's a local call.