Thursday, December 8

Drash on Veyeitzei

This week, I have the honor of chanting from our shul’s sefer Torah, reading from the parsha Veyeitzei (Breisheit 28:10 – 32:3, but I will only be reading Breisheit 28:10-17). Accordingly, here is a small drash on the parsha. Enjoy, and I welcome any comments.

This week, we read of Yaakov’s stay with his uncle Lavan. Fleeing from his brother Eisav (who had announced his intent to kill Yaakov, Breisheit 27:41), he sojourns with his uncle for 20 years. For the first seven years, he works for Lavan to earn the right to marry Rahel, but Lavan tricked him into marrying her sister Leah. During the next seven years, he works for Lavan to marry Rahel, and during the last six years he works for a flock of his own. (He also takes two additional wives/concubines, the half-sisters of Rahel and Leah, Zilpah and Bilpah.)

During this parsha, Yaakov bears twelve children; eleven sons and a daughter (Binyamin is born later). By the sweat of his brow, he builds a mighty host and an impressive flock. The parsha ends with Yaakov, by this time a man of 97 years of age, traveling back to Eretz Yisroel to confront his brother, Eisav, whom he had cheated from his birthright and blessing 35 years before.

(Yes, thirty-five. The midrash teaches that when Yaakov first flees Canaan, he is attacked by Eisav’s son Elifaz. Elifaz does not kill Yaakov, but takes all his clothes and belongings. Hashem then sends Yaakov a horseman, who dies upon meeting Yaakov. Yaakov takes his clothes and hides at the yeshiva of Shaim and Aiver for fourteen years, studying torah.)

What can we learn from these long years in Yaakov’s life? For Yaakov, these years are a time of constant struggle and hard work. Indeed, the midrash teaches that while Yaakov worked for Lavan, he devoted such time to his labors that he never slept a full night. He is rewarded for his hard work by nothing but lies and trickery from his Uncle. We are told in the midrash that during this parsha, Lavan changed Yaakov’s wages one hundred times.

Although he may have been a tzaddik, Yaakov seems to be cursed. While Hashem has given Yaakov a mighty family, G-d also seems to imply that he must repay a moral debt.

What is that debt? It seems to me that Yaakov must suffer trickery and deceipt from Lavan in order to pay for the trickery and deceipt that he inflicted on both Eisav and Yitzchak! In other words, Hashem is showing that what comes around, goes around.
This parsah then goes on to give us another parable, teaching the same lesson! Throughout this parsha, Lavan, the trickster and thief, is nothing but disingenuous in his treatment of Yaakov. As I said above, he changes Yaakov’s wages one hundred times (perhaps most significantly, tricking him into marrying Leah). In the last seven years of Yaakov’s servitude to Lavan, what goes around comes around.

Toward the end of the parsha (Breisheit 30:31) we read that Yaakov’s wages are to be all the speckled and spotted animals born after that time in the flock. Although Lavan attempts trickery to ensure that Yaakov is left with few, if any animals, it is Lavan that is left with a feeble flock and Yaakov with a great host.

Among the teachings of this parsha is the importance of dealing honestly with and forthrightly. If not, what goes around may well come around.

May the source of Peace bring Peace, Kein Yehi Ratzon.

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