Friday, April 16, 2021

Yaakov is on the run from his big bro Eisav, and interestingly enough, this escape drama affects the way the text of the Torah looks. Typically, parshiyot have paragraph breaks, but Vayeitzei surprisingly has none. Baal Haturim quotes those who explain that the reason why the text of this week’s parsha is “closed” (meaning, there are no spaces but rather totally continuous) is because of Yaakov’s escaping in secrecy.

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz asks the obvious question: What does one have to do with the other? The reason why there are blank spaces in between certain sections in the Torah was in order to signify the points where Moshe needed to pause in order to absorb and understand the Torah knowledge he was receiving from Hashem (Rashi, beg. of Vayikra). If that’s so, did Moshe not need to comprehend this section of the Torah as well? So what is this parsha’s run-on style with no spaces teaching us?

If we could put ourselves in Yaakov’s running shoes for a moment: His burly brother Eisav is out for his blood. During his getaway, Eisav’s loyal son Eliphaz robs Yaakov completely without even leaving him with his shirt on his back. Running for his life, penniless, sleepless nights, needing to abandon his family...What is Yaakov’s general emotional state and perspective during this escape?

Amidst his escape, Yaakov lies down to sleep, and Hashems relates a prophecy to him, promising to give him Eretz Yisrael. Now, we know that one can’t be worthy of prophecy unless one is in a state of simcha. Says R’ Yaakov Neiman (Darkei Mussar, Vayeitzei), we see that despite the extreme difficulties Yaakov underwent during his escape, he was nevertheless positive, happy and trusted in Hashem. Therefore he was able to receive prophecy.

Indeed, Yaakov was a person who lived life nonjudgmentally. Meaning, he didn’t judge particular incidents he went through to be negative. Rather, he understood quite well that each of these tough moments were part of a bigger and better picture. In fact, when Yosef was separated from Yaakov, Yaakov judged that incident thinking it was negative. The Midrash relates that this was the only time in Yaakov’s life that he he did not attribute the event to Hashem, and Hashem responded, “I am involved in the workings of having Yosef be king of Egypt [Yosef being separated from Yaakov and taken to Egypt was part of this master plan], and you are judging this in a negative light? But this was the only time.

Yaakov’s escape in secrecy changes the way the scroll looks, and R’ Chaim explains why our parsha is continuous with no brakes: to teach us that every moment, and every incident that Yaakov experienced in this parsha, is part of a bigger and better picture—the building of the Jewish nation.

There’s no breaks, but rather the unity of those moments that are stated in the text of the parsha teaches us that the challenging moments in our lives are also unified—all of them are geared toward helping us reach an enhanced state, albeit it’s many times in secrecy and hidden from us. Like Yaakov, we too have the ability to remain positive and confident in Hashem’s constant care.

“Gam zu letova” is something we all strive for. Sometimes however, when we go through a setback, it can cause an internal rift, and we may become discombobulated. We might naturally feel and think that the situation is not good, and this may also naturally cause frustration, and make us sad and worried. We learn from Yaakov that not judging the situation can help us remain focused—to see things in a broader view, and instead of believing “this is bad,” to shift our thoughts and think, “because of this setback, I am gaining something, and if not for this, it would therefore not be as good as it could.”

A potential impediment in reaching “gam zu letova” is thinking we know what we need in order to fill the void from a loss we experienced. Instead of uplifting the difficult moment, our reflex is to reach to find solutions we think may help us; but if we don’t get those alleviations, this can compound the already present struggle. The Midrash (Bereishit Rabba, 68:2) relates that when Yaakov was looking for a shidduch, he said: When Eliezer went to find Yitzchak a shidduch, he went with many possessions and gifts (which would incline a potential shidduch), but I don’t even have basic jewelry to offer. Yaakov then reflected, “Why am I losing my trust in Hashem?—עֶזְרִי מֵעִ֣ם ה’ עֹ֜שֵׂ֗ה שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָֽרֶץ!.” R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (Beis Halevi on the Torah, Vayetzei) says we learn a major idea from here: The nature of people is that even when they have bitachon, they nevertheless look for ways they think will gain them salvation, as there’s an innate desire to know where it may come from, and what it will be. Yaakov, however, saw this as an impediment, and although initially wondered “מֵ֜אַ֗יִן יָבֹ֥א עֶזְרִֽי” (indicating that Yaakov’s reflex also was to look for what he thought would bring him the help he needed), he nevertheless reached a higher level and exclaimed ’עֶזְרִי מֵעִ֣ם ה. He let go, and embraced the moment. He realized he didn’t necessarily need a ring, a bracelet, or some pretty flowers, but rather, Hashem will bring him whatever he needs and is coming to him.

In order for one to focus on gam zu letova, to believe that the challenge occurring is essentially a building block for that which is better and greater, one may need to somewhat let go of thinking he or she knows the solutions and what is good for him or her. Trusting firmly that Hashem has everything planned in the best way possible may assist us in seeing difficulties with a more positive and broad vision—that it’s all part of the bigger, better picture, although it may be hidden at the moment.

Binyamin Benji is a graduate of Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan and Wurzweiler School of Social Work. He can be reached at [email protected]