In Parshas Vayetze we find the Patriarch Yaakov running away from his brother Aisav to
the faraway abode of his mother's brother, Lavan the Trickster. In order to fortify
himself for this ordeal of living with a scheming idol worshipper, he makes a 14 year
detour in Yeshivas Shem Va'Ever to learn Torah. The Torah is our strength at all times,
especially times of danger! On the way he is robbed by Aisav's grandson Elifaz and must
continue onwards impoverished and alone. Yaakov lies down to sleep in the holy spot of the
future Bais Hamikdash and dreams of a ladder on the ground, reaching its top to the
heavens and angels going up and going down.
The Ramban explains that the dream of the ladder symbolizes how the angels are in
charge of things on this world, having been commanded to do so from the heavens (Hashem).
The angels see what is happening on the world and then go up where they report and Hashem
tells them what to do and they go down to carry out Hashem's will. This is the way Hashem
set up the world. However, Hashem appears to Yaakov on top of the ladder Himself to show
that only He will watch over Yaakov - not the angels, and will be with Yaakov always.
Yaakov was greatly heartened by Hashem's promise and vowed to take tithes from his
future earnings. Even though currently destitute, he had complete faith that Hashem would
provide for him.
The happenings in Yaakov's life are an indication to what will happen to the Jewish
people as a whole. We too have to escape being pursued by our enemies, we too have to
leave our homeland and wander the world over often penniless and despised. But we must
bear in mind that Hashem gives the Jews special syata d'shmaya-help from Heaven, and looks
after us by himself and always protects us in all situations just like He protected Yaakov
from Eisav and Lavan.
Yaakov is now on his way to marry and begin building the Jewish nation with the twelve
tribes. He meets Rochel and asks her father Lavan for her hand in marriage. Lavan
stipulates that Yaakov must work for seven years before marrying.
The verse says that these seven years were "as a few days" in his love for
Rochel. We can ask that if someone was very much in love, those seven years of waiting
would be endless waiting with each day seeming like a year, rather than the other way
around. However, this is true only when we desire something to fulfill our personal
passion and we are thwarted. Yaakov was not, as we have stated in the past, a regular
human being. He was a person whose every action was for the sake of Heaven, not for self
gratification. He was getting married in order to have children and build the Jewish
nation. This was his life's holy task. Now if we have a special task to accomplish we are
very busy preparing for it. It seems like the appointed day is here and we are hardly
ready for the momentous event. (Compare to studying for an exam. There is never enough
time!) So, thought Yaakov, seven years to prepare for the building of the holy Jewish
nation is like a mere few days.
At the end of the seven years Lavan tricked Yaakov and gave him the older daughter
(Rochel's sister) for a wife. Yaakov anticipated this and gave Rochel secret signs she
could use to prove to him her identity. But Lavan was forcing Leah in Rochel's place and
Rochel could not stand by and see her sister horribly shamed on the wedding night when
Yaakov would discover the deception and spurn Leah. To spare Leah the embarrassment,
Rochel told her sister the signs. Through doing this, she lost her own betrothed right
before the wedding. What would be her fate? At that point in time, she was unaware that
Yaakov would work another seven years to marry her as well. The talk of the town was that
Rivka's two sons (Yaakov and Eisav) would marry their cousins, Lavan's two daughters (Leah
and Rochel). Rochel was now in agony awaiting her turn to marry the remaining brother, the
wicked Eisav. What a horrible fate; not only to have to live with a most wicked person,
but to give up the chance to bear Yaakov's children and be the mother of the Jewish
people! And yet Rochel did it because that was the right thing to do. As heard from Rabbi
Y. Jacobs: We have to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences, no matter what
we will have to give up, no matter what will be in the future- do the right thing!
Many hundreds of years later when the Temple was destroyed and the Jewish nation was
being led into the Diaspora for the first time, each of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs
beseached the Divine Throne for mercy. All were refused. Only Rochel, with her merit of
giving the signs to Leah, was able to say to Hashem, "Since I had great mercy on my
sister Leah, and allowed her to marry my betrothed, You, Hashem, have mercy on your
nation, even though they stray." Hashem accepted this plea and replied to Rochel,
"Cease your voice from weeping, and wipe your eyes from tears. For their is hope for
their future, and my children will return to their home."
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