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The Pinkhasov Edition
מורי ורבי הרב הגאון הרב אהרן בן הרב משה יואל
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Living with Lavan
In this week’s parashah, Parshas Vayeitzi, we are informed regarding Yaakov Avinu's marriages and everyday life activities. We also learn how he manages to live with Lavan as both his boss and father-in-law for an extended period. In Hebrew, there is an expression ‘Parti Leriosa,' which is based on a Gemara. Being That Lavan was both the boss and father in law was difficult for Yaakov. The stress that Yaakov had to live with daily was enormous. Chazal says that with all that, Lavan Hoarami was the biggest liar. This characteristic was even evident with Lavan's name, which means white, but really, he was dark. There was nothing that he ever did or said that had anything to do with the truth. Lavan was the essence of a liar. Yaakov lived with his father-in-law and boss, and he continually deceives him to the extent that Lavan grants him the wrong daughter to marry.
Interestingly, the Sephardim have a Minhag where they make an exciting shrill by their chasunah – lelelele. The Medrash states that this comes from Yaakov's wedding where the people were screaming Leah.
Yaakovs Reaction to Lavans Cheat
Let us see how Yaakov dealt with this.
The Torah says ‘Vayehi Baboker Vehinei Hee Leah Vayomer Lovon Ma Zos Asisa Li…’ Lavan answered, ‘Here we do not give the young girl before the old girl.' However, the agreement before the wedding was not so.
My Zeidy used to explain this posuk: Yaakov was telling Lavan ‘how could you lie to me,' and Lavan answered, ‘we never tell the truth around here.' This answer does not address the question above but is a nice explanation in the pasuk. After this Yaakov just accepts this.
However, we want to know if Yaakov got angry or not, but this depends on the tone of voice the question was asked. Yaakov could have said it calmly or in an angry tone. Similar to the story told of a student in yeshivah who needed a new pair of pants. The son sent a letter to his father written ' Tatte, need money, send clothing". When the father opened the letter, he read 'need money, send clothing.' he got furious at his son's disrespect. When the boy's mother came along, she suggested it was read wrong. Changing the tone of voice when reading the letter makes it sound pleading rather than demanding, and in an asking tone, it reads less disrespectful. We know that the word vayomer is not a term of harsh words. However, it is not clear in the posuk how heated the conversation was. Later on, there is another exchange with Yaakov and Lavan, and there it says vayichar. This word was used when Yaakov left Lavan without prior warning when he was annoyed with Lavan. Therefore, it seems that, now where Lavan tricked Yaakov, he did not get angry; otherwise, the posuk would have used a harsher word.
Everything Is from Hashem
Another question can be asked, why did Yaakov accept what happened with his marriage? He could have gotten angry at Rochel for giving over the signs or at Leah, saying ‘you are not my bride.' Where does it say he got angry; Yaakov could have gone to the beis din to sort it this out!? The answer is as follows. The Avos lived in a way that whatever Hashem did was for the best. They accept and do not ask questions. Everything Hashem does is for the best. When a person lives their life in this way, then they do not ever get angry. The middah of anger is triggered when things do not go how the person wants them to go, ‘when I do not get my way.' But really, there is no such thing. The Avos lived their life that its Hashem’s way or there is no way. When a person has no YirasShomayim, he gets angry, but there is no room for that with Emunah. Yaakov did not become angry at Lavan, Rochel, or Leah.
Why then does Yaakov get angry later on when he leaves Lavan's house? The Ohr HaChaim Hakodosh writes ‘Vayichal Yaakov Vayorev BeLavan.' Yaakov only started fighting since he got angry. Fighting is a result of getting angry. The Ohr HaChaim then asked, why does it have to say Vayorev BeLavan? We know it was Lavan; it seems like an extra word? The Ohr HaChaim gives two possible answers. Vayorev, till now he was friendly with Lavan, now Yaakovs is acting a little harsher, but most people will still consider Yaakov's behavior friendly. Nevertheless, since Yaakov was a tzadik, it was called fighting. Often you hear people scream, so ask them, ‘why are you screaming?’ so they say answer ‘I am just talking.' Same here. In yeshiva, we are taught that the Avos' sins can be compared to the mitzvahs we do. The second explanation is that this was a rebuke to Lavan rather than an angry reaction from Yaakov. Yaakov did not lose himself and yell; instead, it was a calculated rebuke. Yaakov did not have the character of getting angry by just losing it.
There is an excellent story that we use as an example. The Alter from Slabodka was a giant in Musser. Once, there was a boy in the yeshiva that acted disrespectfully to the Alter. The boy realized what he did wrong and was waiting for the Alter to call him into his office to rebuke his actions. Time passed, and this never happened. The boy forgot about the episode. Two months later, the Alter called the boy and gave him considerable criticism. The boy asked the Rebbe, why did you wait two months? The Alter answered I wanted to give you Musser, but did not want it to be personal, so I had to wait till it stopped hurting me. Now I can rebuke without losing myself.
Getting Angry Defies Hashem
In the Igeres Harambam, it says that when a person loses themselves and gets angry, there are all types of gehenom waiting for him. What does this mean? The word used is ‘Lehachtia’; it causes to sin. The worst thing a person can do is lose full control of themselves, which can happen when one gets angry. What does control mean? When a person knows that Hashem is watching all the time, then he is in control. Often people come to me about the AA program for addictions. Some think it is a good thing, and others think it is not since it teaches a person that he is not in control; instead, it is all in other parties' hands. Someone who gets angry is like they served Avada Zora since they cannot recognize Hashem when they are angry. When a person knows that everything that happens in his life is because Hashem said so, when a person gets angry, they cannot see Hashem running his life and therefore deserves gehenom. By getting angry, one violates the mitzvah ‘Shivisi Hashem Lenegdi Tomid’ - Hashem is not in front of me. Yaakov knows this and therefore makes a single request at the beginning asking ‘Yiyeh Elokim Imode, Oshmerani Baderech Haze.' Hashem should always be with me.
Giving Mussar Should Be Without Temper
When a person needs to give someone Mussar or respond, then it must be done in the same way as Yaakov did with Lavan in the end, without any anger.
At the beginning of the Parsha, we find that Yaakov rebukes strangers that he knows nothing about, telling them they are stealing by them Achai-my brother. Yaakov uses The Term Achi so as not to rebuke with anger but with a friendly tone. The Rav of PonevitchRav Kehanaman used to say the key to his success in teaching ethic and Musser was that he called everyone my brother. He wanted to build the yeshiva, and he managed.
I was sent from my yeshiva to travel around EretzYisroel to get boys to come here to this yeshiva. A taxi arranged to take me around. The first-day whiles in the taxi, I was a little nervous. I was unsure if the taxi driver was Jewish, and we were traveling outside Jerusalem. A few minutes later, he tells me, 'We are lost.' He tried getting help from the supervisor, but they could not help. The driver then asked me, 'should we go right or left?' unsure of the way, I answered, 'Achei, let's go right' The driver stepped on the breaks and came to a quick stop. And I thought my life was over. The driver opened his glove department and pulled out a little kippa and said, when you called me achei, my heart gave an extra pump, a feeling I have only when I go to the Kosel. From here, we can see the importance of how we talk.
Vayichar Af- Yaakov Got Angry
Yaakov was punished for getting angry later in this week’s parashah. Rochel tells Yaakov, "Bring me children, or I am dead." The Rishonim say that she spoke just like shrill women. Yaakov then got angry at her. here the pasuk uses the word ‘Vayichar Af,' unlike before when it says ‘Vayichar Yaakov.' Here it was his real anger; the word Af emphasizes that it was not calculated. Yaakov lost his temper. Why? He wanted to give her Musser and wanted her to daven. He had a real cheshbon. The Rambam asks, however, is this how one replies to someone in pain? As a punishment, your children will have to stand in front of her children in shame. We see this happening when they come down to Egypt to Yosef. Yaakov meant well, so why this punishment? Yaakov's anger was a little too real. Yaakov gave his rebuke while he was a bit angry, which should not happen even with good intentions.
A person’s character can bee seen when
When a crazy person stumbles your way and begins to bother you, you ignore him. The Chazon Ish says to do the same when an average person disturbs you because he is also crazy, crazy in his middos. If the man is disturbing you to get attention, then to respond can be a significant transgression. The way we react speaks volumes of what is going on inside you. The Ramban says that the tachlis of everything is being humble, and this brings to yiras shomayim. The Ramban says always act nicely to every person all the time. This shows if a person has real control. Revenge can be sweet but is assur since everything is from Hashem.
Old people in shul can get agitated about their seats and other small things. The reason for this is because old people are nearer to death and have more ruchnius as their gashmius begins to deteriorate. Gaaveh is a middah from ruchnuis and not gashmius. Gaaveh leads to anger. R’ Eizel Charif once got a tongue lashing when he was in shul. The man asked, "what will happen when you get older." He answered, "I will be an old man who yells at little kids in the shul." the point is that one has to speak nicely even to young children because it is not about the kids but your behavior as someone standing in front of Hashem.
A mum in yourself do not find in others
R’ Isa Zalman Meltzer was a great man. He had terrific Middos. People would often come to him on sukkos to visit. Once, he turned to his family and asked for a pen. Later his family member asked him, ‘Is it not Assur to write on Chol Hamoad? He answered, 'It's Pekuach Nefesh.' When he left the sukkah, his family looked for the paper and found it. On the paper was written 'A mum in yourself do not find in others.' When they asked for an explanation, he said as follows. ‘People from all over Jerusalem come to see me, and they tell me strange things. Since I do not want to think badly about these people, I look down at this paper. Therefore, it was Pekuach Nefesh to write.’
R’ Isa Zalman Meltzer was giving a test to the students in Eitz Chaim. In the middle of the test, he walked out and started pacing. They overheard him muttering to himself, 'A boy is also a person; one must treat him with love and dignity.' This is a tremendous lesson.
The Proper Time to Give Mussar
The only time Yaakov Avenue gave Musser to his children was at the end of his life. Chazal says that this was so since he was afraid that if he did this earlier, they would go and befriend Eisav. This sounds strange. Why was he scared of Eisav?
The first answer is as follows. We think Eisav was this evil bad man. Instead he walked around in peyos and looked all frum to the extent that some small shavatim will join him. The Gra writes that had Eisav got the brachas, the 12 shavatim would have come from him. The second answer is that we do not know how much one word can do. It can do so much damage that people would want to go to Eisav.
A Soft-Spoken Word Can Remove All Anger
Every year in the introduction tefillah to shachris chazaras hashatz on Rosh Hashana, the Baal tefillah says an extra paragraph. I am a Baal tefilla and see the following ‘Tamachti Yisadose…’ - I have established my speech trend on the book of wisdom. Mishlei gives a formula on how to pray as a Baal tefillah. A soft-spoken word can remove all anger. The meforshim explain that in Tanach 2 stories can illustrate this. Gidon, a shofet, went to war against Midian. Shevet Ephrayim was angry that they were only called to fight at the end of the war. They captured all the enemy leaders. Gidon responds to their anger by saying, ‘you did more than all of us!’ These words averted an angry protest, and everything was peaceful. Further on in shoftim Yiftach went to war and ignored the BneiEphrayim. When they complained, he did not respond. This turned into a war, and 42,000 people were killed! Chazal says, 'look what could happen from such small words. Why is this the beginning of the Rosh Hashana tefillah? The Alshach says it refers to Hashem too. When a person says I am humbled to talk to Hashem, then He forgives. We can avert g'zardin with a sweet word.
How Did Yaakov Take The Brochos
In this week’s parashah, Eisav was supposed to get the brachos, but Yaakov gets it in the end. When Yaakov donned the coat of Eisav, Yitzchak says, ‘Hakol Kol Yaakov Vehayedayim Yedei Eisav.’ Why only then did Yitzchak give the brachos? Was he not confident he had the correct son in front of him??
The Beis Halevi says the following. We think Yitzchak, Yaakov, and Eisav were naive that they did not realize the issue. They all lived together and knew they would try to trick one another. Therefore, Yitzchak told Eisav, ‘I have a plan, “come in sounding like Yaakov because I know he will come trying to sound like Eisav.' So, when Yaakov came in, then for Yitzchak, it made sense that the voice was like Yaakov. Why then did Yaakov not copy the voice of Eisav?
Yaakov was too soft-spoken, and even after he practiced the voice, he still could not copy his brother's ruff voice.
Eisav was a guy that had lots of ‘Kibbud Av Veaym.' When he walked in later, Yitzchak knew it was him because he said Yokum Ovi, he did not say please. What happened with respect?
As much as he tried to be respectful, he cannot. The only time he did say please was when he asked Yaakov for food for himself, but that was all! Only for himself. Eisav had a selective please, and only when he wanted to could he talk pleasingly. Yaakov is always ‘Hakol Kol Yaakov’ and can always speak pleasingly. A ben Torah is careful with his speech to speak softly and not get angry at every person.