שבת טעם החיים ויצא תשע”ב
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeitzei 5772
Yaakov Was the Sun
וַיִּפְגַּ֨ע בַּמָּקֹ֜ום וַיָּ֤לֶן שָׁם֙ כִּי־בָ֣א הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ וַיִּקַּח֙ מֵאַבְנֵ֣י הַמָּקֹ֔ום וַיָּ֖שֶׂם מְרַֽאֲשֹׁתָ֑יו וַיִּשְׁכַּ֖ב בַּמָּקֹ֥ום הַהֽוּא׃, He encountered the place and spent the night there because the sun had set; he took from the stones of the place which he arranged around his head, and lay down in that place. (Bereishis 28:11)
In this week’s parasha the Torah records how Yaakov fled from his brother Esav and encountered the site where the Bais HaMikdash would stand. It is said (Bereishis 28:11) וַיִּפְגַּ֨ע בַּמָּקֹ֜ום וַיָּ֤לֶן שָׁם֙ כִּי־בָ֣א הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ וַיִּקַּח֙ מֵאַבְנֵ֣י הַמָּקֹ֔ום וַיָּ֖שֶׂם מְרַֽאֲשֹׁתָ֑יו וַיִּשְׁכַּ֖ב בַּמָּקֹ֥ום הַהֽוּא, He encountered the place and spent the night there because the sun had set; he took from the stones of the place which he arranged around his head, and lay down in that place. Rashi writes that the sun set early so Yaakov would be forced to sleep in that place. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 68:10) states that Yaakov heard the angels proclaiming, “The sun has arrived, the sun has arrived!” Additionally, when Yosef declared וְהִנֵּ֧ה הַשֶּׁ֣מֶשׁ וְהַיָּרֵ֗חַ, “Behold! The sun, the moon,” Yaakov wondered, “who revealed to him that my name is שֶּׁ֣מֶשׁ, the sun?” This refers to Yosef’s dream that he shared with his brothers, and it is said (Ibid 37:9) וַיַּחֲלֹ֥ם עֹוד֙ חֲלֹ֣ום אַחֵ֔ר וַיְסַפֵּ֥ר אֹתֹ֖ו לְאֶחָ֑יו וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הִנֵּ֨ה חָלַ֤מְתִּֽי חֲלֹום֙ עֹ֔וד וְהִנֵּ֧ה הַשֶּׁ֣מֶשׁ וְהַיָּרֵ֗חַ וְאַחַ֤ד עָשָׂר֙ כֹּֽוכָבִ֔ים מִֽשְׁתַּחֲוִ֖ים לִֽי, he dreamt another dream, and related it to his brothers, And he said, “Look, I dreamt another dream; Behold! The sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” Why is Yaakov referred to as the sun? Does this allusion imply that Yaakov’s face shone with the brilliance of the sun, or is there a deeper meaning contained in this idea?
Yom Kippur is associated with the Solar Calendar
In order to gain a better understanding of why Yaakov represents the sun, we will examine a peculiar Gemara regarding Yom Kippur. The Gemara (32b) states that the word השטן, the Satan, equals in gematria 364. There are 365 days in the year, and one day of the year, Yom Kippur, the Satan is not allowed to prosecute against the Jewish People. This concept is readily understandable, as on Yom Kippur we refrain from eating and drinking and we are engaged all day in prayer, so it follows that the Satan should be banished from our midst on this holy day. Why, however, did the Gemara associate Yom Kippur with the 365 days of the year, when the Jewish People use the lunar calendar, which is normally eleven days shorter than the solar calendar. It would be more logical to associate Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish People, with the Jewish calendar and not the secular calendar used by the nations of the world. This enigma is compounded by the fact that the Gemara (Kerisus 6a) states תנו רבנן, פטום הקטרת כיצד? שלש מאות וששים ושמונה מנים היו בה. שלש מאות וששים וחמשה כמנין ימות החמה מנה לכל יום, פרס בשחרית ופרס בין הערבים: ושלשה מנים יתרים, שמהם מכניס כהן גדול מלא חפניו ביום הכפרים. ומחזירן למכתשת בערב יום הכפרים, ושוחקן יפה יפה כדי שתהא דקה מן הדקה. The Rabbis taught:” How is the incense mixture formulated? Three hundred sixty-eight maneh were in it: three hundred sixty-five corresponding to the days of the solar year – a maneh for each day, half in the morning and half in the afternoon; and three extra maneh, from which the Kohen Gadol would bring both his handfuls [into the Holy of Holies] on Yom Kippur. He would return them to the mortar on the day before Yom Kippur, and grind them very thoroughly so that it would be exceptionally fine. Here again the Gemara references the solar year and not the lunar year, and again in reference to Yom Kippur. Why does the Gemara insist on associating Yom Kippur with the solar year?
Yaakov can remove his sins with ease
The solution to this puzzle can be found in the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 65:15) that states that Yaakov and Esav are likened to a hairy man and a smooth-skinned man standing at the edge of the wheat silo, and the chaff became tangled in the hair of the hairy man. When eth chaff landed on the smooth-skinned man, he merely placed his hand on his head and removed the chaff. Similarly, Esav, i.e. the nations of the world, becomes sullied throughout the year with sins and does not have the means to gain atonement. Yaakov, however, becomes sullied with sins throughout the year and when Yom Kippur arrives, he can gain atonement. This statement of the Medrash encapsulates our entire existence in this world. While we are distinct from the gentiles, at times it is difficult to discern our holiness and purity, as our sins are formidable obstacles to coming close to HaShem. Thus, the Medrash teaches us that we are like the smooth-skinned man, as our sins do not stick to us and they are washed off with the holiness of Yom Kippur. Esav, however, remains mired in sin throughout his entire existence. This explains why the Gemara associates Yom Kippur with the solar year. Yom Kippur is not merely a Jewish holiday. Rather, Yom Kippur is the defining moment in a Jew’s year, when he transcends his sins and HaShem allows him to be elevated to a sphere which the gentiles cannot penetrate. How does this explanation of the solar year mesh with Yaakov being referred to as the sun?
Yaakov was like the sun and he counters the overtures of the nations
A casual reading of show week’s parasha allows us to think that Yaakov had a dream and HaShem bestowed upon him many blessings. The Medrash, however, offers what appears to be a harsh criticism of Yaakov. The Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 29:2) states that HaShem showed Yaakov all the powerful nations ascending and then descending, and when Yaakov was concerned that Esav would never fall, HaShem promised him that even Esav would fall. HaShem then informed Yaakov that he would also ascend, and Yaakov expressed apprehension that perhaps he, like the nations, would also descend. HaShem promised Yaakov that if he were to ascend he would never fall, but Yaakov did not believe the promise and he did not ascend. HaShem punished Yaakov for this and informed him that his descendants would be subject to all sorts of taxes from the nations. When Yaakov expressed concern that this subjugation would be eternal, HaShem reassured Yaakov that he need not be worried, as He would afflict Yakov in this world to cleanse him from his sins, and this would occur in the seventh month of the year. We must understand how it is possible that Yaakov did not believe in HaShem’s promise and why he chose not to ascend? The answer to this difficulty is that Yaakov was like the sun, which resents the nations of the world. The Medrash is not telling us, Heaven forbid, that Yaakov did not trust in HaShem. Rather, Yakov chose exile as an atonement for the Jewish People’s sins, similar to Avraham who chose exile instead of Gehinnom (see Bereishis Rabbah 44:21). Yaakov was likened to the sun, because only someone with the strength of the sun can withstand the blandishments of the nations of the world who count according to the solar calendar. Thus, when Yaakov fled from Esav, he sought refuge in Torah study, and subsequently he slept at the site of the Bais HaMikdash. The angels announced “the sun has arrived,” demonstrating that Yaakov’s ability to withstand his own personal exile and future exiles was because he was like the sun that illuminates the darkness of the world. Exile is akin to darkness, and a Jew’s mission in this world is to illuminate all the areas of darkness. The only method to negate darkness is by adding light, and we accomplish that through the study of Torah and mitzvah performance.
The Shabbos Connection
Throughout the week we are surrounded by darkness, as external forces tempt us with sin and every form of materialism. With the onset of Shabbos, the darkness is banished and we declare מְנוּחָה וְשִׂמְחָה אוֹר לַיְּהוּדִים, יוֹם שַׁבָּתוֹן יוֹם מַחֲמַדִּיםֶ contentment and gladness and light – for the Jews. On this day of Shabbos, day of delights.
Shabbos Zemiros Elucidated
מַה יְּדִידוּת מְנוּחָתֵךְ authored by Menachem over four hundred years ago
מַה יְּדִידוּת מְנוּחָתֵךְ, אַתְּ שַׁבָּת הַמַּלְכָּה, how beloved is your contentment, you Shabbos Queen. Everyone in the world enjoys rest and leisure. There is nothing more relaxing that knowing you have worked hard and now you deserve your rest. Nonetheless, that rest is fleeting, as you must go back to work again. The resting on Shabbos, however, is different, as Shabbos is a semblance of the World to Come, the עולם הידידות, the world of love. Thus, we declare that your rest, Shabbos Queen, is above all other rests, as you are from the World to Come.
Waiting for a Mitzvah
Nearly fifty years ago, early one Friday morning, Yitzchak, a young Chasidic businessman, from the Stamford Hill section of London was driving home from a business trip. He set out early enough to be able to reach his London home with plenty of time to spare before Shabbos began.
But when his car broke down on the highway and he was forced to have it towed to a garage in the nearest town his plans gradually changed. At first he thought that maybe he’d make it home in time. Even the mechanic was optimistic, but as the repairs dragged on and on it slowly became clear that he would never make it back before nightfall and would have to spend Shabbos where he was.
He didn’t have much time left. He found a phone, called home, told his wife the sad story and resigned himself to being stuck in a small town that he had barely heard of and where he didn’t know a single person.
His inquiries revealed that there was a synagogue; thank G-d for that! That meant there must be some Jews there as well! He managed to find a small hotel nearby a little supermarket where he bought some food with kosher stamps on the wrappings, took it to his room, washed up and prepared for the Shabbos.
When night fell and Shabbos arrived, Yitzchak walked to the synagogue and entered. It was quite an impressive structure considering its location in an area of England not known for Jewish communities.
Unfortunately, it was pretty desolate and even now at the start of Shabbos there was hardly anyone there. With great difficulty a minyan (ten Jews) was finally assembled, yet most of its members did not appear to Yitzchak’s eye to be particularly mitzvah-observant. But there was one religious-looking old man with a thick beard who nodded hello, approached Yitzchak and shook his hand warmly before the prayers began.
In the middle of the services, when there was a short break, the old fellow again approached Yitzchak again, shook his hand enthusiastically and, without introduction or preamble, asked him in very broken English and in an almost pleading tone if he would consent to be his guest for Shabbos.
It took Yitzchak a few seconds to realize it was English the fellow was speaking and to understand what he was saying so he repeated the question, also in broken English, “You invite me to you for Shabbos?” When the man smiled and shook his head yes Yitzchak responded in Yiddish that he would be happy to accept the invitation.
The old man’s face lit up, and without another word he returned to his seat for the continuation of the prayers.
Afterwards, they left the synagogue together. His host introduced himself as Yaakov Frankenovich, but everyone called him Yankel. He apologized that he lived on the fourth floor and they would have to walk up many stairs. When they arrived Yitzchak understood what he meant. After one flight his host was breathing and coughing very heavily and the remaining flights were made slowly and with the greatest difficulty.
The apartment was quite small. Only one bedroom and when no one was there to greet them Yitzchak understood that Yanked lived alone. But yet the table in the middle of the room was set for two. Could it be that the old man knew that he was coming? Surely there was no other guest he could possibly be expecting. His host saw the wonder on his face, smiled, and remarked that he so desired to have a guest that for years he had been setting a second place in anticipation.
The meal turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable. Hours went by in Torah discussion and singing the songs of Shabbos until it was quite late at night. Yitzchak rose from the table, happy but exhausted, to return to the hotel. But old Yankel pleaded with him to remain and be his guest for sleeping over also. He even began making a bed for him in the corner of the room, converting the sofa into a bed. It seemed such an urgent matter for his host that Yitzchak felt he had no choice but to accept, even though he had already paid for his hotel room.
The whole evening he had wondered why Yankel did not move in all these years to a bigger city with a larger, established Jewish community, including others that were religiously observant like him and before Yankel went into his room Yitzchak asked him. But Yankel just said, “I’m tired now, best that I’ll tell you in Third Meal, at the end of the holy Shabbos”.
Throughout the night Yitzchak heard Yankel coughing. Eventually they became such severe coughing fits that in the morning Yitzchak tried to convince him to stay home and rest rather than going to Shul (synagogue) but the old man refused to even consider it.
In their long slow strolls to and then back from shul, although they didn’t talk about personal matters, they became friends. Yitzchak was especially impressed with the strong faith of his elder companion and the whole-hearted innocence with which he served the Al-mighty.
Finally, at the Third Meal, Yankel opened up about himself, as he had promised. He was born in Russia. When he was a young boy, in the early stages of the Bolshevik Revolution, his grandfather decided that Russia was no longer a safe place for them to live, and the entire family uprooted to England. They settled in this same small town, where they lived a meager existence, but happily free of fear and persecution.
As a result of their pioneering presence, other Jewish immigrant families gravitated to the town and eventually it became a significant Jewish community. They built a fine synagogue, the one they had just prayed in, and they even had a Rabbi for a while.
His grandfather and grandmother, despite the fact that they were the founders of the community, always remained humble, friendly and very hospitable, always managing to come up with a donation to anyone who needed it. And when a person was too embarrassed to accept charity they would extend it as a loan.
But then came the spirit of “progress”. The next generation wanted the big city and moved away to areas distant from their parents, and the children of the minority that remained, that is the third generation who were Yankel’s age, for sure didn’t stay.
But Yankel’s grandfather refused to leave. He said that since they were the founding pillars of the community, they were obligated to stay and before passing away he requested that Yankel too not abandon the community. He told him that just the fact that he had a place to stay, kosher food and a Synagogue was in itself justification for him to remain.
“Who knows?” his grandfather concluded his dying request; “Perhaps someday a Jewish traveler will show up, and you will be able to fulfill the blessed mitzvah of hospitality.” Yankel, being the simple Jew that he was, didn’t ask any questions. He stayed.
Suddenly Yitzchak realized that he was the guest that his new close friend had been awaiting all these years – perhaps decades!
Tears welled in his eyes. His elderly host tried to continue speaking, but another difficult coughing spell forced him to pause.
Finally he resumed. “Please don’t feel sorry for me,” he said. “Really the opposite is true. You can’t know how much gratitude I feel towards you that you enabled me to have the merit of fulfilling the mitzvah of bringing home a guest. Now I feel that I have fulfilled my mission from my grandfather.”
On Saturday night, as the Shabbos ended, Yitzchak bade his host goodbye, thanked him profusely and rushed to the garage to pick up his car and drive home. But before he left he promised Yankel a return visit. He was concerned about his welfare and anyway he wanted to bring him a nice present.
A few days later as soon as he had some free time, he traveled north again, drove directly to Yankel’s house and, when there was no response at his door, he figured that the old man must be in the Shul.
So he hurriedly drove over to the synagogue, found the attendant in charge and asked him where Yankel is. The man answered, Yankel? “The other day, that is… Sunday he came here, started coughing, fell over and by the time the ambulance got here it was too late. He died right here!”
The attendant looked down for a sad moment, dried off his eyes with his hand, then looked at Yitzchak, pointed at him and said, “One moment, aren’t you the guest that was here this past Shabbos? You’re Yitzchak, right? Well just wait a minute, I have something for you.” He went into the next room, returned with a package and said, “Here, Yankel left this package on his table, and it has your name on it.”
With great emotion, Yitzchak hurried to open the package. Inside were a few books and a letter. He began to read:
“Yitzchak, my dear friend. I feel that my end is near. Your visit brought me so much joy and pleasure; genuine ‘Yiddishe nachas’ (Jewish satisfaction). I hope that the merit of the mitzvah of hosting will stand for me in the World of Truth, where I’m going. I bequeath my siddur (prayer book) and Chumash (Pentateuch) to you, along with my heartfelt wish that you will succeed in raising your children in the path of Torah.”
Yitzchak cried quietly. When he heard there was no one to say Kaddish for the deceased, he promised that he himself would do it.
From that day on, Yitzchak made it a rule in his household that an extra place should always be set at the table, for any guest who might happen to appear and always did his best to bring at least one guest to fill it. In addition to his own mitzvah, he wanted this practice to be an ongoing memorial for Yankel’s dedication and love his entire live for the mitzvah of hospitality. (http://www.thefoundationstone.org)
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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