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עם לבן גרתי ואחר עד עתה

I have sojourned with Lavan and have lingered until now. (32:5)

Rashi explains Yaakov Avinu’s comment concerning his stay with Lavan. “I did not become a dignitary or a notable, but a mere sojourner. Thus, it does not befit you to hate me, because our father’s blessing, Hevei g’vir l’achecha, ‘Be a lord to your brothers,’ has not been fulfilled in me.” In other words, “Eisav, if you are upset concerning the brachos that I received, do not be, because they were not fulfilled.” Alternatively, Rashi says, the gematria, numerical equivalent, of garti is taryag, 613, as if to say, “I have sojourned with Lavan, yet I have observed all 613…

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ויותר יעקב לבדו

Yaakov was left alone. (32:25)

Our Patriarch was left alone on that fateful night. What does “alone” really mean? Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah 77:1) cite the pasuk in Yeshayah (2:11), V’nisgav Hashem levado, “And Hashem alone will be exalted,” which the commentaries explain, “There are no other gods, as everyone in the world will come to recognize on that day – so too, was Yaakov Avinu among men alone in a category all to himself. His spiritual level and strength catapulted him over everyone.” Levado, alone, has a few interpretations, based upon circumstances and the individual. It can be defined as lonely, hopeless, without physical, moral…

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ויהי ביום השלישי בהיותם כאבים ויקחו שני בני יעקב ... איש חרבו ... ויהרגו כל זכר

And it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Yaakov’s sons… each took his sword… and killed every male. (34:25)

Shimon and Levi’s punishment of the supportive cast of Shechem’s violation of Dinah obviously does not sit well with those whose knowledge of halachah is limited. According to the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 9), the people were held culpable because of their indifference to the crime which one of their own perpetrated. They should have judged him and carried out the appropriate punishment. Because they did not, they are viewed as co-conspirators, participants in the crime. The question that remains is: Why did Shimon and Levi carry out their deed after the men had carried out their circumcision? Why not punish…

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Reuven went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine …The sons of Yaakov were twelve. (35:22)

Following the passing of Rachel Imeinu, Yaakov Avinu established his primary residence in the tent of Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant. This disturbed Reuven. He felt that it was an affront to his mother, Leah Imeinu, that the maidservant of Rachel had now become his mother’s “rival.” As a gesture of defending his mother’s honor, Reuven moved his father’s bed to Leah’s tent. This is all that took place, no egregious sin, as the Torah implies. While Hashem judges the righteous by a deviation of a hairbreadth, thus transforming minor transgressions into sins of utmost gravity, Reuven’s sin is, at worst, an…

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ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע וילך חרנה

And Yaakov departed from Beer Sheva and went to Charan. (28:10)

Rashi asks the well-known question: “It needs only to have written, ‘And Yaakov went to Charan.’ Why does the Torah mention his departure? Magid, it tells us, that the departure of a tzaddik, righteous person, from a place makes an impression. For when he is in a city, he is its magnificence, he is its splendor, he is its grandeur. Once he has departed, its magnificence has gone away, its splendor has gone away, its grandeur has gone away.” Horav Chaim Stein, zl, makes note of Chazal’s (quoted by Rashi) use of the word magid (she’yetzias tzaddik oseh roshem), “it…

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ויאסף לבן את כל אנשי המקום ויעש משתה

So Lavan gathered all the people of the place and made a feast. (29:22)

This wedding reception of Yaakov Avinu and what should have been Rachel Imeinu included all the people in the city. Lavan spared no expense in marrying off his daughter. Little did Yaakov know that his future father-in-law, Lavan the swindler, had substituted Leah Imeinu for Rachel. Lavan knew the marriage was based upon a fraud; so did Rachel and Leah. Daas Zekeinim m’Baalei Tosfos (29:25) comment that, indeed, everyone in the community, all of the invited guests, was aware of the ruse. In fact, they did not conceal their knowledge of the deception. They sang all night, Ha Leah, “This…

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לקח יעקב את כל אשר לאבינו ומאשר לאבינו עשה את כל הכבד הזה

Yaakov has taken all that which belonged to our father and from that he amassed all this wealth. (31:1)

Targum Onkelos translates kavod (usually translated as honor) as nichsaya, material possessions (u’midei l’avuna kana kol nichsaya ha’ilein). Why would Onkelos diverge from the usual translation? Horav Tzvi Elimelech Hertzberg, zl (Rav in Baltimore), explains that the word kavod is noticeably spelled missing the vav, which implies that the honor that they were addressing is (to us) not true honor; rather, it is kavod medumah, imaginary honor. What did Lavan’s sons value? Growing up in their father’s home, influenced by his love of money, his constant swindling, anything to make a buck. They were privy to a perverted sense of…

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ויען יעקב ויאמר ללבן מה פשעי מה חטאתי כי דלקת אחרי

Yaakov spoke up and said to Lavan, “What is my transgression? What is my sin that you have hotly pursued me?” (31:36)

Enough! Yaakov had been quiet long enough. Yaakov realized that Lavan’s trumped up charges against him were nothing more than a pretense to allow him to search his possessions. Our Patriarch allowed his pent-up emotions to counter every one of Lavan’s accusations respectfully. In a powerful exposition, the Chasam Sofer (Teshuvos, Chelek 6, Likutim 59) writes that every tzaddik, righteous person, must contend with his personal Lavan, his nemesis who will do everything in his power to make his life miserable. To paraphrase the Chasam Sofer: “There is no Yaakov (metaphor for holy, righteous man) who does not have his…

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ויען לבן ויאמר אל יעקב הבנות בנתי והבנים בני והצאן צאני וכל אשר אתה ראה לי הוא

Then Lavan spoke up and said to Yaakov, “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children and the flock is my flock, and all that you see is mine.” (31:43)

Lavan came at Yaakov with a list of purported accusations, claiming that Yaakov had deceived him and was taking his daughters from him as if they were his captives. The man’s arrogance is staggering. He presented himself to Yaakov as if he were the injured party and Yaakov Avinu, the aggressor, an accusation which could not be further from the truth. When Yaakov replied, exposing Lavan’s untruths, Lavan attacked with his real feelings: everything belongs to me. So what? Does this mean he could violate Yaakov’s rights, mistreat, lie to and steal from him? How does Lavan’s response mitigate Yaakov’s…

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ויעתר יצחק לד' לנכח אשתו... ויעתר לו ד'

Yitzchak entreated Hashem opposite his wife… Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated by him. (25:21)

The implication of the masculine singular form is that Hashem responded to Yitzchak’s prayer – rather than to Rivkah’s. Chazal (Yevamos 64a) teach that one cannot compare the prayer offered by a tzaddik ben tzaddik, righteous person, the son of a righteous person, (Yitzchak Avinu) to the prayer entreated by a tzaddik ben rasha (Rivkah Imeinu). Thus, Hashem listened to Yitzchak. This concept is most efficacious when each individual supplicant is praying for himself personally. Yitzchak and Rivkah were both praying for the same thing: offspring. Why would Yitzchak’s prayer find greater acceptance than Rivkah’s? Horav Meir Shapiro, zl, explains…

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