Weekly Thought - Vayeitzei

Friday, 12 November, 2010 - 1:07 am

In this week’s parsha the Torah tells how Yaakov slept on Har HaMoriah. There are two explanations of why the Torah specifically mentioned that he slept. The first is that that particular night he slept, but he did not sleep for the fourteen years he spent in the Yeshiva of Shem vEiver. The second explanation is that that particular night he slept, but he did not sleep for the twenty years he lived by Lavan.

There are two opinions given as to what Yaakov would say during the long nights he spent by Lavan. One answer is; Tehillim. The second answer given is; the fifteen Shir HaMaalos. It is understood why he picked Tehillim because Tehillim is Tefilla and it is in the place of Torah study. But why did he pick the fifteen Shir HaMaalos?

We are taught that Yaakov feared Lavan’s potentially bad influence on his children’s development. Lavan himself even declared that “your children are my children”. It was if Lavan was saying to Yaakov that he was a square old fashion person that he was unable to reach with his perspective. But the children he felt he could reach and teach them how to live in his new “modern” ways. Yaakov feared Lavan’s influence during the nights. These concerns kept him awake and saying Tehillim and the fifteen Shir HaMaalos.  The fifteen Shir HaMaalos represent the fifteen years that Avraham Yitzchok and Yaakov lived simultaneously in this world. Avraham was 100 when Yitzchok was born. Yitzchok was 60 when Yaakov was born. Therefore the first 15 years of Yaakov’s life, Avraham and Yitzchok were both alive. (This is also true of the first Fathers of Chassidus; the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid and the Alter Rebbe, who shared 15 years in this world together.) Yaakov needed to arouse the zechus of his forefathers, ‘Elokei Avraham’ and ‘Pachad Yitzchak’ to overcome this challenge.

In the service of Hashem the three fathers represent three soul powers; Avraham represents chesed, Yitzchok represents gevurah and Yaakov represents tiferes. Yaakov aroused all these powers to overcome Lavan and thereby secure that his children would become Tzadikim.

Shir HaMaalos also teaches us that although Yaakov knew he was in Lavan’s environment, he also knew it was temporary. This brought him simcha, Shir. This gave Yaakov the hope to soon return to his home. Yaakov’s influence permeated the lives of his children. By day they went to cheder, influenced by Yaakov. By night, Yaakov said Shir HaMaalos and thereby kept them above the influence of Lavan.

Our children are the Rebbe’s children. There are many temptations in the world, but those temptations ‘past nisht’- are not for the Rebbe’s children; they follow a higher standard, a Chassidishe hanhaga.

It is with great pride and simcha that we uphold that standard, and we need to instill that sense within our children so that they too include this perspective as they go forward in their lives. Just as Yaakov realized that he needed to influence his children to become Tzadikim, not just children of Avraham Yitzchok and Yaakov, but to also impact their actions. We need to know where our children are at night after yeshiva.

In today’s times we are confronted with notion of; ‘If it’s not against the law why can’t I do it?’ People want to build mosques at ground zero. The fact that it is not only insensitive but downright offensive doesn’t seem to have the impact it once did. What prevails in today’s environment is solely one’s ‘rights’ regardless of if it is fitting.

As the saying goes; “The things that are forbidden, are forbidden; the things that are permitted are unnecessary” Not just because it is allowed do we partake. As Chassidim, we proudly and happily go above and beyond the letter of the law.

This attitude is reflected in our minhagim. We only drink cholov yisroel, not chalov stam. We eat only shmurah matza, not machine matza. On Sukkos we buy yanover esrogim, not Israeli esrogim. For many people, that is their standard. For ourselves, we have a different standard.

We believe and we present this as our opportunity to uplift our environment. This is not viewed as being deprived; rather, we view it as being special. It is also the way that we present tznius. To be tznius means to be a princess, someone regal and special. To be a bachur in yeshiva, is to be someone special.

This approach is done with ‘shir- simcha’ and its ‘hamaalos- uplifting’. It connects us with the Avos. Yaakov was not brought down, chas v’Shalom, but went with simcha and bitachon that Hashem will help him to be successful.

(Adapted from Likutei Sichos v. 20)

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