Weekly Reading Insights: 

Vayeitzei

BS"D

From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


Ramban

"Then the Eternal shall be my G-d" [28: 21]

This is not a condition, as Rashi would have it. It is rather a vow, and its purport is as follows: "If I will return to my father's house, I will worship the proper Name of the Eternal in the Chosen Land at the location of this stone which will be for me a house of G-d, and there I will set aside the tithe." There is in this matter a secret relating to that which the Rabbis have said: "He who dwells outside the Land of Israel is like one who has no G-d!"
(Thus, according to the meaning of the above quotation, the Eternal will be Jacob's G-d only when he returns to the Land of Israel.)

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Rabbeinu Bachya

"…Am I in the place of G-d?" [30:2]

According to the plain meaning of the text, Yaakov challenged Rachel who had assumed that the power of granting children resided within Yaakov. This is one of the three keys which G-d does not normally entrust to man. Our sages in Taanit 2 state: "Three keys are not entrusted (on a regular basis) to G-d's messengers: the key to life, the key to rain, and the key to resurrection of the dead." Yaakov was correct therefore when he told Rachel that her request should not be addressed to him.

A kabbalistic approach: The letter heh in the word hatachat (in the place of) need not be understood as introducing a question, but that the whole word is definitive. Yaakov indicated to Rachel that his likeness (enochi-"I") was indeed engraved under the throne of G-d and it was this which enabled him to know that G-d Himself had prevented her from having a child. Upon hearing this Rachel overcame her natural reluctance and gave her maidservant to Yaakov in order to benefit from Bilhah's potential to bear children. In the end she herself addressed G-d in prayer, as we know from 30:22: "G-d remembered Rachel and G-d listened to her."

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Alsheich

"Lavan had two daughters: the older one's name was Leah, and the younger one's name was Rachel. Leah's eyes were weak, while Rachel was shapely and beautiful" [29:16-17]

The contrast between Esau taking a wife and Jacob taking a wife draws our attention because the two stories follow each other. Esau, whom our sages tell us excelled in honoring his father, overheard his father telling Jacob not to marry a Canaanite girl, but one from Laban's family. Yet, he did not obey his father's preference, but merely went to take a daughter of Ishmael-not a Canaanite, but also no relative of Laban. Neither did he divorce his Canaanite wives. Esau, only heard that his father hated the Canaanite girls; his eyes were not attuned to his father's wishes. Although vayar, he saw it all, his reactions did not reflect what he had seen. He did not see the merit of Laban's daughters. "Leah's eyes were weak" a) to dissuade Esau from marrying her, and b) to prompt her father to switch her so that Jacob would marry her. Had she been beautiful, Laban would not have worried about finding a suitable suitor for her. Had Jacob acted in accordance with halachic norm, not to drink from a cup until one has examined it, Laban's trick would not have worked despite the connivance of the girls. His eyes were blinded, in order for Leah to become his wife. Esau's eyes were blinded so that Leah's tears at having been fated to become Esau's wife, would not disturb the future of the Jewish people. Leah, being a tsadeket, righteous girl, could not be denied. This is the meaning of the tradition that the eyes of Leah were weak, so that her fate and that of Esau would not be joined.

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Shelah

The Patriarchs and Matriarchs were on a spiritual level approaching that which in the future will exist amongst ordinary people. This enabled them to express themselves in a totally unrestrained manner. Whereas ordinary people, in order not to appear gross, must describe every reference to intimate physical activity by something the Sages call "lashon nikiya", euphemistic language, the Patriarchs and Matriarchs had no need to resort to this; their holiness was natural, the result of child-like innocence.

Ohr HaChayim

"Ya'akov went out from Be'er Sheva, and went toward Haran. He came to a place and spend the night there since the sun had set; he took of the stones of that place, and put them under his head, and lay down in that place." [28:10-11]

The whole paragraph can be seen to allude to man as a species. Zohar 1,147 understands the words "and Yaakov went out" as describing the soul when it first departs from the higher world and takes up residence within a body. This body is called Ya'akov on account of the evil urge which constantly tags along at our heels, so to speak.
The words "from Be'er Sheva", from "the well of the oath," is a reference to the source the souls come from which is known as "the well of living waters." The word "sheva" refers to the oath G-d makes every soul swear when it departs from heaven that it will not violate Torah laws while inside a human being (compare Niddah 30).
The words "and went towards Haran" are an allusion to the statement of our sages in Sanhedrin 91 that the evil urge enters man form the moment he leaves his mother's womb. This is based on Genesis 4:7 that "sin crouches at the entrance".
The words "he came to a place" are a reminder that man has to invoke G-d's help through prayer, G-d being the "site of the universe."
When the Torah continues: "and spend the night there since the sun had set," this is a reminder that man has to conduct himself properly all his life until he dies, i.e., "until his sun sets." This is why our sages said in Avot 2,4: "do not be certain of your righteousness until the day you die."
The Torah continues; "He took from the stones of that site." This is analogous to the statement by Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish in Berachot 5 that a person should constantly strive to provoke his good urge i.e., criticize himself by struggling against the evil urge. Should he fail to overcome his evil urge he should busy himself with Torah study as suggested by David in Psalms 4:5. When the Torah refers to "from the stones of that place", this refers to the "binyano shel olam" the building blocks by means of which the world is built, i.e. Torah.
These words may also relate to the stones used to kill the evil urge and its representatives. This is what the Talmud means in Sotah 21 when we are told that Torah saves one from the evil urge not only when one is actively engaged in its study but even when one is temporarily not busy with Torah.
The Torah goes on "he placed these stones under his head," to allude to the statement of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish that when one fails to vanquish the evil urge one should resort to reciting the kriyat shma which is recited at night, seeing David speaks of "on your bed", in Psalms 4:5.
The words "he lay down in that place", allude to the final statement on the subject by Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish that if one fails to overcome one's evil urge one should think of the day when one is going to die. This is why the Torah preferred to use the word "lay down" to "slept", since that word implies a lying down from which one may not get up again. Having employed all those means to try and overcome one's evil urge one may be confident of success.

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Sources

Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rebbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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