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Parshat Vayeishev

By: Mrs. Rena Coren

Parshat Vayeishev 
(based on Tiferet Hatorah, by Rav Pincus zt"l)
Mrs. Rena Coren
Each of our Avos paved different paths by which to connect to Hashem.  Avraham Avinu's path was that of chesed (loving kindness); Yitzchak’s was gevurah (inner strength and awe of G-d); and Yaakov’s was emet (truth, harmony).
Avraham Avinu's life clearly reflects the middah of chesed, as we see through his acts of hachnasat orchim (welcoming strangers/guests), his passionate plea on behalf of even the lowest dregs of society (Sedom and Amorah), and his constant disseminating an awareness of G-d (see Ahavat Chesed III, perek 7, that the greatest act of chesed is to teach others about G-d and His Torah.  Yitzchak, too, lives a life through which his midah is readily apparent, as epitomized by the Akeidah, in which he allowed himself to be bound and offered as a sacrifice. 
When it comes to Yaakov, however, his life seems to bespeak the antithesis of the midah of emet.  According to the pshat, Yaakov swindles his brother Eisav out of the bechorah (rights of the first-born), fools his father Yitzchak into thinking he is Eisav and thereby claiming the berachot (blessings) designated for his older brother, and proclaims himself Lavan's brother or equal in trickery.  Undeniably, Yaakov had the best of motives for all that he did, but where is the midah of emet?
Rav Pincus presents a beautiful answer which redefines our understand of what “emet” truly means.  Yaakov Avinu went through many trials and tribulations in his life, especially in this week’s parshah. After facing all these struggles, Yaakov feels it is time for him to return to his true calling as the “Ish tam, yosheiv ohalim,” to finally be able to sit and learn Torah and to live peacefully.  “Va-yeishev Yaakov” – Rashi explains, “Bikeish Yaakov la-shevet be-shalvah…”, but instead he suffers the greatest challenge of his life, the loss of his son, Yosef Hatzadik. 
From our vantage point, we see the very human side of mourning the loss of a favorite son, which painfully haunts him for the next 22 years (Zohar 1:189), until they are reunited.  We must understand, however, that there is a much deeper level of loss that Yaakov experiences when Yosef “dies.” Since his youth, when Yaakov acquired the rights of the firstborn and the berachot from his father, his life’s goal had been to build the foundations of Am Yisrael.   Yaakov is the Av chosen to produce the twelve tribes, each with his own path of holiness, who will be the building blocks of the future nation.  When Yosef disappears, so does the dream of a lifetime. Moreover, from the day Yosef was stolen, the Shechinah (divine presence) left him; he could see, but couldn’t see. He could hear, but couldn’t hear. (Bereishit Rabbah 91:6).  Additionally, Hashem had revealed to Yaakov that if one of his sons died in his lifetime, Yaakov would lose his reward in the world to come. For 22 years, Yaakov lived with these painful realities… the loss of a precious son, the loss of the closeness of Hashem’s presence, the loss of any future reward, and believing his life’s work crushed before his eyes. 
It is specifically in these circumstances that the greatness of Yaakov is revealed.  Instead of falling into despair, he does not descend one iota from the high spiritual level he had established for himself.  The truth of the convictions upon which he had built his essence until this point remains as firm as ever.  How natural and how easy it would have been to give up and turn away from the path he had travelled until now.  Seemingly, he had reached a spiritual and emotional dead end, from which there was no reprieve.   What purpose would there be in continuing to toil, if it was all for naught?  Yet Yaakov Avinu, instead of weakening, strengthens his hold on the truths which have guided him until now, on ratzon Hashem in this world, and continues to grow higher and higher. This unwavering dedication and perseverance is true emet.
In our own lives, we encounter challenges and obstacles which threaten to pull us away from Torah and from our own inner truths. May we be zocheh to learn from Yaakov Avinu and stay firm in following ratzon Hashem in this world, thereby embodying and internalizing the midah of emet.




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