Parshas Vayaitzai 08

This weeks Parsha is Parshas Vayaitzai. In the beginning of the Parsha we read of the saga of Jacob and Laban. Jacob, who was the nephew of Laban, married two daughters of Laban – Rachel and Leah. As we are introduced to Laban in the Parsha, we find ourselves exposed to a man who is a complete fraud and thief. After offering Jacob his daughter Rachel if he will work for him for seven years, Laban proceeds to instead give Jacob his daughter Leah as a wife. When confronted with his deceit, Laban offers Jacob to also give him Rachel if he will work for him for a second period of seven years. After these fourteen years, Laban and Jacob agree on terms for Jacob to remain employed taking care of Labans flock, in exchange for certain sheep of Laban’s flock. Laban proceeds to change the terms of this agreement one hundred times. During this entire time, Jacob remains completely honest, watching and caring Laban’s flocks day and night, going way beyond the call of duty. His integrity is held up as an example of honesty to be replicated to this day. Finally, when Jacob does leave from Laban, he does so without telling Laban out of fear that Laban may try to prevent him from doing so. When Laban does find out that Jacob has left, he immediately chases after him in quick pursuit. Hashem appears to Laban at the last moment, warning him not to try to harm Jacob. Laban listens, and bids farewell to Jacob and his family.

As the episode with Laban drew to a close, Jacob, together with his sons, erects a mound of stones, calling it “Galeid” – “pile that is a witness”. Jacob explained to Laban that this mound of rocks would stand as witness that he and his descendents would not pass by this mound to go towards Laban to do bad to him; while Laban and his descendants would not pass it to do bad to Jacob. (It is interesting to note that the Zohar tells us that many years later when Bilaam went to curse the Jews, this mound was the wall that the his donkey crushed his foot into for going to hurt the Jewish people.) When the Torah describes the actual erection of this mound, there is a very interesting point hinted to. “And Jacob told his brothers gather stones, and they gathered stones and made a mound” (Genesis 31:46). Who were Jacob’s “brothers”? We know that Jacob had only one brother, Esau, who certainly wasn’t helping him? Who were these people? Our Sages tell us that the Torah is actually referring to Jacobs sons. Why are they referred to as brothers?

Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, late dean of the Tels Yeshiva, pointed out that the Torah is teaching us an important principle in raising and teaching children or students. It is not enough for us to just tell others what they should do. Rather, we must try to make our students partners in our actions and deeds. They should not feel like they are simply recipients of instructions from others, but as partners in action and deed. This will lift them up and motivate them in the most powerful way imaginable. Jacob, rather than referring to his sons as simply his children, referred to them thus as his brothers – his partners in his mission in life.