Parshas Vayeitzei 5757 - 1996
Outline # 11
Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1. "Pizur Hakedusha" -- Sanctity Fractured, Scattered
After Yaakov has usurped the coveted blessings, he begins a life of trial
and tribulations. Fleeing the wrath of his angry brother, he finds himself
outside of the secure household he has always known. The Rabbis say that
he sojourned to the ancient Academy of Shem V'eiver, and studied the traditional
teachings of the early prophets. Why was it necessary for the studious Yaakov
to learn under other teachers, when he had already had achieved so much in
his studies under the Patriarchs Avraham and Yitzchak? Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky
explained that the Academy of Shem V'eiver taught Yaakov the fundamentals
of life in the "real world" -- the new life that Yaakov was about to enter
(see Emes L'yaakov).
Dr. Zecharia Dor-shav told me that when his Rebbe, Rav Yitzchak Hutner,
made him a principal, he said, "I'm going to introduce you to my ba'alei
batim (congregants) -- don't be a Tam (simple person)!" To succeed in the
"real world" as an honest, hard-working and law-abiding citizen, you have
to be clever. This was the Torah of the ancient Academy of Shem V'eiver:
what is permitted and what is illegal in the business world, what must be
done and what cannot be condoned; what efforts must be made and how not to
encroach on another's property; how to avoid being taken advantage of, and
yet accept one's lot and not take advantage of another.
Peaceful serenity eludes Yaakov for most of his days, as the medrash in
parsha Vayeishev says: "Yaakov wanted to sit in peace -- the aggravation
of Yoseif leaped upon him... 'the Holy One says -- it is not enough for the
righteous that they will have the world to come, but they also want this
world?' " After having suffered at the hand of his father-in-law (who cheated
him for many years), witnessed the death of his wives, escaped calamity at
the hands of his brother, seeing his daughter molested, Yaakov thought he
could retire in peace in the Holy Land. Little did he imagine that he would
still have to see Yoseif kidnapped (thought to be dead), Yehuda's two sons
die, Shimon incarcerated, Binyomin taken to an unknown fate. The elderly
Yaakov, severely weakened, suddenly has a flash of brief inspiration: he
foresees the Temple twice destroyed, and the lengthy exile of the modern
era. (Medrash Rabah, see Ramban to Genesis 43:14). With supreme faith, he
sends his sons to Egypt. This is the character of Yisroel (Israel), which
emerges fully as the Patriarch himself goes to Egypt with his entire lineage
(see Ramban at 46:1). On the way he offers "whole-offerings" -- for this
is the "wholesome" character of the Jewish People -- to accept the challenges
and vicissitudes of life with wholeheartedness and courage (see Ramban ibid).
Measure for Measure
One of the great disappointments of the Patriarch's story was the mysterious
incident of Reuven's disturbing his parents' family life. (See Gen. 35:22
-- the commentaries explain that it is not taken literally.) Reuven was
eventually punished by losing the rights of the eldest son. The matter pained
Yaakov till the end, see his final words to Reuven at 49:3-4. It once occurred
to us that Reuven's attempt to disturb family life may be due to his own
disturbed beginning -- his parents were married through the deception of
Lavan (Yaakov's father-in-law), and Reuven was the first product of the marriage.
Indeed, we found the commentary Ohr Hachayim relate the two incidents. The
deception of Lavan caused a "Pizur Hakedusha" -- a fracturing of sanctity,
which would result in the right of the first-born being lost from Reuven
(the eldest son).
If this sounds mysterious, it is only because of the confusion of modern
society in its conception of family life. Principles of love, respect and
dedication of offspring are so distorted by hedonism and self-gratification,
that a causal relationship between conduct of mother and father and conduct
of children sounds preposterous. Sanctity is so badly fractured, that simple
cause and effect no longer seems logical.
See further in Hagos B'parshios (commonly known as "Nachshoni") that Lavan
excused his atrocious behavior by pinning the blame on Yaakov: Because Yaakov
had deceitfully taken the right of the first-born from his brother, he deserved
to marry the eldest daughter, who had been set aside for the elder son...
If there is truth in this claim (see Hagos B'parshios, ibid.), then the lesson
is that our actions come back to us...
The challenge of Yaakov is to root out the confusion and the fractured
sanctity which is at the heart of mankind from its inception, as is indicated
in the story of the forbidden fruit.
2. Chodshei Hashanah (Months of the Year)
Torah says that the nations will see the wisdom of the Jewish People through
the process of sanctifying the calendar. When the famous astronomer Tycho
saw the calculation for the calendar, he proclaimed: "Now I know that the
Jewish G-d is G-d."
Long before Einstein, the Torah regarded time as a dimension. The holy
place is Jerusalem (the place of the binding of Yitzchak and Yaakov's dream),
and the holy time is the seventh day. (The Shabbos is, in fact, the first
mention of sanctity in the entire Torah). Rambam already explained time as
a created entity, relative to the movement of physical bodies (Guide for
the Perplexed). This "theory of relativity" is explicit in the early sections
of the Torah, where G-d states that the sun and the moon shall be for seasons,
days and years (Gen 1:14). Therefore, since our concept of time is entirely
relative to the movement of sun and moon, "time" before the existence of
sun and moon is only a theoretical discussion, because there could not be
a similar manner to measure time.
The year as described by the Torah is essentially a lunar year, but it
must be balanced by the solar year as well, so that the holidays come at
the same seasons. The beginning of our discussion must start with the molad
-- the complete disappearance of the moon before it begins a new cycle. Six
hours later, the moon can be seen by the naked eye.
The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 25a) states that Rabban Gamliel had a tradition
from his grandfather that the new moon comes at 29 days, 12 hours and 793/1080
parts of an hour after the previous new moon. That equals 29.53059 days.
Rambam states that this is an average, not exact, estimation (so it is clearly
indicated in the Talmud, ibid.). The Arachim (Discovery) sefer Nesivos el
Hatorah, compares NASA's calculation today: 29.530588 days. The difference
between our ancient Rabbis' calculation, without the advantage of instruments
or computers, and NASA's, is several millionths of a day! The similarly is
so striking, that the discrepancy would only amount to one day in 14,000
To be continued...
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1 Babbin Court
Text Copyright © 1997
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
and Project Genesis, Inc.