Friday, December 08, 2006

Parshas Vayishlach

“Yaakov arrived safely at the city of Shechem, which is in the Land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram. He encamped before the city.”

וַיָּבא יַעֲקב שָׁלֵם עִיר שְׁכֶם אֲשֶׁר בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן בְּבֹאוֹ מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם וַיִּחַן אֶת פְּנֵי הָעִיר

There is a lot of reid in the meforshim about what exactly it means that he was encamped “es p’nay ha’ir”. A good number of commentaries point out that the word “Vayichan”, is lashon “Chein”/favor. Some say that in order to find favor with the locals, he set up a butcher shop with cheap prices; other say that he rid the town of theft, harlotry, etc. The Shem miShmuel similarly learns out “Vayichan” from lashon “Chein”/favor, but says a bit differently.

The Shem miShmuel wants to say that the favor we are speaking about isn’t that which Yaakov is trying to gain from the locals; rather, it is the favor that Yaakov has for the land of Israel upon his return. A good majority of Yaakov’s life was spent in Eretz Yisrael. Living in such a holy place, being completely surrounded with Kedusha and being “Yosheiv Ohalim” (referring to learning), this type of lifestyle became normal for him. It was only when he went to live with Lavan and in his subsequent return that Israel gained favor in his eyes - he realized what he was missing.

So often in life we don’t realize exactly how good we have it. We say the brachos in the morning like “Zokeif Kifufim” by rote, not realizing what a huge deal it is that we are able to stand up straight and go about our daily tasks. We have friends, spouses, chavrusas, apartments, family, etc. It’s our responsibility to realize how fortunate we are with everything, lest G-d need to teach us a lesson and make us realize what we have by taking it away. That’s why when man was created he was created differently from the rest of the animals. All of the other animals were created male and female separately, while with humans man was created first, and only subsequently was a woman created from man, so that man should know what it is like to live without a partner in order to truly appreciate when one does have a partner.

This theme can also be seen in the upcoming holiday of Chanukah. The requirement of Chanukah is “Ner Ish u’baiso” – one candle. That being said, I have yet to meet a Jew, no matter how religious or irreligious, that only lights one candle. Obviously, we are “Mosif v’Holeich” and add one candle on each subsequent night. Why is this mitzvah different than any other in that it has become the norm that we go above and beyond the call of duty with an extra level of “Mehadrin”? With the Shem miShmuel in mind, we can answer by saying that we lived for years with the Beis haMikdash and the Menorah, and it because the norm for us. Once Hashem destroyed the Beis haMikdash and took the Menorah from us, that was our wake up call to appreciate that which we do on a regular basis (ie, the avodah and Menorah). Now that we miss the Menorah, we have that extra fire in us to do not just the minimum requirement of one candle, but do mehadrin min ha’mehadrin.

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