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Wedding Speeches for Vayeitzei

Wedding Speeches for Vayeitzei

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1.

It is a common phenomenon that [Quite commonly] various concerns and worries about the future run through the mind of the young man who is seeking a shidduch. The Midrash Rabbah (Bereishit 68:2) tells us that Yaakov was no different, and the following dialogue took place in his mind:

King David said (Psalms 131:1) ‘Esa einai el heharim’ — ‘I will lift up my eyes to the mountains’ — read not harim — mountains — rather horim — parents — i.e., my instructors and those who conceived me. ‘Mei’ayin yovo ezri’ — ‘From where shall come my help?’ Of Eliezer, when he went to bring Rivkah as a wife for Yitzchak, it is written, ‘And the servant took ten camels, etc.’ (24:10). However, I have not a single ring or bracelet! Though my parents sent me off well provided, Eisav’s grandson Elifaz arose and stripped me of the entire wealth. Then Yaakov said differently; ‘Shall I lose confidence in my Creator? G‑d forbid! I will not lose confidence in my Creator, but Ezri mei’im Hashem oseh shomayim va’aretz — My help will come from Hashem Who made heavens and earth.’”

What message is this Midrash conveying for every young man to learn from our father Yaakov when he is looking for his mate in life?

From birth up to the age of 63, Yaakov lived in the home of his parents. The Torah (25:27) describes him as “a sincere man, abiding in the tents” — Rashi explains this to mean that he occupied himself with studying Torah in the academy of Sheim and Eiver. On the instructions of his parents he left their home to find a shidduch. On route, he stopped over for an additional 14 years in the academy of Eiver to study Torah (28:13, Rashi).

Finally, at the age of 77, he could no longer procrastinate, so he set out to actually find a girl to marry. His brother Eisav was fuming with anger for Yaakov’s taking away the blessings that their father intended for him, so he sent his grandson Elifaz to kill him. Yaakov pleaded with him for his life and ultimately convinced him that since a poor man is considered as dead, he should take his wealth and spare him his life (see Yalkut Mei’am Lo’eiz). Yaakov was then a penniless yeshivah bachur, and his first concern was “from where shall come ezri — my help.”

Now, the word “ezri” can be a reference to a wife who the Torah (Bereishit 2:18) calls “eizer” — “a helper.” Thus, Yaakov was worried about how he would support a wife now that he was in financial ruins. The first thing that came to mind is that “esa einai el hahorim” — I will look for a girl who has rich parents and receive a huge dowry, and thus my worries about maintenance will be alleviated.

This reminds me of the conversation that took place between two yeshivah students. The younger one asked the older one, “What are you waiting for, why don’t you get married?” To which he replied “It is not easy, I’m looking for a girl with a Ph.D.” “What,” he said in astonishment, “you never went to college and you want a girl with a Ph.D.!?” “You don’t understand,” he replied, “the Ph.D. I’m looking for is not the degree; it stands for Pop Has Dough.”

Instantaneously, Yaakov was disappointed with himself, and reprimanded himself saying “Am I, G‑d forbid, losing my faith in Hashem? Money is not the thing to look for in marriage. Money comes and money goes. One can marry a girl from a rich family who, G‑d forbid, can go bankrupt and what is he left with? Nothing.”

Immediately, he retracted his previous line of thought, saying, “G‑d forbid, I will not lose my confidence in Hashem. ‘Ezri mei’im Hashem oseh shamayim va’aretz’ — ‘My help will come from Hashem, who makes heavens and earth.’ ”

The word shamayim, which means heavens, represents ruchniut — spirituality — and the word eretz–earth—represents gashmiyut — materiality. Hashem created both of these, but first He created the heavens (see Chagigah 12a). This is an indication that spiritual matters have a priority over material ones.

Yaakov was thus alluding “When I look for ezri — my helper in life — my emphasis will be to find one who values the spiritual over the material accomplishment — money. Also, I am more interested in one who has acquired intrinsic spiritual qualities than one whose quality is the (temporal) material accomplishment she brings with her into the marriage.” Yaakov’s message for posterity was that spiritual qualities such as yirat Shamayim — fear of Heaven — and knowledge of Torah — are everlasting. They are the most important assets when it comes to building a home and raising a family.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, hopefully this will be your guidepost in life and may it merit you the unlimited berachah Hashem gave Yaakov, that “Ufaratzta yamah, vakeidmah, vetzafonah vanegbah” — “You shall burst [spread?] forth westward, eastward, northward and westward” (Bereishit 28:14, see Shabbat 118a).

(ילקוט הדרוש)


2.

In Parshat Vayeitzei we read about Yaakov’s preparations to go out into the world and start building his own home. The Torah tells us, “He took from the stones of the place and he placed them around (under) his head.” (28:11)

Rashi says that he wanted to protect himself from wild animals. The obvious difficulty with this is why did he protect only his head and not the rest of his body?

A very important lesson can be learned from Yaakov’s actions. Yaakov spent all his years studying Torah in the home of Yitzchak and in the Beit Midrash of Sheim and Eiver. Now he had to give up some of his Torah study time and engage in worldly matters.

Yaakov knew that in the world at large there are many forces that are alien to Torah and mitzvot and hostile to the religious Jew. These forces influence the mind of the Jew and try to persuade him to leave the path of Torah. Therefore, Yaakov made a great effort to protect his “head,” to prevent negative influences from interfering with his Yiddishkeit (see Likkutei Sichot, vol. I).

Afterwards the Torah tells us, “He took the stone that he placed around his head and set it up as a pillar” (28:18). It could be said that Yaakov’s taking a stone conveys to us what he was resolving for himself at that time and what all his descendants should strive for when they begin to build their own world.

The Gemara (Bava Kamma 30a) says: “He who wants to be a chassid should observe the laws of nezikin — damages” (being careful not to hurt anyone or damage property). Rava says that he should follow the teachings of Avot (Book of Ethics), and others say that he should be observant in the laws of berachot (recognizing the supremacy of Hashem and thanking Him for everything). The word “even” (אבן) — “stone” — is an acronym for the three concepts “avot, berachot, nezikin” (אבות, ברכות, נזיקין).

Taking this thought a step further, it may also be said that “berachot” — recognizing the supremacy of Hashem and thanking Him for everything — is an allusion to the relationship between man and Hashem (bein adam laMakom). “Nezikin” — being careful not to hurt or injure a fellow man, represents inter-human relationships (bein adam lachaveiro). To be exemplary, within these two realms, one must conduct himself following the guidelines and teachings conveyed by “Avot” — our ancestors.

As Yaakov was preparing to enter the “outside world,” his first resolution was to be a chassid. The placing of these stones as the guidepost for his “head” indicated his resolve to follow the teaching of his Avot — ancestors and mentors and thus seek to excel in both, his relationship with Hashem and his fellow man.

Rashi also quotes the Midrash that the stones began to quarrel with one another. Each one said “upon me shall the righteous one lay his head.” Hashem miraculously made them all into one stone, as the pasuk states, “and he took the stone (in singular) that he placed around his head.” (This is in contrast to the phrase “[he took from] avnei” — the stones — which the earlier pasuk uses).

My dear Chatan and Kallah, Hashem doesn’t do things just to demonstrate His unlimited powers; Why did He make such a miracle, and what message did He want to convey with the three stones becoming one?

Perhaps He was teaching that those stones represent three things which are all of equal importance and inseparable. The Jewish home must be built on all three of them and when they are united they represent a true Beit Elokim — “House of G‑d.”


3.

The Midrash (Rabbah 78:5) relates that Rabbi Yehoshua explained to the famous proselyte Akilas, who translated the Torah into Greek and who was related to the Emperor Andrinas, that when Yaakov prayed “And He will give me bread to eat” (28:20), he was asking for the lechem hapanim — the 12 loaves which were placed weekly on the table in the Mishkan and Beit Hamikdash. Why would Yaakov ask now for lechem Hapanim when there was no Mishkan?

Perhaps the reference to lechem hapanim is allegorical: The twelve loaves were baked on Friday and placed on the table Shabbat morning. They remained there until the following Shabbat morning. Normally, bread which is exposed for eight days becomes stale, but these loaves miraculously remained fresh. When they were removed, they were just as warm and fresh as when they were first put on the table (Chagigah 26b).

Yaakov spent his life studying Torah in the home of Yitzchak and also in the Beit Midrash of Sheim and Eiver. Now that he was preparing to go out into the world to encounter Lavan and his contemporaries, he was anxious about his own future. His heart was heavy. He knew that his uncle Lavan was an out-and-out materialist. To him worldly possessions were above everything else in life. Yaakov feared that dealing with the “world” might influence him to modernize and change his approach to Yiddishkeit.

Therefore, in his prayer to Hashem, he asked for the lasting power of lechem hapanim, which never shrivels, cools or grows stale. He was alluding that in the future, in the environment of Lavan, his devotion to Torah and mitzvot would not change, and he would be as enthusiastic about Torah and mitzvot as he was in his early years.

There is a Yiddish expression, “Az men iz yung, iz men varem; az men vert elter, vert men keltler” — “When one is young, he is warm; as one grows older he chills.” Aside from the scientific validity of this statement, it often, unfortunately, also applies to spiritual matters. Many yeshivah bachurim and seminary girls who while in the yeshivah or seminary were among the greatest learners and meticulous observers, after entering into marriage, often seem to have “cooled” — their enthusiasm for Torah learning and mitzvot is a far cry from what it was in their pre-marriage days.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, like our father Yaakov, you (and every young couple) should pray for the miraculous quality of the lechem hapani;. You should be blessed with power to remain faithful to your original ideas and ideals and pursue a lifetime together which will be compatible with the lofty and exalted spirit and the warmth to Torah and mitzvot of your youth.

(הרב דוב ארי' ז"ל בערזאן)


4.
Luz and the House of G‑d

In this week’s parshah we read that our father Yaakov named the place where he had the famous dream of the ladder which was set earthward with its top reaching heavenward, “Beit Keil” — the “House of G‑d.” The Torah says, “However, Luz was the city’s name originally.”

Everything in Torah is a guide for us in our daily lives. What could possibly be the necessity for Torah to tell us the previous name of the city? What difference does it make to us in this day and age? It seems that all we need to be concerned with is that the city was named “Beit Keil” by our father Jacob.

However, my dear Chatan, Kallah and assembled relatives and guests, it seems to me that a very serious message comes forth from this passage. Torah wants to tell us that the forerunner to the House of G‑d — Beit Keil — was Luz.

What is the significance of Luz? The answer to this we find in the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 28:3). We are told that Adrianus (Hadrian) said to Rabbi Yehoshua the son of Chanina, “Tell me, when Al-mighty G‑d will resurrect the dead, from where will He begin in man?” He wanted to know if the resurrection will begin from some specific part of the body. Rabbi Yehoshua answered him: “After a person goes to his eternal rest and his physical remains return to dust, every part of his body will decompose except the little bone on the spine which is called ‘luz.’ No power in the world can destroy this bone, and from it the resurrection will begin.”

Adrianus was rather doubtful of this, so he asked that they bring him this bone. They did and he tested it. First he tried to grind it in a grindstone, but it remained the same. Then he threw it into a fire, but it was not consumed. Then he soaked it in water but nothing rubbed off or disintegrated. Then he placed in on an anvil and pounded it with a hammer. The anvil split and the hammer broke, but the bone remained intact.

From this we can understand the lesson that Torah is conveying to us. In order for the Jewish people to be able to face up to the trials and tribulations in life, maintain a House of G‑d, and live up to the standards that Torah has given us, we must first be as strong as the bone called “luz.” No matter how much our enemies may try to break and destroy us, a Jew must be headstrong and steadfast, never weakening or, G‑d forbid, succumbing.

Therefore, the Torah tells us, if you want to have a Beit Keil — if you want to build a home in Israel which will be a House of G‑d, you must first prepare and condition yourself to be strong in your will-power and determined in your convictions to maintain and uphold Torah and mitzvot without weakening one iota. If you will be a “luz,” then you will be able to build a Beit Keil.

This is, indeed, a lesson to every Jew, and especially to a Chatan and Kallah who are starting out in life. When a young couple begins to build a home in Israel they must understand that in order to have a Beit Keil, there must be “luz” before it. There must be determination by both parties to be as strong as the “luz” — to stand up against the ill winds that blow both from without and within and not give alien influences an opportunity to break through or to, G‑d forbid, have an impact. Then they are assured that the home they are building will be a true Beit Keil — House of G‑d — and their future will be bright, beautiful, and successful.

(הרב יעקב יהודה ז"ל העכט)


5.

Destitute and alone, weary and tired, Yaakov after offering the evening prayer of Maariv, finally put down his head on a pillow that he formed from stone and sought a good night’s rest. This is something he didn’t afford himself for the past fourteen years while he attended the Torah Academy of Sheim and Eiver.

But it wasn’t a very restful sleep. His mind was occupied with dreams. He saw a strange vision of “a ladder set earthward with its top reaching heavenward, and behold, angels of Hashem were ascending and descending on it.”

Suddenly he awoke and was frightened. He realized that his dream was some sort of a prophecy. He had experienced a communication with G‑d! He looked around and declared “G‑d is in this place. How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of Hashem and this is the gate to the heavens.”

The Torah does not tell us the symbolism of this dream, nor does it tell us the location. Our Sages (Midrash Rabbah 68:12), however, reveal that the ladder alludes to Sinai, the angels represent Moshe and Aharon, and Hashem stood atop the ladder just as He stood atop Mount Sinai to give the Torah.

The house of G‑d that he envisioned was none other than the mountain of Moriah, where Avraham bound his son Yitzchak on the altar and where ultimately the Beit Hamikdash would be built. The essence of the dream was that man standing on earth can reach the greatest heights through Torah and prayer. They are the ladder that connects earth and heaven, and through Torah and prayer, mortal man spiritually ascends the rungs of the ladder.

What I told you until now is all well-known, even by young children who are beginners in the study of Chumash. There is, however, one thing that begs explanation. How did Yaakov know all this? What convinced him that this place was the house of Hashem, the place of the holy Beit Hamikdash?

There is, though, one nuance in the text that is missed in translation, and it took the great Chassidic master and Torah genius Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz of Frankfurt on Mein, who was a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, to remind us of it.

Hebrew verbs are inflected to indicate the person performing the action. Thus, the word yadati means “I knew,” and “lo yadati” means “I did not know.” When Yaakov wakes from his sleep, however, he says, “Surely G‑d is in this place ve’anochi lo yadati” — “And I did not know” now, Anochi means “I.” In this sentence, it is superfluous. To translate it literally we would have to say, “And I, I did not know it.” Why the double “I”?

To this, Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz (in his Sefer on Torah Panim Yafot) gave a magnificent answer. How do we come to know that “G‑d is in this place”? By ve’anochi lo yadati — not knowing the “Anochi” — “I”. We know G‑d when we forget the self. We sense Divine Presence when we move beyond the “I” of egocentricity. Only when we stop thinking about ourselves do we become truly open to the Creator of the world.

Yaakov was teaching that real prayer is an escape from the prison of the self. The relentless first person singular, the I, falls silent for a moment and we become aware that we are not the center of the Universe. When a person reaches that state it is a sign that he has become permeated with the holiness of the house of Hashem. Before that experience is reality, he may be physically standing in a house of Hashem, but realistically he is millions of miles away.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, you are now embarking on building your miniature Beit Hamikdash — a home which will be permeated with the spirit of G‑dliness. Feeling that spirit and enjoying it in its fullest depends on ve’anochi lo yadati — I do not know the “I”. Everything must be we, us and ours. The reward for a couple who reaches such a state is that Hashem says “Anochi yadati” — “I love (as in “ki yedativ,” see Bereishit 18:19) them and will bestow upon them all the best.”

Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky has been a pulpit rabbi for over thirty years, and is author of more than ten highly acclaimed books on the Parshiot and holidays. His Parshah series, Vedibarta Bam, can be purchased here.
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