Following Hashem’s Mitzvos Gladly

Vata’an Rochel v’Leah vatomarna lo ha’od lanu chelek v’nachalah b’beis avinu ha’lo nachriyos nechshavnu lo ki mecharanu vayochal gam achol es kaspeinu ki kol ha’osher asher hitzil Elokim me’avinu lanu hu ul’vaneinu v’atah kol asher amar Elokim eilecha aseh (Bereishis 31:14-16).

After Yaakov Avinu told Rochel Imeinu and Leah Imeinu that Hashem commanded him to leave Lavan’s house and return to Eretz Yisrael, they responded with their consent. Curiously, in expressing their support for his decision, Rochel Imeinu and Leah Imeinu explained that they had no hope of inheriting their father’s possessions together with their brothers, and Lavan had treated them as strangers when he sold them and held back their money. Almost as an afterthought, they added that Yaakov Avinu should adhere to Hashem’s instructions to depart.

Why did Rochel Imeinu and Leah Imeinu begin with the justifications for their agreement to leave instead of focusing on what should have been the primary consideration: Hashem’s order to do so?

Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, explains that Rochel and Leah gave their lengthy introduction to teach us that we should not view doing mitzvos as difficult. If we recognize that heeding Hashem’s commandments will not result in financial loss or other setbacks, it will be much easier to do so.

For this reason, Rochel and Leah stressed that they would not incur any monetary loss by obeying Hashem’s instructions since Lavan would not have given them a portion of his estate even if they remained, and as a result, following Hashem’s command was much less of a challenge.

Rav Moshe adds that transmitting this belief to our children is critical to ensuring that they remain observant when they get older. If they see mitzvos as burdens that their determined parents were strong enough to handle, they may elect to opt out.

But if they look at mitzvos in a positive light and appreciate that they will not lose out by doing Hashem’s will, they will be much more likely to continue doing so.

Rav Moshe famously lamented that while the first generation of Jews who immigrated to America were steadfast in their commitment to Shabbos observance, many of them still remarked, “It’s shver (difficult) to be a Yid.”

Because their children grew up viewing Shabbos as a source of stress in their family’s life, many of them rejected it as they got older, to the chagrin and shock of their parents who had given up so much to continue keeping Shabbos. Unfortunately, by verbalizing the sacrifices that Shabbos entailed without giving equal attention to its pleasures, they neglected to transmit to their children the beauty of Shabbos and mitzvos, which is a critical component in proper chinuch.

Along these lines, Harav Yisroel Reisman points out that in Shir Hashirim (4:11), Hashem tells the Jewish people, “Dvash v’chalav tachas leshonech — honey and milk are under your tongue,” a reference to the Torah we have learned.

The phrase “milk and honey” appears 21 times in Tanach, yet this is the only place where honey is mentioned before milk. In the other 20 verses, the expression is worded chalav u’dvash — milk and honey. Why is the word order reversed here?

Rav Reisman explains that normally, milk comes before honey because milk represents vital sustenance — the food that nourishes a growing baby — and honey symbolizes luxurious extras. While sweetness is nice, necessities must come first.

The verse in Shir Hashirim is an exception, for it is discussing Torah study, and when a person is learning Torah, sweetness becomes an essential component, not an optional bonus.

Accordingly, the verse mentions honey before milk to teach us that when we are learning Torah and sharing it with others, especially our children, it must be done in a positive and appealing manner that will make them want more.

Q: Before going to sleep, Yaakov Avinu placed stones around his head (Bereishis 28:11). In what way were these stones different from those found in Lakewood?

A: The Gemara in Kesubos, as explained by Tosafos, relates that when Rav Chanina traveled to Eretz Yisrael and wanted to know if he had reached its borders, he would pick up a stone and weigh it. If it was light, he knew that he had not yet arrived in Israel, where the rocks weigh more. Eventually, when the stones became heavier, he would kiss them to show his love for Eretz Yisrael.

The Gemara in Chullin recounts that Yaakov Avinu left his parents’ home in Be’er Sheva and traveled to Charan, which is outside of Israel. Upon arriving there, he became concerned that he had passed the place where his forefathers prayed (Yerushalayim) without stopping to utter his own entreaties.

As soon as he resolved to retrace his steps back to Yerushalayim, he experienced kefitzas haderech — a miraculous contraction of the ground — and found himself at Mount Moriah. Based on these two Gemaras, Harav Yonason Eibeshutz explains that the kefitzas haderech confused Yaakov Avinu and left him unsure where he was. When he picked up stones and noted how heavy they were, he knew that he was already back in Eretz Yisrael.

Q: There are five people in Sefer Bereishis who made a mishteh (celebratory feast), one of whom is found in Parashas Vayeitzei. How many of them can you identify?

A: In Parashas Vayeitzei, Lavan made a festive meal in honor of the marriage of Yaakov Avinu and Leah Imeinu (29:22). Lot made a feast for the angels who stayed with him (19:3), and Avraham Avinu did so on the day Yitzchak Avinu was weaned (21:8). Yitzchak Avinu made a feast to mark the peace treaty he made with Avimelech and his men (26:30), as did Pharaoh to celebrate his birthday together with his servants (40:20).


Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.