Remember the Big Picture

Vayeitzei Yaakov mi’Be’er Shava Vayeilech Charanah (Bereishis 28:10)

Those who pay careful attention to the parashah while reviewing it or during its public reading on Shabbos will note a curious fact: unlike almost every other parashah in the Torah, Parashas Vayeitzei contains no breaks from start to finish. It is written in the sefer Torah without any of the customary spaces which indicate the beginning of a new section within the parashah. As there are no coincidences in the Torah, what is the reason for this anomaly?

Harav Chaim Shmulevitz explains that Parashas Vayeitzei contains a number of subplots: Yaakov’s flight from Esav; Yaakov’s dealings with his tricky father-in-law, Lavan; Yaakov’s relationship with his wives Rochel and Leah and the interactions between the two women; the birth of the tribes; and Yaakov’s flight from Lavan back to the land of his parents. When examining any of these episodes in its own light, a number of difficult and seemingly unanswerable questions present themselves.

The Torah intentionally structured Parashas Vayeitzei as one long and continuously unfolding narrative to teach that it is impossible to split up the various events contained therein and judge any of them in a vacuum. Rather, each episode is just one small piece of a much larger picture, one which can only begin to be understood when one steps back and views it in the context of the bigger picture.

The Darkei Mussar relates a profound story about a chassidic Rebbe — Harav Shimon of Yaroslav — who merited living until well past the age of 100. When he was asked in what merit he had enjoyed such a long and healthy life, he responded with words packed with wisdom: “Don’t think that I’ve had an easy life. I’ve had my share of difficulties and pain just like everybody else. If anything, because I’ve lived longer, I’ve had more occasions and opportunities to suffer. It would have been very easy and natural to complain to Hashem, ‘Why did this have to happen? Why couldn’t that have turned out differently?’

“However, I was afraid that if I began demanding a justification and explanation of Hashem’s ways, the Heavenly Court would say, ‘If this Rabbi wants answers so badly, let’s call him up here and give them to him.’ So I never asked any of these types of questions. I didn’t have any more answers than anybody else, but because I never asked for them, they let me stay down here for quite some time!”

As the Torah was written for all generations, it is clear that the lessons contained therein are applicable to every person throughout the ages. The lesson of needing to view events in the context of a larger perspective can be extrapolated to the situations which occur in each of our lives. We should realize that although we don’t always understand the ways of Hashem, we nevertheless must trust that everything that happens is part of His larger master plan, which we will one day merit to comprehend.

 Q: Rashi writes (29:25) that in order to prevent potential trickery by Lavan, Yaakov gave certain simanim (signs) to Rochel that only she would know. When Rochel realized that her father Lavan intended to send Leah under the bridal canopy instead of her, she feared the humiliation her sister would face and related the simanim to her so that she could convince Yaakov that she was indeed Rochel. Even if Leah knew the simanim, why wasn’t Yaakov able to recognize that her voice wasn’t that of Rochel?

 Q: The Ramban writes (Bereishis 26:5) that Yaakov was permitted to marry Rochel and Leah in spite of the Torah’s prohibition (Vayikra 18:18) against marrying two sisters because the forefathers only observed the mitzvos in the Land of Israel, and Yaakov married them outside of Israel. What will be their status at the time of the resurrection of the dead, when they will all be living in Eretz Yisrael?

 A: The Bechor Shor suggests that even though Yaakov was betrothed to Rochel for seven years and lived in close proximity to her, he intentionally limited his interactions with her and wasn’t sufficiently familiar with her voice to discern that his new wife’s voice didn’t match. The Maharsha explains that the fact that Leah knew the secret signs that Yaakov had given to Rochel tricked him into assuming that she was Rochel and not correctly identifying her based on her voice, similar to the fact that Yaakov’s hairy hands deceived Yitzchak into thinking that he was Esav despite the difference in their voices (Bereishis 27:23). The M’rafsin Igri posits that since they were sisters, the voices of Rochel and Leah were so similar that Yaakov was unable to differentiate between them.

 A: The Ben Ish Chai maintains that the dead who will be resurrected will be legally viewed as if they were newly created, with no connection to their earlier existence. As such, Rochel and Leah will no longer be considered sisters, and Yaakov will be allowed to marry both of them.


Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer 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