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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

Nahar U'Pashtei Parshas Chayai sarah

Constant Growth

How many years did Yaakov Aveinu learn Torah in Yeshivah? This is a question commonly found on chumash sheets, and one that we always make a point of teaching our children. Before Yaakov could face the terrible atmosphere that was waiting for him in Lavan’s house, he needed to prepare himself with dedicated Torah study. Some even explain that these fourteen years of learning were specifically to counter the time that Yaakov thought he would be living with Lavan. Torah is everything. Torah gives one the power to overcome his yetzer hara, and molds his character and his entire way of thinking. Rashi brings R’ Chiya Bar Abba who teaches us that the reason the Torah makes mention at the end of this week’s parshah of how long Yishmael lived, is so we can know when Yishmael passed away and use that as a point of reference to deduce that Yaakov must have been somewhere for fourteen years before he went to Lavan. These “missing” fourteen years were the glorious days we speak of fondly, where Yaakov Avinu connected with the Torah in such a strong way. What does seem just a bit odd is that if this episode is so important, integral in showing us how Torah should be central to our lives, why would the Torah hide it so? Why do we need to figure it out with a calculation of missing years based on a mention of Yishmael’s lifespan, and only then learn that Yaakov Avinu was indeed growing into his spiritual potential in Yeshiva? Should the Torah not seek to magnify this concept? Perhaps there lies a second lesson deep within what we see here. Yes, the Torah does want us to learn of the greatness and potency of learning, and how it changes a person and makes him holy. But the Torah also wants to express the idea that no one should ever think that only Yaakov Avinu (or someone of similarly great stature) can or should do this. By hiding the reality of Yaakov’s Torah study, the pesukim come to tell us that the attitude toward growth in Torah should be that it is not something superhuman or extraordinary. Hashem created every person to grow in Torah and avodah, and the fact that we strive to that end is because we do what we should; it is not something that is beyond anyone. Yes, Yaakov was learning and shteiging; because we can too! That is what we do! Then, after we realize this, we can focus on the dedication and the diligence that made Yaakov unique, and work to emulate him. So, aside from all the lessons we must take from the way Yaakov Avinu approached his avodah, we must own this new lesson as well. Of course, we learn! Of course, we grow! This is our purpose! How to do it and what will drive us forward; these are things that one must constantly contemplate and improve upon, but if we grow cannot be in question! Never, ever should a person’s direction be in doubt! A gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss

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