Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Vayishlach

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In this week's parsha, Yaakov takes certain steps to prepare to meet with Esav. As part of his preparation he sends emissaries to Esav with a message that Yaakov has become small. Part of the message is found in the pasuk where Yaakov says to Esav, I lived with my father in law, Lavan (32:6). Rashi on the pasuk offers two explanations for what Yaakov was telling Esav. The first explanation is that Yaakov was telling Esav that he was a temporary resident by his father in law and had not amassed anything as a result of his time there. The second explanation (which is more famous) is that Yaakov told Esav - I stayed with my father in law, but I kept the Torah and I did not learn from Lavan's ways.

R' Frand quoted the Klei Yakar who noted that the explanations are contradictory. On the one hand, Yaakov says to Esav, I am nothing and accomplished little when I was by Lavan. Yet according to the second explanation, he is telling Esav - I kept the Torah while I was with Lavan, so stay away from me because I am powerful.

R' Frand quoted an answer given by R'  Leib Gurwitz to this seeming contradiction. He explains that Yaakov was telling Esav,  I lived with Lavan and kept the Torah, but I did not learn from Lavan's ways and his enthusiasm for doing things. 

R' Frand gave a parallelism to explain the concept. He noted that soon it will be Thanksgiving and with it, the black Friday sales. People will be leaving their turkey dinners and football early in order to line up in the parking lots for the doorbuster sales. R' Frand said that while there is nothing that could motivate him to camp out in a parking lot, there are people who will do it in order to take advantage of the possibility of buying a large screen TV for $150.

This was the message that Yaakov was giving Esav. I stayed with Lavan and saw how fanatical and enthusiastic he was to do certain things. I was able to keep the Torah while I was with Lavan, but I did not pick up his enthusiasm and was not energetic in my keeping of the Torah and its mitzvos.

R' Frand also said a vort on the words "Vayichan es Pnei Ha'ir" which are found in Bereishis 33:18. R' Frand quoted the sefer Pesikta Zutrasi who explains this pasuk as Yaakov showed his sense of gratitude (HaKaras HaTov) to the people of the City for their kindness. As such, Yaakov sent presents to the leadership of the City. Yaakov also built marketplaces and sold goods for low prices so that people would have things. The Yerushalmi explains that Yaakov built bath houses for the people of the City. Why? Because the greater the man, the greater he will express his appreciation for the kindness of others.

R' Frand told a few stories which illustrate this point. One of the stories involved R' Gustman (sp?) who was the Rosh Yeshiva of a Yeshiva called Netzach Yisrael in Jerusalem. It was observed by the boys in the Yeshiva that the Rav used to personally all the plants and trees in front of the Yeshiva. They asked him why he did it and they were given the following explanation.

When the Rav was living in Europe before WWII, he lived in Vilna and spent time with R' Chaim Ozer. Periodically, R'  Chaim Ozer would take him for walks in the woods and he would point out to him the trees with edible berries and those which were poisonous. 

Years later, Rav Gustman used those lessons that he learned from R' Chaim Ozer when R' Gustman was hiding out from the Nazis in the forest. As a sign of his HaKaras HaTov for the trees and bushes, Rav Gustman took it upon himself to water the ones around his Yeshiva, even though the trees in Israel were clearly not the same trees which sustained him in the forest.

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