Parshat VaYetzei

Parshat Vayetze Dvar Torah

In this week’s parsha, Yaakov is commanded to leave the land that Hashem had promised to him. He traveled to a distant land filled with a people he did not know but who were related to his mother. In Perek 29:1, it says, “Then Jacob lifted his feet, and came to the land of the children of the East.”

There are two distinct explanations found in the Midrash that are used to explain this unique choice of words. According to Rashi, Yaakov’s feet carried him for the entire journey, implying that he was satisfied; he was happy to be sent on the mission resulting from the message he received from Hashem in support of his mission. Despite the fact that he was leaving his home and family in Canaan, he was confident that he was making the right decision that would benefit him and his descendents in the future. The second explanation of this pasuk is that Yaakov actually had to carry his own feet. The Midrash states that Yaakov left Bet El dragging his feet behind him, as he had no desire to leave the site where Hashem had appeared to him.

We can learn many lessons from the way a single pasuk is worded in regard to Yaakov’s character, as well as the importance of performing mitzvah, and especially honoring Hashem. Yaakov dreaded leaving a spot that, while it previously had no meaning to him, the significance of his dream and his respect for Hashem made it important and holy.

The Mishna in Avot (4:13) discusses a similar concept: “He who performs one mitzvah acquires for himself a defending angel; he who violates one aveira acquires for himself one prosecuting angel.” The theme of mitzvot is prevalent in this parsha and represented in Yaakov’s dream, such as his mitzvah of respecting Hashem and finding himself an honest and honorable wife to carry on the Jewish nation. Yaakov’s dream of a ladder stretching from Earth up to Heaven with angels ascending and descending is parallel to the concept learned from the Mishna in Avot that Yaakov has a “defending angel.” Through his mitzvot of kibbud ‘av v’aim, uninterrupted learning, and his other exceptional good deeds, he merited the protection of all the angels sent down from heaven on the ladder, as the quality of mitzvot one does are related directly to how much divine protection is offered. This concept can be applied to our everyday lives as a simple reminder to take advantage of the opportunity to perform a mitzvah when it arises, but like Yaakov, to remember to seek out opportunities to perform mitzvot as well.

Student studying in Harova