Vayeitzei: Cold Parsha

Every family in Israel received a monthly "child allowance" from the government for each child under eighteen.  Just yesterday we received a letter from the National Insurance Agency (probably the biggest crime organization in the country), telling us that we will not be receiving three month's worth, since three of my children have been out of the country for the past three months.

Looking at my children, I was wondering how they could not be in front of me.

But, if the National Insurance Agency says so … well … it must be true, no?

It turns out that they mistook the week and a half trip my wife and daughters took in the summer as a three-month journey.  So, what's the solution?  I went on to the website belonging to the Minister of the Interior to request papers showing when they left and came back.  It took a whole 2 minutes per child to request.  Then, I could send those papers over to National Insurance.

Now, why the brainiacs over there couldn't check in with their friends in Interior, is beyond my imagination (probably hoping I wouldn't fight it).

Things like this make me more and more libertarian.

Just a quick thought that came to me …

Every year when we reach this parsha … I don't know … but I always feel cold.  Yeah, chances are it's the weather, but there's something about reading the parsha that casts a darkness on the reader.

Here we have Yaakov.  He's on the run.  His brother wants to kill him.  His nephew robbed him of everything.  He had to leave his parents, leave Eretz Yisroel, and travel hundreds of kilometers to get to his uncle, who happens to be a swindler.  And remember, this is not Eisav, who is used to life on the run.  We're talking about somebody who the Torah describes as "who lives in the tents."  We're talking about somebody who spent his whole life in the yeshiva.  And now?  He's in a completely foreign environment, completely separated from any possible support.

No wonder I feel cold.

Yaakov is experiencing a personal exile.  Something his father and grandfather did not seem to have to go through.  They had their tests, for sure, but from what we have seen in the Torah, Yaakov, from this parsha on, seems to be taking hit after hit.

When the parsha begins, Yaakov has his famous "ladder" dream.  Realizing that he is standing on holy ground, and after receiving a promise from Hashem that He will be with him, Yaakov himself "pledges allegiance" and promises that he will continue following Hashem's way, come what might.

And despite everything Lavan did to him, all the trickery, and the years of work Yaakov gave him, we see that Yaakov not only returned to Eretz Yisroel, spiritually intact, but he came with a large family that follows in his way.

Perhaps this is why, out of all the forefathers, the name Yisroel (which Yaakov will be given next week), is the most mentioned on our lips.  Perhaps this is why the Torah gives us far more detail in his life than the lives of Avraham and Yitzchok.  Because what Yaakov went through mirrors very much what each individual Jew goes through in life.

And what was it that gave him the strength to continue spiritually?  He knew that whatever happened to him, wherever he was forced to go, it was because Hashem sent him there and followed him there.

How often have we come to a situation in life where we wonder "how did I get here?" and then wonder "how do I get out?"  It's very difficult in the midst of trouble to remember and internalize it, but the truth is: Hashem put you there and He put you there for a reason.  What that reason is?  Sometimes we find out, sometimes we don't.  That's what makes things so difficult.

However, just as Yaakov received a promise before he went into his personal exile, we too have our promise.  The Torah is full of reminders of "I will be with you."

And this is the key to survival:

"Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

Wherever we go, whatever we go through, however alone we are, if we can somehow keep this promise in mind, that will alleviate a lot of the suffering.

Just as a patient feels better knowing why the painful treatments are necessary, even though he doesn't know all the details; so does a person feel better knowing that that the painful trials and tribulations of life are necessary, even through he doesn't know all the details.

With that, I leave you all with a nice, warm, trial-free Shabbos.