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Parshas Vayeitzay - The Odometer World        7 Kislev 5783

12/01/2022 01:40:46 PM


 There are several items that we might become attached to an item of clothing or unimportant item, not because we’re in love with these ‘treasures’, but more likely because they have been with us for a long time and have served us well. A few of these items come to mind. Perhaps the attachment to these things is more unique to me than to someone else. I happen to wear my clothing to death. I have a system of categorizing my suits, each progressing from Shabbos suit - until I buy a new suit - to weekday suit, to just a basic grab-from-the-closet  remaining old jacket or pair of pants suitable for wear when nothing important is going on. I always wonder yet  never seem to remember when I purchased the suit and how many years following that initial purchase, I continue wearing it. Besides not knowing how long it’s been in my closet, I’d also like to know  how many times I’ve worn it. I would love to have the option of having a “weardometer” installed prior to purchase in a hidden pocket of every suit that is sold – at least to me.

A second example was recognized by my wife who, while traveling, had to deal with the pull tags on the zippers of her suitcase which suddenly gave way and broke off. She immediately grew very concerned that at any moment the  zipper would completely break and she’ll be in trouble, or perhaps I’d be in trouble for just commenting that it’s fine,  and then the entire zipper would refuse to open or shut.  Thanks to this mutual nervousness, we went luggage hunting. Lo and behold, we encountered a wide range of sizes, quality, and price to consider. We began to consider buying something of higher quality which would probably last longer. Then,  as my wife was looking to buy a top-of-the-line piece of luggage she said, “You know, this piece of luggage  has lasted a long time.” In truth, I know it did, and then tried to remember how many years ago we had bought it. But if you think about it, the age of these items is not the critical factor, rather it is how many trips it took and how many baggage handlers man-handled this piece of luggage over its lifetime. So, I started to look for luggage that had a ‘lug-gageometer’, a device I just devised in my mind which would record the number of trips and distance the luggage traveled.  To date, I have been unsuccessful calculating this, so if anybody does find a lug-gageometer, please let me know. What I did find on-line was a Luggage Mileage Life Testing Machine. This kind of machine is used to test the suitcase or traveling bag equipment, complete with different kinds of wheels, assessing the limit load/ appropriate weight in each specimen, intentionally causing impact concussion and abrasion on the specimen by the rubbing and impacting between emery cloth. It even tests  turbulence board and specimen wheel through use of a conveyer-walking testing machine. This machine will imitate the using condition of a suitcase by walking on the road, testing the wheels, axle, wheel carrier, pull bar, and the overall quality of a suitcase to calculate the abrasion value of the wheels.

In Judaism we also measure and meter different parts of life and society. Some things we measure and value consciously; others are evaluated sub-consciously. As Jews, we may have difficulty with these odometers, because we sometimes have something unique, referred to as Kefitzas Haderech. Kefitzas Haderech  קְפִיצַת הַדֶּרֶךְ‎, -  "contraction of the road". It is a Hebrew term used in Jewish sources which refers  to miraculous travel between two distant places within a brief period of time. This would totally throw off the calculation process. Rashi says there are two times Chaza”l speak about Kefitzas HaDerech. The first reference to Kefitzas HaDerech in the Torah is during the story when Avraham’s servant, Eliezer, travels to Ur Kasdim to find a wife for Yitzchak. When Eliezer speaks to Besuel and Lavan, the father and brother of Rivkah, he states: "I came today to the spring, and I said: O Hashem, God of my master Avraham, if You would indeed grant success to the errand on which I am engaged." Rashi explains that the usage of "I came today" indicates that "Today I started on my journey and today I have arrived here.” Hence, we may infer that the earth (the road) shrank for him” (i.e the journey was shortened in a miraculous manner), and uses the literal phrase קפיצת הדרך to reference this phenomenon.

The second reference to kefitzas HaDerech is found in this week’s Parsha Vayeitzay when the Torah states in Bereishis 28:11 "ויפגע במקום וילן שם כי בא השמש ויקח מאבני המקום וישם מראשתיו, וישכב במקום ההוא"  : “He reached a familiar place and spent the night there because the sun had already set. Taking some stones, he placed them at his head and lay down to sleep there”. Rashi, on the word ‘he reached’ or ‘he lighted’ says, “Our Sages explained the word Vayifga as prayer”. This is the source that teaches us that Yaakov instituted the evening prayer (Maariv). The verse makes a distinction by not writing ‘and he prayed’ (instead of ‘he reached’) to teach us that the earth shrank, making the distance less for him.

I feel there is another definition to Kefitzas HaDerech besides the biblical one. In everyday life the road could be ‘shortened’ not only in physical distance but also in time. For example, I made all the green traffic lights, or I got on the right checkout line; it moved  quickly without any issues, etcetera. Each of us must internalize the fact that all extraordinary help is what gives us the super strength needed to do something out of the ordinary. Rav Yaakov Aryeh Guterman (1792-1874) who was the founding admor of the Radzymin Chasidic Dynasty, writes in his sefer Bikurei Aviv that these two incidents are a remez/hint or message to future generations. In the concept ,מעשה אבות סימן לבנים, the stories or actions of the fathers are a sign to their children. There will come a time that children will grow up and face great challenges that in the natural course of events they could not succeed in accomplishing. There are situations that are hopeless, have at best only a slim chance of success, yet unrealistic expectations crystalize, helping us to organize and make something lucrative from it. There are cases when a person struggles to make a living, finds it difficult to get that first break in life and can’t get on track. In all these examples a person needs to put his/her trust, security, and faith in Hashem to make it happen despite the uphill battle and difficulties of the situation. People of faith will gird themselves and become strong, overcoming massive obstacles with the help of Hashem. The help from Hashem to overcome the ordinary path of resistance is the modern day Kefitzas HaDerech,  getting from one place to the next in a quicker and successful fashion that under normal circumstances would be blocked by an impossible impasse.

This extra help can only come through a commitment to the belief that Hashem is the One guiding us in life. Our Avos clearly had that understanding and lived their lives with this belief firmly embedded to the core of their essence. We each could receive that extra benefit as we live our lives with the knowledge that Hashem is running the show; only He can decide how long it will take to get from one place to the next. With this said, on a mundane plane, at least let me know when it’s time to get a new suit.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Fri, December 8 2023 25 Kislev 5784