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Parshas Vayeishev - The Long Road Home part II                    22 Kislev 5779

11/29/18 22:41:45


Last week my wife and I spent a few days away from San Diego which, of course, deepened our appreciation for our great city. As you may recall from last week’s message, I followed Waze and arrived at our destination, avoiding a lot of unnecessary traffic. I was so proud of myself… until the next morning. You see, we visited a city that I had previously been to for a rabbinic conference. Up until the time we arrived, I had not realized that we were checking into the same hotel I’d stayed in five years ago.

I remembered that the Shul was very close by; it had advertised it was located only one tenth of a mile from the hotel. I left the hotel at seven thirty in the morning, hoping to learn a little before davening which started at eight. Armed with my coffee, Talis and Tefilin, I embarked on my short journey to Shul. As I was about to get into my car, I paused and said that I should walk the five minutes instead of drive. I strolled toward the Shul, only to recognize the area but not able to find the Shul which was a converted house. Balancing my coffee and Talis /Tefilin bag, I searched for the Shul address on my phone and used google maps to guide me. . The Shul picture came up and I saw a new building of the Shul. Now I panicked as I realized the Shul had moved! I clicked on a walking map of how to get to the new location, and by this time I had exactly enough time to make it there when they were scheduled to start. Unfortunately, I don’t read walking maps very well from my cell phone and what should have taken five minutes ended up taking forty-five minutes. I missed half of Shacharis.

If only I had either checked before leaving to find out if the situation had changed since my last visit, asked someone for directions, or just driven there with the car navigation system, I would have had the fortune of my original plans. In hindsight, I realize that I believed that I knew exactly where to go and how to locate the Shul. I was overconfident and too sure of myself. (Now I know many of you reading this are going to use my situation as the typical male/female difference of action when it comes to needing directions: men never to ask for directions, claiming they ‘know’ the way, while women always tell the man just to ask someone for help. (That may be so, but it’s not the point).

As I was lamenting my poor decision-making, compounded by the fact that once I knew I was lost I tried to figure out the correct way to go by myself, .at one point in the saga of retracing my steps, I came to a T in the road and needed to go either to the right or to the left. I later realized that going to the left in this situation of doubt goes against the advice of Chaza”l. The Rabbis taught “Kol Pinos Sh’Ata Poneh YihYu Derech Yemin”: “When faced with a dilemma of which direction to go, whatever you might think you should do, go to the right. If only I would have first thought about what the Rabbis advise and then follow their advice, I would have saved myself time and aggravation. This is not only a mere ‘direction’ on a compass for travel on streets and roads, but rather it’s following the advice of Chaza”l in the map of life. Keep in mind when I mention the advice and words of the sages, that is just another way of saying “the Derech HaTorah” - the ways of the Torah.

Life is a mission; it is our forefathers who, through their actions, lead us and show us how to navigate the world in which we live. In this week’s Parsha Vayeishev, Yaakov Avinu is punished with the the episode of Yosef and the hardship of resettling in Egypt at the end of his life. Many of the commentaries explain the reason for this to have occurred. The very first passuk of the parsha states in Bereishis 37:1 Vayeishev Yaakov B’Eretz M’Gurei Aviv, B’Eretz Canaan”: “Meanwhile, Jacob settled in the area where his father had lived in the land of Canaan”. There is an apparent contradiction in the terminology. The word ‘Vayeishev’, in reference to Yaakov, connotes a dwelling as a resident in contrast to the word ‘M’gurei’, meaning sojourning of his father Yitzchok. The Kli Yakar points out it should be consistent in that for both Yaakov and Yitzchok the word should be either sojourning or being a resident. A second question is why does the Torah need to say the land of Yitzchok’s sojourning was Eretz Canaan? Kli Yakar explains that Yaakov is guilty because he asked to dwell in this world with permanence and not as a sojourner in this world as had his father. Yitzchok was a sojourner in this world even when he was living in his permanent place of Israel. Earlier in Bereishis 26:3, Hashem commands Yitzchok to “remain an immigrant in this land”. This land, not referring to the land of Israel per se, but rather to his life on this earth. Even though the land of Canaan did belong to Yitzchok and technically Yitzchok was a citizen, he nevertheless lived his life in this world, constantly sojourning like a Ger, a stranger. In fact, we find similar wording and emphasis by Avraham Avinu as well. When Avraham was purchasing the M’Oras HaMachpeilah to bury Sorah, he said to Ephron in Bereishis 23:4,“Ger V’Toshav Anoci Imachem”: I am an immigrant and a resident among you”. If you want to treat me like a stranger, I will take the land that is rightfully mine because I live here! Yitzchok inherited the land of Canaan from his father and still acted as a Ger, a sojourner or as an immigrant in respect to his life. Yaakov missed the point; he did not learn that lesson from his father and grandfather. Perhaps I can take some literary license and use a pun on the word ‘right’. As mentioned earlier, at a crossroad when in doubt one should go to the right and not to the left. So too, in the crossroads of life, when a person is in doubt of what to do, he should follow in the ‘right’ direction and manner that his father and grandfather before him had traveled.

As we are about to begin the festival of Chanukah, we are reminded of its lessons. It is the light and the learning of the Torah that guided the Jews to overcome the Yevanim. So, too, in our day and age with the struggles of modern-day Hellenism which is at an all-time high, we need to strengthen our commitment to Torah values and observance of the Mitzvos to be successful. Let us follow the path and direction from our forefathers who, during persecution and immense challenges, maintained their dedication to Hashem. Let us rededicate our conviction during our challenges of life and take the right path as did our parents and grandparents.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780