A wise man once said, “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.”
Looking around us, we have many questions in life.
We try to get to grips with as much as we can, but do we really understand what’s happening around us?
One of the most frequent questions that arises is – are my good deeds really being counted? Is anyone really acknowledging what I am doing? How come I don’t see the reward for my generosity straight away?
Our Parasha offers a wonderful insight.
Yaakov sets out on a long unknown journey to find a wife. At the outset he finds himself (initially unbeknown to him) in a Holy place.
He has a spiritual dream, envisaging a cryptic message of support from Hashem.
By the morning he awakes and asks Hashem to help and be with him along his journey.
“Yaakov made a vow, saying, “If G-d will be with me, and guards me on this path that I am going, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear; And if I return in peace to my father’s house, and HASHEM will be my G-d”. (Bereishit 28:20-21)
There is a discussion in the Midrash as to whether Yaakov was answered regarding his request of sustenance.
The Rabbis in the Midrash (sighting earlier Pesukim as proof) explains that Yaakov was answered for every request, apart from sustenance.
Hashem stated that “I will be with you and I will guard you and I will return you.”
There seems to be no Pasuk addressing Yaakov’s request for sustenance.
Rav Asi seemingly disagrees and states that he was also answered for this request.
He sites proof of this from the following Pasuk: Ki Lo Eezavcha – “For I (Hashem) will not leave you.”
Both opinions in the Midrash raise questions.
According to the Rabbis, why did G-d not address this concern?
According to Rav Assi, how do the words, “For I will not leave you,” address sustenance?
The Dubna Magid gives a fascinating answer with the following parable:
A father once sent his son off on a journey to a distant land. Along with provisions, the father also added a bundle of money to pay for his son’s expenses. As they were planning the trip they found out that foreign soldiers were frequenting the roads they needed to use, making travel extremely dangerous.
The father did not want to leave his son alone under such dangerous circumstances and decided to join him on the trip. When they were on the wagon the son said to the father, “Where is the bundle of money you prepared me for expenses on the journey?” The father replied, “Am I not accompanying you? If you need anything just ask me and I will take care of it.”
The same is true for Yaakov Avinu. Once G-d promised him that He would not leave him, there is no need to directly relate to Yaakov’s material needs. Wherever he is, Yaakov eats of his Father’s food.
In fact Rav Assi and the Rabbis do not really argue.
All agree that Hashem would provide. The Rabbis point out that the issue of sustenance is not directly related to, and Rav Assi explains that when G-d says He will accompany Yaakov, He is implicitly telling him that all of his material needs are also taken care of.
G-d says to Yaakov, “I am always with you; whenever you call I will answer.”
Sometimes we feel that Hashem does not (Chas Veshalom) seem to be with us. We go through tough financial times. Is He noting our efforts? The answer is emphatically yes! Not only is He noticing, but He is helping carry us through the situation.
Yaakov married both Rachel and Leah. His main initial focus was Rachel, yet he was ‘cheated’ into marrying Leah. After a few years, Leah has six boys and Rachel is still to give birth. Leah falls pregnant for the seventh time.
There was a tradition that Yaakov would have twelve righteous tribes descend from him. Leah merited having six already, and Rachel was yet to give birth to one.
What would we do if we were Leah? Perhaps praise Hashem for the fact that we are able to give birth to potentially the seventh tribe? What a zechut!
Leah acts differently.
She saw that even the Shefachot (handmaidens) – Bilha and Zilpa had sons from Yaakov, and the only one left out was Rachel.
She said: Shall my sister Rachel not even be like one of the handmaidens? Leah therefore prayed to G-d on behalf of her sister, entreating Him: “Turn what is in my womb into a female, and do not prevent my sister from bearing a son.” G-d accepted her prayer and the foetus in her womb was transformed into a girl.
Therefore the Torah states: “Afterwards she bore him a daughter,”—that is, after Leah’s prayer.
Rashi explains that the resulting baby of Leah – Dinah, was so called since Leah had rendered judgment [Danah Din] on herself.
From her perspective she was giving up being the mother of an extra tribe. She had a lot to lose. She was performing an extraordinary act of kindness. She cared for her sister and prayed hard for her foetus to be a girl. Her prayers were answered and she gave birth to a girl.
Was Hashem looking? Did He note her kindness? Was she instantly rewarded?
It would seem not.
Our Rabbis lend further insight.
We are not taught much about Dina’s life in the Torah, but one sad episode stands out. Later on in life, Dina was raped by Shechem. The Midrash relates that she had a baby daughter called Osnat from the encounter.
The Midrash relates that Osnat, was given up for adoption. Then, by a curious twist of fate, Osnat ended up in Potiphar’s house in Egypt, and eventually married Yosef, her uncle! (Midrash – Yalkut Shimoni 134)
Hashem was always watching.
Leah, through her caring for her sister and desire to perform good, prayed and had changed her baby to be a girl, yet her actions didn’t go unnoticed. She was repaid many years later as Yosef married her granddaughter Osnat. Together they bore two children – Ephraim and Menashe, who later each became considered as an individual tribe.
Leah was willing to lose a tribe for her sister’s honour.
In the end Hashem repaid her by gaining an extra tribe.
Hashem is constantly testing us, but we have to stand strong amongst the storm and show our true colours.
We should be confident and certain that when we perform good deeds, they will produce fruit. We never lose from doing a good deed!