PARSHAS VAYISHLACH 5778
The Chofetz Chaim related a story about “chossid echad” who set out to influence the world. He arrived in a city and offered to speak, but was surprised to find the people to be disinterested. “How much are you charging?” “Why should we listen to you?”
He left that city and arrived in a second city and made the same offer. He was disheartened when he was met with the same pessimistic resistance. The same occurred in the third city he went, and even in some smaller villages.
Instead, he decided to sit down in a Bais Medrash and study Torah. He hoped to influence the masses in that manner. He indeed had a profound influence upon his surroundings, not through his speeches, but through his example.
After Yaakov struggled with the Angel, and then emerged unscathed from his encounter with Eisav, the Torah states: “Yaakov arrived complete in the city of Shechem… and he camped at the entrance of the city.”
Ramban explains that the day Yaakov arrived at the entrance of the city was Erev Shabbos, so he immediately set up techum Shabbos.
Meshech Chochmah explains that these two mitzvos contrast the different approaches in avodas Hashem of Avrohom and Yaakov. Each was a conduit for spreading and teaching about the Glory of Hashem in this world, but each did so in his own unique manner.
The mitzvah of eiruv tavshilin allows a person to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos, thereby enabling him to invite guests to join him.
Avraham performed eiruv tavshilin, an allusion to his inviting guests to partake of his food so he could teach them about Hashem. He would indulge them with delectable food and then convince them to thank Hashem for the enjoyment they experienced.
Yaakov Avinu utilized a vastly different approach. The Torah describes him as a yoshev ohalim – one who dwelled in tents and studied Torah. Yaakov didn’t go out to influence the rest of the world per se. He foresaw that he was to father the twelve tribes, which would comprise the Jewish People. Therefore, he understood that his ultimate role was to prepare his progeny for the integral role they would fulfill. He could only do so, by setting parameters and boundaries to protect them from the negative influences surrounding them.
Yaakov had to engage in enacting techumin – boundaries, to prevent outside influences from penetrating the home he was building. Instead of bringing the Shechinah to others, he made his home a place for the Shechinah.
We see this same pattern in other examples throughout their lives. Avraham Avinu went down to Mitzrayim to influence people. Yaakov, on the other hand, was resistant to allowing his children to descend to such an immoral country. Yaakov was upset when he was accused of stealing his father-in-law’s idols, because unlike Avrohom who engaged and persuaded idolaters, Yaakov kept completely distant. When he met Eisav, Yaakov hid Dinah, because he did not want to risk him seeing her and wanting to marry her.
Yaakov sought to separate himself from the outside world, and to build from within.
Ramban explains that each of the Avos sanctified the Name of Hashem. The Torah states numerous times that Avraham called in the Name of Hashem, and it says it once about Yitzchak. Regarding Yaakov, however, the Torah never says that he called in the Name of Hashem, because he sanctified Hashem in a different manner.
Yaakov spread emunah by devoting himself to instilling that faith in his own family. There can be no greater publicizing of emunah than that. Building his own family bred continuity, creating a nation that would follow the ways of Hashem for all generations.
Yaakov didn’t have to go out and actively influence people, because people were influenced by the example that his family demonstrated wherever they were.
Often, when people begin to improve in a certain area, whether in areas of health, such as a diet, or in religiosity, such as when they assume greater levels of stringency or punctiliousness in their observance, they feel inclined to preach about it to others.
Rabbi Mordechai Finkleman relates that, when he was an elementary school Rebbe, each year he was able to influence a few talmidim to give up watching television. He would always emphasize to them that they should not go home and preach to their parents and siblings about the negative effects and spiritual damage that television causes. Rather, they should merely walk by the room and not say anything. The greatest message is conveyed by one’s quiet and pleasant example.
In Tehillim, Dovid Hamelech states: “Ahalelah Hashem b’chayei azamrah leilokai b’odi – I will praise Hashem with my life, I will sing to Hashem with my existence.” Rabbi Finkelman explained that Dovid was saying that, not only would he constantly praise Hashem while he was alive, but on a deeper level, his very life and his very existence would praise Hashem. By living correctly and observing Torah and mitzvos, that in and of itself would serve as a living praise of Hashem.
One of the hallmarks of Chanukah is the mitzvah of perusmei nisa – spreading and publicizing the miracles that transpired. The gemara states that the basic mitzvah is “ner ish ubayso – a candle for each man and his home”. The mitzvah of reflecting divinity outwards begins from the sanctity within our own homes.
Like Yaakov Avinu we seek to ignite the spiritual light from within, and then that light can radiate and resonate outwards.
Our society expends tremendous effort and resources to publicize and advertise. Most of what they are advertising in antithetical to what we seek to advertise and publicize with our Chanukah candles. But we are strengthened by the fact that our little candles have withstood the test of time, and continued to burn in the face of the greatest and most ominous darkness.
We have no doubt that they will continue to burn, and their message will ultimately outshine all the other messages we encounter constantly.
“Yaakov camped at the entrance of the city”
“A candle for each man and his home”