The Blueprint of Redemption
Shalom and happy Thanksgiving to all our American friends and students!
This Shabbat we will read Torah portion “Va’Yetzeh”.
In this week’s Torah reading Yaakov and his family escape Lavan’s house after more than 20 years of hard labor and supernatural accumulation of vast wealth.
They head home.
Lavan chases them down, catches up with them on the seventh day and confronts Yaakov.
A dispute sparks. In the end, an agreement is reached and a covenant forged.
Many years later in the book of Exodus a very similar story, but this time on a national scale, occurs.
The people of Israel escape Egypt after 210 years of slavery and miraculous accumulation of enormous wealth just before their escape.
Pharaoh chases them down and catches up with them on the seventh day. Confrontation occurs, when the Israelites fear they would drown in the sea.
Eventually the sea parts.
The Israelites are able to walk in the sea, but Pharaoh and his soldiers drown as the sea closes on them.
So many elements of the two stories are similar.
Both describe the escape, the accrual of enormous wealth, and the three-day chase culminating in confrontation on the seventh day.
Is this a coincidence?
Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna (The Vilna Gaon), tells us that these two stories are actually the same story.
This is, because the time of the Jewish history is spiral. In our history, events repeat themselves on different planes in different generations, each becoming a blueprint for the next one to come.
When we study our past, we gain an insight into our present and the future.
The Vilna Gaon reveals that the Torah tells the same story twice to guide us in understanding that the exodus from Egypt unfolded as it did, because of the way Yaakov had served and confronted Lavan.
The Yaakov-Lavan episode provided the spiritual energy and paved the way to the redemption of the People of Israel from Egypt.
And these two redemptions created the necessary spiritual energy to power the final redemption.
Now let’s explore a particular aspect of redemption as can be revealed in the confrontation between Yaakov and Lavan.
The Torah states:
וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב לְאֶחָיו לִקְטוּ אֲבָנִים, וַיִּקְחוּ אֲבָנִים וַיַּעֲשׂוּ גָל, וַיֹּאכְלוּ שָׁם עַל הַגָּל. וַיִּקְרָא לוֹ לָבָן יְגַר שָׂהֲדוּתָא
וְיַעֲקֹב קָרָא לוֹ גַּלְעֵד
“And Yaakov said to his brothers, ‘Gather stones.’
They gathered stones and made a mound, and they ate there by the mound.
Lavan called it ‘Yegar-Sahaduta’ and Yaakov called it ‘Gal-Eid.” (Gen. 31: 46-47)
Why was it important to the Torah to tell us what Lavan called the mound of stones and what name Yaakov gave to it?
After all, the Torah is usually so ‘frugal’ with words.
The commentator Rabbi Ovadiah Seforno brings an interesting point.
In his opinion, Torah wanted to emphasize that Lavan used Aramaic language to name the place “Yegar-Sahaduta” and Yaakov used the Hebrew language (the holy tongue) to name the place “Gal-Eid (witnessing-mound)”.
The Torah wants to point out that even though Yaakov had been outside of Israel for many years (20), he did not change the holy tongue (Hebrew) that he learned from his father Yitzhak at home.
In fact, our Sages pointed out that like his father, Yaakov too taught Hebrew to his children.
The fact that they retained use of the Hebrew language in Egypt was one of the key reasons that they were redeemed.
“We were led out of Egypt because we kept three things intact: our name, our clothing, and our language.”
So, let’s continue this wonderful tradition of learning Hebrew!
Here are several words/expressions in modern Hebrew associated with the word אבן – (even) – stone that appears in our Torah portion:
אבן דרך (even derekh) – mile stone
(lit. Road stone)
אבן חן (even khen) – gem stone
אבן על הלב (even al halev) – distress
(lit. stone on the heart)
אבן פינה (even pinah) – cornerstone
Hebrew is the cornerstone of our heritage and of our future!
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