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Parshat Vayeitzei (5766)
This week's section tells the story of how Lavan; the arch-evil charlatan, duped the holy founder of Judaism, Yaakov into working non-stop for twenty years.
Interestingly the Torah tells us that instead being punished for this crime, Lavan is left in peace while Yaakov after wasting twenty years of his life has to settle for a mere fraction of his due.
This does not seem fair, and certainly not very Biblical. Where is the divine retribution? Where is the justice? How could Yaakov get such a raw deal and why does the Torah tell us about it? What is the point? Why didn't G-d just do a few miracles?
Here is a story printed in the weekly leaflet HaGeula (Toldot 5766) that might help us understand.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Pevzner is the manager of a large complex of Jewish schools in the heart of Paris called 'Sinai' where over one thousand children learn.
As could be understood such an outstanding achievement was accompanied by many harrowing experiences but possibly the shakiest of them occurred just a few years ago.
Over seventeen years ago in 5749 (1988) the Lubavitcher Rebbe declared that year to be the 'Year of Building'. Hundreds of Chabad institutions took this declaration as a prophesy and, certain beyond any shadow of a doubt that they would succeed, began projects that were completely beyond their normal realm of imagination. And they worked!
In that year thousands of buildings were begun and/or finished. But one of the most impressive examples was that of Rabbi Pevzner.
He announced a multi-million dollar project that only a miracle would finish. And the miracle occurred.
The Rebbe announced that he would give a one hundred dollar bill to whoever donated money to the project and the donors flocked in.
In no time some ninety percent of the costs had been covered and Rabbi Pevzner was able to proudly go to the Rebbe with pictures of the finished buildings and names of the benefactors before the year was over.
But strangely enough when he presented it all to him, the Rebbe seemed to show no sign of satisfaction. In fact, of all things, he seemed a bit worried. He took a dollar bill in his hand, held it out to Rabbi Pevzner and said,
"There still remain debts. Here is a dollar for the debts."
Rabbi Pevzner couldn't understand what the Rebbe meant. Of course there were some debts but they were almost gone, it was only a matter of time till the same miraculous spirit that brought the ninety percent would bring the last ten.
But Rabbi Pevzner took the dollar. Little did he know that it was to be the lifejacket that would save him.
Thirteen years passed and although the debt never really got paid (as soon as money came in other debts replaced it) it didn't grow either. It was not unusual for an institution of that size to have such a reasonable debt and the Rabbi gave it no thought whatsoever.
In fact the number of pupils in 'Sinai' increased and increased and were coming from such a wide area of Paris that the board of directors of the school decided to expand. Plans were made, licenses and permissions were given and allocations and donations were pledged to build a branch on the outskirts of the town.
Then, suddenly France turned over. The Moslems became militant and anti-Semitism again reared it's ugly head in the streets and in the media. Donors retracted their pledges, the ministry of education cancelled funding and the Government turned a deaf ear.
Overnight the debts began piling up and after a few months the situation was unbearable with no end in sight. Teachers, lunchroom, electricity, upkeep all required money and there was none. The majority of his pupils were poor and had been paid for by the government. And then there was the new unfinished expansion project that he still owed a fortune for.
Every week brought more debt until after a year and a half 'Siani Schools owed no less than TEN MILLON EURO!!
It seemed obvious that the schools would have to close; there was simply no possibility to pay such an amount and to continue was impossible.
Rabbi Pevzner had personally borrowed millions to keep the institutions going and would have to borrow more, but from where? Not only would no one give him a loan, his creditors were hounding him for their money back! The government stepped in, appointed a board of investigators and they decided that it was obvious that Rabbi Pevzner had no choice but to declare bankruptcy.
But he was given a reprieve. It seems that the government court was not interested in closing him down so quickly. If he went bankrupt no one would get what was owed them and, after all, this was an institution that had been working successfully with no motives of profit for years.
They agreed to keep 'Sinai' running for twelve months on government funding to give him a chance to come up with the money.
But nothing happened. The anti-Semitism increased, the debt remained, and the days passed.
He gathered all his teachers, workers and pupils and with tears in his eyes informed them that he had tried everything. He begged them to increase their prayers and then, choking back the tears told them that without a miracle it was only months until the end.
Then he remembered the dollar.
Suddenly he remembered what the Rebbe said and it was clear to him he was prophesizing precisely this catastrophe he was going through now. It was like a flash of pure light in the stark murky reality surrounding him. The Rebbe was never wrong!
Sure enough the very next day something happened!
A group of Israeli Newspaper reporters came to visit his institution as part of a report they were doing on France and to his amazement the official that was showing them around was none other than one of the most outspoken opponents of orthodox Judaism, the wealthy and influential Baron David D'Rothschild of the famous Rothschild family.
But miraculously the Baron was treating the Rabbi like his best friend. He was smiling, laughing and putting his arm around the Rabbi's shoulder at every opportunity as though nothing could please him more than the Rabbi's company! In fact Rabbi Pevzner even managed to set an appointment with him for the next day in his office.
It seemed that this was the breakthrough he was praying for! But he was in for a bitter surprise.
It was all a show. It seems that the Baron had some sort of political reason to pose publicly as a friend of Jewish Orthodoxy, but privately was a completely different story.
When the Rabbi arrived at the Baron's office the Baron's secretary told him bluntly and in no uncertain terms that he, and all other Rabbis in the world could jump in the lake and they would never enter the Baron's office.
It seemed that even the Rebbe's dollar couldn't help.
The precious months passed and the situation got worse. If it wasn't for that dollar Rabbi Pevzner would have gone mad. He had tried everything! Where would he get a ten million euro donation? He could do nothing but go on spreading Judaism and try not to think of it. But it was impossible.
Then, just as he thought that things couldn't get worse, they did. He got invited to a formal government dinner.
He hated official government functions, especially the dinners. They were boring, pompous, false, extravagant and exactly the opposite of everything he stood for. He had nothing to do there but force smiles and shake hands, he couldn't even eat the food and especially now with his life's work crumbling before his eyes he was certainly not in the mood for parties. But he had to.
And when he arrived he saw it was worse than he thought; It was a large and gaudy affair hosted by none other than his 'friend' Baron Rothschild!
The Rabbi wanted to turn back and head for the exit but before he could move the Baron zeroed in on him and began his fawning act again. He hugged him warmly, smiled like a clown and posed with his arm around him whenever possible.
Suddenly the Rabbi got a bold idea.
He pictured the Rebbe's face handing him the dollar, mustered up his courage and said in a loud enough voice to be heard,
"Tell me my friend, why is it that now you are so friendly when just a few months ago you refused to even see me?"
The Baron was confused. He paled, faked a smile and whispered to the Rabbi "Don't tell anyone about what happened. Listen, tomorrow morning I promise that if you call my office I will make a time to see you."
And so it was; two days later he was sitting before the Baron in his plush office. But he was so apprehensive that all he could manage to do was be friendly and hope the Baron would change his anti-Semitic attitude. Until Rothschild himself finally interrupted,
"Rabbi, we both are busy men and there is no point wasting time. Tell me what you want!"
Rabbi Pevzner poured out his heart and when he was finished Rothschild lifted the phone, called a close friend, a retired economist, briefly told him the story and asked if he would be willing to investigate the case.
The economist accepted and when he met the Rabbi the next day he revealed that he too was an assimilated Jew who happened to know a bit about Judaism. Everything he saw in 'Sinai'; the order and joyous atmosphere, the hundreds of children of all ages, the devoted teachers and workers and the incredible debt seemed to make a deep impression, but it was impossible to tell.
No one knows what he reported to the Baron but it was enough to cause him to make a meeting with the bankruptcy officials and promise that he; the rabidly anti-religious Baron Rothschild, would personally....cover the debt!!
That's right! He personally promised to give five million euro from his own pocket and arrange allocations to pay the rest!!
One week before the deadline, the Rebbe's dollar brought Ten million euro and at least two estranged Jews a bit closer to Judaism.
This answers our question.
The reason that Yaakov left Ber Sheva, which was a place that was friendly and conducive to serving G-d, and went to Charan,(28:10) which was the opposite, was in order to purify the world.
In Ber Sheva he would never come in contact with the difficulties that the Jewish people were chosen by G-d to transform into holiness. But in Charan there were plenty.
This is signified by the stones that he put around his head (28:11) that miraculously transformed into one stone (28:18): Yaakov's job in the world and that of the Jewish people is 'unify' the entire creation, including the evil Lavan (Torah Ohr 23:a), with the Creator.
But this takes much painstaking and time consuming work.
That is why Yaakov was willing to labor for twenty years. He wasn't a fool and he wasn't after the material profits; he was preparing the world for the Jewish people to bring Moshiach and make this world a heaven on earth.
Something like how Rabbi Pevzner in doing the work of the Rebbe had a positive effect on even his opposition and miraculously solved all his problems so we will see, in an infinitely greater way, that the entire world will be perfected with the immediate arrival of....
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