Parshas Vayeishev
Bereishis 37:1 - 40:23

Problems With The Family ©

By Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Donald Wayne Belk and Mr. Gary Lee Belk may they rest in peace.

During the past few weekly Parshas, we have been studying about Yaakov and his family problems which began from conception. We cannot look at all of his problems but we will briefly discuss a few. During this period of time we are in a holiday season for most people. As Jews we observe Chanukah... Other religions observe their special days around this time also. It can be a very special time of rich enjoyable relationships with family - OR - it can be lonely, miserable, depressing... for those of us with family problems!

Those of us with family problems are not alone. Many have family problems for one reason or another. So at this holiday season it might be comforting to know that the great patriarch Yaakov faced many very difficult family problems... While we often cannot alter what has happened, sometimes it helps to understand the behavior creating the difficulty. Sometimes we can gain wisdom and insight by observing another person’s difficulty. The family of Yaakov is an exceptionally excellent choice, given their high level of righteousness.

Parent Problems
Problems with his father Yitzchok’s partial revelation of the wicked Eisov... Yitzchok, Yaakov’s father, was planning on blessing the unrighteous Eisov. {Bereishis 27:1-4} The consequences from this action would be like blessing all sin in the world, fertilizing it, giving it maximum sunlight and all the attention necessary to grow and reproduce quickly.

It can be very difficult to experience problems simply because one or both parents are unaware of another siblings deceptions. Yaakov experienced this with his brother Eisov. Their father was a very righteous man but he was not aware of Eisov’s wicked behavior. It is difficult to fathom, considering the depth of Yitzchok’s wisdom, that he could not perceive his son Eisov’s wickedness. But clearly Hashem did not reveal this to him. It caused great pain to Yaakov to even think that his father would bless his wicked brother. Yet what could he do? Sometimes we can do nothing, but fortunately for Yaakov he could respond. His response caused much trouble.

I know of a father who loved his son like Yitzchok loved Eisov. This father was wealthy. He made the son whom he loved the executor of his will. This son was NOT observant. He oversaw the family business as it suited him. He used people as he wished. He did not consult other family members regarding the welfare of his parents or their business. The other children who were righteous could do nothing but watch. They had no power and little influence... This was the difficulty Yaakov was headed for if something didn’t happen soooooon!!

Problems with lying to his father... Yitzchok... We teach our children to be honest. We teach our offspring to be truthful. The righteous Yaakov was faced with lying to his father to prevent the wicked Eisov from receiving the blessing. {Bereishis 27:18-29} In brief, I am weary of hearing about Yaakov “the deceiver.” On the surface this appears to be the case but in reality IT IS NOT! In fact Yaakov was more righteous than his father Yitzchok, his grandfather Avraham and even Noach who G-d considered ‘perfect in his generation.’ He was the first man since Adam according to Rabbi Elie Munk “capable of restoring to the earth the initial blessings which the Creator had wanted to lavish upon it...” Yet to accomplish this he must on the surface resort to deception and cunning. WHY?

In Bereishis Chapter 3 Ha Torah states, The serpent was more cunning... He used his cunning to prevent Adam from receiving everything that Hashem desired for him in Gan Eden. The serpent deceived Chava. She said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.' Holy reader, Ha Torah is very clear on these two issues of cunning and deception. That being the situation, the blessings that were taken by cunning and deception would be returned Meta - Chanega - Meta, in the same way, cunning for cunning, deception for deception. Yaakov fulfilled this Torah command. Yaakov was NOT a cunning deceiver, he was an agent of Torah Law being used to recompense.

Yaakov was the restorer. He wore the clothes of Eisov. What clothes? Why were the clothes important? The clothes that Yaakov wore that day were from hundreds of years before. They were special clothes. They were the first clothes of Adam. They were the clothes Hashem made for Adam after his sin in Gan Eden. There is a rich story behind these clothes that we won’t go into at this time. The point is the clothes provide by Hashem for the fallen were now provided to Yaakov the restorer...

As a side note, each blessing of Yitzchok to Yaakov overturned the curses at the fall of Adam and Chava.

And may G-d give you the due of the heavens overturns the curse against Adam through suffering shall you eat of it {the ground}.

...and the fatness of the earth.. reverses accursed is the ground because of you.

...and abundant grain and wine... alters thrones and thistles shall sprout for you...

... peoples will serve you.. changes by the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread...

Bereishis 3:17 - 19

Problems with following his mother Rivkah’s instructions... She instructed him to go against his beliefs. She instructed him to lie, deceive and use cunning with his father. {Genesis 27:5-17} WHY? For a righteous cause. Even though this appears wrong it is RIGHT! Here it was righteous!! Yaakov had the potential of restoring what the lying, deceptive and cunning serpent had interrupted. Rivkah had experienced the good and the evil fighting within her body. She had the word from Hashem, “the greater would serve the smaller...” Here is one instance where lesser values collide with greater values. Yaakov listened to his mother . He chose the greater values!! Rivkah had a revelation that Yitzchok did not have.

At JewishPath we receive correspondence from readers who struggle with parents who pressure them to disobey the Torah. What Yaakov did was not in disagreement with the Torah. It was a judgment, measure for measure. Parents who mistakenly encourage children to violate the Torah are destroying their own spiritual heritage, G-d forbid! If you are feeling this type of pressure, may Hashem bless you with kind patient steady Torah observance.

Problems with his father-in-law Lavan... Holy reader, here we again clash with all those who maintain Yaakov was paid back for his cunning and deception by Lavan’s cunning and deception. NOT SO! The fact is, Lavan was like the serpent reincarnated. He was wicked! He was deceitful! He was a liar! He intended to assist Eisov in his bid to recapture if possible the blessing skillfully taken by Yaakov the righteous. He cluttered Yaakov’s way with many family interruptions. He was a man bound by greed! He was selfish! He attempted to prevent Yaakov from returning home. He came with his men. Eisov came with his men. They were together in their goals of evil, G-d forbid! Yaakov fought twenty years of spiritual warfare with this evil incarnate serpent Lavan!! {Bereishis 29:13-30; Bereishis 30:25-34; Bereishis 31:1,2 and Bereishis 31:4-8}

Greed is a problem. If you are presently suffering under greedy oppression of a relative, may Hashem loosen the bonds that shackle you and bless you with financial freedom to serve Him in righteousness. Hashem gave Yaakov the command, ‘Return to your homeland.’ To us this means return to the study of Avraham and Yaakov in the tents of Sheim and Eiver. It means return to observance.

Yaakov fled from the oppression of Lavan. He left without saying even goodbye! He separated his family from that oppression.

Sibling Problems
Problems of right and wrong, of good and evil, with his brother Eisov... It is most unfortunate to have problems with one’s only brother / sister. Yet a person who lives on as high a level of righteousness as Yaakov did will encounter problems from less observant siblings, G-d forbid! The Eisov types of this world throw around their accusations like, Is not he rightly called Yaakov He has deceived me twice: he took my birthright, and now he has taken my blessing. Bereishis 27:36 Yet Hashem said, Eisov scorned {his} birthright. Bereishis 25:34 It was more like Yaakov rescued the birthright from abuse by his evil brother. Holy things have a proper place. For example we do not place any book on a Chumash {Torah} because it is holy. If a book is sitting on a Chumash we immediately remove it because that book does not deserve to be elevated above the Chumash. In a similar way Hashem witnesses Yaakov’s righteousness above Eisov by stating to Rivkah the greater one {Eisov} will serve the smaller one {Yaakov}. Bereishis 25:23

When Eisov, the son of Yitzchok and Rivkah, a descendant of Sheim marries, he marries two women from the cursed descendants of Canaan... The cursed race... Noach said, Cursed is Canaan. A slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers. Bereishis 9:25 This is the struggle of righteousness. A righteous person does not select a spouse from the descendants of the cursed. Avraham said, to Eliezer, Swear by Hashem, G-d of the heaven and G-d of earth, that you WILL NOT take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell... Bereishis 24:3 Ha Torah records, Eisov was forty years old and he married Yehudis {actually Aholibamah} , the daughter of Be’eri, the Chittite and Bosmas, the daughter of Elyon the Chittite. They were a source of spiritual bitterness to Yitzchok and Rivkah. {Bereishis 26:34,35} This is why Rivkah said to Yitzchok, I am disgusted with my life because of the daughters of Cheis: If Yaakov marries a wife like the daughters of Cheis, such as these from the daughters of the land, what is life {worth} to me? Bereishis 27:46 In other words it will be like our life is over. We will not have righteous descendants. Who will carry on righteousness for us?... THESE ARE THE PROBLEMS EISOV CAUSED!!

Yitzchok called Yaakov, and blessed him. He commanded him, and said to him, ‘Do not marry a woman of the daughters of Canaan. Set out and go to PaDon-Aram, to the house of Besueil your mother’s father; and marry one of the daughters of Lavan, your mother’s brother. Bereishis 28:1,2

If your present marital relationship is crumbling because of intermarrying, may Hashem bless you with confidence and wisdom. After years of marriage the only path may be to begin anew. Yes, it would be wonderful if both parties could / would accept and observe Torah values, but one needs wisdom to know when they have hit the end of the road... when continuing in such a relationship is a loss.

Problems with his sisters-in-law
Talk about problems that an improper marriage brings... When a Jew marries outside of the house of Yaakov he has in essence invited problems too numerous to mention. We have discussed this in the articles regarding I N T E R M A R R I A G E C O N F L I C T ... These problems were thrust on Yitzchok and Rivkah and Yaakov. Our sages say that Yitzchok’s eyesight became dim due to the incense Eisov’s wives burnt while worshipping their idols... G-d forbid! Think of how such evil plagues the soul of the righteous. How does a righteous person endure such assault on their heritage... on their faith... on their beliefs... on their righteousness...?

Holy reader, if you are experiencing this grief of the soul... this agony of Yitzchok and Rivkah, may Hashem bless the revival of the Yetzer Tov in your mishpachah!!

Dear reader, if you are blind to the destruction intermarriage brings, may Hashem cause you to awaken!!

Problems with his brothers-in-law
Talk about greedy descendants, Yaakov was plagued by them... He {Yaakov} heard Lavan’s sons {his brothers-in-law} saying, Yaakov has taken away all that belonged to our father. From that which was our father’s has he made all his wealth. Bereishis 31:1 Observe that it was Rochel who cared for the sheep. Where were her brothers? Then Yaakov cared for the sheep... Where were his brothers-in-law? What were they doing? How often the righteous laborer is unduly criticized by those content to do nothing but accuse... G-d forbid! Lazy relatives can be a real difficulty. You do all the work and they criticize, lie and slander, G-d forbid!

When Yaakov left they received their just reward... Their blessings were removed.

Spouse Problems
Without going into great detail, when a righteous man is married to more than one wife Leah... and Rochel... it is a source for spiritual difficulty... for challenge. Even though these were mature and righteous people, Yaakov loved Rochel and hated Leah... {Bereishis 29:30 -30:24}

Yaakov’s wives had problems with their greedy father, Lavan
Rochel and Leah said to Yaakov, Do we still have a portion and an inheritance for us in our father’s house? Are we not considered by him as strangers? For he has sold us, and has completely devoured our money. Bereishis 31:13,14 {Do we have any hope of inheriting anything of the estate of our father, among the males of this family}?

Yaakov experienced problems with his sons Shimon and Levi
Two sons of Yaakov, Shimon and Levi took justice into their own hands. Their sister Deenah, a virgin of Yisroel, was raped by Shechem {a prince of the Canaanite people in the area where they lived}. The Torah records the wrath of these sons:

And the sons of Yaakov came out of the field. When they heard {what had happened}, the men were grieved, and they were very angry, because he had brought trouble in Israel by raping Yaakov’s daughter; which thing ought not to be done. Bereishis 34:7

This story expresses much about the problems Yaakov faced with his children. Shimon and Levi were beside themselves...

And it happened on the third day, when they were sore, {all the men who were circumcised} that two of the sons of Yaakov, Shimon and Levi, Deenah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. They slew Hamor and Shechem, his son, with the edge of the sword, and took Deenah out of Shechem’s house, and went out. The sons of Yaakov came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field. And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house. Bereishis 34:25-29

And Yaakov said to Shimon and Levi, you have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. Bereishis 34:30

And they said, ‘Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot? Bereishis 34:31

This posed an interesting problem. What does a righteous person do in an unrighteous country when a problem of this nature occurs, G-d forbid? Sexual sins were a serious problem among the Canaanite people. What was done among them was not permitted among the descendants of Avraham. Contributing to this problem was the reputation of Eisov. He was renowned for his sexual sins. So within the same family we have a collision of righteousness and unrighteousness. We have two messages. We have confusion!

In our age we may view the actions of Shimon and Levi as extreme, but were they? Righteous Yaakov seemed to think so... However in view of the issues of separation by righteous Yisroel from the lawless Canaanite people, not so.. Remember Levi and his descendants are defendants of the Covenant. The sons of Levi judged Yisroel with the edge of the sword at the golden calf incident. Over three thousand of B’nei Yisroel died by Moshe’s, {a son of Levi’s } charge. Pinchas, a grandson of Levi, upheld the Covenant by spearing Prince Zimri and Princess Cozbi. Why? Sexual provocations...

When Levi was born our sages state that the malach Gabriel brought the child before Hashem Who named him Levi, meaning to accompany. In other words, Levi from birth was given the responsibility to accompany the commands of Hashem. Our sages state that along with his name Levi received the twenty-four priestly gifts for the function of his office. Dear reader, when a child receives such as this one did he is a flame of righteousness. Which is why he acted such. Hashem NEVER condemned the above mentioned actions. Instead G-d offered praise and support for righteousness in a lawless land. As a side note, when Shimon and Levi killed {Haw Goo}, they did not murder {Seer Tzah Ach}. It was judgment against sin in a lawless country... The same can be said for the Sons of Levi and for Pinchas. In our world laws abound. Courts punish evil. It was different thousands of years ago...

Yaakov experienced problems with his son Yehudah
Yehudah left the family circle. He moved away. His brothers blamed him for selling Yosief into slavery. It was Yehudah who gave them poor advice regarding Yosief... His brothers demoted Yehudah and removed him from the family business. There was tension. It was obvious, but what caused it?? Yaakov didn’t know. When Yehudah was alienated from his brothers he married a Canaanite woman which was forbidden. They had three sons. Two sons died, then his wife died. He had a relationship with his first son’s daughter-in-law... Their was a whole mix of sexual problems here... {Bereishis 38}

Yaakov experienced problems with all his sons regarding Yosief
Yaakov was partial to Yosief, the first child of Rochel whom he loved... a child of his old age, the baby of the family... His great love was noticeable to his other children. It caused hatred! It drove his other children to jealousy. They seem prepared to murder Yosief. They desired to end his dreams...

Holy reader, partiality regarding children can create many unnecessary problems. It separates. It divides. It hurts all. It is not good. Again, in this instance Hashem used it, as our sages say, measure for measure. Yaakov was away from his father for twenty-two years so Yosief in turn was away from Yaakov for twenty-two years.

Yaakov experienced problems with his grandsons Er and Onan
We have briefly discussed this in this week’s Gematria parsha, _______________...

Yaakov experienced problems with the death of loved ones...
His father Yitzchok...
His beloved wife Rochel...
His beloved son Yosief...
His beloved friend and his mother’s nurse, Devorah...
His daughter-in-law by Yehudah...
His grandsons Er and Onan...

As we have observed the righteous Yaakov did suffer many problems. Many of the problems that he suffered were the result of his great righteousness and the great righteousness of his offspring. Yet some of his problems were the result of human failings. One point that stands out in my mind is when Yaakov’s problems with Lavan mounted... when his problems with his brothers-in-law mounted, Hashem said, RETURN to your homeland... return to an observant life. Study the law... Study Torah. When Shimon and Levi judged the men of Shalem, a city of Shechem, in the land of Canaan Yaakov was deeply troubled.

And G-d said to Yaakov, ‘Arise, go up to Beis Eil, and dwell there: and make there an altar to G-d, That appeared to you when you fled from the face of Eisov your brother. Bereishis 35:1

G-d’s instruction was RETURN and REBUILD the altar. Holy reader,, the best advice for problems during this season or anytime is what G-d told Yaakov. Yaakov understood what G-d meant.

Then Yaakov said to his household, and to all that were with him, ‘Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments. Let us arise, and go up to Beis Eil; and I will make there an altar to G-d, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. Bereishis 35:2-4

Happy Chanukah and Good Shabbos,

Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk
Written in 5760
Updated in 5764

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