Parshas Vayeitzei
Genesis 28:10 - 32:3

The Blessings of the Righteous ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Paul Sakash, may he rest in peace.

"Yaakov said, 'You know how I have worked for you, and how your livestock fared with me. For the little you had before I came here your flock has increased and has become a multitude. Hashem has blessed you with my coming...'" Genesis 30:30

Just the presence of the righteous brings blessing. Living in the same city... in the same community... in the same block... next door to the righteous brings blessings! Having a righteous son in law like Yaakov is a blessing! Having a righteous son in law work in the family business is even a greater blessing!! Lavan's family business prospered greatly during Yaakov's administration of the family affairs!

One may imagine what a righteous person looks like... wrinkled face... long white beard... strummel... long black coat... white shirt... no tie...

Dear reader, when Yaakov arrived at Lavan's he arrived without a carriage... without servants... without luggage... without fanfare... Yaakov wore all that he had. He didn't even have a change of clothes. Had Yaakov possessed a soft sack of clothes he would have used that sack to lay his head on instead of a hard rock as recorded in Genesis 28:18... Yaakov slept on the bare ground in the open air. He had no blanket to cover himself... YET HE WAS A RIGHTEOUS MAN!!

When Yaakov arrived in Charan, Lavan ran to meet him because he was Avraham's grandson... He was Yitzchok and Rivkah's son... They were wealthy. Yaakov represented wealth even though he may have been wearing the same clothes for fourteen plus years... Yaakov may have had the appearance of a 77 year old vagrant / vagabond..

There are two points here:
First, the righteous do not always meet our expectations... our stereotypes... our visions of what the righteous are! Our mental video perceptions may be quite mistaken!! Looking righteous and living righteous are VERY DIFFERENT!!

Second, it was this Yaakov who said to Lavan essentially, 'You were nothing before I arrived.' This is a strong reprove from Yaakov to his father-in-law! Yaakov's claim was based upon fact not appearance. Consider this, at 77 years of age Yaakov arrives at his Uncle Lavan's in old clothes looking like a vagrant / vagabond... YET Yaakov was so much more than his immediate appearance!

Story Of The Mishskiach And The Cowboy
Late one evening the phone began ringing. I answered wondering, 'Who could be calling at this time?' It was the Hornosteipler Rebbe of Denver, Rabbi Mordecai Twerski. What an honor it was to receive a call from the rebbe, anytime day or night! Our conversation was short. A kosher deli was opening in Boulder, Colorado. TRI - Sulom would direct the Kashrus program. The rebbe requested that I be the deli's mishskiach. This was a great responsibility, 22 plus employees, training an on site mishskiach, long hours, a very long drive through 36 miles of Denver's worst traffic... It was an honor to accept this challenge as a short term assignment.

The owner wanted a kosher deli in an area lacking commitment to Torah observance. The owner and the cooks were Jews in transition. They were struggling with their commitment to dedicated Torah observance. This was a difficult assignment! On the one hand here were Jews deeply committed to a kosher deli and on the other they were struggling with Kashrus themselves. What a mix. What wonderful people... They created a beautiful atmosphere that Jews from all walks / levels of Judaism did appreciate. Several evenings each week the deli served as a place for learning. Various rabbium taught classes. Jews would link at the deli for a meal and Torah study constantly. There is no way to describe the feeling one would get from observing the many Jewish intersections crossing at Korny's. May Hashem bless them for their good intentions and their Torah accomplishments.

However, holy reader, there were obstacles. The greatest obstacle was motivating those I worked with to Torah observance. Everyday it was like hitting a brick wall. I often questioned, "How can one commit to owning and operating a kosher deli without being committed fully to Torah observance? Yet that was the obstacle. I tried many approaches with little success to motivate those around me. I davened {prayed} at the deli three times each day. I learned there daily. On Fridays at the request of the owner and staff we prayed and learned together. Again they were very wonderful Jews who would not commit to complete observance.

One Friday I got out my old blue jeans, cowboy hat, shirt and boots, my bandana, silver dollar belt buckle, etc. I wore them to the deli that day. EVERYONE WAS JUST SHOCKED! I walked up to the owner. His eyes were just simply popping out of his head. His face was red! I said in a western drawl, "Avraham if I was sitting at a bus stop and told you that I was a mishskiach at Korny's Kosher Deli would you believe me?"

He began to laugh with this smirky look on his face as he responded, "NO!"

I informed Avraham I would be wearing this outfit all day instead of my normal frum attire. I questioned, "How do you like that?" Well, needless to say he didn't care for the idea. He was paying for the services of an observant mishskiach, NOT A COWBOY! My frum appearance spoke volumes to every visitor. It was a broadcast to every customer, "THIS IS A KOSHER DELI!" If I dressed like a cowboy, most observant Jews wouldn't visit his deli. The rabbinical supervision would immediately come under question.

Holy reader, this was my attempt to say, 'We can look kosher without being kosher.' I was saying to the ownership and staff, 'You can employ kashrus supervision but truthfully that won't work because kashrus has to be lived. Being kosher is a way of life!' I was saying, 'I cannot supervise the cowboy side of all of us.' I was saying you can own a kosher deli, you can manage a kosher deli BUT people will not take you seriously as a kosher deli unless you live kashrus!! My assignment was up shortly after and I did not renew.

Dear reader, the rabbium say, 'Dress Jewishly and you will eventually reach that level.' Often that is true, however we must focus less on looks and more on reality. Do you want a chocolate coated outside with nothing in the center? Do you want to be an 'all show and no go' type of Jew? Do you want to look kosher? Do you want to look frum? Do you want to possess Yiddishkeit?

Yaakov was more intent on reality. He possessed the genuine goods! He was righteous! His righteousness brought blessing to those around him! His appearance was a result of his righteousness and not the reverse... Yaakov stood before Lavan in righteousness. His clothes, whatever their age, were saturated with Torah study not alcohol or drugs. Yaakov slept on the ground with a rock fence surrounding him not in a gutter or under a bridge. As Yaakov slept on the ground { Holy Ground }, the gates of Heaven opened to him. So when he stood before Lavan he was a possessor of the genuine article. He was a righteous Jew!! His entire being was saturated with Torah observance and righteousness. As a result Lavan could not argue or dispute Yaakov's claim that "Hashem has blessed you with my coming..."...

Holy reader, our goal as Jews should be... to be saturated with righteousness and not just chocolate covered with righteousness. To be possessors and proclaimers NOT pretenders. Then our life will be a blessing to those around us AND THEY WILL KNOW IT!!

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May you have only the best!

Dr. Akiva G. Belk


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