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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Beresheet: Parashat Vayesheb: Kivoud Av

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

When we read this week's parasha, and pay close attention to Rashi, we see a clear question that any careful reader would have. As you know, Yosef was sold into captivity by his own flesh and blood, ending up in Egypt. His father, Yaacob, believed Yosef to be killed due to the evidence his other sons provided (a blooded Ketonet Pasim). The Torah tells us that Yaacob mourned the loss of his son for "many days" (yamim rabim).

Interestingly, Rashi explains that Yaacob mourned his son for 22 years. Rashi even goes farther to say that this pain was a punishment to Yaacob midah keneged midah, measure for measure. In his day, Yaacob was away from his father, Yisshaq for 22 years and did not fulfill the misvah of honoring one's father (and mother). Yaacob was therefore punished for 22 years, without his son, Yosef.

However, the 22 years is an incorrect number. Yaacob worked for Rahel and Leah for 14 years in the house of Laban (7 years for each). Then Yaacob worked an additional six years to amass wealth of livestock. It then took him two years to travel back to his mother and father's house. The total equals 22. However, Yaacob first spent 14 years in the Yeshivah of Shem VeEver, making the time he was away from his father 36 years.

Why wasn't Yaacob punished for those 14 years?
How could Yaacob, after receiving a commandment from Yisshaq to find a wife in the house of Laban, delay for 14 years in a Yeshivah?

We can explain this apparent contradiction by saying that Yaacob was fulfilling the commandment of his father by attending the Yeshivah! Yaacob knew that the house of Laban was not the right place for a God-fearing Torah scholar, and knew that he had to build up his defenses and learn how to live within his religion amongst reshayim.

This is one of the many reasons why Yaacob went to the Yeshivah of Shem VeEver. Teaching in the Yeshivah was Shem, the son of Noah. Who better to teach how to live amongst reshayim?

We learn that one must make an effort and work in a positive fashion to protect one's children, spouse and oneself from the effects of living the galout. This endeavor was so serious to Yaacob that he invested the time and delayed fulfilling his father's commandment. We see though, through Rashi's explanation, that Yaacob was not punished for that time, proving that his efforts were worthwhile and not in vain.
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