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Home > Torah Portion > Parshas Vayeitzei

Parshas Vayeitzei
Hoshea 12:13-14:10
by Rabbi Dovid Siegel

This week's haftorah is devoted to the rebuke of the Jewish people for falling into their idolatrous practices. This serious national offense traces back to the days of the Jewish king Yeravam ben N'vat, the first king over the Ten Tribes after the split in the Jewish kingdom. During the early part of the reign of , Shlomo's son Rechavam, Hashem revealed through the prophet Achiya that ten of the Jewish tribes would leave the iron hand of Rechavam and be led by Yeravam. The tribes of Yehuda and Binyomin would remain under the reign of Rechavam, a scion of Dovid Hamelech. In those days, the influence of Shlomo Hamelech's idolatrous wives threatened to corrupt the entire Jewish nation and Hashem responded by removing most of the Jewish nation from under Shlomo's influence. Unfortunately, their new leader Yeravam misused his privilege and instead of preventing the spread of idolatry he actually developed it beyond the point of return.Eventually, Hashem was left with no choice but to exile the major portion of the Jewish people to bring matters under control. In our haftorah the prophet Hoshea turns to the remaining Jewish tribes and beckons them toreturn to Hashem and not follow their brothers' corrupt ways.

It is quite significant to study the events which brought about the rise of Yeravam and thereby gain true appreciation for proper human sensitivity.The prophet Hoshea says, "When (Yeravam from) Efraim spoke frightening words he was elevated over Israel; yet he sinned in idolatry and died."(Hoshea 13:1) This passage refers to a special incident described in Sefer M'lochim when Yeravam took a stand and reprimanded Shlomo Hamelech for forsaking the ways of his father, Dovid. Dovid Hamelech had designated an area outside Yerushalayim known as the Milo to serve as a communal area for the Jewish people when they visited Yerushalayim en masse during the festivals. However, his son Shlomo Hamelech, opted to utilize this area to build a beautiful palace for his new bride, the daughter of Pharaoh. The Jewish people were quite disturbed over this outrageous demonstration of authority but lacked the courage to respond to it. Taking the law into his own hands, Yeravam demonstrated religious zeal and publicly reprimanded Shlomo Hamelech for his behavior. Hashem responded to Yeravam's outstanding display of courage in defense of Hashem's people and elevated Yeravam to the highest position of power, king over the Ten Tribes.

Our Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni, 196) reveal to us an important insight regarding Yeravam's rise to power. They reflect upon a passage in M'lochimI (11:27) which describes Yeravam's act in the following words, "For he lifted his hand against the king, Shlomo." Chazal reveal that Yeravam actually merited his rise to power because of his outstanding display of courage in opposition to Shlomo Hamelech's conduct. But, they add,painfully that Yeravam was also severely punished because his reprimand of the king was done in public. Apparently, Chazal are pointing a finger to the devastating outcome of Yeravam's reign. The silent question being raised here is considering that Yeravam's act was a meritorious one, as is evidenced by his appointment over Israel, why did Yeravam's control result in the Jewish people's horrible exile? If Hashem truly appreciated Yeravam's devotion to Hashem and Israel how could such devotion develop so quickly into an encompassing campaign of idolatry?" Chazal answer that although Yeravam's intentions were proper his insensitivity towards the king's feelings and esteem reflected a serious fault. His failure to concern himself with the feelings of Shlomo Hamelech was the cause of serious catastrophe. Although he was actually guided by religious zeal and truly felt compelled to act immediately he lost sight of the greater picture and permitted himself to publicly shame the honorable king of Israel.

This imbalance played itself out on a broader scope and Yeravam eventually introduced a separate religion to his kingdom. He feared that the Jewishpilgrimage to Yerushalayim would cause his following to forsake him and unite with Rechavam, the king of Yehuda. Based on an halachic precedent in the Bais Hamikdash, he knew that greater honor would be accorded Rechavam in the Temple area than would be to Yeravam. He reasoned that this wouldultimately undermine Hashem's master plan, that the Ten Tribes be led by their own leader. In response to this concern he established alternate sites of worship for his people outside of Yerushalayim and discouraged them from even visiting the Bais Hamikdash or associating with the kingdom of Yehuda. The result of these measures was that the Jewish people eventually abandoned Hashem totally and became gravely involved in idolatry. Chazal are revealing to us that if we analyze Yeravam's fear we would realize that it was rooted in this same insensitivity towards the House of Dovid. After all, it was certainly feasible for Rechavam the king of Yehuda and a scion of Dovid, to be recognized as an authority without interfering with Yeravam's reign over the remaining Ten Tribes. But, due to Yeravam's insensitivity towards Dovid's household, beginning with his publicly shaming Shlomo and continuing with his attitude towards Shlomo's descendants, Yeravam permitted himself to develop his threatening illusion. Regretfully, we learn that this underlying character flaw,lacking concern and tolerance for the feelings and prestige of others eventually caused the total downfall of our nation.

This lesson is most appropriately related to our sedra wherein our matriarch Rochel becomes the paradigm of human sensitivity, totally subjugating herself to the sensitivities of her sister, Leah. Although Rochel recognized the immeasurable spiritual outcome of her exclusive relationship with Yaakov this did not influence her from considering its effect on Leah. If this exclusiveness would cause Leah embarrassment and humiliation Rochel could not permit it and felt compelled to prevent it. She, unlike Yeravam, overlooked her religious fervor and focused on her sister's pain. Therefore she revealed to her sister, Leah the secret signals of Yaakov and secured that Leah would also become a leader figure in Yaakov's household. This sensitive approach of Rochel became the merit of the Jewish people for all times. In fact, Chazal inform us that Hashem responded specifically to the tefillah of Rochel on behalf of her children in exile. They explain that when Rochel cried over the loss of her children Hashem responded to her sensitivities. In her merit Hashem consented to forgive the Jewish people for their in sensitivities towards one another and promised that the Jewish people would return to the land of Israel.Although their exile was sown through the insensitivity of Yeravam for others, the merit of Rochel surpassed all of these faults. Her super humandisplay of sensitivity became the character of the Jewish people and in her merit Hashem promised to return them to their homeland.


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