A Short Reflection on Parashat Vayeitze

This piece was written in 5777 as part of a course on Chasidic Torah commentaries.

The Sfat Emet offers us some compelling teachings on Parashat Vayeitzei which dovetail nicely with the teachings that the Ohev Yisrael brings on last week’s parsha, Parashat Toldot regarding the wells that Yitzchack dug. Whereas the Ohev Yisrael thinks about the wells as representing sources of deep inner spiritual nourishment and strength, the Sfat Emet interprets the wells to be the lashon hara that too often clouds our perception of the world around us and the people in our lives.

Genesis 29 opens with Yaakov meeting Rachel at the well. So taken with Rachel’s beauty, he effortlessly it seems moves the stone off the well. The Sfat Emet uses the common Hasidic technique of interpreting verses away from their pshat meaning to make them relevant in the lives of the Jews who were in his circles. So, too, can this image of removing the stone off the well to reveal that well can resonate with us today.

How often are our mechanisms of perception blocked and clouded from understanding the world around us? How often does lashon hara prevent us from coming to understand the perspectives of others because we allow that speech to color our understanding and perceptions of them? One can look at the dichotomy the Torah sets up between Rachel and Leah in this light. We first learn about Leah that her eyes were weak which is contrasted to Rachel’s beauty. Jacob was so captivated with Rachel’s beauty that he was able to move the stone away with uncommon strength. How often do we find ourselves captivated by someone or, conversely, not at all taken with them, and then allow ourselves to be taken in with unfair things we’ve heard about them or rumors that have spread? Instead of looking at wells as potentially overflowing sources of deep spiritual wisdom and strength within, as the Ohev Yisrael teaches, the Sfat Emet is reminding us of the spiritual danger of allowing ourselves to be blocked, clouded and colored by lashon hara and incorrect perceptions.



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