Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Falling Up - VaYishlach

Shlomo HaMelech wrote "Sheva Yipol Tzaddik Vekam" - "A tzaddik falls seven times, and rises" (Mishlei 24:16). We all fall. A tzaddik moves on even with his many falls.

Rav Yitzchzk Hutner suggests that rather than being a tzaddik despite falling down, a tzaddik is a tzaddik because of the times he falls and rises. In a letter to a student experiencing hard times, Rav Hutner developed the idea that achieving greatness is a process of overcoming and moving on. He explained that while we imagine righteous people being born righteous, it is more likely that they struggled greatly to become great.

"Ma'ayan Nirpas U'Makor Mashchat: Tzaddik Mat Lifnei Rasha"-"A righteous man falling down before the wicked: like a muddled fountain, a polluted spring" (Mishlei 28:26). Rabeinu Bachai cites this pasuk as ancillary to "Sheva Yipol Tzadik Vekam". A tzadik stumbles through encounters with reshaim. Just as a sullied spring re-invigorates and returns to its previous purity, so too a tzaddik collapses into the hands of a rasha but soon regains his glory.

Rabeinu Bachai offers these lines from Mishlei as an introduction to Parshat VaYishlach, and applies them to Ya'akov Avinu. Yaakov was temporarily humbled before Eisav; he showered him with gifts called him his master. In the end, Ya'akov departed unscathed from his encounter with Eisav.

The Sfat Emet notes that Ya'akov bowed before Eisav seven times (Breishit 33:3), an allusion to "Sheva Yipol Tzaddik Vekam". Using Rav Hutner's sense of the pasuk this can be understood to mean that Ya'akov not only fell and rose before Eisav, but the falling was part of his rising. This can be applied to all of the rough times Ya'akov went through.

In Ya'akov's lifetime as in seasonal cycles, Fall foreshadowed Spring. In the lives of individual Jewish people as in the life of the Jewish People as a whole, we fall to rise again. The road to Geula is paved with Galus, as our own personal exiles are roads to redemption. May we merit soon to see redemption for ourselves, our families, for all of Klal Yisrael, and for the entire world.


Anonymous maayan said...

This is an amazing d'var Torah!! It has the substance of something a lot of thought was put into over a long period of time. :)

December 7, 2006 at 1:38 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Glad that it was meaningful to you. Yes it was a long time in the making.

Which remnds me of a discussion I have with colleagues. In my eleventh year (poo poo poo) in my school I am teaching a Chumash and a Gemorah that I've never taught in the school before. But I like the idea of doing the same thing over and over and making it fresh.

It's like what Abraham Lincoln said about impromptu remarks - that the best ones are prepared three weeks in advance.

The defense of this approach s that you end up fresher when it's new. But Chazal didn't seem to feel that way about Tefila or going over Torah many times. Which reminds me of the person who apologized for writing a long letter, explaining that he didn't have time to write a short one.

In short - I have been saying this and other d.t.s over and over for years and I like the approachrepeating and re-editing. (Although also mix in totally new ones too.)

I recall when I first discovered that R Bachai (Bachya?) opens each parsha by expalaining a pasuk from Mishlei and tying it in with the parsha. That was a happy day years ago. (Rabeinu Yonah also does this every week). (Another one of these, where R Bachai does this that I've connected with for a long time is the one on Mas'ei).

I was in college when I first read the Rav Hutner letter to his Talmid - quite a letter, worth going back to.

Thanks again for the kind comment!

December 7, 2006 at 7:08 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

A randomly placed announcement - my keyboard is missing the letter I - so due to technical reasons I is often missing from posts and comments. Also, I sometimes rush and make errors like I see I did here, little typos. Sometimes I go back and correct sometimes I rely on the kind indulgence of readers.

December 7, 2006 at 7:11 AM  

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