Looking Back At Thanksgiving and Vayeitzei
I heard some nice Thanksgiving and VaYeitzei related thoughts on an online talk by Rabbi Maish Taragin. I hope, now, to share my adaptation of what he said plus some of my own free association.
He cited an idea that he believed he heard in Rav Shach's name - that gratitude cannot be expressed via a shliach - messenger but must be done directly. The paradigm of this is that when the Shliach Tzibur says Modim, our prayer of intense gratitude, everyone says it along with him in a different version. Why? Because no one can effectively say thank you on your behalf.
"And she became pregnant again and she said 'This time I will thank Hashem'; therefore she called his name Yehudah'" (29:35).The Gemorah (Berachot 7b) says that from the beginning of the world until her time Leah was the first to say thank you to G-d. One can't help but wonder how this could be true. No one thanked G-d!? Really? The general approach to answering this question is to re-frame the Gemorah's assertion. It really means that Leah was the first to thank Hashem in a certain way.
Here's Rabbi Taragin's take: Most people thank G-d at some point and surely in the years before Leah people tnaked G-d too. The thing that was unique about her is that she thanked Hashem for the good that was mixed with discomfort. She knew that Ya'akov would never love her the way that he loved Rochel. And yet. She was grateful to have had another holy child. She accepted her place with gratitude. Like everyone, part of her may have wanted more, wanted different. Yet she was genuinely grateful for the good she had even though she experienced it as a mixed bag.
Last week I heard Rabbi Yaakov Lehrfield cite this Dvar Torah in the name of The Vilna Gaon (GRA). He said that the Roshei Teivot of את כל הדברים האלה stand for the story Rashi tells. Yaakov reported to Lavan that he had money but was robbed (rather than killed - because ani domeh lemeit). I looked in up in a sefer of the GRA's Torah thoughts and did not find it. I put my friend (and friend of this blog) Rabbi Uri Cohen on the case. Here's found that it's not the GRA and also who it is who said this idea:
אל תתמה כי לא הבאתי דבר. ברכוש רב יצאתי משם, הלך אליפז לקח הכל.
Another version is:
אל תראה כי לא הבאתי דבר. ברכוש רב יצאתי משם, הלך אליפז לקח האלה.
Zikhron Yisrael (1925) presents it without attribution
Since the paragraph after that one is attributed to Kol Eliyahu, that may have misled people into thinking both paragraphs were from the GRA.
Another collection, Yalkut Yitzchak, presents it without attribution. That book is from 1931.
Rav Yehuda Asad, known as the Mahari Asad (1794-1866), presents this idea in his sefer on Chumash, Divrei Maharia on Daf Nun Amud Bet of the print edition, which is pdf p. 156 (http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=31712&st=&pgnum=156).
Mahari Asad has similar Roshei Teivot using the words of the first pasuk of Vayetze (מבאר שבע וילך חרנה). He spells it out this way:
מיד בא אליפז רשע, שהוא בן עשו. ויתן יעקב לו כל חילו. רק נשאר המקל.
It's on Daf Mem Zayin Amud Alef of the print edition, which is pdf p. 149 (http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=31712&st=&pgnum=149).