Vayeishev: Lucky 13


rabbi-nosson-greenbergBy Rabbi Nosson Greenberg

In this week’s parsha, the Torah tells us of the love that Yaakov had for his son Yosef. As the passuk says,VeYisraelahaves Yosef”- “And Yisrael loved Yosef” (Beraishis, 37:3). There are only a handful of people in the Torah that we are told loved others. Two husbands and wives; Yitzchak & Rivka (Beraishis, 24:67), and Yaakov & Rachel [and Leah] (Beraishis, 29:13&30). Three parents and their sons; Yitzchak &Aisav (Beraishis, 25:28), Rivka& Yaakov (ibid), and the aforementioned Yaakov & Yosef. What caught my eye are the differences that the Torah uses to tell us of these loves. Of the six places, a vavhahipuch (a vav which prefixes a verb to change its tense) is used in four of them. The two exceptions are Rivka and her love for her son Yaakov, and Yaakov’s love here for Yosef. One would expect the Torah to say “Vaye’ehavYisrael” which is the normal way for saying “And Yisrael loved”. But instead it says “VeYisraelahav”. Why?

Perhaps we can suggest the following homiletical understanding. Love, as the balladeers will tell you, is in most situations an acquired taste. Take a husband and wife. No one expects the love between them to be instantaneous. It can take much time and effort, highs and lows, until ones appreciation of a spouse turns into true love. For every human is created a unique specimen, as unique as his or her own fingerprints. Add to this uniqueness a natural instinct for self-preservation, and you have all the ingredients that make it unnatural to love something else. The Hebrew for “one” is echad, which has a numerical value of 13. Ahavah, the Hebrew for “love” is also 13. The underlying message of this “coincidence” is that in order to attain the 13 of ahavah one has to be willing to give up the 13 of echad. The bottom line is, real love demands a reversal of ones persona. And that’s why the Hebrew way of saying love between a husband and wife demands avavhahipuch – a reversing vav, because one has to reverse in order to love.

Loving children, however, is different. The moment they come into the world there is a natural love that a parent has for them. It need not be cultivated nor developed, it just exists. For a child is an extension of a parent, a chip of the old block. [Note that the Hebrew for a father & mother is Av&Aim, a total numerical value of 44, the same as the Hebrew for child-yeled.] Sure, having children is a life-changing experience, but no persona-type hipuch is necessary for this genre of love. Thus, the Torah, when mentioning Rivka’s love for Yaakov, and his subsequent love for Yosef, both the love of children, sees no need to hipuchize in its description.

Ayyyy you will ask we do find a hipuch used when telling us of Yitzchak’s love for his son Aisav. As the passuk says “Vaye’ehav Yitzchak esAisav…” [Seemy Dvar Torah to Toldos  -The Real McCoy]. The answer to that is simple. Chazal call Yitzchak an “olahtemima” – an absolute and perfect servant of Hashem. Aisav, on the other hand was the devil incarnate. The usual instinctive love that a parent has for a child was just not possible between those two polar opposites. Yitzchak thus, had to reverse his nature of abhorrence to all things unholy and cultivate an ability to love.



Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.

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