Parshas Vayeitzei - Like a Man Whose Mother Consoles So Will I Console You [On the Occasion of My Mother's First Yahrzeit]

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 11/10/21

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
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As I commemorate the first yahrtzeit of my dear mother, I would like to share an exquisite handwritten document we found among her papers that she evidently penned many years ago. It is entitled 'The Prayer of the Mother of a Ben Torah'. As a mother of five sons, but no daughters, she articulated in her inimitable way her hopes for the daughters-in-law she would merit.  

My mother who lived to the ripe old age of ninety-six, adored my weekly divrei Torah, as only a mother can, reading and commenting on them up until a few years ago. 

As the portions we have been reading these past few weeks and in the ensuing week describe the qualities of the women who became the matriarchs of our nation, I have interspersed excerpts from my writings that mirror many of the themes my mother expressed. Evidently some of her teachings penetrated my soul. 


"G-d, grant my son all the brachos of the Torah. 

Long life, good health, wisdom, respect for his parents, and favor in the eyes of his fellow men - with all these please endow him. 

But - above all, bless him with a good wife! 

How shall her virtues be measured? 

Beauty? She need not be “fashion model” beautiful, but only possessed of sufficient attractiveness to find appeal mainly in his eyes. May her goodness shine from her eyes and illuminate her countenance with a pleasing smile whenever she greats her husband. 


Rashi quotes a Midrash that says that Sarah’s beauty at the age of twenty was equivalent to that of a seven-year-old! Doesn’t a mature woman possess a more captivating beauty than that of a child?  


The beauty of a child is pure, selfless, and unassuming. An adult often “wears” one’s attractiveness. Sarah was truly stunning, but it reflected a beauty that radiated an inner purity and absolute innocence, like that wholesome charm of a pretty child. 


Avraham viewed Sarah for who she was, an exquisitely spiritual woman who transmitted and inspired greatness of the spirit. He never saw anything one-dimensional and merely physical.  

Intellect? May she have training in limudei kodesh, only not simply a mastery of a body of knowledge but an intense understanding of the basic purpose for which Hashem created her as delineated by our Chachomim. May she have learned enough to appreciate the great zchus of being the helpmate of a ben Torah, and the difficult but eminently worthwhile life she must accept, wherever she and her husband are destined to live. 


One must first prove how determined one is to reach their spiritual goals by enduring the physical challenges that seek to quash our determination and defeat our ambitions. 


Rachel had to first submit her maidservant to beget children from Yaakov. Only one who is motivated by the selfless goal of bringing the Tribes of Israel into existence, not simply stemming from the natural maternal instinct every female has, even among the strata of animal, would be able to withstand not becoming deflated or deterred when seeing their maidservant be privileged, rather than they themselves, mothering those children. 


When one is willing to sacrifice one’s own personal aspirations for the greater ‘Honor of Heaven’ that is when G-d situates Himself on the throne of compassion, permitting His beloved Rachel to defy the laws of  nature in meriting to bear a child, as indeed she went on to mother, both Yosef and Binyomin.

Friends? May she be able to befriend all varieties of people and find zechusim in them rather than faults. May her standards for friends be based on the same traditional qualities with which our Imahos were judged - Generosity, tact, and the ability to place the needs of others before their own. May she not repulse them with excessive self-consciousness and or unwarranted fear of rejection. 


In a departure from other commentaries, Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch offers a remarkable and innovative understanding of the events that transpired in the dudaim/flower exchange between Leah and Rachel: 


Rather, the whole matter appears as an instance to show a state of the two sisters living together in the most confidential intimacy. While Yaakov is out in the fields the two wives sit together. His evenings he spends alternatively with each one of them. Reuvein, who was still a boy, brings some wildflowers home to his mother. “Give me some of them”, says Rachel. “What audacity to ask for my precious flowers, etc.” says Leah jokingly, but of course she gives her some. “Now”, says Rachel, “because you have been so kind, he shall come to you this evening”. (RSRH) 


There is no indication Leah initiated a barter as she makes no evident request. She seems to have given from her flowers before the ‘deal’ is struck, indicating it was the loving sister Rachel who was gladly offering to give the night to her sister. 


But what precipitated this new friendship? Wasn’t the undercurrent in the house of Yaakov stormier just a bit earlier? 


The Zohar (תולדות דף קלד:) says the word דודאים is rooted in דודים, friends, perhaps a reference to the alliance between the body and the soul who are dear and loyal friends or to the quality of this fragrant flower that can induce love and camaraderie in others. 


So often we get caught up in the struggle for our own definition. Our personal hopes and aspirations cloud our ability to see accurately the master plan of God. We allow ‘our’ expectations to drive our ambitions which so often lead to resentment. 


We have to stand back a moment and ‘smell the roses’ reflecting on the larger picture that is being played out. 


May she ideally have come from a loving, happy home where all its members were taught to share and give of themselves for the welfare of the others. And toiling that good fortune, may she at least have acquired these qualities from some other source for without this ability, no marriage can prosper, however desperately she desires it. 

Devorah, the wet nurse of Rivkah is not initially mentioned by name when she is first referenced as merely 'her wet nurse' when Rivkah is dispatched by her family to travel back with Eliezer to meet her mate Yitzchok, where the verse describes how they escorted Rivkah and מנקתה. The Targum Yonoson translates it as פידגוגיתא, a pedagogue, she was Rivkah’s teacher. The Targum Yerushalmi interprets it as מרביתא, implying a foster-mother. This woman was clearly more than just a provider of physical nourishment. She was the woman who despite the challenges Rivkah faced being raised in a home where the likes of Lavan and Besuel abided and where deceit, dishonesty and selfishness were the currency of their relationships, was nevertheless able to nurture Rivkah in becoming the epitome of kindness and selflessness and instilling within her remarkable self-confidence so she could buck the tide of corruption that was the credo of this home. 


The illustrious Gaon, Rav Simcha Wasserman explained the concept of 'nursing a child' which is used throughout the Talmud as a metaphor for teaching Torah. A nursing child must be fed by its mother solely with the child’s need in mind. The mother cannot simply nurse for the sake of disgorging her milk, for then the child may choke. Neither can a mother squander her milk, withholding it from the hungry child. 


This is true in all facets of raising healthy children, we must be selflessly attuned to their needs, not too much nor too little, each child with its unique requirements. Exaggerated praise or insufficient encouragement will stifle the development of a healthy sense of self. 


Rivkah exhibited both confident courage and absolute humility throughout her life. She stood up to her conniving brother Lavan asserting unequivocally her intent to leave with Eliezer. Upon sensing the greatness of Yitzchok, she falls off her camel donning a veil in submission to his spiritual stature. She can shoulder the responsibility in encouraging Yaakov not to fear snatching the blessings from Esav.  


Devorah the ultimate ‘wet nurse’, implemented this strategy of ‘nursing’ in all aspects of Rivka’s emotional and character development, enabling her to become the matriarch she was and remains for eternity. 


May her concept of ‘love’ not be based only on a reflection of herself in her husband’s eyes but on a willingness to enhance his image in Klall Yisrael, just as Rachel, the wife of Rabbi Akiva, did for her husband. 


Rachel had displayed unusual greatness as evident in the transmitting to Leah the ‘secret signs’ she devised together with Yaakov to avoid being duped at the wedding by her conniving father, so that Leah would avoid being discovered and embarrassed. Yet Rachel never assumed any entitlement because of that ‘simple’ favor she did to her sister. 


Rachel accepted Leah being superior to her and therefore worthy of begetting the children that would carry the legacy of Yaakov. It is for that reason she acted without fear of Yaakov's response, for she truly believed it was in his best interests.  


May she have the courage and the strength to spare him, on occasion, from his husbandly and fatherly duties in order for him to fulfill a holy mission. 

I promise not to judge her housekeeping, her taste in clothes, her methods of child rearing (as long as they include large doses of love and orthodox tradition) or the activities which she devotes her spare time, as long as they too are in harmony with her husband’s and children’s welfare. 

She need not be rich or descended from noble lineage, but she must be able to give to others in at least equal measure to what she takes. 

To such a Bas Yisrael will I gladly relinquish my son and will, if asked, aid and abet her to the best of my ability. 

Such a wife would justify the investment of years of nurturing which I lavished on my son.”

How fortunate I have been, to be the son of such a wonderful mother. 

May I continue to give her nachas and may she intercede on behalf of her many

descendants as only a mother in the image of our great matriarchs can. 

לעילוי נשמת מרת שיינדל מרים בת מתתיהו מרדכי ע"ה 

יהי זכרה ברוך 


צבי יהודה טייכמאן