We find that when Yaakov sleeps at Har Hamoriah 28:20 (וַיִּדַּר יַעֲקֹב, נֶדֶר לֵאמֹר: אִם-יִהְיֶה אֱלֹקים עִמָּדִי, וּשְׁמָרַנִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ, וְנָתַן-לִי לֶחֶם לֶאֱכֹל, וּבֶגֶד לִלְבֹּשׁ). That he makes a Neder that if Hakadosh Baruch Hu is with him 28:22 (וְהָאֶבֶן הַזֹּאת, אֲשֶׁר-שַׂמְתִּי מַצֵּבָה–יִהְיֶה, בֵּית אֱלֹקים; וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר תִּתֶּן-לִי, עַשֵּׂר אֲעַשְּׂרֶנּוּ לָךְ) and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be Hashem’s house.
Rav Schorr in the Ohr Gedalyahu in Parshas Mattos writes an important Yesod. He says that there is a rule that any concept which is original in the Torah has its Chashivus, has its importance by the first place where it is mentioned. This is a concept that Rav Schorr mentions in numerous places in the name of Rav Tzaddok. Nedarim, taking an oath, is mentioned here for the very first time. (וַיִּדַּר יַעֲקֹב, נֶדֶר לֵאמֹר).
And in line with Rav Tzaddok’s thought, the point Rav Schorr makes is that the purpose of the Parsha of Nedarim, the idea that there is a Parsha in the Torah regarding oaths, regarding swearing, regarding making promises, is because the purpose of the oath is for it to be done in the way that Yaakov did it. For it to be done in a manner that causes a person to be a Zariz in serving Hashem. It causes a person to be reminded and be reinforced in his commitment to serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu. That is the purpose of a Neder. As you know we don’t take oaths lightly, so the idea of taking an oath as a matter of business or the like is something we avoid. So where is the Parsha of Nedarim as a positive idea? Where is the thought of taking an oath as something constructive? (וַיִּדַּר יַעֲקֹב, נֶדֶר לֵאמֹר) When it is done in the manner that Yaakov Avinu does it here. This is the Yesod.
Rav Schorr adds that based on this we can understand this which we find in Tehillim 132:2 (אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע, לַירוָר; נָדַר, לַאֲבִיר יַעֲקֹב). When Dovid takes an oath he says I swore to Hashem, I took a Neder to the Lord of Yaakov Avinu. It doesn’t say L’avir Avrohom or L’avir Yitzchok, it says to the Lord of Yaakov Avinu. Why Yaakov? Because Yaakov started with making Nedarim and his Neder is an example of a Neder for a good reason.
If you look at Tehillim 132 it continues. When it says that Dovid Hamelech swore, what did Dovid swear, what oath did he take? 132:3 – 132:5 (ג אִם-אָבֹא, בְּאֹהֶל בֵּיתִי; אִם-אֶעֱלֶה, עַל-עֶרֶשׂ יְצוּעָי ד אִם אֶתֵּן שְׁנַת לְעֵינָי; לְעַפְעַפַּי תְּנוּמָה ה עַד-אֶמְצָא מָקוֹם, לַירוָר; מִשְׁכָּנוֹת, לַאֲבִיר יַעֲקֹב). He swore that he would have no rest until he found and acquired the place of the Bais Hamikdash. That Neder fits well with the Neder of Yaakov. Yaakov swore that if Hakadosh Baruch Hu would bring him back safely (וְהָאֶבֶן הַזֹּאת, אֲשֶׁר-שַׂמְתִּי מַצֵּבָה–יִהְיֶה, בֵּית אֱלֹקים). He swore to establish a house of Hashem and it fits beautifully that the next Neder the Neder that Dovid Hamelech mentions is also done in the same concept.
Rav Schorr adds more. He says that Parshas Mattos comes out during the 3 weeks and the Parsha of Nedarim doesn’t seem to have a connection with the 3 weeks but according to this it is good. The Parsha of Nedarim was made originally and again in the time of Dovid to establish a Beis Hamikdash and during the 3 weeks when we mourn the Beis Hamikdash it is very fitting that we should be reminded of this Parsha of Nedarim.
We find also that Dovid Hamelech said Mishpati V’akayeima Lishmor Mishp’tei Tzidkecha, I swore and will keep to observe the Mitzvos. Again this idea, the purpose of the Parsha of Nedarim is how we find it here. It is a bit difficult to know how to put this into practice. We are afraid to make Nedarim to take an oath even for a Dvar Mitzvah and rightfully so. So what does that leave us with, what can we do? One wonders, if I make a Neder but I say Bli Neder. If I promise to do something but I say Bli Neder because I am afraid that I may not keep it. Does that have any meaning at all?
It is interesting, if I recall correctly, there is a letter in the first volume of the Kovetz Teshuvas from Rav Elyashiv where Rav Elyashiv and his son in law Rav Chaim Kanievsky disagree on the point, they are talking there about Kabbalos Taanis, about accepting a Tannis for the following day. Rav Chaim Kanievsky apparently holds that one can do so Bli Neder and Rav Elyashiv says that it is meaningless.
I believe that Rav Reuvein Grozovsky in the Chiddushei Reb Reuvein in Nedarim at the end of Siman 1 says that this is actually dependent on a Machlokes Rishonim. Be that as it may at least according to some Rishonim we have an idea of promising to do something with a Bli Neder. In other words, taking a Kabbalah on ourselves, it is not really an oath but it is a Kabbalah to do something. If we succeed and fulfill that Kabbalah it does have extra meaning. Perhaps, this is a Mehalech (an approach) for us to try to use this Parsha.
Let us move on. The first story is the story of Yaakov Avinu at Har Hamoriah.
After Sheini, the scene shifts to Yaakov arriving at the home city of Lavan and of course coming upon to the (בְּאֵר) B’air. When he comes there, Yaakov Avinu says Mussar to the shepherds who have gathered and he says to them 29:7 (וַיֹּאמֶר, הֵן עוֹד הַיּוֹם גָּדוֹל–לֹא-עֵת, הֵאָסֵף הַמִּקְנֶה; הַשְׁקוּ הַצֹּאן, וּלְכוּ רְעוּ). He says the day is still young and it is not time for you to gather in the sheep. It is very hard to understand why Yaakov Avinu assumed that they were about to retire for the evening. They came to give their sheep to drink. Why did Yaakov make an assumption that they were going to somehow quit their jobs early and bring in the sheep? In the story it is not that clear. In addition, the language of Yaakov (הֵן עוֹד הַיּוֹם גָּדוֹל), there are still many hours to the day. (לֹא-עֵת, הֵאָסֵף הַמִּקְנֶה). It is redundant. Yaakov should have said that (לֹא-עֵת, הֵאָסֵף הַמִּקְנֶה) it is not time to gather in the sheep. The language (עוֹד הַיּוֹם גָּדוֹל) certainly can use explanation.
I saw a beautiful explanation in the Sefer Acharei Ro’i which is a beautiful Sefer on a number of topics. He suggests the following. Remember that the night before this event was the night that Yaakov Avinu came upon Har Hamoriah. On that night the sun set early miraculously so that Yaakov would sleep at Har Hamoriah. Now when the sun set early it wasn’t only Yaakov Avinu who noticed that, it was the whole world that noticed 28:11 (כִּי-בָא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ) that the sun set early. So people the world over were wondering what is this astronomical event. Is it that from now on there is a new time for sunset because of a time shift and now sun set will be earlier? The shepherds didn’t want to be stuck out in the fields when it gets dark, how are they going to collect their sheep? So the next day they panicked and said maybe the sun will set a few earlier today as well. So quickly they gathered in their sheep and brought them to the well. Yaakov Avinu understood this and he said to them (עוֹד הַיּוֹם גָּדוֹל), don’t worry there is still many hours left to today so (לֹא-עֵת, הֵאָסֵף הַמִּקְנֶה) it is not the time to gather the sheep because Yaakov Avinu alone among all the human beings in the world understood and knew why the set early the night before. What a beautiful thought and a Beautiful Vort.
A third thought regarding the Parsha that is connected to the end of the Parsha. At the end of the Parsha we find that when Yaakov Avinu is finally returning we see that he comes across a group of angels 32:2 (וַיִּפְגְּעוּ-בוֹ, מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹקים). Rashi explains (ויפגעו בו מלאכי א-לקים: מלאכים של ארץ ישראל באו לקראתו ללוותו לארץ). What are these angels? Rashi says that they were the Malachim of Eretz Yisrael. Just like when he left Eretz Yisrael the Malachim of Eretz Yisrael took leave of Yaakov Avinu so too now as he was returning Rashi says the Eretz Yisroel angels came to accompany him back to Eretz Yisrael.
The Ramban asks (ואני תמה בזה, שהרי עדיין לא הגיע יעקב לארץ ורחוק היה משם ושלח מלאכים אל עשו מרחוק, ושם (להלן לב כג): נאמר ויעבור את מעבר יבק, שהוא “יבק הנחל גבול בני עמון” (דברים ג טז), שהוא דרומית מזרחית לארץ ישראל, ועדיין יש לו לעבור גבול בני עמון ומואב ואחרי כך ארץ אדום. ותחלת ביאתו בארץ בשכם היה שנאמר (להלן לג יח): ויבא יעקב שלם עיר שכם אשר בארץ כנען. אבל הייתה המראה הזאת ליעקב כאשר בא בגבול אויביו להודיעו כי רבים אשר אתו מאשר אתם. ונקרא שם המקום מחנים, כי כן הדרך בשמות. או מחנים, מחנהו ומחנה העליונים, לומר כי מחנהו בארץ כמחנה המלאכים, כלם מחנות אלוקים, מברכים לו ומודים בייחודו יתברך שמו לעולמים), that it is not logical to say so because Yaakov Avinu was still quite a distance from Eretz Yisrael and he had not passed through the lands of Moav and Midyan and therefore, the Ramban disagrees with Rashi.
To explain Rashi I would like to explain I would like to share with you a nice Yesod that it says in the Divrei Yoel on this week’s Parsha not in regard to this Ramban but he talks about the general concept of Vayeitzei of taking leave of a place, of being somewhere. He writes an important Yesod. He says that although physically a person is wherever his body is at any given time, nevertheless on a higher level, on a spiritual level a person is where his mind takes him, where his mind wants him to be. Not that he is physically there but it is K’ilu.
We find such a concept in the laws of Techum Shabbos. On Shabbos a person may not travel more than 2,000 Amos and nevertheless if on Erev Shabbos someone placed an Eruv Techumim and his Daas (mind) is to be Kone Shevisa (to acquire the place that he is residing for Shabbos) at the place of the Eruv Techumim, then that becomes his place. As a matter of fact the Mishna in Eruvin is talking about someone who is travelling and did not put an Eruv Techumim, it is enough that he has in mind and states Yehai Shevisasi Bitzad Ulam Ploni (I want my place to be where that tree is). In other words, where a person wants his to be that is his place. That is the place that Halachacially we look at him as if he is there.
We find such an idea in Maseches Berachos 28b second Mishna that when someone Davens Shemone Esrei he faces Eretz Yisrael and if he can’t (יכוין את לבו כנגד בית קדשי הקדשים) he should point his heart to the place of the Kodesh Hakadoshim. This is the same idea, that where a person wants to be in a sense that is where he is.
Eretz Yisrael is called the place that Einei Elokecha Ba Mairaishis Shana Ad Acharis Hashana, that Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s eyes are Kavayachul on Eretz Yisrael and we too if our hearts are towards Eretz Yisrael it is as if we are there.
The Gemara in Maseches Kesuvos 75a (9 lines from the bottom) Darshuns the Posuk from Tehillim 87:5 ((תהילים פז) ולציון יאמר איש ואיש יולד בה והוא יכוננה עליון א”ר מיישא בר בריה דר’ יהושע בן לוי אחד הנולד בה ואחד המצפה לראותה). The Posuk in Tehillim says regarding Tzion regarding Yerushalayim that the Goyim say all you are born there so the Gemara Darshuns not only one who is born there but someone who has in his heart a strong desire to be there and see Yerushalayim it is as if he was born there and is a citizen of Yerushalayim. Rashi says that (ולציון יאמר. משום דאיירי בה רבי מיישא נקיט לה ולציון יאמר איש ואיש יולד בה לעתיד לבא כשיתקיים מקרא שכתוב והביאו את כל אחיכם מנחה לה’ וגו’ כל מקום שימצאו שם ישראל יאמרו העמים זהו מבני ציון זה יולד בה נביאנו שם). Rashi says that in later days the Goyim will look at Yidden and whoever wants to be in Eretz Yisrael, whoever has a (Teshuka) a desire will be called Bnei Tzion. So this is the idea that where a person has his heart set, in a certain sense it is as if he is there.
Here too, Yaakov Avinu was now heading back to Eretz Yisroel and his heart mind was on Eretz Yisrael. He was eager to return even from a distance. At that moment the Malachim returned to him the Malachim of Eretz Yisrael came to him K’ilu (as if) he was actually there.
The question of the week is: Yaakov Avinu in defending himself to Lavan explains that in 20 years of watching the sheep of Lavan and if anything happened to any of them 31:39 (אָנֹכִי אֲחַטֶּנָּה, מִיָּדִי תְּבַקְשֶׁנָּה). If something happened to one of the sheep even if Min Hadin Yaakov Avinu would not have had an obligation to pay, he still paid from his own money and reimbursed Lavan. As Rashi says on the words in the Posuk (גְּנֻבְתִי יוֹם, וּגְנֻבְתִי לָיְלָה), (גנבתי יום וגנבתי לילה: גנובת יום או גנובת לילה הכל שלמתי) if anything was stolen I paid back. I took my own money and paid back. There is a bit of a difficulty with this.
We know that Yaakov Avinu crossed the Yardein, Ki B’makli Es Hayardein Hazeh. Everything he had was taken from him by Elifaz the grandson of Eisav and he came penniless to Lavan. Where did he own money to repay Lavan for the sheep that was stolen, he had no money. He worked 7 years for one wife and 7 years for another wife and now these 6 years he was not paid, he says for all 20 years he was able to pay him back. Where did Yaakov acquire money to be able to pay him. This is something that is Tzorech Iyun Gadol unless he wrote a letter to Yitzchok and he mailed him back money. Maybe that is the answer.
However, thinking about it, the Kasha would apply even earlier in the Parsha. In 28:18 (וַיַּשְׁכֵּם יַעֲקֹב בַּבֹּקֶר, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-הָאֶבֶן אֲשֶׁר-שָׂם מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו, וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתָהּ, מַצֵּבָה; וַיִּצֹק שֶׁמֶן, עַל-רֹאשָׁהּ) Yaakov Avinu sleeping at Har Hamoriah (וַיִּצֹק שֶׁמֶן, עַל-רֹאשָׁהּ), he pours oil on the Matzeiva. Again, if Elifaz took everything from Yaakov Avinu from where did he get the oil? Tzorech Iyun Gadol.