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Parashat Vayetseh


“And Yaakov left Beer-Sheva.”

“When a righteous person leaves a place, he leaves behind a void. As long as he lives in the city he constitutes its glory, it’s splendor, and it’s beauty. When he departs,however, it’s glory, splendor, and beauty departs with him” (Rashi).

The Talmud relates that Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakai was always first to initiate a greeting in a public place.

When the great sage would meet someone in the street, he always initiated a greeting, and that never, in his entire lifetime, did he ever wait to be greeted first. Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakai is one of the most outstanding personalities in Jewish history. After Jerusalem fell to the Romans, he served as both the political and religious leader of the Jewish nation for 40 years. He is single-handedly responsible for the survival of Israel during that difficult era.

When this great leader walked down the street. He undoubtedly engaged in important conversations with his colleagues and disciples on the vital issues of the day. We certainly could understand that he could not interrupt such weighty discussions to respond to people who greeted him, let alone to initiate a greeting to others.

Still, the Talmud states that regardless of his preoccupation with the leadership of Israel, this great personality never waited to be greeted first, and not even the importance of his position would cause him to expect recognition from others. What a remarkable and significant influence this must of had on the entire population, to teach them the value and honor due to every single person and how this added to the glory, splendor and beauty of his city.

The great sage Hillel prophesied about Rabbi Yohanan that he would be, “a father to wisdom and a father to many generations“. He was a leader who followed in the footsteps of our great forefathers who’s humility also paralleled their greatness.


Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Shaul