Life Lessons from the Torah Reading
Yaacov (Jacob) , our forefather, was the father of all the Jewish people throughout the generations. Abraham had an Isaac and an Ishmael. Isaac had a Yaacov and an Esau. Yet it is from Yaacov that the twelve sons arose and created the people of Israel.
Yaacov was the prototype of Tiferet-Harmony of Truth. It is with that quality that he moved forward through the twists and turns of exile and disappointments. His was a searing yearning for truth that at times burnt a scar even in his own sense of self worth. Yet that was the prototype that needed to come into being before the people of Israel could be used by G-d to change the world.
Yet that searing yearning for truth could have crippled his ability to keep growing. We encounter Yaacov fleeing from his house. He was escaping from a brother who was set to kill him. He was running from a father who may have lost some measure of faith and confidence in his son. He was leaving without knowing when he was to return. And he was leaving into a land of the unknown, and into a future filled with challenges and doubt. He is fatigued and drained and he falls asleep on a rock in the middle of the field.
It is then that G-d reveals to him a powerful image and deeply impacting metaphor:
“and he arrived at the place and lodged there because the sun had set, and he took some of the stones of the place and placed [them] at his head, and he lay down in that place. 12And he dreamed, and behold! a ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to heaven; and behold, angels of G-d were ascending and descending upon it. 13And behold, Hashem was standing over him, and He said, “I am Hashem, the G-d of Abraham your father, and the G-d of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying to you I will give it and to your seed. …..15And behold, I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have spoken concerning you.” (Genesis 28:11-15)
Yaacov wakes up bewildered and even frightened;
“And Yaacov awakened from his sleep, and he said, “Indeed, Hashem is in this place, and I did not know it.”And he was frightened, and he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven.” (ibis 16-17)
Why would that be? Why would he be frightened? Why is it that we hear Yaacov asking the following? “If G-d will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go,” Where is that “if” coming from.
Perhaps it comes from a deep insecurity that was aroused at the event of his receiving blessings from his father Isaac. G-d’s promise is a fact but he, Yaacov feels he may not be worthy of its complete fulfillment. Perhaps the statement of his father Yitzchak still sits heavily on his heart,
”The voice is the voice of Yaacov, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” (Genesis 27:22)
Yet on a deeper level we need to understand the fright and we need to comprehend the statement, “Indeed, Hashem is in this place, and I did not know it”.
It is first and foremost a realization that Hashem would be available to him, everywhere and at all times.
Yet Rashi explains the words ” and i did not know it” in the another direction;
“and I did not know it”: For had I known, I would not have slept in such a holy place. ( Bereishith Rabbath). HaRav Kook asks the question why he would not have wanted to sleep there. It was because of his sleep that he received that incredible vision in a dream?
Rav Kook explains that Yaacov is declaring that he did not want to reach such a level of revelation only through a dream. He wanted to have the opportunity to do what was necessary in his awake state to achieve that same level. Hashem works through our actions and impacts the world. He could have created the world differently yet instead He created one in which His promises were to be opportunities waiting to be seized. Yaacov’s deep inner quality of Tifferet understood that.
This was to be the Yaacov who would be ready to enter into the depths of this world and bring out treasure through prayer, effort and sacrifice. He would teach the world to take step after step and be the language of G-d. His life would be a lesson of expecting miracles but not of depending on them.
He was also the one who could bring about the twelve treasures that would make up this people. Abraham represents unlimited Chessed- Loving-Kindness. His focus was the world. Isaac’s strength was Gevura-Inner strength and his focus was inward meditation, contemplation and growth. Yaacov was going to represent something else. He represented the attribute of Tifferet – (beautiful harmony of truth) that necessitated a blending of those characteristics of his forefathers. It would only be that synthesis that could create a framework for an eternal people. This would be a people that would impact all of mankind.
Yaacov in his vision saw a house ;
“And he was frightened, and he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven.”( ibid 28:17).
Yaacov in his rung by rung journey integrated the inward passion of Isaac with the universal approach of Abraham and created “a house”. It is that “house” that will bring together and then unite the world;
“And many nations will go and say ‘Let us go and go up to the mountain of Hashem, to the house of the G-d of Yaacov ( Yaacov) !” ( Isaiah2 )
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved