Friday, November 12, 2010

VaYeitzei 5634 Second Ma'amar

In this week’s parsha the Torah relates the story of Ya’akov Avinu’s sojourn to the house of Lavan in Charan.  The Torah tells us, in seemingly unwarranted detail, Ya’akov’s experiences at the well when he first comes to Charan.  וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה בְאֵר בַּשָׂדֶה וְהִנֵּה־שָׁם שְׁלֹשָׁה עֶדְרֵי־צֹאן רֹבְצִים עָלֶיהָ כִּי מִן־הַבְּאֵר הַהִוא יַשְׁקוּ הָעֲדָרִים וְהָאֶבֶן גְּדֹלָה עַל־פִּי הַבְּאֵר׃ וְנֶאֶסְפוּ־שָׁמָּה כָל־הָעֲדָרִים וְגָלְלוּ אֶת־הָאֶבֶן מֵעַל פִּי הַבְּאֵר .../He looked and beheld a well in the field and there were three flocks of sheep lying about it, because from the well they watered the flocks but there was a great stone upon the well.  When all the flocks gathered there, they rolled the stone off the mouth of the well …” (Breishis 29:2,3)  What is the point of this story?  It seems to have little connection to the main story line of Ya’akov in the house of Lavan, his marriage to Leah and Rachel and the birth of the tribes.

The Sfas Emes understands this story homiletically.  From this story of the well outside Charan, we learn how we can experience God's revelation in this world.

The Field

According to the Arizal as quoted by the Chiddushei HaRim, a field is a metaphor for revelation particularly for the revelation of God that occurs through the Shabbos.  The maiden of Shir HaShirim beckoning her beloved, "לכה דודי נצא השדה .../Come my beloved, let us go out to the field …" (Shir HaShirim 7:12) is a metaphor for the nation of Israel asking God to reveal Himself.  This is because a field, as opposed to a desert, is fertile.  The world is considered a desert during the week.  On Shabbos it is considered a fertile field because just like things can grow in a fertile field, the underlying Godly force that imbues the world is revealed on Shabbos.

The Well

Wells are a metaphor for the source of life.  So, the well in the field represents the revelation of the source of life that happens on Shabbos.

The Flocks of Sheep

The flocks of sheep represent the nation of Israel.  The flocks of sheep gathering at the well represent the nation's subordination to the source of life.  We find elsewhere that assifa/gathering in means subordination, "אם ישים אליו לבו רוחו ונשמתו אליו יאסף/If He will put His heart to it, He would simply gather in his spirit and his soul to Himself." (Iyov 34:14)  The simple meaning of this pasuk is that God is in charge of a person's life.  If He so desires, He can simply end it.  However, the Sfas Emes understands this pasuk as referring to our relationship with God, "If he puts his heart to Him, he can gather in his spirit and soul to Him" – If a person so desires he can subordinate himself totally, spirit and soul to God.

There are specifically three flocks of sheep as this represents total subordination.  How so?  When God commands us to love Him with our entire beings He mentions three things.  He says to love Him, "... בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך ובכל מאדך/… with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength." (Devarim 6:5) 

The three flocks are also an allusion to the three parts of the soul, nefesh, ru'ach, neshama.[1]  Here too, the meaning is to subordinate our entire beings to God.

The Stone Covering the Well

If the well in the field represents God's revelation on Shabbos, the stone covering the well represents God's concealment.  The Sfas Emes teaches that concealment exists wherever there is the possibility for revelation.  Chazal[2] allude to this when they say that the mouth of the well was created on Erev Shabbos.  Although they are referring to a different well, the well of Miriam, still the metaphor of a well relating to revelation applies.  

What is the significance of this well having been created on Erev Shabbos?  The word ערב/evening, connotes a lack of clarity.  It is closely associated with, עירוב/mixture.  When things are mixed together we do not see each item clearly.  The well, representing God's revelation, was created specifically on Erev Shabbos to teach us that with the possibility for revelation comes concealment. 

We remove the concealment by subordinating ourselves to God as the flocks of sheep gathered in to the well.  Keeping Shabbos is an ultimate form of subordination because we refrain from doing any creative work on Shabbos.  We thus subordinate all our creative activities to God.  By intentionally refraining from creative work on Shabbos, we are able to experience spiritual enlightenment.  In the words of the metaphor, we roll the stone off the well.

The Torah relates that even though the stone on the well was heavy and the shepherds could not easily roll it off, Ya'akov Avinu alone did so.  How does this fit into the metaphor?  It is no easy task to experience God's revelation while living immersed in the physical world.  Keeping Shabbos as a form of subordination is not always easy depending upon one's circumstances and the society in which he lives.  Even if it is relatively easy for us to refrain from creative activity on Shabbos, it is far from easy to remain unaffected and uninfluenced by the physical world of which we are so much a part.  We, for the most part, attribute an unwarranted reality to the physical world.  In truth, the physical world is an illusion, a screen that God created for the specific purpose of concealing Himself.  It is no easy task to internalize this understanding of reality.

Ya'akov Avinu, though, was able to remove the stone from the well by himself easily.  Chazal[3] say that he flipped it off the well as one flips a cap off a jar.  In terms of the metaphor, he was easily able to remove that which concealed God and experience revelation.  The reason Ya'akov was able to do this was because the attribute of truth is associated with him as we find, "תתן אמת ליעקב .../Give truth to Ya'akov …"  When Ya'akov looked at the physical world, he saw it for what it really is, a screen that God created in order to conceal Himself.  Since Ya'akov had the attribute of truth, he saw through this and was able to do simply what for others require much work.

[1] See Zohar 1:205a
[2] Avos 5:6
[3] Breishis R. 70:12

No comments: