Friday, December 02, 2011

VaYeitzei 5634 Third Ma'amar

The beginning of this week’s parsha recounts Ya’akov Avinu’s journey to Charan and the prophetic dream he had along the way.  The Torah relates to us Ya'akov's reaction upon awaking, "ויירא ויאמר מה נורא המקום הזה אין זה כי אם בית א-להים וזה שער השמים/He feared and said, 'How awesome is this place!  This is none other that the house of God and this is the gate of the heavens." (Breishis 28:17)

The Torah relates the dream because of its great significance.  In this dream God communicated directly with Ya'akov promising to protect him, to make him into a great nation and to give him the land of Israel.  However, why does the Torah relate to us Ya'akov's reaction to having slept in this holy place?  Why is this significant?

The answer lies in an understanding of Ya'akov's fear.  Ya'akov was not afraid of divine retribution.  He was not afraid for himself.  The Sfas Emes explains that Ya'akov's fear was in fact fear of heaven or perhaps better translated as awe.  The Torah is praising Ya'akov.  Whereas another may have felt pride in having such a dream in which God spoke directly to him, Ya'akov was overcome by awe.  Ya'akov, a man of truth, did not allow his personal spiritual growth to cloud his thoughts and affect his reaction.  He had slept on holy ground.  He was in awe.

Ya'akov Avinu's awe was significant for another reason as well.  The Sfas Emes explains that due to Ya'akov's awe, we – his progeny – merited the Beis HaMikdash on this site.  The Sfas Emes learns this from a Midrash.  The Midrash[1] teaches us that God showed Ya'akov a prophecy of the Beis HaMikdash when it was standing, destroyed, and after it will be rebuilt in the future.  The Midrash infers this from the pasuk above.  The Midrash associates the beginning of our pasuk, "ויירא ויאמר מה נורא המקום הזה/He feared and said, 'How awesome is this place!" with a pasuk in Tehillim (68:36), "נורא א-להים ממקדשיך .../You are awesome, O God, from Your sanctuaries …"  From this association the Midrash understands that Ya'akov saw the Beis HaMikdash when it was standing.  

The Midrash is teaching us that when we relate to God as awesome, as Ya'akov did, we merit the Beis HaMikdash.  The Midrash considers fear of God to be the key factor in the existence of the Beis HaMikdash.  When Ya'akov said, "אין זה כי אם בית א-להים/This is none other than the house of God," he is stating the result of fear of heaven.

In fact, awe and fear of God is not only the main reason for the existence of the Beis HaMikdash.  It is the main cause for the existence of everything as we find, "יראת ה' טהורה עומדת לעד/Fear of God is pure; it stands forever." (Tehillim 19:10) 

Furthermore, fear of heaven causes an opening through which our prayers can be received as we find at the end of our pasuk, "וזה שער השמים/and this is the gate of the heavens."  The gate of the heavens opened because of Ya'akov Avinu's fear of God.  As well, they open for us when we have fear of God. 

[1] Breishis R. 69:7

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