Friday, November 08, 2013

VaYeitzei 5632 Second Ma'amar

The beginning of this week’s parsha recounts Ya’akov Avinu’s trip to his uncle Lavan and the dream he had along the way. Ya’akov woke up upset that he had slept in such a holy place. He said, “... אָכֵן יֵשׁ ה' בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה וְאָנֹכִי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי/… Indeed, God is in this place and I did not know!” (Breishis 28:16)  Rashi explains that if he had known, he would not have slept there.

When we think about it we realize just how amazing this is. Ya’akov gained much from having slept in that place.  Rashi tells us that the place in which he slept was the site of the future Beis HaMikdash.  A miracle occurred and the sun set early specifically so that he would stop there.  As a result of having slept there, he had a prophetic dream in which God promised him Eretz Yisrael and also promised to protect him on his dangerous journey.  Yet, Ya’akov Avinu was upset that he slept there.  He would rather have forfeited the prophecy and God’s promise than to have slept on the holy ground!  Why?

A clue can be gleaned from the Zohar[1] on the words “וְאָנֹכִי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי/and I did not know.”  The Zohar poses the following question.  Why did Ya’akov berate himself for not knowing that God’s presence rested where he slept?  How was he to know?  The Zohar answers that knowledge in Tanach connotes connection[2].  Ya’akov Avinu knew that his primary purpose was to come close to God.  When Ya’akov Avinu said “לֹא יָדָעְתִּי/I did not know,” he was not berating himself for not knowing.  Rather he was berating himself for not being spiritually sensitive enough, not “connected” enough, to realize that the Shechina was in this place.  This, then, answers our question.  Ya’akov Avinu would have preferred to be in tune enough with God – “connected” to Him, as it were – to have felt the holiness of the site rather than to have slept there and receive the prophecy and promise.

Still, after the dream, he did recognize the holiness of the place.  He also realized that he received a special enlightenment from God in the form of the prophetic dream.  His sense of awe of God became more developed as a result of the dream.  He grew spiritually because of it.  We learn from Ya’akov Avinu to recognize any Godly enlightenment that we receive and let it affect us bringing us closer to God.

Many times we have a new thought or a solution to a problem which comes to us in a flash.  In some mysterious way, some problem that we were struggling with becomes clear.  These new thoughts, clarity and solutions, are messages from God.  The Sfas Emes teaches us that their very purpose is for us to recognize them as such.  God sends them to us to give us a means for strengthening our awe of Him and coming closer to Him.  If we do not recognize them as God-sent but rather chalk these thoughts up to “flashes of inspiration,” then they haven’t fulfilled their purpose and were wasted.  May we merit recognizing God’s messages to us, as Ya’akov Avinu did, and coming closer to Him through them. Amen!

[1] Zohar 1:150a-b
[2] We find, for example, “And Adam knew his wife Chava …” (Breishis 4:1) He connected with her. Another example from last week’s parsha is when God says, referring to Avraham Avinu, “For I have known him …” (Breishis 18:19) Rashi explains that this is an expression of God's love for Avraham Avinu because loving implies drawing someone near and knowing that person.

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