19 Nov 2015 Alone with One
It is another erev Shabos Kodesh when we find ourselves numb, in shock, without words…yet again! The collective pain as we check our phones, our computers, our email yet again, and in disbelief, we read the news…yet again! We reach out to each other for support and chizuk, strength, searching for the right words to say – though they certainly escape us; for there is, quite simply, nothing to say.
A year after Jews were murdered during the Amidah of Shachris in Jerusalem, two Jews were murdered during the Amidah of mincha in Tel Aviv.
A devoted, kind, loving teacher, a son of Holocaust survivors and the father of four, cruelly taken from us this afternoon… And an 18 year old youth going to give food to soldiers, whose soul has ascended to its eternal rest.
Four erev Shabos kedoshim. Each one a world.
When the righteous leave a place, it makes an impression, for the splendor, beauty and glory of a place leaves when the righteous depart (See Rashi to Gen.28:10).
Our world, our Land and our nation are now four degrees dimmer after this painful afternoon.
Hashem yikom damam; May Hashem speedily avenge their blood.
As we open this week’s parsha, Parshas Vayeitzei, we find Yaakov Avinu on the run. He is fleeing the wrath of his brother, Eisav, and headed to the home of his uncle, Lavan. No wealth to his name, no family to call his own, no Yeshiva in which to immerse himself, and about to depart from the Holy Land…Yaakov is alone.
To be alone is to be lost; yet to be alone with G-d is to be alone with One.
וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם וַיָּלֶן שָׁם – And he encountered the place (the Place) and he davened there (Gen.28:11). From here the Sages learn that Yaakov davened the evening prayer, Tefillas Arvis (Brachos 26b). The evening prayer is the the prayer of the frightened, the confused, the Jew going through difficult and dark times.
For while we sing His praises in the morning, we declare our faith in Him davka at night;
לְהַגִּיד בַּבֹּקֶר חַסְדֶּךָ; וֶאֱמוּנָתְךָ, בַּלֵּילוֹת (Ps.92:2).
After he prays, Yaakov lays down to sleep in that place, and he has his famous dream. He sees a ladder reaching to the heights of heaven with angels going up and down the ladder. And behold! Hashem is standing over him. Hashem assures Yaakov that He will be with him, He will return him to the Land, and His children will be many.
When Yaakov awakes, he exclaims אכן יש ה׳ במקום הזה ואנכי לא ידעתי, Indeed, Hashem is in this place, and I did not know! (Gen.28:16)
In which place was Hashem, that Yaakov did not know?
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches that “G-d’s revelation at times of crisis, from the depths of despair and distress, is a basic principle of Judaism. Sometimes G-d does not reveal Himself to the contented soul; He reveals Himself to the mute soul, battered by weariness and exertion. Sometimes He does not reveal Himself to the rational individual, but to one who is confused about life, who is bankrupt and has lost track of his world. From time to time, man’s salvation comes out of distress. For even the most spiritually elevated members of our people, at times, encounter G-d during times of raging fear, helplessness and distraction.”
Furthermore, R’ Soloveitchik notes that, “Judaism has firmly established the halachic principle that even when man confronts an unchangeable evil decree coming from G-d – even when his dejected prayers are seemingly thrown back in his face – he must see G-d and conjoin with Him, in spite of the tragic reality that weighs him down. G-d reveals Himself through suffering and tragedy, when the individual or community is in distress.”
עִמּוֹ-אָנֹכִי בְצָרָה – I am with him in his troubles (Ps.91:15). Hashem was with Yaakov in his darkest time. This is where He was and Yaakov had not know.
And yet, Yaakov Avinu teaches us that in one’s individual distress, and in our communal distress, we are never alone. For as Yaakov davened, we daven. And through tefillah we encounter the Place, and we find ourselves alone, together, with One.
May the Heavens be opened to our prayers and our tears and may they be accepted with grace before Him.
בברכת בשורות טובות וישועת,