15 Nov 2018 Parshas Vayeitzei – Even Here G-d Can Be Found
This week’s parsha, Parshas Vayeitzei, opens as Yaakov Avinu is on the run, fleeing the wrath of his brother, Eisav, who wants to kill him over the contested brachos (blessings) (Bereishis 27). Alone, he leaves Be’er Sheva to journey to Charan, to his uncle Lavan, where he will find refuge, shelter and wives.
As the sun sets, and night falls, Yaakov lays down on the stones of the place and has his famous dream. Angels of G-d are ascending and descending the ladder, and behold! Hashem is standing upon him, and He says: I am the G-d of Avraham your father, and the G-d of Yitzchak; the land on which you are laying I will give to you and your offspring. And your children will be like the dust of the earth, and spread out to the west, east, north and south, and all the families on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring…(Bereishis 28:1-15).
With this exalted dream, and prophetic revelation, Yaakov Avinu is encouraged and reminded that even if one feels utterly alone in this journey of life: if one is on the run from a murderous brother, if one does not yet have wives or children, if one is leaving the comforts and safety of Eretz Yisrael and his father’s home, for all the times we feel utterly alone – exactly then and exactly there, Hashem is standing over us, with us, to protect us.
In the darkest of times, G-d is there.
וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב, מִשְּׁנָתוֹ, וַיֹּאמֶר, אָכֵן יֵשׁ ה’ בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה; וְאָנֹכִי, לֹא יָדָעְתִּי – And Yaakov awoke from his sleep and said: Truly, G-d is in this place, and I did not know it! (28:16).
R’ S.R. Hirsch writes, “וַיֹּאמֶר – and he said: This does not introduce new activity, but, rather, what Yaakov says upon awakening, the first impression made on him by the experience in his sleep. ‘Truly G-d is in this place!’ In his humility, he does not ascribe to himself G-d’s nearness, but to the place. Indeed, one need not search for G-d in heaven. Rather, wherever a blameless man lays down his head – G-d is there! This is Yaakov’s first thought. And then he adds: ‘And I did not know it!’ I did not know that G-d’s glory dwells in this world – together with man!”
With this stunning realization, that man is never alone and G-d is everywhere and anywhere supporting and encouraging even the loneliest individual:
וַיִּירָא, וַיֹּאמַר, מַה-נּוֹרָא, הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה: אֵין זֶה, כִּי אִם-בֵּית אלקים, וְזֶה, שַׁעַר הַשָּׁמָיִם – And he (Yaakov) was afraid and said: How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of G-d; and this is the gate to heaven! (28:17).
R’ S.R. Hirsch teaches, “וַיִּירָא – and he was afraid: This new awareness and the new demands that it brought with it are what inspired in him the feeling of awe and fear: ‘How awesome is this place!’ What has been shown to me here is none other than the house of G-d, a gate to heaven. Life on earth can be ‘G-d’s house,’ a house in which G-d takes up residence. When the angels ascend and seek G-d in heaven, they have to descend to find Him on earth among men. Every house that is home to such a life is ‘a gate to heaven,’ a gate through which man enters to cleave to the Shechinah; it represents a perfect union of the earthly and the heavenly.”
Too often, we erroneously think that the holy and the mundane are two different, diverse and separate aspects of our lives as Jews. If we are involved in worship of G-d, then that moment is holy. But if we are involved with mundane aspects of this world, then that is chol (lit., profane).
If we are in Shul, in a beis medrash – certainly G-d is there! But if we are in some backwater of Luz, if we are our homes, in the grocery, at work, in college – in any one of the myriad of places we might find ourselves during the course of our day-to-day living – then we might think, mistakenly so, that G-d is not there. We meet Him during times of prayer and on the holidays, but after that, we part ways (keviyachol – as if it were possible!).
מַה-נּוֹרָא, הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה: אֵין זֶה, כִּי אִם-בֵּית אלקים, וְזֶה, שַׁעַר הַשָּׁמָיִם – How awesome is this place! This forest, these cold stones, this darkness in the middle of nowhere; even here, wherever the Jew lies, is the house of G-d, and especially here the gateway to Heaven can be found.
קוֹל דּוֹדִי דוֹפֵק, פִּתְחִי-לִי אֲחֹתִי רַעְיָתִי יוֹנָתִי תַמָּתִי – The voice of my Beloved knocks! Open for me, my sister, my friend, my dove, my pure one… (Shir Ha’Shirim 5:2).
We must make room for Hashem in all areas of our lives, from the public Beis Knesses to the privacy of our homes, from Jerusalem to NY, from Be’er Sheva to Luz. Hashem is always waiting for us to let him in. And when we open the door to His knocking, we have made every place the house of G-d.
A talmid (student) recalls, “For me, personally, the best part of R’ Twersky’s (R’ Mosheh Twersky zt’l HY”D, 1955-2014) presence for the Shabbos meal was the leil Shabbos oneg. R’ Twersky would choose a theme to discuss and he would present it in installments. He asked us to sing in between each installment. He literally wove his divrei Torah into the singing. It was such an experience! I remember a particular oneg Shabbos when he spoke about the topic of kiddush Hashem: ‘How is it that throughout the ages, even the simplest Jews would give up their lives in the moment of truth, and not succumb to the pressure to renounce their Yiddishkeit? The answer is that this is something we have in our spiritual DNA, bequeathed to us by the Avos Ha’Kedoshim (holy forefathers)… They implanted the strength to fulfill the will of the Almighty in every Jew for all time.’
“Rebbi’s way of pulling us into the kedusha (holiness) of Shabbos with such profound divrei Torah and heartfelt singing was an experience that will remain with me for a lifetime” (A Malach in Our Midst, p.189).
May we merit to live with the realization that Hashem is with us, everywhere and anywhere, waiting for us to let Him in to our homes and our lives.
ברכת שבת שלום ובשורות טובות,