Never Despair, Dear Yaakov

vayeitzei

In this week’s Parsha Yaakov Avinu travels to the find a wife from the family of Avraham Avinu. Yaakov stops to sleep one night after spending fourteen sleepless years studying in the Yeshiva of Shem and Yaakov dreams a powerful spiritual vision. Yaakov is strengthened by Hashem to not fear any of the darkness of exile and to know that Hashem is always with him.

There is a wonderful explanation from the Rebbe of Dzikov, Rabbi Meir Horowitz, in his “Imrei Noam”. He explains a very empowering and enlightening explanation on the words of these couple of verses.

וַיֵּצֵא יַעֲקֹב מִבְּאֵר שָׁבַע וַיֵּלֶךְ חָרָנָה:

And Jacob left Beer sheba, and he went to Haran.

וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם וַיָּלֶן שָׁם כִּי בָא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וַיִּקַּח מֵאַבְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם וַיָּשֶׂם מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו וַיִּשְׁכַּב בַּמָּקוֹם הַהוּא:

And he arrived at the place and lodged there because the sun had set, and he took some of the stones of the place and placed [them] at his head, and he lay down in that place.

וַיַּחֲלֹם וְהִנֵּה סֻלָּם מֻצָּב אַרְצָה וְרֹאשׁוֹ מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה וְהִנֵּה מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹהִים עֹלִים וְיֹרְדִים בּוֹ:

And he dreamed, and behold! a ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to heaven; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending upon it.

וְהִנֵּה יְהֹוָה נִצָּב עָלָיו וַיֹּאמַר אֲנִי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ וֵאלֹהֵי יִצְחָק הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה שֹׁכֵב עָלֶיהָ לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה וּלְזַרְעֶךָ:

And behold, the Lord was standing over him, and He said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying to you I will give it and to your seed.

וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב מִשְּׁנָתוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר אָכֵן יֵשׁ יְהֹוָה בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה וְאָנֹכִי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי:

And Jacob awakened from his sleep, and he said, “Indeed, the Lord is in this place, and I did not know [it].”

Rashi:

ואנכי לא ידעתי: שאילו ידעתי לא ישנתי במקום קדוש כזה:

and I did not know [it]: For had I known, I would not have slept in such a holy place. [from Bereishith Rabbathi , attributed to Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan]

The Imrei Noam explains that these Psukim are coming to empower us from the debilitating methods of the Yetzer Hara with which he tries to bring us to despair and be weakened from any power and energy to properly pray and connect.

The Yetzer Hara brings feelings and thoughts of doubt and uncertainty to a person and makes him think that he is unworthy and unfit to connect to Hashem and pray because of his terrible sins and the supposed darkness he has surrounded himself with.

The answer and the truth here that we must contemplate and realize is first to become aware and mindful that these are the destructive narratives of the Yetzer Hara. Then we must realize and internalize that noi matter where a person has fallen to, even if he has sinned his whole life from the moment he was born, in one moment everything can change if he recognizes that this moment has never existed and in this very moment he decides to change. In one moment he can merit infinite light and blessings. In one moment he can merit Hashem’s unconditional love and embrace.

If we would remember this and appropriately contemplate this truth we would always know to shake off the heaviness and apathy of the Yetzer Hara and fill ourselves with empowering feelings, thoughts, and energy to serve Hashem with appreciation, love, happiness and genuine presence in the moment.

This paradigm shift is weaved into these pesukim, says the Imrei Noam.

וַיֵּצֵא יַעֲקֹב מִבְּאֵר שָׁבַע

The energy of holiness is called ‘Be-er Sheva’ in the Zohar, and so leaving Be-er Sheva represents a Jew who has left holiness through sinning.

וַיֵּלֶךְ חָרָנָה

He went to the place of impurities and darkness which are alluded to by ‘Charan’, a name which sounds like the word for anger- חרון אף.

וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם

As Rashi explains, this word ויפגע does not only mean to meet but it also has a meaning of prayer when we meet Hashem. Based on this Rashi, the Pasuk is alluding to a sinner who left holiness and now comes to pray.

וַיָּלֶן שָׁם
וַיִּשְׁכַּב בַּמָּקוֹם הַהוּא:

and he lay down in that place.

The Yetzer Hara causes him feelings of worthlessness and lowliness until he lays down in his emptiness, pain, apathy, and despair.

What is the advice the Torah gives to this individual?

וַיַּחֲלֹם

This word has a meaning of being healed, strengthened and empowered, as the Gemara uses this connotation of a similar word and says “הדר חלים”, meaning that “he then recuperated”.

Based on this, the Pasuk is telling us how to be healed from these debilitating thoughts of the Yetzer Hara.

וְהִנֵּה סֻלָּם מֻצָּב אַרְצָה וְרֹאשׁוֹ מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה

By remembering and contemplating that even though he feels himself on lowliest level, all the way in the ground (and probably actually is), however, in truth (וְרֹאשׁוֹ מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה)he has the potential to reach the high heavens through deciding to return to Hashem from this present point in time and space.

His prayer has the potential to reach the high heavens if he just decides it to be so. If he just decides to completely give himself over to Hashem from this place, his prayer will reach the point of instant manifestation and fruition.
His prayer has the potential that the angels will ascend and descend in its power-

וְהִנֵּה מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹהִים עֹלִים וְיֹרְדִים בּוֹ:

וְהִנֵּה יְהֹוָה נִצָּב עָלָיו

Hashem stands upon him to strengthen and empower him, and Hashem promises him:
וְהִנֵּה אָנֹכִי עִמָּךְ וּשְׁמַרְתִּיךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ וַהֲשִׁבֹתִיךָ אֶל הָאֲדָמָה הַזֹּאת כִּי לֹא אֶעֱזָבְךָ

you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you

‘Restoring him to the land’ is a promise that he will be successful in repenting and returning to Hashem. ‘Adama’- the land, also has a connotation of ‘Adameh La-elyon’, “I will resemble the supreme and elevated one”.
“for I will not forsake you…”

וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב מִשְּׁנָתוֹ

Upon hearing these empowering messages from the creator, he awakens from his apathetic slumber, from his depression, doubt, and despair.

וַיֹּאמֶר אָכֵן יֵשׁ יְהֹוָה בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה

He realizes that indeed Hashem is infinitely present as much as He is infinitely transcendent. He realizes that Hashem is indeed here as much as it didn’t seem so. He realizes that Hashem never left him, it is only he who had left Hashem. He realizes that he has absolute power in this moment to change he spiritual and physical state by deciding to connect to Hashem from the here and now.
Even in this place and state where he feels so sullied by sin, so distanced, Hashem is intimately connected and present with him.

Hashem is there, here, to help him return and purify himself from these filthy clothes, from these pitiful states of emotional pain so that he will no longer be steeped in this darkness, so that he will no longer suffer this despair.

וְאָנֹכִי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי

and I did not know

Rashi:

For had I known, I would not have slept in such a holy place.

He says to himself “Had I originally known this truth and internalized it I would not have steeped into this spiritual slumber. Instead, I would have continued to strengthen myself with belief, trust, faith, hope, and empowering states of confidence in my power, my strength, and my absolute certainty for success in all aspects of physical and spiritual life, purity and holiness, and my relationship with Hashem.”

May we merit properly internalizing this fundamental lesson and experience the power and unconditional strength that comes with it to spring us forward to the complete redemption and the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days, Amen!

rachamim-bitton

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