MeAm Lo'ez on Vayetze
28.10 Yaakov left Beer Sheva and went toward Charan..
At the end of the previous portion we saw that Yaakov had heeded the advice of his father and mother and had set out for Padan Aram, for Charan (28:7). The statement here might therefore seem redundant, but it teaches us three lessons.
1) Although Yitzchak and Rivkah told Yaakov to go to Charan, he did not want to leave the Holy Land. It may be permissible to leave in order to find a wife, but this can be done by proxy, as in the case of Yitzchak. Although Yaakov had to flee from 'Esav, he could have gone to the academy of Shem and 'Ever, where he would have been safe. Living in the Holy Land is extremely precious, and one must do everything in his power not to leave.
At the time, Yaakov lived with his parents in Chevron. Yaakov went to Beer Sheva since it was a holy place, the place where Avraham had built an altar. There Yaakov asked G-d for permission to leave the Holy Land. When permission was granted, he went on his way.
The Torah thus says, "Yaakov left Beer Sheva, and went toward Charan." Although his home was in Chevron, he left the Holy Land from Beer Sheva after seeking divine permission.
2) When a saint lives in a city, he is its beauty and radiance. People are embarrassed to do wrong in his presence. Eventually they learn to emulate his enlightened ways. Even interpersonal relationships improve.
When the saint leaves a place, it remains without a shield. Everyone does as he pleases; the young insult the old, since they have no one from whom to learn and no example to emulate.
The Torah therefore says, "Yaakov left Beer Sheva." The Midrash asks what the Torah means by this, since Yaakov was not the only one who left Beer Sheva. Many donkeys and camels also left the city. Why then does the Torah have to tell us that Yaakov left?
The question of the Midrash is somewhat difficult to understand. Should the Torah also provide us with a list of all the animals that left Beer Sheva that day? The Torah obviously does not supply useless information.
We could, however, find a precedent for such a list. When the Jews returned to the Land of Yisrael from Babylonia, the Scripture goes so far as to enumerate all their horses, mules and donkeys (Ezra 2:66). Since they were involved in the vital act of returning to Yerushalayim, the Scripture goes to the trouble of describing the event in detail. The Bible therefore enumerates the number of people and lists their property. G-d loves people who accomplish good, and when He speaks about them, he does so at length and in detail.
Because Yaakov, too, was embarking on a good deed, obeying his parents, and seeking a wife, the Torah should have enumerated the number of animals and the amount of property that he took from his father's house. The Midrash therefore questions why the Torah only says, "Yaakov left." Even when a mere servant went on such a journey, the Torah said, "The servant took ten of his master's camels." (Bereishit 24:10) Why not the same for Yaakov?
The Midrash replies that when Yaakov left, it made a great difference to the city. His own departure was more obvious than that of any goods that he might have taken along.
Yitzchak and Rivkah remained behind. One saint, however, does not make as much impression as two. It is very similar to precious stones; a two carat diamond is worth more than twice as much as a one carat diamond. A matched pair of particularly fine stones is also worth more than twice as much as each one individually.
The merit of a saint is all the greater when he lives together with other saints. Therefore, when Yaakov left, the merit of Yitzchak and Rivkah was diminished Similarly, in the case of medicine, a team of physicians can do much more than each one individually. The group is thus greater than the sum of its parts.
This teaches us how much we must mourn a saint. If a saint leaves one city for another it makes a great impression. How much more is this true when a saint leaves this world. We must weep and mourn our great loss.
3) Besides fleeing from 'Esav, Yaakov had another reason for leaving. We saw that Avraham made an oath to Avimelech that he would not harm his children and grandchildren (Bereishit 21:23). Yaakov was afraid that he would meet with Avimelech and would be forced to emulate his grandfather's oath. If he made such an oath, it would delay the conquest of the land of Kenaan that G-d was giving to his children. Instead of counting three generations from Avraham, they would now have to count them from Yaakov. As a result of the oath, the Yisraelim would have to wait three generations from the time of Yaakov before invading the land.
In order to avoid this, Yaakov went to Charan. The Torah therefore says, "Yaakov left Beer Sheva." [Beer Sheva was the place where Avraham made the oath to Avimelech (Bereishit 21:31)] In order to avoid a similar oath, Yaakov left the city. He intended to return; but he left, hoping that the old Avimelech would die before he returned.
When Yaakov was leaving Beer Sheva, 'Esav summoned his son Elifaz and gave him secret instructions, "Take your sword and intercept Yaakov on the road. Do away with him and hide his body in the mountains. You will then be able to take all the wealth that he has with him, and return home. No one will be the wiser."
At the time, Elifaz was thirteen years old. Like his father, he had matured very early, and he was already powerfully built and a champion warrior. He took ten of his men with him and intercepted Yaakov in a mountain pass near Shechem. Seeing strangers approach at a distance, Yaakov waited to see what they wanted. Elifaz and his men surrounded Yaakov with drawn swords.
"Are you off to war?" asked Yaakov. "Why are you so heavily armed? What are you doing in this area?"
"I am under orders from my father," replied Elifaz. "I dare not disobey him."
Yaakov realized his dangerous predicament, and he tried to figure a way out of it. "I will give you all my possessions," he told Elifaz, "Both what I myself have and what my parents have given me. Just spare my life. You will have obeyed your father's orders, since when a man is destitute, it is as if he were dead."
G-d made Elifaz have pity on Yaakov, and he agreed. He took everything that Yaakov had, even his food, and returned home, leaving Yaakov totally empty-handed.
When Elifaz related what had happened, 'Esav was furious that he had spared Yaakov's life. But when 'Esav realized that Yaakov had been left with nothing but the clothes on his back, he calmed down; when a man has nothing, he is no better than dead.
According to another opinion, it was 'Esav himself who pursued Yaakov. Miraculously, the sun set after only ten hours, [two hours earlier than usual]. The Torah therefore says, "He spent the night there because the sun had set." (28:11) In the dark, 'Esav did not have any idea how to track Yaakov.
The next morning, 'Esav prepared an ambush along the regular road. He said to himself, "As soon as Yaakov passes by here, I will kill him." G-d performed a miracle, however, and with his staff, Yaakov was able to part the waters of the Yarden and cross over, continuing his journey on the other side.
Seeing that Yaakov did not come, 'Esav understood that he had crossed the Yarden. Since there was only one road on the other side, 'Esav hid in a cave overlooking the highway. Along the way, Yaakov came across a hot spring. Exhausted from his flight, Yaakov rested at the hot spring, and took a long relaxing bath. In the interim, 'Esav got tired of waiting, and returned home.
Others say that Yaakov left his father's house empty-handed. G-d was angry at Yitzchak and said to him, "Is that what your father did to you? Did he not give you many gifts before you left? Did he not give Eliezer ten camel loads of his most precious possessions before he sought a wife for you? How can a father send his son away empty-handed?" As a result, Yitzchak lost the power of prophecy for the rest of his life.
Yaakov was such a saint, that he trusted in G-d even though he was empty-handed. Although his parents were wealthy, he did not hold his poverty against them. The Psalmist thus said, "Happy is he who is helped by Yaakov's G-d, whose hope is G-d his L-rd" (Tehillim 146:5). The Psalmist specifies "Yaakov's G-d." Yaakov trusted in G-d more than in his own saintly parents, and in the end, G-d gave him much good.
(Yaakov was 63 years old when he received his father's blessing. He then spent 14 years in the academy of Shem and 'Ever. Therefore when he set off toward Charon, he was 77 years old. [This was in the year 2185 (1576 B.C.E.)
When Yaakov was close to Charan, he began thinking, "How could I have passed by Mount Moriah, where my parents went to pray, without worshiping there?" He immediately decided to return to the sacred mountain. As soon as he started back, G-d shortened his way, and he immediately found himself near the mountain. G-d shortened Eliezer's journey from Chevron to Charan in a similar manner as we saw in Chayei Sarah.
Actually, the academy of Shem and 'Ever was located in Yerushalayim, very close to Mount Moriah. Why did G-d not provide Yaakov with a sign that he should worship on the holy mountain before he left?
When it comes to religion, a person must make his own effort to do good. Once he begins, he is helped from on high. But if he makes no effort at all, he loses the opportunity. One is not told to keep the commandments, since each individual has complete free will.
Because Yaakov passed right by Mount Moriah without even stopping momentarily to say a short prayer, he was not given a sign to do so from on high. When he reached Charan, he became concerned and wished to return, not only did he receive a divine sign, but G-d arranged for him to be able to return miraculously.
Yaakov thus went from Beer Sheva to Charan, and from there he returned to Mount Moriah to worship. He then went back to Charan. The entire, long journey was accomplished in a very short time.
28:11 He approached the place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took some of the stones there, placed them at his head, and lay down to sleep in that place..
In VaYera we wrote about how Avraham ordained the daily morning service, and in Chayei Sarah, we wrote that Yitzchak ordained the afternoon service. Here we learn that Yaakov ordained the evening prayer.
Yaakov recited the evening service in the place where the Holy Temple was destined to be built. He then wanted to continue on his way but G-d said, "A saint has come to My dwelling place. He cannot leave without spending the night." In order that he would stay, G-d miraculously caused the sun to set before its proper time.
According to some, all the world became a great wall before Yaakov, not allowing him to leave that spot.
If not for these miracles, Yaakov would have visited and then continued on his way. When he saw the sun set so suddenly, he realized that G-d wanted him to remain on Mount Moriah that night.
A king had a close friend who visited his palace only on rare occasions. He ordered that the lanterns be extinguished so that they would be able to converse privately without anyone seeing them.
Actually, Yaakov was not yet a true prophet. He had never been worthy of having G-d speak to him. Therefore, like other prophets, his first prophecy came to him at night in a dream. He would thus gradually become accustomed to prophecy: it is very difficult to experience the Divine Presence the first time when one is awake.
Since Yaakov was not accustomed to sleeping by day, Providence arranged for it to become dark. The sun set two hours before its regular time As a result, Yaakov had to remain on Mount Moriah.
Furthermore, since Yaakov was not yet married, he was not able to experience prophecy except in a dream.
The time for the evening service is after the stars come out. Since it was actually two hours before night (as the sun had set prematurely), how could he have ordained the evening service?
Yaakov had returned to Mount Moriah to recite the afternoon service (Minchah). This was ordained by his father Yitzchak. In order to cause him to remain there, G-d made the sun set two hours before its usual time. When Yaakov saw that it was too late for Minchah, he recited the evening service in its place.
According to one opinion, the reason that Yaakov's prophecy came as a dream is that prophecy normally is experienced only by a person who is wise, strong and wealthy. Since Elifaz had taken all of Yaakov's possessions, he was no longer wealthy.
At the time, Yaakov was extremely anxious because of 'Esav. Elifaz had taken all of Yaakov's belongings, so he did not even have a bedroll, Yaakov therefore took four stones and placed them around his head.
Another reason that Yaakov placed a stone under his head was because he had foreseen the destruction of the Holy Temple. It is therefore a custom that some people place a stone under their heads when they go to sleep on the night of Tishah B'Av, in commemoration of what Yaakov did.
He saw that the Holy Temple would be destroyed, and that 'Esav (Rome) would conquer Yisrael.
According to another opinion, Yaakov took three stones. He said "Since Avraham and Yitzchak were so great, G-d associated His name with them and spoke to them. If these three stones unite, I will know that I am no different than my fathers, and I will have the merit that G-d will speak to me when I wake up from my sleep, even though I am leaving the Holy Land to visit the wicked Lavan."
Others say that he took two stones. He said, "Avraham had such unseemly offspring as Yishmael and Keturah's sons. Yitzchak had an 'Esav. If these two stones become united, I will know that this will be true of only two patriarchs, and I will not have any unworthy sons. This will be true even though I am planning to marry Lavan's daughter."
Others maintain that Yaakov took twelve stones. He said, "I know that G-d wishes to have twelve tribes, paralleling the twelve signs of the zodiac. Neither my grandfather Avraham nor my father Yitzchak could have these twelve tribes. I therefore wish to know if I will be the one to father them. If these twelve stones become one, I will know that I will be the father of the twelve tribes."
These twelve stones were taken from the altar upon which Yitzchak was bound as a sacrifice.
Logically, the opposite may have seemed preferable; Yaakov should have taken one stone and have had it become twelve. This would have seemed to be a clearer sign. Yaakov actually wanted to know whether the tribes would be united, without conflict between them. Each one of them could have become a separate kingdom, just as the sons of other men had in the past. But when he saw the twelve stones become one, he knew that things would work out well.
[Although it is forbidden to seek omens,] since Yaakov had only done this for symbolic reasons, it is not forbidden. It is no different from other permissible signs, which were discussed in Chayei Sarah.
Yaakov piled the stones up as a windbreak, to protect him from wild animals. The stones began to argue, each one saying, "Upon me shall this saint rest his head." G-d ordered that all of the stones should coalesce and become one.- [Therefore, this verse says, "He took some of the stones" while later, the Torah says, "he took the stone." (28:18), in the singular.]
Logically, it may seem difficult to understand how stones can argue with each other. But, as we discussed in the Parashat Bereishit, even inanimate objects are overseen by angels on high.
Although Yaakov was sleeping on the bare ground, and was apprehensive of his brother 'Esav, his sleep was undisturbed. He slept as peacefully as if he were in the finest bed; regarding him King Shlomo wrote, "You shall lie down and your sleep shall be sweet" (Mishlei 3:24).
Yaakov had not slept in a bed for fourteen years; during the time he studied Torah in the academy of Shem and 'Ever. He was so enthusiastic in his studies that he never made any arrangements to sleep, but merely dozed off on the spot, like King David. The Torah therefore says, "He lay down to sleep in that place." Only "in that place" did he lie down, but elsewhere, he never lay down to sleep..
28:12 He dreamed. Behold, a ladder was set up toward the ground, with its top reaching toward heaven. Behold, angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it. .
Yaakov saw a "ladder set up toward the ground" in Beer Sheva. Its top was "reaching toward heaven," toward the Temple on high . Angels were going up and down on the ladder. Yaakov heard them saying, "Come 0 sun, come 0 sun!" Yaakov was being referred to as the "sun" because his merit illuminated the world.
The ladder was very large and wide. It also stood on a three-legged throne, alluding to the fact that the world is supported by the merit of the three Patriarchs, and that Yaakov had become one of the pillars of the universe.
[The minimum number of "angels" in plural is two.] Yaakov saw two angels ascending to heaven. These were the angels who accompanied him in the Land of Yisrael, who were now departing. It is not permitted for an angel to leave the Holy Land for somewhere else. Two other angels descended on the ladder; these were the angels who would accompany him after he left the Land of Yisrael.
Although Yaakov was on Mount Moriah [in Yerushalayim, which is right in the middle of the Holy Land,] the angels of outside lands were given special permission to enter the Land of Yisrael so that they would be prepared to accompany Yaakov when he left.
Surrounding G-d's Throne of Glory there are four angels known as Chayot. They have the form of a human being, a lion, a bull, and an eagle (Yechezkel 1:10). The angel having a human form had a face precisely like that of Yaakov, The other angels were therefore amazed. They "ascended" and saw the Chayot, and then "descended" and saw the sleeping Yaakov with the same face. It was very difficult to them to understand how the same form could be in two different places.
The angels then became very jealous of Yaakov and wanted to kill him. If he was so unique that his face was engraved on the Throne of Glory, how could he leave the Holy Land and go elsewhere? Besides, he is abandoning his father.
The angels said, "This man will inherit the entire world. He will dominate over every government! Let us kill him!"
Meanwhile, there were other angels who spoke up in defense of Yaakov.
The Torah therefore can be read to say, "there were angels ascending and descending through him."
In heaven, things are not the same as here on earth. Here, one who speaks in favor of Yisrael is hated by the nations, while one who denounces Yisrael is honored and elevated to a position of leadership. In the world of the angels the opposite is true. Angels that speak against Yisrael are degraded, while those who defend her are elevated.
The Torah therefore says that angels were "ascending and descending through him." The angels who spoke up for Yaakov ascended to a higher level, while those who denounced him descended to a lower state.
The angels who came to destroy Sedom sinned when they revealed their plans to Lot. G-d had not sent them to reveal to Lot what would happen, but only to rescue him. They also said, "We will destroy this place" (Bereishit 19:13). Since the angels were actually G-d's emissaries, they should not have said that they would do it. Instead they should have said that with His infinite power, G-d would destroy Sedom. Of course, they later told Lot to hurry out because they could not do anything as long as he was there (19:22); this was clear evidence that they were subject to a higher authority. Still, as we have mentioned a number of times, G-d is exacting to the hairsbreadth with saints; and all the more so with angels. The archangels were therefore punished by being exiled from the Divine Presence for 118 years.
It was only now that these angels were released from their punishment, and given permission once again to "ascend" on high. This was because they had accompanied Yaakov on his journey from his father's house to Mount Moriah. They informed the other angels, saying, "Come and see the great saint Yaakov, whose face is engraved on the Throne of Glory. It is always a pleasure to behold his face." The other angels then "descended" to see him.
The Torah therefore says that the angels were "ascending and descending because of him." The two angels who had gone to Sedom were "ascending," while the other angels were descending to see Yaakov..
28:13 And behold, G-d was standing over him. He said, "I am Hashem, G-d of Avraham your father, and G-d of Yitzchak. The land upon which you are lying, I will give to you and to your offspring." .
Since there were angels who wanted to harm Yaakov, G-d Himself became concerned for him. G-d stood at Yaakov's side, and all his opposing angels left.
[The Torah refers to all of the Land of Yisrael as, "The land upon which you are lying."] This teaches that G-d folded all of the Land of Yisrael under Yaakov as he slept. This was so he would be able to take possession of it by making use of it (through chazakah, the act of taking it.)
[G-d called Himself, the "G-d of Yitzchak." He said,] "I do not normally associate My Name with saints during their lifetime, since man always has free will and can sin. But since Yitzchak is blind, he is considered like the dead. He no longer is subject to temptation.
[G-d called Himself, "G-d of Avraham your father, and G-d of Yitzchak."] Actually, Yitzchak was Yaakov's father, and Avraham was his grandfather. But Yaakov was afraid that the blessings that Yitzchak had given him would not be fulfilled, since Yitzchak had actually intended to bless 'Esav. In Chayei Sarah, we wrote that Avraham did not bless Yitzchak, since he would father 'Esav. When Yitzchak told Yaakov, "May He grant you Avraham's blessing" (Bereishit 28:4), he indicated that all of Yaakov's spiritual power came from Avraham.
Furthermore, as we wrote in Toledot, G-d accepted Yitzchak's prayer rather than that of Rivkah, because he was the son of a saint, while she was the daughter of a wicked man . For all these reasons, Avraham was considered Yaakov's father even more than Yitzchak. G-d therefore told Yaakov, "I am the G-d of your father Avraham, and the G-d of Yitzchak.
[G-d told Yaakov, "The land upon which you are lying, I will give to you and to your offspring.] Your offspring will take over the entire land from the Kenaanim as easily as you took over the small plot of land upon which you slept.
At this time, G-d also promised Yaakov that he would be buried in the Holy Land. .
28:14 "Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth. You shall break out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south. Through you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.".
[In Hebrew, yam means "west," but it also means the "sea." The verse can therefore be read "You shall break out to the sea."] G-d said to Yaakov, "Through your merit, the Sea will split when your descendants leave the land of Egypt.
"Through you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. When people wish to bless each other they will say, 'May you be like Jacob and his children.
"Behold, I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this soil. I will not abandon you until I have done what I have promised you."
"I Myself will be with you. You will not be under the providence of angels as are other saints.
"Neither will you have to be concerned about 'Esav or Lavan. I will not abandon you until I have completed what I promised regarding you. I promised Avraham, 'To your offspring I will give this land' (12:7). It is only through you that this promise will be fulfilled. 'Esav is wicked; he is not considered to be the 'offspring' of Avraham and Yitzchak. "Even when your descendants are downtrodden in the soil and scattered to the four winds, all the families of the earth will be blessed through them."
As we wrote in Lech Lecha it was an act of kindness that G-d scattered Yisrael among all the nations, since this would guarantee their survival.
The ladder that Yaakov saw was also symbolic of Yisrael's future. G-d thus disclosed to Yaakov the entire future of the Jewish nation.
The ladder symbolizes the Great Altar that stood in the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim. Although it "stood on the ground," its "head was in heaven." The fragrance of the sacrifices would ascend on high, and G-d would cherish them very much. The "angels ascending and descending" allude to the Kohanim who would offer the sacrifices (climbing to the top of the altar, and going down again). The ladder also symbolized the revelation at Sinai, and the fact that the Torah would be brought down from heaven there. The numerical value of the Hebrew word for "ladder," sulam, is 130; the same as that for Sinai. The "angels" allude to Moshe and Aharon, who "ascended" to heaven and "descended" with the Torah. They are properly referred to as "angels of G-d" since prophets are also called angels. [The Hebrew word for angel, malach also means messenger.]
Also alluded to here is the exile of the Yisraelim and the destruction of the Holy Temple. The Jews would suffer very much in the time of Nevuchadnetzar, who would make an idol sixty cubits high and six cubits wide (Dani'el 3:1). [The letters of sulam meaning "ladder" are the same as those of semel meaning "statue" or "idol.") The "angels" were Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who "descended" into the fiery furnace, and "ascended" unscathed.
Yaakov's vision also teaches that the world is like a ladder, where some people "ascend" while others "descend." Some people become wealthy and attain status, while others become poor.
G-d also showed Yaakov that although he was lying on the bare ground, without even a pillow for his head, in the end, his "head would reach to the heavens."
G-d also showed Yaakov the form of the Holy Temple as it was built by King Shlomo. He then showed it destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again. Finally, He showed Yaakov how it would be rebuilt in the Messianic Age, and then last forever.
Yaakov was also shown all the guardian angels of the great empires. The angel of the Babylonian Empire climbed up 70 rungs and then went down. The angel of the Persian Empire climbed 52 rungs and descended. The Greek Empire's angel climbed I5O rungs before it fell. The angel was able to climb a rung for each year that its empire would endure; then it would descend to indicate that the empire would fall.
Yaakov then saw the angel of Edom (Rome, western civilization) climbing the ladder, and he could not count how many rungs it climbed. He did not see it come down again. Very startled, he said, "But that is terrible. The civilization will last forever."
"Do not fear, Yaakov," replied G-d. "Although Edom's angel will climb until he is near the Throne of Glory, I will cast him down too. But you too will have to climb the ladder."
Yaakov was terrified. "What good is it to climb the ladder and to go down again like these angels?"
"I promise you," said G-d, "that you will ascend and never descend."
Still, Yaakov was insecure and he did not want to climb the ladder. It was then decreed that his descendants would go into exile four times, one for each of the empires that he saw.
In general, Yaakov saw the entire future in this dream. He saw the angels of each nation "ascending" and "descending.
This was Yaakov's dream. .
28:16 Yaakov awoke from his sleep, and said, "G-d is truly in this place, but I did not know.".
"If I had known, I never would have gone to sleep in such a holy place.".
28:17 Frightened, he said, "How fearsome is this place. This is none other than G-d's house! This is the gate of heaven!".
At first, Yaakov had assumed that he was still on Mount Moriah, where he and his father had often worshiped. Since he had been there many times, the surroundings had a calming influence on him. But now that he saw that he was so terrified, he realized that he was actually in unfamiliar territory. He therefore said, "How fearsome is this place. It is therefore none other than God's house, the gate of heaven."
Yaakov was terrified because he was in the presence of a twin sanctity. First there was the sanctity of Mount Moriah, the place of the ancient altar. There was also the sanctity of Beit-el or Luz, which was the "gate of heaven." "Since I am not familiar with this place, I am terrified."
This teaches how careful one must be not to sleep in the synagogue or any other place of worship or study. Since these are holy places, one must have as much respect as in a royal palace. What person would have the audacity to sleep in the king's chambers? No matter how sleepy he is, he would not be able to fall asleep out of awe of the king. This should be even more true of G-d's house.
When people come to study in synagogue during the long winter nights, they must be careful not to smoke or engage in idle chatter. This is especially true of the small daily prayer room, which is often built right next to the ark. When people worship early, they may not take a nap in the synagogue.
Speaking unnecessarily in the synagogue is a major sin. One who does so has no portion in the G-d of Yisrael, since he clearly shows that he has no respect for the Presence that is in the synagogue.
There are angels whose charge it is to look for people speaking in synagogue. When they see such a person, they place their hands on his head and say, "Woe is to this man who spoke in this place."
Conversing in synagogue [on the Shabbat) is tantamount to violating this holy day. This is especially true when the cantor is reading from the Torah. Everyone must then listen with awe, harkening to the words just like when they were given at Sinai. During the Torah reading, it is forbidden even to read Psalms or other prayers; one must be as silent as if he had no mouth.
Even after the services are over, it is still forbidden to hold conversations in the synagogue. It is a holy and fearsome place, as Yaakov said, "How fearsome is this place."
Yaakov said, "This is a most unusual place. It is G-d's Temple. This will be the site of the Holy Temple (Beit HaMikdash), precisely opposite the spiritual Temple that is under G-d's Throne of Glory.
This place is also very important since it is the gate through which prayers are accepted. The Temple on earth parallels the spiritual Temple on high. It is the gate of heaven. This gate will be open many times to receive the prayers of saints.
When a person worships in Yerushalayim, it is just like praying directly before the Throne of Glory. The gates of heaven are open to accept prayer. This is the meaning of the verse, "This is the gate of heaven."
Yaakov got up early in the morning and took the stone that he had placed at his head. He erected it as a monument, and poured oil on its top.
Providence arranged for Yaakov to have a small flask of oil. He poured oil over it so that the miracle that had happened would be recognizable..
28:19 He named the place Beit-el (House of G-d). The city's original name, however, had been Luz..
Yaakov named the place Beit-el or "House of G-d" because he had seen the Divine Presence there. The city's original name had been Luz. [The word Luz denotes an almond tree, and] the city had been given that name because of the thick tree that covered its entrance. In the Parashat Bereshit, we wrote that the resurrection bone in man's spine is also called the Luz. This bone is indestructible and permanent. The city was named Luz because people did not die there, and the Angel of Death had no power in that city..
28:20,21 Yaakov made a vow, saying; " If Hashem will be with me, if He will protect me on the path that I am taking, if He gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, if I return in peace to my father's house, and if Hashem will be my G-dů. ".
"if G-d will be with me, keeping all his promises, so that I will not lack anything. And if I return in peace, innocent of sin, not influenced by Lavan. If I am protected from spreading malicious gossip, from gazing at strange women and listening to them sing (since this is tantamount to lewdness), from publicly embarrassing another (which is considered like murder), and from purposely ignoring the poor (which is also like bloodshed). If Your name is associated with me from the beginning to the end, that none of my offspring should be unworthy, then I accept upon myself that:.
28:22 This stone which I have erected as a monument will become G-d's Temple. Of all that You give me, I will set aside a tithe to You.".
"This stone will become G-d's Temple, especially designated for people to prostrate themselves to G-d."
This stone became known as the Foundation Stone (Even Shetiyah) upon which the Holy Temple was built. [The stone stood in the Holy of Holies, and upon it the Holy Ark was placed.]
Although Yaakov was in Beit-el, we stated earlier that G-d had folded the entire Land of Yisrael under him.
Yaakov promised to separate a tithe of all that he would gain to G-d. This was a tenth of all his produce.
According to another opinion, he promised to separate a fifth, that is, a double tithe. Yaakov literally said, "Tithe, I will tithe it to You." In the future, the Torah would require such a double tithe [one tenth for the Leviim, and another tenth for the poor].
Yaakov did not make this conditional because he doubted G-d's promise. Rather, he was concerned lest the Evil Urge cause him to sin and thus prevent the promise from being fulfilled.
Some say that Yaakov made this conditional because the promise had come to him in a dream, and all dreams contain an element of fantasy. He therefore said, "If these things really come true, then I will give a double tithe and will make this stone into a permanent monument."
It would be well to contemplate the things that Yaakov asked of G-d. He only asked for bread and clothing, not for any luxuries. Saints only pray for the most absolute necessities, without which they cannot exist. They do not want anything that may be superfluous. They are therefore happy with whatever G-d grants them.
King Shlomo therefore said, "Give me neither poverty nor riches" (Mishle 30:8). The wise Shlomo said that it is best to be neither wealthy nor poor, since both are bad. If a person is rich, he can easily become proud. All the world is his, and he does not give a thought to the next world. If a man is poor, he is likely to flatter others, lie and do other sins without realizing it.
Women should also learn a lesson, not to ask their husbands for more than they can afford. This will bring them punishment in the next world. As a result the men become so involved in their business that they cannot concentrate on their prayers, and cannot even recite one or two Psalms daily. They are too busy trying to satisfy their wives' taste for luxury. As a result, such husbands become involved in lies and false oaths, and do not properly pray to G-d.
A religious woman, on the other hand, makes do with what her husband earns. Her husband is able to live in peace and deal honestly in business.
If one contemplates the situation, he will see that G-d directs the world with great wisdom. G-d prepares everything as it is needed. Thus, for example, since wheat is necessary for the survival of the world, it is extremely plentiful. Shiploads are transported all the time. Precious stones, on the other hand, which are mere luxuries, are quite rare. Water, which is even more necessary than wheat, is all the more common, found even in wells along the road.
In this manner, the more necessary something is, the more common and inexpensive it is. G-d certainly could have created many beautiful stones, so that they should be inexpensive. But He does not want man to waste all his time on trinkets.
Yaakov understood this. He therefore only prayed for bread to eat and clothes to wear.
Actually, it is not good to be too quick to make vows. From this story of Yaakov, however, we learn that when a person is in trouble, it is a good deed to pledge money for charity or make a vow to study Torah.
The Torah therefore says, "Yaakov made a vow, saying (lemor)." As a general rule, wherever the Torah uses the expression "lemor," it indicates that the statement was meant to be told to others. Since no one else was present, to whom should Yaakov's message be conveyed? The Torah alludes to the fact that Yaakov's statement was meant to teach a lesson to all generations: in a time of trouble one may make vows to do good.
Although one does not actually do anything when he makes a vow, the merit of the good deed he intends to do protects him in advance and rescues him from trouble.
The Talmud relates that in the time of Rabbi Zeira, the government passed a law that Jews not be allowed to fast in times of drought. They did not wish it to be said that rain came because of Jewish prayers. Rabbi Zeira told the community, "Take it upon yourselves right now to fast; when the law is repealed, you will be able to fulfill your vow." As a result of the acceptance, great benefit came. The mere fact that they had vowed to fast resulted in the acceptance of their prayers.
When making a vow, one must associate it with Yaakov. In vowing charity for the sake of the sick, one should say, "G-d of Yaakov, heal my child and I will give so much to charity" or "and I will study a chapter each day" or, "and I will study a Mishnah each day" or "and I will say ten psalms each day." Since this is learned from Jacob, his name should be mentioned.
Some say that one should not make a vow even in a time of trouble. Such vows could only be made in ancient times when people were sure to fulfill whatever they accepted upon themselves. Today, there are many possible obstacles that can prevent a person from fulfilling his vow.
It is therefore best not to vow at all. If one does not keep a vow, he causes himself great harm. Even if he nullifies the vow, it is not certain. The laws involving annulment of vows are extremely complex, and not everyone is expert in them. Even if three say that a vow is annulled, their action is not necessarily valid. It is therefore best before planning any good deed to say that it is "without a vow" (b'li neder).
If a person began to fast for the sick, or took upon himself to fast for a fixed number of days, he must fast all these days even if the patient recovers or dies in the interim. Similarly, if one vows to give a certain amount to charity, he must give it in full even if the patient has recovered or died.
However, if he later found out that the patient had already recovered or died by the time he made the vow, the vow is considered erroneous, and need not be kept.
A second lesson that we learn from Jacob involves the transfer of something not yet in existence. In a secular business deal, the merchandise changing hands must actually be in existence. If something not yet in existence is sold, even if a legal act of sale is made, the sale is invalid. The only way that such a sale can be validated is if the seller makes an oath to uphold the sale.
In the case of consecration [to charity], this rule does not apply [and even something not yet in existence can validly be pledged]. Thus for example, if a person makes a promise, "If I make a hundred dollars, I will give ten to charity," he must make good his pledge, since this constitutes a vow.
In his prayer, Yaakov asked for "bread to eat and clothing to wear" (28:20). Obviously, bread is not worn and clothing is not eaten. But, as we wrote in Chayei Sarah, in prayer, one must specify precisely what he desires as much as is possible.
Yaakov also prayed that he be strong and healthy; if one is sick, he cannot enjoy his property. [He wanted to be healthy enough to eat his bread and wear his clothes;] and he therefore prayed for "bread to eat and clothing to wear." He did not want these things to merely be stored in a box.
Some say that Yaakov actually made this vow and said this prayer before he had the dream. G-d replied and said, 'I will fulfill your request with regard to everything other than income." It is always difficult for a saint to earn a livelihood G-d wants their hearts always to be directed toward heaven, praying for their needs. He enjoys listening to their enlightened prayers, as we wrote in Toledot.
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