Mei Marom: Vayeitzei: Joining Worlds
Introduction: We have a principle that “The actions of the father’s are a sign to the children.” Until this portion all the actions of the patriarchs was to pave a path for the Children of Israel for when they live in Israel. Once Jacob left Beir Sheva, he began a mission to pave a path for Israel in exile
We must first understand the individual approaches of Jacob and Eisav in order to understand Jacob’s path in exile:
I. From Reward and Punishment To Divine Providence
Antigonus, leader of Socho, used to say: be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving reward; instead, be like servants who serve their master not for the sake of receiving reward. (Avot 1:3)
Belief in God is built on our understanding and acceptance of the concept of reward and punishment. We can arrive at believing and understanding Divine Individual Providence – Hashgacha Pratit – only through appreciating the idea that God cares about and responds to everything we do, say and think.
How can this great Tanna, Antigonus, ask us to serve God without thinking of reward, if the idea is so fundamental to our Emunah?
II. Two Forms of Denial
There are two forms of denial of Hashgacha – Divine Providence: The first is the denial that God is directly involved in our lives. The person believes in God, but appreciates that “God is exalted above all the nations,” (Psalms 114) and therefore, believes that God removes Himself from the Lower Worlds, “Those who pronounce Your Name for wicked purposes,” (Psalms 139:20) they speak as if to honor God’s exaltedness, but their intentions are ultimately wicked. This is the most common form of denial.
The other form of denial is to reject the idea that there is any connection between the Lower World and the Upper Worlds. This person may actually believe in Hashgacha Pratit, however, he denies that our efforts and actions on this world have any connection to the Upper Worlds and cannot influence them. This is a far more insidious, dangerous and frightening form of denial. (It implies that our choices, actions, thoughts and words, do not really matter. It is a short step from there to denying reward and punishment.)
III. Yishmael and Eisav
Yishmael and Eisav represent these two forms of Kefira –denial.
Yishmael lived the first form of denial –“Leit din, v’leit dayan,” – “There is no judgment and there is no judge,” – was his mantra. “And he shall be a wild-ass of a man. His hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him.” (Genesis 16:12) Yishmael did whatever his heart desired, as if there was no “Master of the palace.” This was a direct rejection of his father, Abraham, who dedicated his life to searching for the “Master of the palace.” Abraham was the first to describe God as “Adon” – The Master (Berachot 7b) – Abraham taught that God is the Master of all that exists.
Eisav believed in Hashgacha, but denied the existence of a connection between the Lower and Upper Worlds. “Behold I am going to die,” (Genesis 25:32), meaning, there is no life after this. He battled Jacob, “the wholehearted man, who was a tent dweller,” who believed in Divine Individual Providence and in the unbreakable connection between worlds. This was symbolized by the ladder that stretched from earth to heaven. Eisav believed in Individual Providence and reward and punishment in this world, and was therefore meticulous in honoring his father; he wanted the immediate reward for observing this Mitzvah.
IV. Place & Growth
Eisav, who did not believe in the connection between worlds, could not begin to comprehend that the Land of Israel has a closer connection to the Upper Worlds. He was willing to offer tithes, gifts to God, in order to receive reward, but did not believe there was any difference between something that grows from the earth; the place from which it grows has meaning. He wanted to even tithe his salt, something that doesn’t grow. He believed only in the immediate. He did not believe that growth was a representation of spiritual realities.
Isaac understood Eisav’s intentions, and immediately perceived that they could be used to help Jacob who offered tithes of all he had, “I will offer tithes from all that You give me.” (Genesis 28:22) Once Jacob saw the ladder; the unbreakable connection between heaven and earth, he understood that we have the ability to sanctify all that we physically possess.
V. Jacob’s Oath
“And Jacob promised…God will be my Lord.” (27:20) God is the Four Letter Name, which reflects the connection between the Upper and Lower Worlds, each letter representing one of the Four Worlds of Aby”a: Assiya, Beriah, Yetzirah and Assiya. (See Da’at Tevunot 1)
Why did Jacob’s leaving make an impression in a way that Abraham’s travels did not? When Abraham went down to Egypt he had not yet learned to attach this world in sanctity to the higher worlds of the Spiritual realms.
However, Jacob had already mastered the connection between the worlds, and he brought sanctity to each place that he lived.
Therefore, his leaving Beir Sheva made an impression. People sensed the loss of Jacob’s ability to make Beir Sheva a place where heaven and earth touched. (Mei Marom, Bereishit #47)