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Toledot Yaakov Yosef: Vayeitzei: Importance

The Baal Shem Tov taught that a person’s many sins can blunt his experience of worshiping God. As a result of his degradation, he does not believe that his Torah study and prayer can bring spiritual sustenance to all universes. He does not realize that all the angels are sustained through his words of Torah and prayer.


But if you are aware of the results of your actions, it would cause you to serve God with the greatest joy and awe. You would be careful with every motion, with every word and letter, to do everything in the best possible manner.

Consider Solomon’s words, “When you lie between the lips (Psalms 68:14).” This means that God anxiously watches a person’s lips, and kisses them when he speaks words of Torah or prayer with love and reverence.

Think about this. What man would not be seized with trembling and quaking from the fact that the great, awesome King anxiously watches the lips of the lowest of mortals and the most despised of men?

Our sages teach us that, “the humility of Rabbi Zechariah caused the Holy Temple to be destroyed (Gittin 56a).” There is humility that can cause destruction, and this is when a person feels that he is too small for his deeds to have any effect on high.

Think about this and realize that you are, “a ladder standing on earth, whose top reaches the heavens (Genesis 28:12).” Every motion that you make, every word that you speak, all your travels and affairs, make a mark on high, and even higher than high. Consider this, and you will be careful that all your ways and affairs be for the sake of heaven.

A person may think, “Of what importance am I to blemish or rectify anything on high or below? Why should all my affairs make a mark on high?” Because of such thoughts, he follows his desires, saying, “I will have peace, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart (Deuteronomy 29:18).” But actually, this is not true.

Through your deeds, you can literally attach yourself to God. It is written, “You shall walk in His ways (Deuteronomy 28:9).” When you express love here on earth, you are arouse the Attribute of Love on high in all the universes.

Our sages teach us, “Know what is above from you (Avot 2:1).” They are saying that you should know that the Attributes on high are “from you,” they are all aroused through your deeds. (Toledot Yaakov Yosef, Eikev 181b)

KavanotI use this as a Kavanah for Avot in the Amidah: Each of the patriarchs achieved so much that God desires to be known by their name: The Lord of Abraham, the Lord of Isaac, the Lord of Jacob. They are lessons in how much a human being can achieve. We must approach prayer with a sense of being able to arouse the Heavens through our words.

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