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Home » Vayeshev

Vayeshev : Travel Begins and Ends At Home

Submitted by on November 24, 2004 – 1:04 pmNo Comment | 2,612 views

True Treasures are At Home

Listening to the car radio on my way home from a particularly long trip I heard an accomplished, world famous traveler declare that her most amazing travel experience was accomplished within the confines of her own home. She had observed the most exotic sights in the privacy of her own room. 

Here was a woman who toured the world on a quest for meaning and fulfillment. She traveled far and wide on a journey of self-discovery. She experienced the global perspectives of multiple cultures and faiths. She had taken in the sights, smells and tastes of exotic far away lands. But to her amazement she discovered that there is no place like home.

She discovered that true beauty is not to be found in distant lands unless one has first discovered it within. She also discovered that once beauty is discovered within the allure of travel no longer beckons because beauty within is far more satisfying then beauty without.

True Beauty is Within

At that moment it occurred to me that mankind is never content. An inner force drives us to reach out and seek greater beauty, to venture out in pursuit of greater knowledge, to explore new frontiers and to scale new heights. We spend billions of dollars on the exploration of outer space. We expend tremendous energy in our attempt to unravel the inner workings of the genetic code. From the microscopic to the macroscopic we are constantly driven to explore the secrets of heaven and earth.

The story is told of a fellow who dreamed that there was a treasure to be found under a bridge in a distant city. He woke up and traveled to that far away bridge but when he arrived and started to dig he was immediately challenged by a police officer. When he told of his dream the officer broke out in raucous laughter. You trust these dreams he asked incredulously? Why just last night I dreamed that there is a treasure awaiting me under the floorboards of a home in the following city. To our friend’s astonishment the police office proceeded to provide his own home address!

How ironic that he traveled such a great distance in pursuit of a treasure that all along was waiting for him in his own home.

We too expend so much energy traveling the world, exploring its secrets and studying its nature, all in a quest for meaning and beauty.travel begins and ends at home - innerstream To our surprise we discover that true beauty has all along been lurking within. We work so hard to find the beauty of our universe but truth be known, there is even greater beauty within us. For in every human being lurks a piece of heaven.

Bringing Heaven Down to Earth

The human being is an amalgam of body and soul. Heaven and earth have conspired to create the composite that is man. The material is earth and the spiritual is heaven. A force of gravity weighs us down and lulls us into a false sense of comfort. We are naturally responsive to the material pleasures of earth; its beauty tempts us, its delights seduce us. However, despite its endless attraction we are often left unsatisfied.

This is because earth’s beauty is only a glimpse of the beauty above. Meaning on the earthly plane is only a shadow of true meaning above. When we plug into earthly beauty we inherently sense that we are only teasing ourselves for there is yet so much more beauty to behold.

Why then do we not immediately opt for the truest form of beauty? Why do we waste our time with the partial and often flawed rendition?

Because plugging into beauty on earth is facile, almost effortless. Plugging into beauty above is laborious, a constant challenge. We each have a latent, G-d given ability to bring heaven’s beauty down to earth (1) but making that choice is difficult. (2)

The great Reb Levik is reputed to have complained to G-d. “You have placed the allure of the material before our eyes but concealed the allure for yourself within your book (the Torah.) Could you not have reversed the order and thus made it a little easier for us?” (3)

Dreaming of Heaven and Earth

In our Parsha we read that Yosef had two dreams. In one dream he and his brothers were gathering sheafs of wheat in the field when the brothers’ sheafs suddenly bowed to Joseph’s sheaf. In the second dream eleven stars, the sun and the moon bowed to Yosef’s star. (4)

These dreams were identical in content but not in context. The first dream occurred on earth the second dream occurred in heaven.

Pharaoh also had two dreams; in one dream seven emaciated cows consumed seven healthy cows and in the second dream seven healthy stalks absorbed seven dried out stalks. (5) Both of Pharaoh’s dreams occurred on earth.

Why is it that Yosef’s dreams ascended from earth to heaven but Pharaoh’s dreams remained on earth?

In Yosef’s first dream everyone engaged in the laborious task. Bundling sheafs in the field under the hot sun is difficult work. But one who is prepared to work hard is capable of climbing the ladder to heaven. One who chooses not to take on this hardship remains, like Pharaoh, forever on earth. (6)

Not for us is the facile and effortless. G-d did not bring us to this world so that we can live the easy life. We are here to make the difficult choices, to make the arduous climb, to bring heaven down to earth. That is what makes us special, that is what makes us human, that is what makes us the chosen people. (7)


    1. Every moment presents a choice of heaven or earth. We can take the easy route and make it a moment of earth or the laborious route and make it a moment of heaven.Every breath we take, every glass we drink, every dish we eat can be consumed for the purpose of sustaining the body alone or also for sustaining the soul. It is easy to think only of material needs, the challenge is to bring heaven down to earth by focusing on spirituality as the goal. For more information see Tanya ch. 7 (R. Schneeur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chassidus Chabad, 1745 – 1813)As a young child, the former Rebbe of Lubavitch, asked his father to help him understand the unique nature of the Jew. His father summoned the simple butler who had served the family over many years.

      “Bentzion, ‘he asked’ why do you eat in the morning?” “I eat so that I can live,” responded Bentzion. “And why must you live,” asked the father? “I must live so that I can pray to G-d, study Torah and fulfill his commandments,” replied Bentzion.

      “You see concluded the father, this is a Jew. Everyone eats in order to live, but why does a Jew want to live? A Jew lives for G-d.” Everyone needs to sustain his body but only he who has nurtured his soul knows that the body lives in order to sustain the soul. (7)

    2. A person is born into a material world and its allure begins immediately. The Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) is in full force from the moment we are born, not so the Yetzer Tov (holy inclination) which is not in full force until the age of Bar/ Bat Mitzvah.  See Bereishis Rabba ch. 53. See also Zohar vol. 2  p. 98
    3. R’ Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev was one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezeritch who was the successor to the Baal Shem Tov. (1740-1810) For more information go to http://www.berdichev.org/rabbi_biography.html
    4. Genesis ch. 37 7-9
    5. Genesis ch.  41
    6. See Likutei Sichos vol. III p. 807 (R. MM Schneerson, Rebbe of Lubavitch 1902-1994) For more information click on http://www.chabadcenters.com/scripts/tgij/paper/IndexRebbe.asp?Cat=Bio
    7. See Likutei Diburim p.421 (R. YY Schneerson, sixth Rebbe of Lubavitch 1880-1950)


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