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Home » Uncategorized, Vayetze

Vayetze: Building A Home

Submitted by on November 3, 2013 – 1:09 amNo Comment | 3,891 views

Three Places of Worship

Abraham Isaac and Jacob all served G-d on what would one day be the Temple Mount. Abraham called it a mountain, Isaac called it a field and Jacob called it a home.[1]

The mountain is a daunting place to serve. It is hard and unyielding, the winds are fierce and the terrain unforgiving. The climb is arduous and it begins at the very bottom. Abraham started his quest for G-d at the bottom and encountered many obstacles, but he overcame them and ultimately reached the top.

Isaac carried Abraham’s message to the fields, the undeveloped places where G-d was yet unknown. He dug wells and discovered water and with time the fields grew lush with the knowledge of G-d.

But neither a mountain nor a field is a stable habitat. Jacob built a house, a stable sturdy house of worship, brick by agonizing brick. A house is the best place to worship because it is warm, dry and secure. It is difficult to build, but once built, it is long lasting. Abraham had Ishmael and Isaac had Esau, these were consequences of the unstable environments in which they toiled. Jacob worked hard to build his home, but piece by precious piece he built it and what resulted was a complete family.

Because he built a home for G-d Jacob is lauded above the others, but why was Jacob suited to build?

The Daily Journey

Jacob departed B’er Sheva and went to Charan. B’er Sheva is an oasis in the Israeli desert where seven wells were discovered. In the metaphoric sense B’er Sheva is the house of worship where the seven blessings before and after the Shema are chanted daily. B’er Sheva is a moment of prayer and attachment. Jacob was willing to depart B’er Sheva and journey to Charan. Charan means anger and our sages understood it as a metaphor for a place that angers G-d.[2]

Abraham remained at the top of his mountain. Isaac climbed off the mountain and made his way to the fields. Jacob journeyed from the holy environment of prayer all the way to a place that angers G-d. Jacob’s journey is reminiscent of our own. We begin our day with prayer, but when we finish, we leave the synagogue, prayer shawl and phylacteries behind and move into our day.

Notwithstanding the inspiration of prayer we transition to Charan and it takes only a moment to make the journey. During prayer we felt humble before G-d, but a moment later, when someone says something to offend us, our ego flares up. During prayer we felt peaceful, but a moment later, when something happens to anger us, our temper flares up. Despite the sacred prayer experience at the beginning of our day, ego, temper, lust and jealousy are our hourly companions.

We journey from the heights of prayer, from the inspiration of B’er Sheva, to Charan, a place in our hearts, minds and souls that angers G-d and sullies our spirit. Abraham remained above this problem by worshipping atop the mountain. Wherever he went, he clung to his spiritual attachment and in this way remained pure even when he descended to Egypt. Isaac dealt with this by refusing to journey to Charan, the furthest he went, was to the fields, where he was surrounded by serenity and G-d’s beautiful nature. Jacob paved the way for us. He descended to Charan, the very bottom of the pit and thus became a builder. From the clay at the bottom, Jacob formed the bricks of G-d’s home.home - innerstream

Our sages proclaimed Jacob’s path, the most desirable. Though it would have us descend to the pits of depravity and sully the pristine quality of our spirit, this path is desirable because it provides the opportunity to give back to G-d. Abraham received from G-d. So did Isaac. Jacob journeyed to where people deny the existence of G-d and still clung to G-d. He did this with tenacity. He was not inspired from above. He had left the above and descended below. Yet he managed to climb up and out because he dug deep and found his core. This means giving back to G-d.

Giving Back

The Talmud tells the story of Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa whose wife begged him to pray that G-d relieve them of poverty. Rabbi Chanina prayed and the next morning a gold bar appeared on their front porch. His wife was overjoyed, but that night she dreamed that she and her husband were sitting in a lounge in heaven among their peers. Each couple was seated at a gold table and though every other table had four golden legs, hers had only three. She understood that one leg had been lost to her, when it was sent below. She awoke and begged her husband to pray that G-d take back the gold. Her husband prayed and the gold disappeared. The Talmud comments that the second miracle was greater than the first because G-d gives gifts, but never takes them back.

G-d doesn’t take it back, say the Jewish mystics, but we are certainly able to give it back. How? By using it for a Mitzvah. [3]

We live in the foothills, at the bottom of G-d’s mountain where success is measured by financial yardstick and value is measured by the esteem of our peers. What will we do in this lowly pit? Will we mimic our neighbors and join the rat race or will we remain unscathed and live for G-d?

G-d gives us material gifts and we turn around and give G-d spiritual gifts. We turn the material into spiritual by using the resources He has provided us for the purpose of serving Him. We use our money for charity rather than greed. We use our home for hospitality rather than lust. We use our food to celebrate Shabbat rather than to satisfy human cravings. That is transforming the physical into spiritual.

G-d doesn’t make us do it. He gives us gifts, but doesn’t take them back, He doesn’t force us to give back to Him. We are free to choose. Residing where the choice to ignore G-d is palpable and easily available and yet choosing to ignore the temptation, is to build an everlasting and complete edifice for G-d.

Building A Home

This is what made Jacob special. He paved the way for us. He made the journey into Charan, encountered his lying, cheating uncle and emerged with a holy family of four wives and twelve children. He showed us that we too have no reason to fear the struggle. We make the daily journey from prayer into the mundane, but just because we are surrounded by impulse and temptation doesn’t mean that we must succumb to it. There is another choice. There is another way. Destruction is not the only option. We can also choose to build, to transform a lifetime into a magnificant edifice for G-d.

[1] Babylonian Talmud, Psachim 88a.

[2] Genesis 28: 10. See Rashi to Genesis 11: 32.

[3] Babylonian Talmud, Taanit 25a. See Sefer Mamarim 5702, Parshat Toldot.

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