Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayetze
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Asher Ben Haim

Parashat Vayetze

Ya'akov's experiences


Rabbi Chanoch Yeres

There are two episodes found at opposite ends of our parashah. At the beginning of the parasha, Yaakov leaves his father's house and heads toward Charan, whereas at the end of the parashah, Yaakov leaves Lavan's house and goes his own way.

There are clear similarities between the two stories yet the differences are very striking. In both segments, Yaakov leaves one place and goes somewhere else, but in the first story he heads for a specific location, namely Charan, whereas in the second account, Yaakov goes on his way, "bedarko", without a precise destination. In the first segment, Yaakov moves and the place remains stationary - he goes to the place. In the second segment, Yaakov is encamped and the angels of God come to him. At the beginning of Vayetze, Yaakov emphasizes that he is in the place of G-d, a permanent fixed and immovable place. On the other hand, at the end of Vayetze, Yaakov discovers a portable Shehinah, an encampment of God.

These segments may be similar but they reveal a major difference. We are a witness to two approaches to the Shehinah. When he left his father’s house, Yaakov, "the dweller of the tents" had to seek out the Shehinah. God’s presence is found in a specific place. Yaakov goes on a pilgrimmage to that place we call Yerushalayim.

After his travails with Lavan, Yaakov emerges unscathed. He has succeeded because he has internalized the Shehinah - it goes wherever Yaakov goes. This Yaakov calls "Machanayim" - an encampment of God, not a house. Yaakov enters the galut of Charan with a vision of a fixed place for the Divine Presence that is forever with him wherever he might go. A person must internalize his religious experiences and create a dwelling place for the Schehinah. In the galut, we pray towards Jerusalem to reach our spirituality - but in Eretz Yisrael our whole life is surrounded with Shehinah wherever we go.

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