Author Topic: Finding The Place  (Read 6418 times)

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Finding The Place
« on: December 25, 2006, 03:30:51 AM »
Finding The Place
By Moshe Lerman

In this week’s Parasha we read that Jacob “encountered the place“ (VaYiphga baMakom) as he is about the leave the Land of Israel. At this place he dreams his awesome dream, which teaches him that the place is holy, the connection between Heaven and Earth. He erects the stone that miraculously arose out of the stones that he put around his head as a pillar and he takes a vow:

"If God will be with me, and will guard me in this way that I am going, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear; and if I return in peace to my father's house, then HaShem will be as God to me. And this stone which I have set up as a pillar shall become a house of God, and whatever You will give me, I shall repeatedly tithe to You." (Bereshit 28:20-22)

The stone is Even HaShtiya, through which all existence flows. The place is Makom HaMikdash, on Har Moriya, the mountain that represents the unison of Israel, intimately shared by Benyamin, the son of Rachel, and Yehuda, the son of Leah. It is the place where the Shechina dwells, in Benyamin, but between the shoulders of Yehuda (Devarim 33:12). It is the place where the Sanhedrin rules, in Yehuda, but from between the legs of Benyamin (Bereshit 49:10).

Our sages give different opinions about status of the phrase "HaShem will be as God to me" in Jacob's vow. According to Rashi, the phrase is part of the condition of the vow, and we should read: "... and HaShem will be as God to me. Then this stone..."

However, the Ramban disagrees most fervently in his comment to this verse: "this is not a condition as Rashi says, but it is a vow meaning: "if I will return to my father's house, then I will serve HaShem, the unique One, in the chosen Land at the place of this stone that will be to me a house of God, and there I will give out my tithe." And this is related to a secret of which [our Sages] spoke (Ketubot 110b): [Who lives in the Land of Israel is like one who has a God.] Who lives outside of the Land is like one who has no God."

This Ramban is quite puzzling. Why did Jacob have to vow that he would serve HaShem? Did he not already serve Him? And if the background of the vow is, as the Ramban suggests, that Jacob was going to be like one without a God by leaving the Land, would he not automatically be like one with a God by returning to the Land? Why then did Jacob vow? And what could be the secret the Ramban refers to? Is the exalted status of the Land of Israel not well known?

The context of Jacob's vow may serve as a clue. Jacob vows after having seen the ladder reaching the heavens and angels of God climbing up and down. Rashi comments that the angels climbing up were those who had accompanied him in the Land of Israel, and the angels climbing down were those who would accompany him outside the Land.

His vision made Jacob aware of a metaphysical reality associated with the Land of Israel. He became scared and said: "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God and this is the gate of Heavens (Bereshit 28:17)!" He understood a frightening secret. The goodness of the Land of Israel does not come for free. Great spiritual forces would try to keep him from returning and to prevent him from serving HaShem in the Land. He understood that he needed a supernatural weapon and resolved to establish a house of God at the sacred place that he had discovered.

Jacob's experience is a prophecy for our times. We will again find The Place and erect Beit HaMikdash, as Jacob vowed. The vow "HaShem will be as God" may be taken has a reference to the Sanhedrin. The phrase can be expounded as "Torah will be as Law." The troubles that we encounter as we are returning to the Land have a deep spiritual background. We will overcome them by accepting Torah as the law of the Land, to become a light to the nations.