by Rabbi Natan Halevy, BSD
The story of Jacob continues in this week’s parasha, or Torah portion. ‘Vayetse’ literally means ‘he went out’ on a journey: “Jacob left Be’er Sheva, and he went to Haran.” The Zohar interprets this verse as a spiritual story taking place. In the story, the soul leaves the higher realms to come to this world. The place left, “Be’er Sheva,” signifies the oath the soul makes with Hashem before descending to this world. The world is called “Haran,” connected to the word “haron,” which signifies the irritation of Hashem by our negative actions in this world which openly oppose His will. Although going to “Haran” embodies an obvious spiritual descent, “Haran” is also where Jacob marries, creating a family of tribes who will lead to the nation of Israel.
How did Jacob end up on his spiritual journey? As we have mentioned before, Abraham and Isaac were inclined towards spiritual extremes. Abraham was connected with kindness, while Isaac, with justice and righteousness. These spiritual tendencies explain the unique, individual connections they had to their respective sons, Ishmael and Eisav, who each had a special connection to their father’s spiritual energy.
Jacob balanced the spiritual energies of Abraham and Isaac by blending, merging and interweaving their energies. Jacob attained the spiritual levels of Abraham and Isaac, and also drew those energies down, bringing them further into our physical reality. This is why Jacob symbolizes the attributes of ‘Mercy’ and ‘Beauty.’ The mercy of our forefather Jacob is why he is most connected to us in all of our exiles and in troubling times. Jacob represents the ability to express power and spirituality in the most challenging of times.
The letters that spell Jacob’s name symbolize his qualities and his special ability to bring the spiritual into the troubled, physical world. ‘Jacob’ in Hebrew contains the letter ‘Yud’ plus the word ‘Eikev.’ ‘Yud’ is the smallest of all letters and represents the spark of G-dliness in all creation. ‘Eikev’ means ‘heel.’ Jacob’s name signifies the spirituality of Hashem coming into the ‘heel’ which signifies the lowest physical portion of our being and symbolizes the lowest physical level of creation.
Originally, there was supposed to be a partnership between Jacob and Eisav. Jacob was to devote himself to spiritual pursuits. Eisav was meant to work on elevating his material, coarse desires into passion for spiritual pursuits in unity with Jacob—perhaps, the harder job. Unfortunately, Eisav and the partnership failed, and Eisav became completely consumed with his physical desires and passions. Subsequently, Jacob had to fill both roles. Our nation is tasked with refining the physical and material elements of the world alongside engaging in the spiritual service of Hashem.
This world melds and blends spiritual and physical elements together. Throughout our life, we can refine various energies via our encounters and experiences. We are able to uplift individual moments, thereby uplifting our lives and the lives of those around us in the process. It is for this reason that Hashem brings us to certain tests and challenges in our lives. It says in Psalms, ‘From Hashem the footsteps of man have been established.’ Hashem determines the places we reach. However, we have free choice in the decisions we make.
May we be successful in all our endeavors, Amen.
Shabbat Shalom Umevorach