How to Fortify Yourself Before Facing the
Everything that happened to the patriarchs is an indication
for their children
Midrash Tanchuma Lech Lecho 9. Bereishis Rabba
All the events that happened with the Patriarchs
[Abraham, Isaac and Jacob] come to teach us about the future
were shown what would happen to their descendants
- Ramban Lech Lecho 12:6. Bechayei on this weeks portion
[Jacob] dreamed and saw a ladder standing on
the ground and its top reached up toward heaven. G-ds
angels were ascending and descending on it (this weeks
portion, Genesis 28:12) He was shown the future empires
that would rule the world
Midrash Tanchuma beginning of this weeks
portion. Pirkei Drebbi Eliezer ch. 35 (cited in Bechaya
and Ramban ibid). See Rambam Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 7:3)
Since September 11th I have been spontaneously
writing a running commentary on the historical events of our
times. Being trained in Torah study my entire life, I naturally
gravitate to the Bible and its commentaries to make sense of
this chaos and uncertainty.
One can sense that there is something happening
that is unfathomably larger than any one man or even
all of us together can comprehend. When events reach
and affect a critical mass, as the events since September 11th
have done, it is simply impossible to predict or even project
what will happen. Particularly when the enemy is so obfuscated
cloaked in the shadows of deep-rooted religious beliefs;
ideologies that are foreign to many of us; expressed in the
twisted arms of terrorism; a war being fought in unfamiliar
hills of the Middle East and Asia -- no one can imagine what,
if anything, will come next.
When conventional paradigms dont work, we
have no other choice but to step back and look for a new perspective,
and it always helps to stare into history and connect the dots.
For me this means delving into the Torah, a document that has
been traveling with us for thousands of years.
And in it we do find all the seeds for the characters
and players of today. Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, Isaac,
To my own surprise each week as I sit down to
study the weekly Torah portion, the Biblical stories all come
alive in context of todays events.
But, as complacency began to creep back into our
lives, and we all so want to return to some semblance of normalcy
(whatever that means), to the world of September 10,
I must confess that my own denial began whispering intriguing
thoughts in my ear, seducing me into the lull of what
more is there to say? You have already outlined the major players:
Abraham, father of nations; Ishmael, father of Arabs/Muslims;
Isaac, father of Jews; Esau, father of the West and their
interactions which foretell the events of our times. What more
can possibly be said?!
Yet, I have a self-imposed necessity to give my
weekly class in New York City, and must therefore look into
the Torah portion, and there lies the undoing of my complacency:
When you read the continuing saga, you just cannot ignore its
And so, my commentary continues.
After Esaus notorious marriage to Ishmaels
daughter (at the end of last weeks portion), the Torah
gets back to Jacobs journey to Charan, which as you may
recall was for two reasons: 1) To escape the wrath of his brother
Esau following Jacobs stealing of his blessings 2) To
find a wife for himself.
Vayeitzei Yaakov mBeer Sheva vayelech
Charono, Jacob leaves Beersheba and travels toward
Charan. In this journey Jacob has his renowned dream where he
sees the vision of a ladder standing on the ground
and its top (head) reached up toward heaven. G-ds angels
were ascending and descending on it.
G-d then promises Jacob, I am G-d of
Abraham your father and G-d of Isaac. I will give you and your
descendants the land upon which you are lying. Your descendants
will be [plentiful] like the dust of the earth. You shall spread
out to the west, to the east, to the north and to the south.
All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your
G-d continues: I am with you. I will
protect you wherever you go and bring you back to this soil.
I will not turn aside from you until I have fully kept this
promise to you.
The parsha continues with Jacob going on his way,
arriving in Charan, marrying and building his family there
eleven of the twelve tribes. Jacob spends twenty years in Charan,
working for his father-in-law Laban as a sheperd, tending to
his large flocks. This weeks chapter concludes with Jacob
and his family leaving Charan and returning to the land of his
fathers, Canaan, only to confront Esau in next weeks Torah
Jacob and Esau represent two nations
in a perpetual struggle (see last weeks article). In cosmic
terms they embody the battle between matter and spirit, between
your body and soul, between the G-dly and the mundane. In historical
terms the battle between religion and science, between
faith and modern (Western) culture, between the religious and
the secular. In personal terms the battle between selfishness
and dedication to a higher calling.
The battle between Esau and Jacob lays the ground
for all the battles to come in future generations. By understanding
this conflict and how it is dealt with, we can learn how we
should act when facing our own challenges, our own version of
the Jacob/Esau confrontation.
The battle lines between Esau and Jacob are drawn
in last weeks portion, when Jacob buys the
birthright from Esau and then proceeds to steal
his blessings (in Esaus words: first he took my
birthright and now he took my blessing). Esau is furious
and wants to kill his brother.
But before a confrontation takes place Jacob is
sent away by his parents to Charan to get married. During the
twenty years that Jacob is away he is in essence preparing himself
for the final and inevitable confrontation with Esau.
Spirit and matter are diametrically opposed to
each other. Before you are ready to confront the harsh material
world, you must bolster and strengthen yourself by building
a home and family, a nurturing oasis a secure launch
pad, if you will, which imbues you with confidence to achieve
all your goals. A soaring bird must have a secure nest. A true
home is a place where you are completely comfortable. A healthy
childhood is the time in your life when you are nurtured and
protected. This allows you to build strength and develop resources,
defensive and offensive tools to then go out into a difficult
adult world and not only not be hurt, but with the power and
confidence to transform the material world into a Divine home.
Before Jacob could face Esau, he built his home
in Charan. No small feat, mind you. Charan is a corrupt place.
Charan actually means wrath of G-d,
signifying the G-dlessness of Charan. Laban is an artist of
deceit and deception. Jacob does not have an easy time. Nevertheless
he prevails and builds a home, a powerful and nurturing domain.
Jewish mysticism teaches that there are stages
in refining yourself and the world. First Jacob begins with
the relatively easier task with Laban in Charan, and only then
can he approach the more difficult Esau challenge. Jacobs
work in tending to Labans flocks of sheep represents the
building of the spiritual cosmic order, the structure and building
blocks that give us the tools to then enter and transform the
material universe and confront the Esaus of
Thus Jacobss journey to Charan in this weeks
Torah portion signifies the beginning of each of our journeys
into the real world. Following Esaus attempt to join forces
with Ishmael against Isaac and Jacob by marrying Ishmaels
daughter (see last weeks article), Jacob escapes to build
a home and fortify himself in order to be able to face the Esau
As Jacob leaves Israel (Canaan) to travel to Charan,
G-d shows him a vision of angels climbing and descending a ladder.
He shows him the rise and fall of nations to come, how they
would climb and dominate the world, and then fall a
similar vision to the one G-d showed his grandfather Abraham (see previous article titled Abrahams
Vision). And G-d tells him not to be afraid. I am with
you. I will protect you wherever you go and bring you back to
this soil. I will not turn aside from you until I have fully
kept this promise to you.
By showing Jacob this vision G-d is preparing
him as he prepared Abraham for what is to come,
and is giving him, and all of us, the tools to face these challenges
The message for each of us today is clear:
To face the battles of life you must first fortify
your inner life. You must build a strong inner core a
home and family that provides you with the security and confidence
to handle any force or enemy from without.
As we face enemies known or unknown, and
especially the worst enemy of all, the enemy of fear and uncertainty
we must build inner security, a safe home.
A true home begins in your soul. You must have
a place inside of you where you are completely comfortable.
Peace at the center a place where you feel at home with
your calling and your purpose. You must make your peace with
G-d, peace with your soul peace with the mission for
which you were uniquely chosen and sent to earth.
When you allow G-d in, G-d tells you: I
am with you. I will protect you wherever you go. No matter
the challenge, regardless which enemy or which battle
when you connect to G-d you have the power to overcome and conquer
with a buoyant spirit anything and everything.
Jacobs vision promises us that the nations
that dominate the ladder will ultimately fall. When you lack
faith and trust in G-d, then you become enslaved and victimized
by dominating nations and forces around us.
Prevail will be those that climb the ladder together
with G-d. With faith in G-d you can conquer all, and you then
climb the ladder and never descend.
You can now order the tape of Rabbi Jacobsons
elaborate class on this topic.
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We need to join together as never before to nourish
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Phillip, Jason, Neria, Shoshana, Chani, Sarah, Yael, Eli
and of all us at The Meaningful Life Center
Helping You Redefine What Truly Matters
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WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL THING YOU CAN DO
IN RESPONSE TO SEPTEMBER 11?
Join us in creating a passionate spiritual
revolution for the good.
As passions of violence have been released
on us, against humanity, our most powerful response is to counter
with a passionate revolution of purpose, with no less passion
and drive than the evil being waged against us.
This is our mission at the Meaningful Life
 See maamar im lovon garti Ohr
HaTorah Vayishlach 231a. 5742. Vayishlach 5666.
 Bechaya and Ramban on our portion, 28:12.
 See Vayikra Rabba 29:2.