In this portion Jacob starts a journey. In this journey he will encounter with other sides of his personality as well as with G-d's presence in all Its glory. He would meet and marry his wives, will father his children and accumulate a great deal of fortune. This journey of Jacob into a different environment gives birth to a whole and holistic overview of life.
This portion Jacob goes on a journey, living his home in Beer Sheva to meet his extended family, to his uncle lavan who lives in a much different environment than that he knows - the land of Israel. We all live in several environments. Our homes, our workplaces, and the social environments we create are within our sphere of influence. They are small systems, and as such, the contribution each person makes clearly affects them. However, there are also larger environments - our community, the country we live in, the world at large where our influence is not felt as strongly. These, unlike the others often force us to adjust.
Parshas Vayeitzei focuses on the transition from one environment to another and the changes and challenges this brings about in a person’s conduct. Vayeitzei means “and he went out” and the reading describes how Jacob departed from Eretz Yisrael and went to Charan, an alien environment. The Hebrew word Charan is associated with anger, and thus our Sages interpret this name as referring to the arousal of G‑d’s anger. Not that he had any anger towards Jacob, but He wanted him to go to this exact place on that specific timing for a reason.
There are three dimensions to Yaakov’s stay in Charan:
He was confronted by a personal challenge. In the company of Lavan and others like him, he had to struggle to maintain his virtue. Charan means a personal challenge in maintaining our virtues despite the change of the environment.
During his stay in Charan Jacob built his family, married and fathered twelve of his thirteen children. Despite the influences that prevailed in the community at large, he infused his family with the spiritual heritage received from his father Isaac and his grandfather Avbaham.
He elevated the entire environment of Charan, lifting up the G‑dly sparks enclothed in that land’s material substance.
As we can see the endeavors we face through the story of Jacob required unique spiritual powers and require an adjustment and learning. Also, Jacob story and his journey will help us understand better what we must do when coming to a new environment as we are trying to adjust to the unfamiliar. and last, Jacob story and his journey teaches us about the importance of reliance and believe in Hashem. By overcoming the personal challenges posed by his surroundings, Jacob showed the infinite power a G‑dly soul - showing us that even a hostile environment cannot prevent G-d’s expression in our lives.
By going to Charan, to a different surrounding and by raising a family, he extended his circle of influence, enabling it to encompass others. An interesting thing in this portion also are Jacob’s dreams. Although usually we refer to one of them - the drem of the ladder, we have here in this portion in fact another dream - a more subtle dream we not usually talk about – the dream he had at Lavan’s house.
In the first dream, he saw a ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to heaven while angels ascending and descending upon it and G-d was standing over the ladder, saying to him:"I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying to you I will give it and to your seed. And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall gain strength westward and eastward and northward and southward; and through you shall be blessed all the families of the earth and through your seed. I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have spoken concerning you."
The second dream accrued after he married Rachel and Leah and after they gave birth to all twelve children, just after he negotiated with Lavan over his salary, asking him to take for himself out of the flock the goats that are ringed, sparkled and striped. And in his dream, he saw an angel of G-d saying to him: "Now lift your eyes and see [that] all the goats mounting the animals are ringed, speckled, and striped, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Beth-El, where you anointed a monument, where you pronounced to Me a vow. Now, arise, go forth from this land and return to the land of your birth."
We see G-d's appreciation here on the monument Jacob did in Beth-El and we can notice also that Jacob in a way received two blessings, each aligned with his dream and with the specific timing of life events during his journey. He is also been given blessings in both dreams. The first, about his seed and the second about his wealth.
Jacob is the father that signified by truth. He teaches us to have confidence and reliance in Hashem. He teaches us to trust the divine and to belief in G-d’s will for the best thing to happen to each of us, in every step of the way. Jacob acquisition of wealth and the refinement of the environment symbolizes and represents a far greater extension. The material possessions acquired by Jacob were not, by nature, holy. On the contrary, without Jacob’s influence, Charan and all of its elements aroused G‑d’s anger. However, by elevating them, Jacob was thus working to fulfill the purpose of creation, showing how even the lowest dimensions of existence can be transformed into a dwelling for G‑d.
In this manner, he set a pattern for his descendants - to us - demonstrating how they would become G‑d’s partners in creation, and just as Jacob, we are also would journey throughout the world uncover the spiritual potential invested in the different elements of existence, revealing that everything that created in His world, He created solely for His glory.
Jacob is identified with the quality of Truth, for truth has a dimension that transcends mortal limits, being above all possibility of change or interruption. With Truth, one can reach out to change environments and even the entire world, for nothing can oppose Truth. Thus Jacob is described as receiving “a heritage that has no boundaries”. For as evidenced by his journey to Charan (and later to Egypt), Jacob is a figure that was able to elevate even foreign settings.
On the way to Charan, Jacob experienced a vision of G‑d in which G‑d promised him: “I will return you to this soil.” This indicates that Jacov’s mission (to go to Charan) and the mission of the Jewish people at large (to make the world a dwelling for G‑d) are not ends in themselves. Jacob was not intended to stay in Charan forever, and our exile too will come to an end. For every Jew’s true place is in the land of Israel.
Jacob went on an individualization journey. Expelled or fled his own home, he had to experiment or experience the walking into the unknown, just like his grandfather Abraham and his mother Rivka. Time and time again, in the biblical story and especially in the book of the roots – in Bereshit portions, we see that mental processes require mental training. It is necessary for one to experience the degrees of evilness in order to recognize and better understand the good that exists alongside evil within the human soul.
Individualization is a mental process that imposes itself on a person, and as such, the first step towards individualization was indeed forced upon Jacob, who was expelled from his house. In order for him to develop within himself new emotions, experiences and understandings, he needed to encounter with new sights, new tastes and new smells, he needed to face different opinions, beliefs, worldviews and other basic concepts, which will assist him on his way to self-realization.
"And he arrived at the place and lodged there because the sun had set, and he took some of the stones of the place and placed [them] at his head, and he lay down in that place". In this verse, the word PLACE repeats itself three times and, as such, it has an exceptional significance. This place Jacob found or came across with is not only a physical but also sacred. and that is because even in our own lives, sometimes on a journey, we come across places, that the meaning of them, or their importance to our future would remain hidden from us. We are to walk, to roam and to rove without really understand the high value of our actions. We are to wander around aimlessly and trust the divine that we are on the right track, each time making the right move, that will help us get to where He aims us.
Then after Jacob reached that PLACE he then took some stones and placed them at or under his head. This act of ritual Jacob seems to have been performed here, has deep symbolic significance. The stone carries with it several meanings: It is the essence of everything earthly and stable. A stone is a concentrated power, eternal and unchanging. For example, we have huge tombstones in the Golan area in Israel and elsewhere, we know of the Stonehenge in England, we have the Kaaba in Mecca, the stones in the altar, the drinking stone. The stone is an element, which belongs to the natural world but symbolizes a connection with divinity.
Also the stone symbolizes within it both the feminine and masculine aspects. It possesses a masculine spiritual aspirate - a symbol of eternity, the foundation of the world, and with it, also it possesses feminine powers. In Kabbalah, the stone symbolizes the kingship attribute (count) the Malchut, which is the most feminine attribute of them all. As we learned in lech Lecha portion, this feminine attribute opens the gates to the G-dly abundance and to all other Sephiroth – Godly forces. In the stone – we have female content inserted into a masculine material. And this is what we can call - a natural coupling. Because as we know one’s greatest spiritual achievement is the pairing between Tiferet and Malchut, between the masculine and the feminine aspects of his / her soul and between the female and the male aspects of the soul - between Jacob and Rachel.
And indeed the stone or the stones Jacob put under his head, open up for him the spiritual realms that emerge from the dream he dreamed. The stone equips him with supposedly feminine qualities – the openness and sensitivity to absorb what emerges from the unconscious, from the spirit realms from the transcendent worlds. The dream revealed in Jacob's mind, parts he was not aware of before, pointing to a nonfactual observance in regards to himself and of the possibility or a solution, lies within him to cope with what he saw back then as immediate fear. This dream offered him with the security and protection of his ancestors – who also naturally, linked him with the great power of the divine – the great father – G-d.
The ladder is a well-known sign for dynamics, it symbolizes ascending and descending, the possibility of connecting the spiritual "upper realms" with the physical "lower realms’ or the ‘reality". The ladder signifies for Jacob (and to us, as this week we all have Jacob aspects within ourselves), the ability to bridge those two – the upper realms and the lower realms, as well as the two levels of consciousness within ourselves to the point where they can interact.
To believe or be aware of these dynamics is crucial for anyone who wishes to have mental health. Because that means we have within us the ability to evolve, to change and to prosper in different stages of our life journey, in different environments and even from one minute to the next.
The ascending and descending angels are symbolic celestial bodies that link the divine with the humanoid. Their constant movement symbolizes the constant dynamics of efforts and desires to reach a long-awaited connection between the sublime divine and the human, the earthly. The angels as G-d’s messengers represents the aspect of the deity. They are mysterious powers who seek to associate the divine and g-dly, which is indestructible and endless with reality. As counselors inside and of the human soul, the angels are a common name for the forces and impulses operating in and above the human soul. They allow a connection and dialogue between man and God as well as symbolizes the relationship between the different layers of our soul.
God, the Ladder, the Angels, this place with no name - all are the parts of the mind that act unconsciously and express themselves in a dream. They represent the wealth of mental powers and the magnitude of the G-dly driving force that scope everything and is everywhere. G-d, this powerful force of living, that divinity who creates, is at the top of the ladder. G-d regulates and activates everything from the above and is also a source of support.
Frantic and thrilled by the power of the nominal dream, Jacob awakens from the mystical experience and he immediately understands and recognize its collective meaning, as well as the seemingly simple and direct message towards him. The dream symbolizes the dynamics between the parts of the soul, on the personal plane, and the endless dynamics found between man and the divine G-d, on the collective plane. Then, filled with awe, in a distinct act of ritual, out of respect and appreciation for the Creator, Jacob takes the stone he put under his head and makes an altar. He also names this mysterious and nameless place Beth- El. Bait in Hebrew means a Home, again, a female aspect that symbolizes emotional stability that Jacob was looking for. While El, which is one of G-d’s name is the male aspect. Hence Beth-El symbolizes the sacred coupling between Malchut and Tiferet attributes.
This pairing gives birth to a whole and holistic overview of life. It also allows the dripping or the streaming of the G-dly abundance to our world from the Divine Provinces. Also here we have a clue about the pairing of Jacob and Rachel, which comes right afterwards that also has symbolic mystical meaning as well as psychological meanings, which we will discuss about in another time.
To find out more about this week's portion watch the Torah lesson.