Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Vayeitze - We are the Ladder

Rav Weinberger was away last week in Eretz Yisroel, so sorry that there was no summary last week. Below, please find Rav Weinberger's Shabbos morning drasha from this Shabbos, Parshas Vayeitze. See here for past write-ups. Also, thousands of Rav Weinberger's shiurim are available online HERE.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Vayeitze 5772
We are the Ladder

Parshas ויצא is the nineteenth birthday of the Shul. It is known that one’s birthday is a time of חשבון הנפש, spiritual accounting. We must therefore look at the parsha to help us examine where we are holding as a קהלה, a congregation.

The story of Yaakov Avinu is the story of all of our lives in גלות, exile. Every single moment, we live with “וַיֵּצֵא יַעֲקֹב מִבְּאֵר שָׁבַע וַיֵּלֶךְ חָרָנָה,” “and Yaakov went out of Beer Sheva and went to Charan.” According to the Zohar (Vayeitze 147a), “חָרָנָה,” “to Charan,” comes from the words “חרון אף,” anger. In orther words, whenever we leave our little Eretz Yisroels, our Shuls and our yeshivos and go out into the world, we are in a strange place, in exile. As spiritual people, we are strangers in our daily physical lives. We therefore live with the story of Yaakov Avinu entering his exile every single moment of every single day as we go into our own personal exiles. What does Yaakov’s experience teach us about how to view our life in גלות, exile?

When Yaakov lays down to sleep, the pasuk says “וַיַּחֲלֹם וְהִנֵּה סֻלָּם מֻצָּב אַרְצָה וְרֹאשׁוֹ מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה וְהִנֵּה מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹהִים עֹלִים וְיֹרְדִים בּוֹ.,” “and he dreamt and behold there was a ladder standing on the earth and its top was in the heavens and behold, angels of G-d were assending and descending בּוֹ.” There is a dispute in Bereishis Raba (68:12) regarding the subject of the word “בּוֹ,” which could be read to mean “on him” or “on it.” One opinion is that the angels were ascending and descending the ladder. But the Medresh offers the following explanation according to the opinion that the angels were ascending and descending on Yaakov Avinu:

עולים ויורדים ביעקב ... אפזים בו קפזים בו שונטים בו שנאמר (ישעיה מט) ישראל אשר בך אתפאר את הוא שאיקונין שלך חקוקה למעלה עולים למעלה ורואים איקונין שלו ויורדים למטה ומוצאים אותו ישן.

The [interpretation of the fact that the] angels were ascending and descending in Yaakov is that they were praising him (ascending) and criticizing him (descending). As it says in Yeshaya 49:3, “Yisroel, in whom You are glorified.” "You are the the one whose face is carved above." They ascended and saw his face and they descended below and found him sleeping.
The angels wondered, “How could it be that this person who is so great that Hashem takes such pride in him and his face is carved above under the Throne of Glory is sleeping his life away?” Each of our faces, the children of Yaakov, living in exile just as Yaakov was, are also carved up above on Hashem’s Throne of Glory. We have such great potential that Hashem exults in our greatness and carved each and every one of our faces above in שמים, in heaven. We do not realize our own greatness and meaning, so we sleep our lives away.

In prior generations, it was hard for someone to imagine how one could be in one place and his face could be somewhere else. Even in the time of the Chofetz Chaim, someone told him about the invention of the telephone, and he commented, “Listen to the power of speech; a Jew can say something in Radin, and someone will hear him in Vilna!” Today it is easy for us to imagine this concept. I do not know how it works exactly, but I have heard that on “Facebook,” people take pictures and other people can look at them anywhere in the world. And on Skype, one can be in Eretz Yisroel, and he can talk to his grandchildren in New York and they can see each other’s faces as they talk.

This is the struggle that each of us faces when we go out into the world. We also struggle with the angels who say about us, “This is the person whose face is carved onto the Throne of Glory! Look, why is he sleeping?!” We learn from Yaakov that we cannot sleep through our lives, thinking, “Who am I? I’m just a סתם person, a regular guy.” We are not just “regular guys.” Angels, which deliver Hashem’s Divine influence to the whole world, pass through us to do their work.

When Yaakov wakes up, he says (Bereishis 28:16) “אָכֵן יֵשׁ ה' בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה וְאָנֹכִי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי. ,” “Indeed Hashem is in this place and I did not know it.” Tzadikim explain this pasuk in the following way: The letters of the word “אָכֵן,” “indeed” in that pasuk stand for the words אריה, כרוב, נשר, lion, angel, and eagle, the three animals whose images Yechezkel says are carved on the great chariot in heaven (10:14). In other words, Yaakov started off knowning that in lofty places there are mystical creatures, the cherub, the angel, and the lion. But once he hears that the angels say that Yaakov’s own face is also carved above, he he says “וְאָנֹכִי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי.,” “and I did not know it.” The Hebrew word for “I” is “אָנֹכִי.” The letters of the word “אָנֹכִי” stand for the words אריה, כרוב, נשר, lion, cherub, eagele, and Yaakov! He was saying, “I knew there were great and spiritual things in Heaven, but I never knew that I was one of them!”

Yaakov was living the good life before he left Beer Sheva. He was able to sit and learn Torah all of the Time. He had a mother who loved him dearly. Everyting was good. But it was only after Yaakov left home and went into exile on the way to Charan that it was revealed to him that “ישראל אשר בך אתפאר,” that Hashem glorifies himself in him and that his face is carved in the כסא הכבוד, the Throne of Glory. Only in exile did he realize that he was the ladder, the conduit through which Hashem sends his Divine influence into the world.

We too are carved in Hashem’s throne. We must realize that we are important, and not סתם, not simple, regular people. Everything in this world is dependent on us.

There is a story that the bochurim in the yeshiva in Radin were complaining to one another about the השכלה’s, the enlightenment’s prevelence in Paris, which was plaguing the religious Jews there. The Chofetz Chaim told them that it is because of their ביטול תורה, the time they waste when they should be learning Torah in Radin talking about what’s happening in Paris, that makes it possible for Jews to fall prey to the enlightenment in Paris.

Our job is to wake up from our sleep, and realize that we are the ladder, our faces are carved in the Throne of Glory above, and Hashem takes pride in us. So it is up to us to wake up to take up the challenge of our potential and our importance in the world. “וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב מִשְּׁנָתוֹ,” “and Yaakov awoke from his slumber.” In contrast, with regard to Paroh, it says (Bereishis 41:4-5) “וַיִּיקַץ פַּרְעֹה וַיִּישָׁן ,” “and Paroh woke up and went back to sleep.” We cannot be like Paroh and fall back asleep once we realize that we are great and that we really matter.

We must also realize that as a קהלת יעקב, a congregation of Yaakov, the image of our קהלה, our congregation is also carved on Hashem’s throne. We must look at ourselves and see if we are living up to to higher image of ourselves or whether we have become complacent and begun taking liberties in our כבוד התפלה, our respect for the davening in the Shul, in our learning, and in our בין אדם לחברו, the way we treat one another.

עם ירצה ה', with Hashem’s help, may we be זוכה, merit to wake up from our slumber and relize our importance and that we are the conduit through which Hashem brings everything good into the world. And through the openings that we create may we be זוכה to go together to Yerushalayim בביאת גואל צדק במהירה בימינו אמן, with Moshiach Tzidkeinu soon in our days.
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