“From What are We Running?”
“For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises up again, but the wicked stumble under adversity.”(Mishlei 24:16)
This Parashah begins and ends with an escape. But who runs away, from what and from whom is he escaping? Yaakov being a protected son, raised at home, now 63 years old, had still not “settled down”; that is, he hadn’t left his parents’ house to become an independent adult.
We read that Yaakov left Beersheva (בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע). Be’er means a well and represents the knowledge of the Torah; Sheva, which means “seven” or “oath”, represents the fullness of reality or the natural world, which gives us the idea that Yaakov was in a place of fullness and abundance. The Torah teaches us that he would go to Haran, a place that was spiritually low. Haran (חָרָן) which means “parched”, depicts that now because of his actions, he would face a different world, a lower one than the environment in which he had been raised; he would go to a place of lack.
I wondered if Yaakov by exercising his free will, could really have avoided his life‘s journey, or if he had done things correctly would he have obtained the blessings of Heaven without suffering so much. Obviously, we don’t know, but what we do know is that the Yaakov who had received the promises of the blessings was not yet ready to assume them and that God allowed him to experience these situations so that he would be ready in this physical world, as well as on the spiritual plane, to exercise dominion over these blessings.
This shows me that we must be prepared to receive the blessings of Heaven, as our RANEBI told us in this anecdote. “How many millionaires who have won the lottery are poorer after winning it?” God wanted to fulfill the promise that He had made to Abraham and Isaac through Yaakov, but if Yaakov received the “blessings” as he was, he might have ended up like those people who win the lottery without having cultivated their mind and soul to be able to administer those blessings.
That is why Yaakov’s next step was to find himself in a “place”, with dreams (Chap.28 V.11-12) and we see some interesting things from this episode and his dream. To begin with, he dreams, i.e., he receives a Divine message through the loss of his “optimal cortical tone” or a loss of consciousness, to stop perceiving reality through his senses. How many of us must “turn off” to reconnect with the Creator?
Next, there’s a ladder acting as a vehicle to connect the lower and upper levels, i.e., our physical world with the spiritual world; in psychology, this vehicle is the amygdala. Third, this ladder is anchored to the earth with its upper end reaching the heavens; but notice that it is not anchored nor held up high and considering that the weight of a ladder is greater than the weight of the atmosphere, we can conclude that this ladder breaks the laws of physics which assumes that there are two supports. We need the anchoring of the physical world, work, food, home, etc. but if this physical world is not anchored to the heavens (i.e., God), this ladder will fall! Fourth, some malachim, who are not necessarily spiritual beings appear, for if we stop to think, does an angel need a ladder? These are real envoys or messengers of God. And fifth, these malachim ascend and descend.
When we apply these verses to our lives, disconnect ourselves, and have a reconnection vehicle, which in my interpretation can be manifested in the form of prayer, or the study of Torah or by doing good deeds, we manage to connect the physical world to the spiritual world, and that elevates us, like when Moshe, who was a malach, a messenger, ascended Mt. Sinai and descended with the Torah. When we ascend, the Shechinah is made manifest to us, as we read in verse 13 ” And behold, the LORD stood beside him”.Notice that only at this moment did Yaakov realize that the Eternal was beside him, yet if we read carefully, the Eternal was always there. When the Eternal manifests Himself, He speaks to us, and He reveals Himself to us.
On this occasion, He reaffirmed to Yaakov the promise to his parents regarding the earth, the formation of a nation, and making his descendants a blessing to the nations of the earth. The transformation of Yaakov into a man worthy of these blessings of Heaven, are stated in chapter 28:15 “And, behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back into this land; for I will not leave you, until I have done that of which I have spoken to you“.
Immediately, consciousness returns to Yaakov and as he awakens, he makes a very profound declaration: “Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.” (Chap. 28:16). When we are not spiritually awakened, we roam the world without the knowledge that the Eternal is in this place; we are ignorant and do not realize the constant Presence of the Creator. The place where he was, used to be called Luz which in Spanish means “Light”, giving us a better idea that this is a place where there is illumination or a source of special energy. Our sages say that this place is Moriah, where the future Temple would be built.
This experience marked Yaakov, and awakened his spiritual being, preparing him to leave Eretz Israel to Haran. It would take 20 years for him to return to the land of Israel; 20 years in which he was deceived, went through economic failures and relationships with other people in which he had to learn to work for his blessings, and to connect his spiritual being with his material being; but despite everything he lived through, we read that God’s promise was fulfilled; He never abandoned him, kept him, was with him, and brought him back to Israel.
These have been days of testing for many people in our community regarding health and family issues or economic conditions, however, this Shabbat, I would like you to disconnect from your senses. Yaakov was escaping from himself, from the hatred of his brother, from the shame for having deceived his father and his other family members, from not assuming his responsibilities, but it was necessary for him to receive the same medicine that he had given out in the past, which would act as a vaccine to improve and grow.
Do you and I keep running away? When will we realize that the Eternal is always by our side? Will we be these angels who ascend to the heavens and descend to this world to bring blessing to those around us? Let us remember that the just can fall, but the just do not stay on the ground, they get up.