Vayetze 3

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Acceptance & Initiative

Parshas Vayetze

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“Yaakov departed from Be’er Sheva and went toward Charan. He came to the place (Mount Moriah) and he spent the night there” (Bereshis 28:10-11). 

The beginning of this week’s portion occurs as Yaakov is departing from Be’er Sheva, where he had spent the previous fourteen years immersed in Torah study. He was now on the way to Charan in order to find a wife. When he had reached Charan, it occurred to him that he had passed Mount Moriah. Mount Moriah was the place where Avraham had brought his son Yitzchok as an offering. It was also a place where both Avraham and Yitzchok had prayed to Hashem, and would be the future location of the Beis Hamikdash -- the Temple. Yaakov proceeded to turn around and return to Mount Moriah.

When Yaakov realized he had missed Mount Moriah he was engaged preparing for the mitzva of finding a wife. Why was it important for Yaakov to go back to Mount Moriah, and delay this mitzva? 

First, let us understand what happened to Yaakov when he got to Mount Moriah.

Right after Yaakov arrived, he prayed, and it was there that he instituted the evening prayer.

Why only now did Yaakov institute the evening prayer? In order for Yaakov to achieve any of his goals, a few things have to happen. First of all, he had to be accomplished in Torah. Yaakov spent fourteen years studying Torah. But he was not simply studying. Rashi tells us that for these fourteen years, Yaakov never slept in a bed, because he was so occupied with Torah.

Yaakov also had to do more than be accomplished in Torah.  He also had to continue to go in the ways of his father and grandfather, Yitzchok and Avraham. One reason he had to go back to Mount Moriah was because they had prayed there.

Finally he had to go back because of the actual holiness of Mount Moriah. Mount Moriah was not holy because Avraham had offered up Yitzchok there, or because Avraham and Yitzchok prayed there. Avraham was commanded to offer up Yitzchok on this mountain, and Avraham and Yitzchok prayed there because it was holy. This is a subtle difference, but a large one. Hashem created the Land of Israel with a special degree of holiness. Mount Moriah, the place of the Beis Hamikdash, had an even higher degree of holiness. So in order for Yaakov to reach his goal and innovate the time for the evening prayer, he had subject himself to this specific place.

Sometimes our relationship with Hashem needs initiative from us, but sometimes it requires us to accept it passively. In this situation, it was a combination.  Yaakov subjected himself to the holiness of the place while at the same time innovating the evening prayer.

These rules apply to each one of us. In order for us to best reach our potential, we must go in the ways of our ancestors, subject ourselves to Hashem’s laws, and also initiate in our relationship with Him.   

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

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