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Parasha No. 7
Vayetze: “He went forward”

Bereshit 28, 10 - 32, 3


Our true being, in its true place

Plan

Level for everyone
- Themes
- Synthesis of the Sages's commentaries on this - parasha
- Rabbenu Behaye

2nd intermediate level
- Introduction to the Shla's commentary
- How the Torah represents the level of "being" ( yesh)
- How the Torah guides us to this level of yesh

2nd advanced level
- Awakening from the dream
- The place, makom
- Lesson in personal development
- Understanding
- Application
- Memorization and internalization exercise

 


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Level 1
Level for Everyone and for beginners who seek a simple approach

Themes

The parasha begins with Yaakov's famous dream.
Then he continues his journey and meets Rahel by the well; he is forced to serve 7 years for his father-in-law Laban in order to marry Rahel "and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her." Then Laban gives Yaakov, without his knowledge, Leah instead of Rachel, and he had to wait one week before marrying Rahel, on the additional condition that he served Laban for another 7 years.
Then come the births of Leah's children and Rahel's infertility which is resolved with the birth of Joseph.
Then there is Laban's deception over Yaakov's salary, the contract on the births of the speckled and spotted sheep which, without Laban's knowledge, assures Yaakov's fortune. After six more years, Yaakov receives Hashem's order to return to the country of his ancestors, and he goes into hiding with his family and all his possessions. Then there is the chase by Laban, as he searches for the amulets stolen by Rahel, and the contract of separation between Laban and Yaakov.
Finally, Yaakov continues his journey and God's messengers are with him; he names this place "the double camp, mahanayim." End of the parasha.

We could study each one of these themes, each verse and each word, and find a wealth of knowledge in them. We will, of course, not try to discover the "Jewish concept of dreaming," for example. For the Torah was not given to us so that we should learn from it cultural anthropology; it was given to us so that we should learn its inner secrets as a guide for life.

Synthesis of the commentaries of our Sages on this parasha

We will now follow our Sages in order to discover the central theme of the parasha which dominates all these scenes and gives them meaning. The method we use is, as always, that of Rashi, the Shla and Rabbenu Behaye:
" Rashi gives us this guideline: "it was useful to be told that Yaakov went out of Haran, if only to tell us that the departure of a tzaddik (a righteous one) is a very significant event in a city; indeed, as long as he resides in it, it is he who ensures its glory, its radiance and its beauty"…. (We should reflect on this).
" The Shla: we will see that he will show us "what is the being of such a righteous person." What Rashi says takes place, because the righteous person does not only live in a city, but within himself, in a place which we shall discover.
" Let us begin this detailed exploration with Rabbenu Behaye.

Rabbenu Behaye

His method consists in always beginning with a verse from Proverbs (here 11, 11) in order to show us that King Shlomo (Solomon) wrote it as a synthesis of this parasha:
"bevirkate yesharim tarum karet
(By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted),
uvefi reshaim tehares
(but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked)."

Rabbenu Behaye demonstrates that the aim of the parasha is to show us that there is a dichotomous reality which forces men to choose between two alternatives, to be a righteous person, or to be a rasha (a wicked person), that is between one thing and its opposite (davar vehippukho). This is not a simplistic, "racist" way of considering the world as good or bad; this is the reality, as in a pair of scales: or the scales rise, or they fall, according to which direction we follow (lekhaven seder hamidot mamash zo keneged zo).

This is a very important teaching and warning:
--- We do not live in a balanced setting, and we must take heed of which direction we follow, for we can turn equally towards Yaakov as towards Laban.
--- We should not think that the choice we make is of no consequence to others or to the world; we can bring, according to which direction we choose, or happiness and peace, or disaster.
--- This is not a minor lesson in morality, for the situations described in the parasha constitute the most important situations we can face in our personal, familial and social life. It is a lesson that teaches us how to discover who we are and who we aspire to be, in the knowledge that our efforts will contribute to building the world around us, or destroying it.

2nd level
for those who are ready to learn from tradition what it can teach us, and do not limit themselves to a short synthesis.

Introduction to the Shla's commentary

Through Yaakov's journey (where to live, with whom, with which woman, with which family, how to react, to stay or to leave, according to which familial or social morality, which is the true reality), the parasha asks the question of what is our being, which can take various forms:
1. The constant choice of adhering to our true being:
--- how to live, where, with whom.
--- how to remain true to ourselves, every day when it is easy to give in to mediocre habits and to the demands of the roles we assume in society or those set by others, instead of "being," instead of being totally true to ourselves in a long and patient struggle like that of Yaakov.

2. The crucial choice:
There are times when we need to be particularly clear-sighted and capable of deciding, as in the crucial situations confronted by Yaakov; this is so:
--- with children, for whom we must choose a form of education that allows them to develop their own personalities but is not totally guided by their moods and tastes;
--- with adolescents who face dangerous choices in their wish to explore different facets of their personality without knowing really who they are;
--- in our choice of a spouse, in the separation that follows the death of a spouse, in the decision to renew a relationship following a disappointment, break or divorce;
--- in times (which are normal) of depression when we collapse and feel no longer capable of withstanding the difficulties of life or relational conflicts.

Everyone knows the personal struggles he has to face, and the price that has to be paid for remaining true to oneself.
We also know that it is a human trait for people (like Laban with Yaakov) not to like what is different to them, and that they become brutal and unjust when someone tries to remain true to himself.
This is a very important point; not just a psychological one.

How does the Torah represent the level of "being" (yesh)?

The Torah raises this question when it says in Proverbs 8, 21

leanehil ohavai yesh, veotzroteheim amale,
"I give to those that love me yesh and their treasures I will fill."

Is this not what we wish for our children, for all those whom we love?
Hashem does likewise for us. Do we not use each one of the words of this verse for those we love?
It must be very important for Hashem to give this present, this yesh, for it is precisely this which He gives to those who love Him.

If we examine this verse closely, we will see that this question of being true to oneself entails in the Torah:
--- a gift,
--- true love,
--- consideration for one's true self and that of the other person,
--- perceiving the other person as a "treasure,"
--- a future that progresses,
--- a future that achieves plenitude, what we call in Hebrew shalom (which is not the foreign concept of "peace").

Let us see how the traditional translation of the Bible loses all these intense, inner dimensions: "That I may cause those who love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures."
Here the question is reduced to a distribution of material possessions.
How sad it is to view an object and gift in terms of acquisition and possession of the object, or in terms of it being acquired by someone else. This is confusing and object with a person. Often an object is acquired in order to forget, to compensate, to distract, and to escape; as a result, the object destroys relationships between people, and the "inner meaning" of a person is totally lost. Certainly, our true being is also expressed through material objects, but our true existence cannot be reduced simply to material objects. This is the challenge of existence, which many people resolve by striving to possess material objects; instead than seeking to fulfill "themselves," they seek to "possess." One can hear them say: "he is successful" "my son is successful," which simply means that he earns a lot of money and he shows it, and I want you to see it: this has nothing to do with success of one's "personal self" but only with success and wealth that can be seen and counted.
It follows that people are only perceived for their commercial "value" and, as a result, we always dread the idea of being "bought."

This verse 8, 21 of Proverbs which is cited by the Shla, reveals to us what God wants from us, his creatures. The parasha will teach us how to know
" in which being we live (the whole journey of Yaakov),
" in which place we live, (the place of Yaakov's dream, and the place of the last verse of the parasha: Mahanayim)
This connects with what the creator said of man at the very beginning of Genesis:
"where are you?" which means "in which place do you live?"
" Is your physical body just that (which is already a lot and an indispensable base), or do you feel the greater dimensions of your body, reaching the dimension which is in the image of the creator?
As in the verse we have cited, it is sufficient for someone to be loved in order to understand that this simple body means much more to the one who loves it and it is then that one discovers its inner dimensions. And do you not feel, particularly when you love, that you too represent the place of the divine presence in your heart?

How the Torah guides us to this level of being (yesh)

Yaakov shows us how to move in this direction:
" "he goes out," vayetze (indispensable condition, just as Moses went out/left his path in order to see the burning bush); one must know how to leave, even a beautiful place, even a place where there are 7 wells of life (Beer Sheva), in order to go further.
" "he went forward" (being mobile, going forwards).
" "he reached the place" vayifga bamakom. Rashi says that he reached the place directly through his prayer, covering the entire distance between him and God, praying calmly, without pressure for the goal is attained immediately. This means one must learn to pray with trust, like a child; this is why children can sleep (sometimes!) for they have trust, just as in the prayer that we recite at night on our beds (beyadekha afkid ruhi, "into your hands my spirit I consign" ; the initials of these words form the word beer, the calm well of the source of life).
So we have to let ourselves go with the night for it is only night at one level and
light at other more imperceptible levels of ourselves, and our soul is replenished
by it. It is the same with love; when our beloved is away, despite our sadness,
doubts and fears, we trust in him or her and we sleep in peace.
" "and he took of the stones of that place," vayikah beavnei hamakom. In drawing close to He who is everything, we can only understand a small part of Him. But this small part is indeed very big for it is a part of God; the only being who exists: as the morning prayer says "the soul which You gave me and which is totally pure"
for it is a part of You, and every member of Israel is kol yisrael yesh lahem helek
leolam habba or Helek Hahem amo.
" "he takes the stone and puts it under his head" vayasem meraashotav. The head, the highest part of ourselves, the most rebellious, the seat of pride, of thought, of compulsive pre-occupations, he places it on this small part of the big place, and he rests on it.
" "and he lay down in that place to sleep" vayishkav bamakom hahu. The phase of walking and moving forward has ended, he has positioned himself for the encounter with the Other, just like one can only be close to another person by lying with them. Lying down means no longer standing, no longer being proud. The commentaries open a world of themes to be reflected on.
Rashi also tells us, using Bereshit Rabba, that Yaakov lay down because previously, for 14 years, he did not lie down but studied Torah. Readers can reflect on what Rashi means by this.

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2nd Level
for more advanced students

The Shla says that yishkav (he lay down) must be read as two words: the letters yud-shin (yesh) and khav-vav; and he notes that
" this is the yesh of Proverbs 8, 21 (quoted above);
" it signifies the plenitude of the world to come;
" tradition interprets this verse from Proverbs as representing the complete tzaddik who receives 310 worlds, which is the numerical value of yesh.

In order to understand the importance of this teaching, one should note that it comes from the last mishna of all (Outktzin 3, 12), which comments on this verse from Proverbs, and that R. Shimon ben Halafta notes that the plenitude is that of shalom for Hashem only found the receptacle shalom to receive the blessing which He gave to Israel, as it is said Hashem oz le amo yiten, Hashem yevarekh et amo va shalom (Psalm 29, 11).

This verse illustrates that Hashem wants to give us everything, and asks us to live a life that goes forward, a life that knows how to withstand long preparations, the night, the fear of wild beasts around our head (as Bereshit Rabba notes in regard to the protection that Yaakov sought in the stone), then the total giving of oneself to Him and our being, which appears to be destroyed, is then replenished by Him and we become His "treasure" which He fills.
Happy is he who is capable of enduring this process with love of Hashem for he will receive the fruits of Yaakov's dream and all that follows it: protection, blessing, bread, clothing in all the meanings that are found in tradition.

Commenting on the word yishkav (written yesh and khaf-beit), the Shla notes that this full being (yesh) is that of khaf-beit, which stands for the 22 letters of the Torah! And he demonstrates, through Sefer Yetzira, the richness of the meaning of 22, which is found in numerous forms: the 3, the 7 days, the 12 tribes, the sacrifices, the jewelry of the High Priest, the different letters of the alphabet, the planets, etc. This means, according to Rashi's commentary, that all this goodness (which is called tzaddik) will take place in Yaakov's life, and then in organization of the people, the camp, the sanctuary and time. All this begins with Yaakov's total trust, in a dream of trust.

Awakening from the dream

When Yaakov awakes from his dream, he becomes conscious of his being and says: "surely, Hashem is in this place and I knew it not," but we must read this in Hebrew in order to understand the centrality of the yesh:
akhen yesh Hashem bamakom haze
which reads literally: "surely, the yesh of Hashem is in this place."

All this is therefore a world of wonderful stars, as is written in Bamidbar 24, 17: darakh kokhav meYaakov, " a star rose from Yaakov;" here the word kokhav should be read as two words: khaf-vav (26 which is the numerical value of the divine presence) and khaf-beit (22 which is the numerical value of all the alphabet). Thus both the plenitude of Hashem and His Torah were present there.

The place, makom

Let us return to Yaakov's sense of consciousness of being: "in the place where I am, there is all the richness of Hashem and I knew it not;" the commentaries tell us why: the space that we see is not "the space" in which we are or the one in which Hashem is or is not, but the space of our being is a space within "He who is the Space," the makom, as we are told in the Pesah Haggada.

We can now summarize the verse as follows:
I came with all my being, I gave myself, I received the yesh of Hashem, I am His treasure for, as says the phrase, surely the being of Hashem Hamakom is in this place which is in The invisible makom.

We can now understand what Rashi means: in Yaakov's prayer, time and distance do not exist, as says tractate Hulin 91 b: the later stage of the project or the beginning of its realization and the ultimate stage of complete realization and reparation are one; the personal being is in the place of Being (God).

We understand too why the author of Reshit Hokhma, commenting on this verse from Proverbs, says that in this yesh are contained all the forms of the Torah which must be learnt (Shaar Hayera 12, 42).

And we understand how, following this, Yaakov became capable of enduring the most difficult love (that for Rahel), the complicated problems in his family, the problems of livelihood, opposing cultures, ages, hatreds, etc., and why the years of difficulties which he endured seemed to him but a moment to him, so great was his love.

Lesson in personal development

Understanding
We must now
" search, within our deepest hopes and fears, for the sparks that presage joy and happiness to come,
" tell ourselves that happiness is not an illusion or myth,
" tell ourselves that happiness means the fulfillment of our true self,
" understand that this true self is filled with Hashem's presence,
" that it is the place where we join with Him,
" that it is important for Him that we achieve this fulfillment, for He desires mankind,
" that this fulfillment requires time, maturity, suffering and darkness,
" give yourself over, trusting and "innocently" accepting the inner world of dreams which is the true one,
" view this spatial world as the place of Hashem,
" remember that this entire cycle is one project which will be accomplished because it "is," it is yesh,
" do not consider this just as a psychological exercise (which is not without value) but as an extension of your prayer which reaches directly its target and goal.

Application

We must now learn how to apply consistently this awareness of our real self, world and time:

As a place
As His place,
As a Sanctuary,
As a Treasure,
As a rich Treasure,
In step with Hashem,
As a rich being,
As though we are a part of His Being.


Is it too naive, too stupid to give oneself/to smile at this world?

In all the generations of darkness, night and fog, Jews have believed in this, otherwise we would not be here. We can truly say, of ourselves and of our people, as the Song of Songs says: "A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon' (4, 15).

There is no break between the words, and we now understand better the direct, surprising kiss between Yaakov and Rahel. They were both capable of receiving the instantaneous plenitude of the yesh. The Torah tells us that this is so already in this world, without waiting for the world to come.
Even when, a few moments earlier, they could say, like all of us, of each other: "A garden enclosed is my sister, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed" (Song of Songs 4, 12).

I was asked the question: what do you think of the peace process?
I believe that, it is not possible to attain true shalom or build true shalom, unless one is in touch with one's true self and that of others.
If one tries to live in this way, then the dreadful Laban will be powerless and Hashem will say to him: "do nothing to Yaakov, nor good, nor evil."

Let us therefore trust in Hashem, as in someone who loves and says to us through the Torah (28, 15) the beautiful words he spoke to Yaakov:

I am with thee: hine anokhi imakh,
I will keep thee in all places wither thou goest: ushemartikha bekhol asher telekh,
And will bring thee again into this land: vahashivotikha el-haadama hazot,
for I will not leave thee: ki lo eezavekha,
until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of: ad asher im-asiti et asher kibarti lakh.


Memorization and internalization
(Bereshit 28, 15):

I am with thee: hine anokhi imakh,
I will keep thee in all places wither thou goest: ushemartikha bekhol asher telekh,
And will bring thee again into this land: vahashivotikha el-haadama hazot,
for I will not leave thee: ki lo eezavekha,
until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of: ad asher im-asiti et asher kibarti lakh.

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- Psychology and Repentance
   (in french)

Part 15
STUDY HEBREW

Part 16
JERUSALEM

- Jerusalem excavations
- Terror and counseling
- Peace and peoples
- Israel and Iran
- Visual study & song on snow
for, through our union with the song of nature, the plan of Creation will be fulfilled

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Poem: to be moon

In french

Avec Modia, vivez
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Texte et photos

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In french - Hope in Israel



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Dedication

Rav Professor
Yehoshua Rahamim Dufour
(Dipur, in hebrew)

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