Parshat Vayeitzei 5782: Encountering “The Place”

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Vayeitzei is being sponsored by Danny and Amy Michaels and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated Lilui Nishmas Danny’s Dad Avraham Pinchas ben Yoel Meir. To the Michaels family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3


Parshat Vayeitzei 5782: Encountering “The Place”

by Moshe Burt

Our Parshat Vayeitzei opens:

“And Yaakov departed Be’er-Sheva and went to Charan. He encountered the place and spent the night there because the sun had set; he took from the stones of the place and he put [them] around his head and he lay down in that place. And he dreamt, and behold! A ladder was set earthward and its top reached heavenward; and behold! angels of Hashem ascending and descending on it.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 28, posukim 10-12 as rendered to English in the Sapirstein Edition, The Torah: with Rashi’s Commentary, pages 310-312)

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin gives context to these opening posukim in his Sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Breish’t (page 151):

In the course of his journey from Be’er-Sheva to Charan, Yaakov arrives at a location where he is forced to bed down for the night. There, he dreams his famous dream of a ladder stretching from the earth heavenward. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 28, posukim 10-12)

The phrase used by the Torah to describe Yaakov’s initial encounter with the location of his dream is: “vayifga ba’makom — and he encountered the place.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 28, posuk 11)

Rabbi Goldin now raises a question and discusses “two distinct and very different approaches offered by the Rabbis” in answer to his question (ibid, pages 151-154):

Why… does the text read “bamakom — the place” as opposed to b’makom, “a place”?

1/ The Midrashic approach:

The location of Yaakov’s dream was actually Mount Moriah [Har HaMoriah], later to become the Temple Mount [Har HaBayit] in Jerusalem. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 95b, Chulin 91b)

Two generations earlier, when Avraham arrives at [Har HaMoriah]. the site of the Akeidat Yitzchak, the Torah states: … “and he saw the place from afar. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 22:4)

By referring to both [Har HaMoriah] and the location of Yaakov’s dream as “the place,” the Torah connects the two sites and indicates that they are one and the same. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 28, posuk 11)

The Midrashic approach encounters a serious geographical difficulty. At the time of his dream, Yaakov is actually at a location which he will identify as Beit E-l (The House of G’d} far to the north of Jerusalem.

The Talmud, based on [the] text…, hints that Yaakov actually completes his journey to Charan, [but] suffers remorse at having passed by… [Har HaMoriah], “the place where his fathers prayed,” without stopping for prayer. Hashem miraculously transports Yaakov back to… [Har HaMoriah] where he dreams his dream. (Rabbi Goldin again citing Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 95b, Chulin 91b)

Rashi, in his commentary on the Talmud, explains that … when Yaakov names the site of his dream “Beit E-l,” he is not referring to the location identified as Beit E-l today, but to Jerusalerm, which he prophetically identifies as the “House of G’d.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Chullin 91b) In his commentary on Chumash, however, Rashi takes a different tack. He interprets the Talmudic position by maintaining that Hashem performed the additional miracle of uprooting… [Har HaMoriah] and temporarily bringing it to Beit E-l. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 28, posuk 17)

The Midrash Rabbah quotes Rebbe Elazar in the name of Rebbi Yossi Ben Zimri who suggests that the ladder of Yaakov’s dream was rooted in Be’er Sheva, stretched to Beit El and had it’s center in Jerusalem. (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Rabbah Breish’t 69:7)

2/ The approach of Pashut Pshat:

As night fell, Yaakov arrived at a location outside of the town of Luz. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashbam on Sefer Breish’t Perek 28, posuk 11, S’forno on Sefer Breish’t Perek 28, posuk 11) Some authorities suggest that this location [apparently, according to this author’s understanding, meaning Beit El] was specifically set aside for wayfarers. While it was not a site of particular significance, the Torah nonetheless refers to it as “hamakom — the place,” because of the practical purpose that it served. Similar sites existed outside of other towns at that time. Rabbi Goldin again citing S’forno on Sefer Breish’t Perek 28, posuk 11)

According to the approach of pashut pshat…, Yaakov’s observation…: I had no idea… Hashem is everywhere! If the Lord can appear to me in a vision of such grandeur at this unimportant spot, outside the city of Luz, then every place upon which I stand is potentially “the house of G’d” and any location on earth can be a gateway to heaven.

Common religious belief in the patriarchal era dictated that specific gods were tied to specific lands. Yaakov could well have been concerned, at this frightening moment of his life, that Hashem might offer only limited protection outside of the land of Cana’an.

…Much of Yaakov’s dream is tailored to remind him of the all-encompassing power of the One and only G’d — Hashem.

Rabbi Goldin concludes by bringing “a personal reminiscence” of a trip he once took, a number of years ago, with members of his Kehillah to Eastern Europe which included a tour of the “Theresienstat concentration camp, a way station for countless of our brethren on their jouney to their final destination” (ibid, pages 155-156):

At one particular location in the camp, our guide took us behind a bakery to a hidden underground room. Suddenly, we found ourselves, to our astonishment, in a small synagogue which had been built by a group of Danish Jews, under the very eyes of their Nazi tormentors. We were speechless, struck by the courage and devotion of these individuals, who at the risk of their lives, had continued to… [daven] to their Creator, even at a time when Hashem’s face was hidden from them.

As we walked around that small Shul, we noticed passages from Torah and liturgy had been painted on the walls… One such passage poignantly read, “And in spite of all, we have not forgotten, [Dear Lord] do not forget us.”

…I [meaning Rabbi Goldin] was suddenly struck completely dumb… On the wall before me appeared the following passage, painted through who knows how many tears: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of G’d and this is the ‘gate to heaven!'”

…Here in Theresienstat, the “House of G’d”? In the depths of hell, the “gate to heaven”?

…I [meaning Rabbi Goldin] felt a fleeting sense of the sanctity which had existed in that room decades earlier. A sanctity created by a courageous group of nameless Jews who understood that even in the darkness of hell, even in the presence of their tormentors, even in the depths of pain and sorrow, holiness could somehow be achieved and that Hashem could somehow be found.

In this author’s opinion, lest those in Chutz L’Aretz use a line from Rabbi Goldin’s discussion — “every place upon which I stand is potentially ‘the house of G’d’ and any location on earth can be a gateway to heaven” — to rationalize why they remain in Chutz L’Aretz, Only in Eretz Yisrael can Jews live complete lives as Jews, unrestricted by harassment by gentile neighbors, such as while walking to and from Shul, or during neitz minyan on Shavuot morning or during Simchat Torah Hakafot, or by laws such as those banning Kosher slaughter, Bris Milah and more that exist in many countries, regardless of Israeli governing coalition.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.