Parshat Vayetze

Torah Reading for Week of November 22-28, 2009

“Opportunities that Come From a Delayed Flight”

by Rabbi Neil Blumofe
AJRCA Alumn ’09

I appreciate direct flights. They save time and are more convenient. However, I know that the next time I board a plane, thinking I am off to one place, I may be going in another direction entirely.

This Shabbat, we notice Jacob, journeying between Be’ersheva and Haran. We recognize too that he, like us, is walking within time and space. What happened in Be’ersheva? Incredible moments in Jacob’s family: struggle, deception, alienation, resentment, but also joy, happiness, security and gratitude. All of these memories form a childhood, a time that impresses and mints a soul.. Be’ersheva represents time, nostalgia and memory; holidays past, family gatherings, Bar Mitzvahs attended, menorahs lit, seders attended, songs sung.

And space? The road to Haran represents possibility. It represents the next moment. It allows us to metabolize our Be’ersheva, our responsibilities and obligations, in relative quietude. It allows us to approach our families again in a different way – not just on the level of getting through the homework assignments or the surface requirements of the day – but it allows us to go deeper to think about what is important. Jacob recognizes that G-d exists, even in the most unlikely places. He does not trade daily life, for a life of monasticism or absolute retreat. Rather, he recognizes that even in the most trying moments of daily life – when we are rogues or when we have been swindled or cheated – there especially is G-d.

Jacob is a soul in formation, as are we. We are Jacob, always in Be’ersheva and always on the road to Harran. We have expectations for our lives – budgets and plans. But notice what happened to Jacob’s journey. The Torah teaches us that Jacob never made it to his intended location, but his own development led him somewhere else where he met the people that he was supposed to meet and after seven years, married Leah and Rachel and began his own family.

The Hasidic tradition teaches us something profound about this week’s portion. Not only is Jacob in exile, but he is in exile from exile. That is, based on his own awareness and cultivation, he is able to turn from his banishment and create a new place, one outside of the logical and expected. He exhibits trust (bitachon) and is rewarded for it. He doesn’t end up in Harran, but a place where he can live, with his eyes remade for wonder.

Our particular life’s experiences – our tragedies and triumphs – lead us in specific directions that we can affect by developing our own thoughts and disciplining our actions. Nothing is preordained. We are not robots walking in the unalterable path of destiny. Jacob saw stones all around him. Yet, rather than kicking them away or tripping over them, he gathered them together to make a place of comfort for his head, while he slept. We too can transform our lives, reshaping both the minor nuisances of daily living and the inevitable sadnesses that come from just being alive.

Let us find a ladder of angels as we walk on our ways, in our own places. Let us be messengers who walk together, dedicated to possibility and open to the journey. Let us not end in Haran as that is a direct consequence from Be’ersheva. Instead, let us find the more direct flight, to a place unknown and unexpected, a place more filled with the possibility of G-d. As we step, let us say “G-d is in this place – and you know what, I knew it all the time.”

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