Parashat Vayetzei // “He Left”

- ה ז י -

What is the secret meaning of the stones fighting for their rightful place beneath Jacob’s head?

Jacob sees angels going up and down a ladder

“And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” Genesis 28:10 – 15

  • This imagery is a metaphor for how human life oscillates between lofty and lowly worlds – bringing together heaven and earth. Our physical world is comparable to the stones atop which both Jacob’s head and the bottom of the ladder rest. As humans, we can always ascend to greater spiritual levels and fulfill our mission in this world. However, this requires effort – and if we don’t ascend, we may indeed descend into lower spheres. 
  • According to Rashi, “they [the stones] began quarreling with one another. One said, ‘Upon me let this righteous man rest his head,’ and another said ‘Upon me let him rest it.’ Whereupon the Holy One, blessed be He, straightway made them into one stone!” (Rashi on Genesis 28:11). Jacob’s dream is such a sacred event that even the rocks fight over which will have the privilege to support his head and allow sanctity to rest upon them, too. The divine message of this biblical passage is that the world can become whole only when there is unity among the different “rocks.”

Jacob flees the land of Canaan and meets Rachel by the well

“Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east. And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth” Genesis 29:1 – 2

  • According to Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, the well described in this passage is the Torah – the doctrine used to “water the flocks” (see Genesis 29:7): “The Torah is akin to a well and inwardness is akin to a field of apple trees… ‘then the stone is rolled off the mouth of the well and we water the sheep’” (idem 29:8). The rock covering the well is the main obstacle. This is the “external husk” that the shepherds must roll off before they can indulge in the divine light. Similarly, every person must strive to remove the stone that stands between themselves and the well in order for healing water to spring forth.

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “He Left”  

  • Jacob must leave home. He moves from the prosperity and abundance that he enjoyed in Be’er Sheva to the lacking and negativity that characterizes his life in Haran. His pendulum swings from divine connection to total disconnection from the light.
  • Only by returning to the land of Canaan can Jacob find a balance between the two extremes. The experience of reconnection is wonderful and the relationship between heaven and earth becomes clear – just like Jacob’s dream of angels ascending and descending the ladder. 
  • As we ourselves experience negativity and detachment, we have an opportunity to rediscover the light and climb the next rung of the ladder. The light becomes brighter each time we reconnect with it.
  • We must learn to greet adversity with appreciation and gratitude, and realize that there is good in everything – because each time we reconnect, we are filled with limitless light. 
  • Holiness is accessible to all those who come closer to it. It is not limited to those who reach the highest spiritual level. The divine message is that only when there is unity among all of God’s creatures can the world become a place of peace and fulfillment.
  • Just as Jacob removes  the rocks covering the well, we too must work to remove the klipot – the external “husks” blocking us from receiving blessings and light.

Oneness is the guiding principle of our existence; unity is the source, as well as the goal.