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Parshas Vayetzei 5771

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Vayetze

Nov 14, 2010

Yaakov Avenu left Eretz Yisroel from the city of Be’er Sheva. On his way to Charan, the Torah says, Vayifgah bamakom - He made contact with “The Place”. He prayed at the future site of the Beis HaMikdash.

The Medrash says that Yaakov went from Be’er Sheva, through Yerushalayim to Beis El.  Upon approaching Beis El, Yaakov realized that he had neglected to pray at Har Hamoriah, and turned back to pray there. As soon as he began his way back, Hashem, miraculously, caused the two sites, Beis El and Har HaMoriah to converge together as one unit.   It was then and there that he dreamt of the ladder reaching to Heaven


Questions
What was the cause of Yaakov Avenu’s seeming neglect to pray at the place where his fathers prayed?
What quality did Beis El possess that caused Yaakov to reflect on the Makom HaMikdash?
What was the need to merge Har HaMoriah and Beis El into one unit? Why not just miraculously transport Yaakov Avenu from one place to the other?
Why does the Torah describe prayer as vayifgah – (making contact)? 


Background/Deeper Understanding


Yaakov Avenu dreamt. In his dream he viewed a ladder firmly planted on the Earth, extending towards Heaven. Heavenly angels were engaged in rising up upon the rungs of the ladder and descending.
Our sages tell us that Yaakov’s dream was a revelation of the process of prayer. Our prayers begin down on Earth and heavenly angels bring our prayers upon high. This is reflected by the numerical value of the word sulam (ladder). The numerical value is 136, which is the same as the word kol (voice).
The feet of the ladder are planted in Be’er Sheva. As the ladder rises, it extends over Yerushalayim, the place of the Beis HaMikdash. It enters the heavens as it passes over Beis El.

The gemora tells us that Avrohom Avenu established the shacharis prayer. Yitzchak Avenu established mincha, and Yaakov Avenu, maariv. 

 Shacharis is the prayer prior to the start of the day. We prepare ourselves to begin the labors of the day and pray for heavenly assistance in their successful completion. Mincha is the prayer of the middle of the day. Amidst the intensity of one’s efforts, there is a danger that one may tend to accredit his own efforts with his success. Therefore, one stops, and reflects on G-d’s heavenly assistance in the middle of the workday. 

 Maariv is in a totally different class. It is recited at night, when our worldly endeavors are at a standstill.

 Answers

 The city of Be’er Sheva, represents the dawn of a process, when one is firmly rooted in the ground. One begins to pray, down on Earth, hoping that the prayers will manage to reach their intended goal, the shamayim. But the link between Heaven and Earth is hidden and obscure.

 The prayer of the city of Yerushalayim is a further step in the process. There, in the holy city, there is clear observable evidence of the link between shamayim and aretz. The many miracles, where the physical possesses the properties of the meta-physical, are ample proof that the lower world is not cut off from its higher spiritual counterpart.

 The heaven over the city of Beis El represents pure spirituality, seemingly unconnected with this world.

 Hence, the bottom of the ladder – Be’er Sheva, the middle of the ladder – Yerushalayim, the top of the ladder – Beis El.

 Shacharis is the prayer of Be’er Sheva. It is the prayer of the dawn, the very beginnings of a glimmer.

 Mincha is the prayer of the middle. The middle of the day is a link between the beginning and the end of the day.

 What is Maariv? Maariv we say at night when we aren’t involved in anything mundane. It’s dark. We see nothing of our earthly surroundings.  We are completely in Hashem’s hands, and are totally dependent on Him. It is not a prayer of this world. It is a prayer of an existence that is all His.

 It was only when Yaakov Avenu reached Beis El that he realized this. His entrance to a city that has a special relationship to the shamayim, being situated under the top rungs of the spiritual ladder, affected him. It was then that he saw the prayer of maariv unfold before his eyes. It is natural to pray the maariv prayer while in Beis El. The spiritual aura of the place lends itself to the evening prayer.

 But where to pray this special prayer?

 Maariv is the prayer of one who, while living is this world, leads his life as if he was walking among the angels in shamayim. While physically being one who is in the physical world, he sees everything through the “eyes” of the spiritual world, Olam Haba. The two worlds are not just equal ones linked with one another. The physical world is only as a shoe is to a body, serving to cover over the lowest portion of the person.

 And so, Yaakov Avenu, seeking to join the holiest place on this earth with the shamayim, turned his steps back towards Har HaMoriah.

The founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, Rav Motel Katz once gave the following parable.

A king wished to marry off his only daughter to someone worthy.  He built a very tall tower and issued the challenge; whoever could climb to the very top would win the hand of his daughter.  Many tried and failed.  One suitor kept on going until he could no longer take another step.  He decided he would put all his energy into taking one final step, even though he wouldn’t make it to the top.  He finally took the step and then a huge magnet came down and took him all the way to the top. 

Yaakov Avenu sought to pray the prayer of Olam Haba in this world. He took the first steps towards this seemingly unobtainable goal. Hashem actualized Yaakov’s deep desire by miraculously linking the two places, thus bringing all the mundane of this world to heaven. Through his prayer, he made contact between the two worlds

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