YAAKOV’S FAMILY, HIS SOLE FOCUS
November 13, 2018
The Rebbe in #1141, D'var Malchus, VaYeitzei

Yaakovs journey to Charan did not require there to be a departure of his pnimius from Ber Sheva; his inner focus and the attention of his mind could have remained there, as in the saying of the Baal Shem Tov: the place where a persons will is directed that is where his entire presence is

Translated by Boruch Merkur

B’Reishis 28:10: “And Yaakov left B’er Sheva, and he went to Charan.”

Rashi: “And Yaakov left”: The Torah only had to write, “And Yaakov went to Charan.” Why does it mention his leaving [B’er Sheva]? It tells us that the departure of a tzaddik from a place makes an impression. While the tzaddik is in the city, he is its beauty; he is its splendor; he is its glory. After he has left, its beauty has departed, its splendor has departed, its glory has departed. Similarly, the verse in Rus (1:7) states, “And she went forth from the place,” referring to the journey of Naomi and Rus [from “the fields of Moav”]. (B’Reishis Rabba 68:6)

5. Note the dichotomy in the commentary of Rashi here. On the one hand, the departure of Yaakov from B’er Sheva is equated to the departure of Naomi [and Rus from “the fields of Moav”], as if to say that no tzaddikim remained in B’er Sheva [and it was bereft of sanctity, a spiritual desert]. On the other hand, through Yaakov’s departure, B’er Sheva lost only “hoda…ziva…hadra – its beauty…its splendor…its glory” [i.e., the city lost its charm, but its existence and welfare remained intact].

As discussed above, during the lifetime of Yitzchok [the leader of the generation], Yaakov performed the same avoda in the world as Yitzchok. And since Yaakov was his disciple (who was instrumental in furthering Yitzchok’s avoda and spiritual agenda), his departure from B’er Sheva brought about a lack, as it were, in the shleimus of Yitzchok. The absence of his talmid, Yaakov, detracted from Yitzchok’s perfection. [Indeed, a talmid adds intellectual insight as well as vitality to the mashpia, as our Sages say (Taanis 7a; Makos, 10a), “And from my students most of all.”]

Rashi parallels Yitzchok’s departure with that of Naomi and Rus, where no tzaddikim remained in “the fields of Moav,” because Yaakov’s leaving B’er Sheva detracted not only from what Yaakov contributed to the city but also from the impact of Yitzchok’s presence there.

But the impression made by Yaakov’s departure – although significant and noteworthy – affected a relatively superficial aspect of the place, detracting from no more than its beauty, splendor, and glory. The spiritual foundations of B’er Sheva, however, its existence and welfare, were totally unaffected and remained strong in virtue of Yitzchok, who remained there. Yaakov’s departure only affected Yitzchok’s hispashtus [“his light and revelation,” i.e., his ability to influence others and his environment], not his essential being (mehus). […]

7. The above will be illuminated with a story told in the Gemara (Bava Basra 8b):

Once, Rav found the schoolteacher Rav Shmuel bar Shilas standing in his garden. Rav criticized him for seeing to his garden at the expense of forsaking his pupils. Rav Shmuel bar Shilas defended himself, saying that it was thirteen years since he had seen his garden, and even now, there in the garden, “my mind is on them.” The visit to his garden had not interrupted his focus of attention on his students.

Clearly Rav Shmuel bar Shilas’ thinking about his students had an impact on them. (See Likkutei Dibburim, likut 1, regarding the power of thought.) Thus, he was (not only) criticized (for not doing his job, but) primarily because his absence from the classroom would presumably detract from the students’ education. We must therefore say that his response, “my mind is on them,” means that his thinking about his students benefited them. […]

On this basis it is understood that Yaakov’s journey to Charan did not require there to be a departure of his p’nimius from B’er Sheva; his inner focus and the attention of his mind could have remained there, in the sense of “my mind is on them.” Not only is it unnecessary for there to be a departure of its beauty, splendor, and glory, but even with respect to Yaakov himself it is not necessary for there to have been a departure, since “my mind is on them,” as in the saying of the Baal Shem Tov (on the verse, “S’rafim omdim mi’maal lo”): the place where a person’s will is directed that is where his entire presence is.

8. The latter explains why in Parshas Toldos [where it says, “Yaakov…went to Padan Aram”] it does not state that Yaakov “left” B’er Sheva [i.e., Yaakov’s will and focus of mind could have remained there]. The above, however, creates a difficulty in understanding why our parsha states, “And Yaakov left B’er Sheva”? [Why would Yaakov not maintain his attention on his father and master, the nasi ha’dor, Yitzchok, even as he journeyed away from B’er Sheva?]

This will be understood by considering the change in wording in the two parshiyos: In Parshas Toldos it says, “And he went to Padan Aram,” and in the beginning of this week’s parsha it says, “And he went to Charan (and later it says, “And he went to the land of B’nei Kedem”).

What’s the difference between Padan Aram and Charan?

Regarding Padan Aram, Rashi says that it is a region that included two places – Aram Naharayim and Aram Tzova – or it is like saying, “the field of Aram.” Charan, on the other hand, was the city where Lavan resided.

There were two goals of Yaakov’s journey: 1) The Divine service of birurim (serving G-d through material endeavors and using physical things for a Divine purpose) in tending the sheep of Lavan and acquiring wealth in Padan Aram. This occupation was carried out upon a large area in the field of Aram. 2) Establishing the house of Rachel and Leia, producing the Shvatim, the tribes of the Jewish people, referred to in the Torah as “his bed was complete.” He accomplished this in Charan, in the city, not in the field, where one cannot have privacy, which is required for the sake of tznius.

(Similarly, in the spiritual sense, T’filla, which is the concept of the Jewish people uniting with the Alm-ghty, does not take place in a field or in an open space, but in a building.)

Accordingly we will understand the fact that in our parsha, where the Torah describes Yaakov’s journey to Charan to establish the Shvatim – “mitaso shleima” – the Torah says that “Yaakov left B’er Sheva.” Concerning yichud (private cohabitation, “ein kishui eleh l’daas”) it is not possible to say – and it cannot be – that Yaakov’s daas, his attention and focus, was in another place, not even B’er Sheva [where Yitzchok resided]. (See Footnote 47 in the original.) In order to accomplish something that is p’nimi [such as producing a family] one must be present in it with all his p’nimius, all his focus and attention.

Avodas ha’birurim, on the other hand, does not require the person to be immersed within it, especially to the extent that one connects himself to that avoda with his daas, engaging his full attention. On the contrary, as is known, the verse is precise in saying, “yagia kapecha ki socheil” – one generates a livelihood from the work of “your hands” not the work of “your head.” And although mental exertion is often required in avodas ha’birurim, it only demands the devotion of a superficial aspect of the mind, not the immersion of one’s core. Thus, there can be (and must be) attention directed to other matters during avodas ha’birurim. This is not the case, however, [for avoda p’nimi] for the sake of establishing “mitaso shleima” – drawing down the power of the Ein Sof – for “ein kishui eleh l’daas.Daas is the center kav of the Divine configuration. It rises until it reaches (p’nimius) Kesser, which transcends hishtalshlus, and draws down from there Ko’ach HaEin Sof, G-d’s Omnipotence.

Therefore, in order to establish the Twelve Shvatim, that there should be “mitaso shleima,” Yaakov had to leave B’er Sheva and go to Charan – with all of his p’nimius (notwithstanding the fact that Charan represents “charon af shel Makom ba’olam – the
Alm-ghty’s wrath in the world”). But where the Torah speaks about avodas ha’birurim – Padan Aram – we are taught that there must not be “And Yaakov left B’er Sheva.”

(From the address of Shabbos Parshas VaYeitzei 5725, Sichos Kodesh 5725, pg. 156-158)

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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