Foundations Part I
By Rabbi Daniel Travis
"Yisrael traveled, taking all his possessions, and he arrived in Be’er-
Sheva…" (Bereshith 46:1)
Why was it necessary to make a detour to Be’er Sheva on route to Egypt?
Yaakov knew via prophecy that when his descendants would be redeemed from
Egypt they would be commanded to build a sanctuary in the desert. Although
they would have all of the gold, silver and cloth required for
constructing it, there was one material that they would be lacking: wood
from a Shitim tree. Since this was not readily available in the desert,
Yaakov went to Be’er Sheva to obtain Shitim trees to plant when he reached
his destination. 1
This incident took place at a crucial point in Yaakov’s life, when he was
being reunited with his son Yosef after twenty two years and moving his
entire household to a foreign country. One would think that he could have
delegated the task of securing this wood to one of his children or
grandchildren. Alternatively, he could have asked Yosef, the second most
powerful figure in Egypt, to arrange this after his arrival. There must
have been a special impetus pushing him to take care of this himself.
Our Sages tell us that when Rav Chiyah went to build a yeshivah, he made
everything from scratch. He grew flax to make nets, hunted animals, and
worked the hides in order to make parchment. The purpose of doing all of
these tasks himself was so that his endeavors would find favor with God.
Since the Divine Presence does not rest on stolen property or on actions
done with improper intentions, he felt that the only way to assure success
was to take care of everything himself.2
If this was true about a yeshivah, how much more reason there is to be
concerned about the sanctuary, the designated place in which the Divine
Presence would dwell. Yaakov, the pillar of truth, knew that if he himself
prepared the wood for the future Temple then it would have a solid
foundation. Therefore, before entering the exile in Egypt, Yaakov laid the
groundwork for its construction.
1. Rashi on Shemoth 25:5, based on the Midrash Tanchuma, Terumah 9.
2. From the beginning of the Vilna Gaon’s commentary on Tikunei Zohar.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org