And Yaakov named the place Peniel, for [he said,] “I saw an angel face to face, and my soul was saved.” And the sun shone for him when he passed Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. (Breishis 32:31-32)
And the sun shone for him: -to heal his limp. – Rashi
It’s a fascinating, even shocking statement here. The sun rises for everybody, every day! How can the Torah declare that the sun rose for Yaakov?!
I was driving on the Brooklyn Bridge a few weeks ago on my way to a Chasuna, a wedding when I reminded myself of something I heard from one of my Rabbeim many years ago when we were together on the Brooklyn Bridge on our way to a Chasuna.
The traffic was jammed and we were essentially parked in the direction we were heading. No one was moving on our side. We could feel the sway of the bridge as the cars and trucked zoomed on the other side. My Rebbe took a long look behind us and craned his neck to look ahead and then he said, “Of all the people on this bridge right now, we are probably going to do the most important thing!”
I remember thinking at the time, “How could he possibly know what other people are going to do!? How can he make such a bold declaration like that!?” I was bewildered for a while but later it dawned on me that he was treating me to an important window into his mindset.
How did he get to be such an important person!? How did he become such a giant Talmud scholar?! What’s the difference between him and I?! I realized that he realized and felt the importance of whatever he was doing. If he’s learning now then that’s the most important thing to do! If he’s saying Tehillim for a sick person then that’s the most important thing.
If he’s helping a child then that must be the mandate of the moment and that too is the most important thing. When he was collecting Tzedaka he approached it with the tenacity of someone who was doing something very important.
Sometimes a person can hide behind a veil of false modesty, that is really born from a fear of failing or caring over much what other people think.
We can feel that what we are doing is not enough or that we should be doing something else. Life is happening someplace but it’s not happening here.
This Rebbe always felt that life is happening here as the Hillel HaZaken said, in all his extreme humility, “If I am here then everything is here!” Now isn’t that actually haughtiness!?
Ben Zoma would say: A good guest, what does he say? How much effort did the host expend on my behalf, how much meat did the host bring before me. How much wine did he bring before me. How many loaves did he bring before me. All the effort that he expended, he expended only for me.
However, a bad guest, what does he say? What effort did the host expend? I ate only one piece of bread, I ate only one piece of meat and I drank only one cup of wine. All the effort that the homeowner expended he only expended on behalf of his wife and children. (Brochos 58A)
Is Ben Zoma teaching us about good guests and bad guests at a Shabbos table? Yes, for sure, and more too. Who is a good guest in this world?
The Mishna in Sanhedrin asks, “Why was man created singular?” All other creatures were formed in units of flocks, and dens, and gaggles, but mankind was originally a single being. So, the Mishna is curious why that is so. Why was man not even a couple or a family? Why was he created singular?
The answer is stunning! “Because a person has an obligation to say, ‘The world was created for me!’” That means that when Adam opened his eyes and saw the light running towards him at 186,000 miles per seconds, and he felt the green carpet beneath his feet, and the sweet smells of Garden of Eden fruits entering his olfactory glands, he could actually and factually declare that the whole world was created for him. And so it is with every subsequent person who would stride upon the plant.
Yaakov, and guests like him, who are more grateful in realizing that everything was truly created for them, prove with their attitude that they are in fact, the one for whom the sun shines!