Yaakov (Jacob) received a prophecy just before he made his journey to Egypt, reassuring him he had nothing to fear as he began his exile. “G-d spoke to [Yaakov] in night-time visions.” (Beraishis/Genesis 46:2) It was only to Yaakov that G-d appeared a number of times at night, never to his forebears, Avraham or Yitzchak. Meshech Chochmah (1) explains that Yaakov at this point was on his way to exile in Egypt; thus, G-d’s appearance at night represented the fact that even though the darkness of the exile was upon Yaakov, G-d’s presence would be with him. Yaakov is the Patriarch who realized the concept that G-d will be with us even when we are estranged from our land. He was the founder of the evening prayer, representing prayer amidst the exile.
Our Sages remind us throughout the Talmud that the Holy Presence of G-d does not dwell on anyone out of the Land of Israel unless one was already privileged to have had Divine Revelation in Israel. G-d dwelled among us when we were living peacefully on our land and so his presence remains with us in our exile. However, we were not the personal recipients of G-d’s presence in the Holy Land; our ancestry alone had that merit. Our privilege to have G-d among us comes as a result of our emulating their attachment to His service. When we cleave to Him, following the examples and practices of our forebears, we can truly take our place as the embodiment of G-d’s Chosen People. Just as cells in our body die only to be replaced by new cells, we are a new generation of life of the ancient Jewish body. This body merited G-d’s dwelling in its midst in Israel, thus we can receive Him in exile. But for the cells to benefit from the body, they must attach to the same life-source that fueled the cells of the past.
We all want G-d in our midst. Our basic blessing to every groom and bride is building a home in which His presence will rest. When He is among us we are protected from harm, successful in our endeavors, and have the serenity that comes from knowing that He cares deeply for every individual. To receive this benefit we must cling to our righteous past and incorporate it into our present so that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our fathers and mothers who continue to share with us their privilege of having G-d in our midst.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) biblical commentary of Rabbi Meir Simcha of D’vinsk (1843-1926), author of Ohr Samayach, a commentary on Rambam’s Mishneh Torah
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