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Posted on December 1, 2022 (5783) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

Yaakov left Beersheva, and went towards Charan. He encountered the place, and spent the night there, because the sun had set.[1]

We are well aware of Yaakov’s remarkable journey. Having reached Charan, he realized that he must have passed Har HaBayis without stopping to daven at such a spiritually elevated place. He determined to return there. No sooner had he made up his mind, that the long road back shrank beneath him, and he quickly arrived at his new destination.[2]

Here is what this episode means for everyone else in history: Hashem “bundles” Himself, as it were, to each tzadik according to his ability to comprehend Him. He makes Himself available – contracting Himself, as it were – to the full extent that a person can process the Elokus that he experiences. This “bundle” is what gives him vitality and understanding.

How does the tzadik grow and reach the next, higher, level? Hashem withdraws that bundle of His Divinity, forcing the tzadik to strengthen himself and reach out for the higher rungs on the ladder. So long as Hashem does not take back what He has given him, the tzadik cannot progress. The complement of Divinity that was previously available to him was effective and satisfying – effectively blinding him from imagining higher levels of perception. When Hashem withdraws that spiritual life-support, the tzadik reacts by mightily struggling to keep his head above water. This struggle wins him Divine assistance; through it, he takes up a higher position than where he dwelt before.

Hashem’s pull-back is never an absolute one. If it were, the tzadik would not be able to rise from his fallen state. The bundle of Elokus that previously accompanied leaves an impression of kedushah, even when it departs. That impression is what allows the tzadik to strengthen himself and rise to a more lofty plane.

So far, we’ve considered the trajectory of the tzadik. HKBH’s interest, however, is with everyone. He wants no one to fail. The tzadik who clings perfectly to Hashem is not subject to the effect of dinim, the sometimes-harshness of His midah of judgment. This is not the case for the less-than tzadik. On his lower level, the “bundle” of Elokus, Hashem’s self-contraction that is made available to him, includes dinim, and their attendant difficulty and pain. Yet this becomes his saving grace. He responds to the pain and difficulty he experiences to draw closer to Hashem and to throw himself upon Him. In short, he also learns to cling to Him, albeit through a heightened sense of yir’ah. Yir’as Hashem becomes his chief path for staying connected to Him.

We can now look at the events of our pesukim differently:

“Yaakov left Beersheva.” Yaakov is the name associated with his less-lofty spiritual level. Beer-sheva means the place of the fullness and contentment (sheva being related to sova) of one who is attached to Hashem through his Yir’as Hashem. At that level, he comes to Charan, the place of dinim and Divine anger. As soon as he gets there, he determines to return, to recoup his previous connection. No sooner does he decide, that the earth – the Eretz HaChaim of still higher levels than he experienced before – jumps out from beneath him, enabling him to reach them.

Chazal teach that a tzadik leaves an impression on the place that he resides. Taken in a more universal sense, this means that the tzadik who falls from his previous level leaves behind an impression. Through this impression, he is able to prevail in getting to his new, higher place. What we should take away from all of this is how to react to pain and suffering that may come our way. We should see them as Hashem beckoning us, nudging us to draw closer to Him, Who has contracted His Self in a bundle that includes dinim in order to arouse him and bring him to a better place.

  1. Bereishis 28:10-11
  2. Chulin 91b