Parashas Vayeitzei 5781 – The Prayer’s Powers

The Parasha tells: “And Yaakov departed from Beer Sheva and went to Charan. He encountered the place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; he took from the stones of the place and he placed them around his head and lay down in that place.” [Bereishis 28:10]. Since it is mentioned several times in Parashas Toldos where Yitzchak lived, why was it necessary to add that “Yaakov departed from Beer Sheva”? it would have sufficed to inform us that at his parents request he left for Charan? The Talmud [Chullin 91b] answers; That the Verse hints that Yaakov undertook two journeys; He went to Charan the first time as ordered by his parents. Then he realized that he had neglected to stop and pray where his father and grandfather had prayed, on Har Hamoriah, the site of the future Beth Hamikdash. Hence, he returned to pray there. The next day he left again for Charan. We need to understand; since he was ordered by his parents to go to Charan to avoid enflaming Eisav’s hatred, what allowed him to undertake the trip back to Jerusalem? What if Eisav had heard that he is traveling alone and roaming around the Jerusalem’s mountains, he would be the perfect prey! How then did Yaakov totally disregard the danger? behold it is prohibited to put oneself in a situation of possible danger! The Arizal says in Shaar Hagilgulim [Intro. 22] That Yaakov was the reincarnation of Adam. So, Yaakov had to atone for Adam’s sins. The Midrash [B.R. 14, 8] explains on the Verse; ”And Hashem formed man of soil from the earth”- ‘from the site of his atonement, he was created, as it says [Exo. 20:21]: “An Altar of earth you shall make for Me.” Hashem said: Behold, I am creating him from the site of his atonement’. In other words, since Adam was created with the soil of the Altar he had to be atoned there. Thus, this answers why Yaakov returned but does not answer the halachic prohibition to put oneself in danger. The Zohar adds to the question; Indeed, as mentioned in the above Talmud the first Verse implies there were two journeys. However, the first Verse of Chapter 29 infers that there was another one; “Yaakov picked up his feet and went to the land of the easterners.” Though, the next Verses record his exchange with the shepherds from which it’s clear he was in Charan. He asked them if they knew Lavan and they replied, actually Rachel this is his daughter arriving with his flock. This clearly indicates that Yaakov was indeed in Charan. So why the Verse stated that he traveled to the land of the easterners? In Parashas Chayei Sarah the Torah informs us that after Sarah passing away, Avraham went to remarry Hagar and had several children. The Verse states; “Avraham gave them gifts while alive, and sent them away from before his son Yitzchak, to the land of the East.” Rashi questions what gifts did he give them as he had already given all his belongings. Rashi says he gave them a magical spell. This is hardly understandable; how did Avraham provide such powers to the enemies of his children? The answer lies in the first letter of the Torah “Beis”. The Midrash says “Beis” is enclosed on three sides, but the northern side is open. Similarly, this world is enclosed on three sides, but its Northern side is open. One who wants to “exit of the world”, by either behaving abjectly or using witchcraft, will be able through the northern side. Avraham feared that some Jews would be enticed and be forever lost. Therefore, he created a bullet proof remedy, he placed there the evil powers so any Jew going there will suffer dear consequences and will be inclined to return. It is an insurance policy that despite some Jew will go astray, they will be mostly contained so their Neshama is not lost for eternity. However, after leaving, Hagar’s children first achievement with the spell was to prevent Yaakov from having the 12 tribes, to create the Nation of Israel. They knew Jews will be the conscience of the world, which will prevent them to act as they are pleased, so, they entrapped the souls with their spell. It was Yaakov’s mission to free them. Mesopotamia was their fief and Lavan was their chief, he was the biggest sorcerer who has ever lived. Yet, Yaakov will live there for 22 years, unharmed. What was his secret? Prayer! That’s also the reason he did not fear Eisav while going praying at the site of the Beth Hamikdash. When a Jew prays to Hashem, no force in the world can harm him! In the contrary, his enemies, down below and up above, fear him. The Zohar says; Hashem enjoys so much our prayers, that as soon as we leave our house to go to Shul, He sends fiery angels to accompany us and they clamor “Make way! Make way! he’s going to pray to his Maker”, all evil forces are terrified and run away. Following is a story that embodies this message. When Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the author of the Tanya, was still a young student under the tutelage of the famed Maggid of Mezerich, he boarded at a house owned by a local widow. One Thursday, the young scholar arrived home to find his landlady on the floor wailing hysterically. Her only son, she sobbed, had decided to convert to Christianity, and was being held in a locked room in a monastery. “Don’t worry,” Rabbi Schneur Zalman comforted her, “with G-d’s help, we will bring your son back.” Rabbi Schneur Zalman was wrecking his brain how to help. Bringing the widow to the Maggid before Shabbos would be impossible. The Maggid stayed locked in his room throughout the day to pour his heart to Hashem for the brethren’s wellbeing and to prepare for Shabbos. Outside his door stood his wary attendant, who was instructed to let no one in. However, Friday afternoon the attendant was going to the Mikve. He told the widow: “Tomorrow afternoon, while the attendant is away I will be able to open the door for you. Do not waste a second. Run inside and inform the Maggid of your dilemma.” The next day, Rabbi Schneur Zalman took advantage of the attendant’s absence to open the door for the distraught widow. Inside, the Maggid, who was occupied with his spiritual preparations for the holy day of Shabbos, did not expect a strange woman to burst into his room, weeping uncontrollably. But the poor woman was so shattered that she stood silently at the door, unable to emit a single word. Apparently seeing no use for the interruption, the Maggid waved his hand, signaling her to leave. The woman emerged from the brief audience shattered and bitterly disappointed with herself. Thus, Rabbi Schneur Zalman was confident that the Maggid knew of the widow’s misery down to the last detail. Righteous people, after all, are not bound by the conventional ways of learning information. Indeed, when the attendant returned, the Maggid suddenly instructed all his students to enter his room to welcome the Shabbos together. Despite the unusual request, the group heeded the Maggid’s words. Immediately after prayers, the attendant rushed to set the table for the evening meal. Generally lengthy and peppered with mystical Torah insights, the meal was eaten in a hurry, again leaving the students wondering at their master’s unusual behavior. It was obvious something was bothering the Maggid, he even the tone of his voice had changed, usually it was very soft and this Shabbos it was forceful. Even the Torah insights were unlike what they have ever heard, secrets were revealed Of all the students, only Rabbi Schneur Zalman knew the reason for the unusual change in routine. He sensed that from the moment the widow left the Maggid’s office, the Maggid busied himself with reigniting her son’s soul. Then a mighty wind began to roar outside, steadily picking up speed. By this point, the Maggid’s face was shining like a glowing torch. The students listened with growing trepidation to the wind that howled violently around them. Suddenly, there was a loud noise, something thudded against one of the walls of the house. The students were concerned that the roof would collapse from the violent wind. Unperturbed, the Maggid stopped his discourse and turned to his attendant: “Quickly take him to the nearby inn,” he ordered. The attendant hurried out the door and immediately stopped in his tracks. Lying on the ground was a boy, softly weeping. The attendant did not waste a second and proceeded to whisk him away to the inn. After the attendant left, the Maggid’s serious demeanor, which persisted throughout the entire evening, transitioned to joy, and he finished the discourse on a euphoric note. The Maggid then retired to his room, and Rabbi Schneur Zalman headed for the inn, curious to learn what led to the son’s seemingly impossible release from the second floor of the monastery. Rabbi Schneur Zalman found the young man sitting on the bed and reading the weekly Torah portion with large tears streaming down his face. “How did you escape?” Rabbi Schneur Zalman asked gently. The widow’s son paused his tearful reading and began to tell his story. “The beginning of my escape started two hours before nightfall. I was lying on my bed in a small cell on the monastery’s second floor, determined to follow through with my choice. No amount of convincing would have made me change my mind. But then I had an overwhelming bout of longing for the G-d of my people, an urgent need to leave and reestablish my connection with the Jewish faith. “I bolted from my bed and quickly strode to the cell door, intending to break it down. But the door remained steadfastly bolted from the outside. Discouraged, I collapsed back on my bed for about half an hour. But the pangs of yearning and love toward Judaism continued to intensify until I sensed my materialistic desires give away. This is how a dead person must feel, I thought; none of the things that had mattered so much to me seemed to have any consequence anymore. “Lying there in bed, becoming more restless by the moment, I understood that this love could not have developed from myself. G-d was actively trying to protect my Jewish soul from self-destruction. “Again, I unsuccessfully struggled to break down the door. There was no way out. I slumped on the bed, tears streaking my cheeks, and began to deliberate with myself. If G-d allowed me to experience this indescribable arousal of G-dly love, I had no doubt that He would surely come to my aid. I had to continue to try. “I walked over to the cell’s small window. I pushed it and, to my relief, it swung open. However, peering over the precarious ledge in the failing light, I was greeted by the sight of the hard flagstones far below. To jump from this height would leave all of my bones shattered, and even the prospect of a Jewish funeral was nonexistent. I was unsure what to do next. “I rethought my decision several time, and made my way to the window, only to be discouraged again and again by the sheer drop. “Darkness had already set in when I suddenly felt my legs dash across the room, leap onto the windowsill and carry me through the open window. I landed miraculously intact, aside from some minor pain in my feet. Despite this, my excitement was short lived. During my brief stay in the monastery, I had learned of the vicious dogs who guarded the premises. Chained away during the day, the dogs were set loose on the monastery grounds at night. Even if I managed to fend them off, their barking could easily alert the priests, who would surely take me back, and who knew what they would do to me then? “G-d will help, I thought, and fearlessly strode towards the pack of dogs. They bounded towards me excitedly and circled around me eagerly, as though reuniting with one of their masters. Thankfully, they also kept silent, and I was able to slink cautiously across the monastery grounds. But then my heart fell. A towering stone wall separated me from my freedom. Topped with sharp spikes and the height of two men, the wall surrounded the monastery, its smooth surface providing no grip. It was impossible to scale. “Raising my eyes once more, I pleadingly explained to G-d that I had tried everything that was humanly possible to escape, risking my life in the process. Now, standing beside the wall, I had nothing more to do. “I was answered in the most incredible way. A strong gale immediately swept me off my feet and lifted me into the air. I was tossed over the unpassable wall and into the sky, tumbling over the countryside until I landed right on the Maggid’s house.” Displaying a zeal and aptitude that he had never known before, the young man applied himself to Torah study and the performance of good deeds for the rest of his days. Years later, when Rabbi Schneur Zalman would have his own followers, he would recount this story on numerous occasions, testifying to the Maggid’s greatness.

By Rabbi Fridmann * [email protected] * 305.985.3461

Have A Question? Ask The Rabbi and he will Answer

990 NE 171 Street  –  North Miami Beach, Florida 33162  –  (786) 405-9692  –

Print Friendly, PDF & Email