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Parashat Vayetzei - 5776

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the portion of Vayetzei. It describes Jacob's leaving his country of birth (Canaan) and his heading towards Haran, where his mother was born.

Vayetzei means "he went out". Jacob 'went out' of Beer Sheva. Why is Jacob leaving? Because Esau was planning to kill him for tricking him into selling his birthright and for stealing his blessings, when he pretended that he was Esau before his blind father Isaac.

This Parasha is filled with intrigue, deceit, family problems and fear. I would like to share with you just two important observations found in rabbinic commentaries.

The first one is based on the very first verse in this week's Parasha:

"Vayetzei Yaakov mi Beer-Sheva, vayelech Harana." - "Jacob went out of Beer-Sheba and went to Haran." (Genesis 28:10)

Since we already know that Jacob was in Beer-Sheba, why is it necessary to say "he went out of Beer-Sheba"? It should just state that Jacob went towards Haran. Rashi comments: When a Tzaddik, a righteous person, leaves a town, the town also is affected - its glory and honor are reduced by the departure of this great person. The horrible attacks in Paris this past week are a prime example, as they have left the city in sadness and mourning. The more than 130 individuals whose lives were cut town will leave a tremendous void in the lives of their families, their friends, their places of work, their schools and the city as a whole. The many victims of the recent stabbings and killings by terrorists in Israel have also robbed many lives from their families and communities. Their places will never be the same. The departure of a good person always leaves a void.

Sharei Chesed Congregation continues to feel the untimely loss of our co-president, Terry Schwartz, of blessed memory.

The next story is about this wonderful dream that Jacob has which becomes known as "Jacob's Ladder". He dreams of a ladder standing on the ground and reaching up all the way to heaven. He sees angels of G-d ascending and descending on this ladder.

The question that is always asked is about these angels. We always envision angels as being divine beings, residing in heaven. The verse should therefore state that the angels were descending and ascending. Why does it say "the angels of G-d were ascending and descending"?

The Midrash explains that angels are created by the actions of humans. When a person performs a Mitzvah, a good deed, he/she creates an angel. The more Mitzvot one performs, the more angels one creates (Midrash Tanhuma). These angels that we create ascend heaven to plead for us in the heavenly court, and descend to become our guardian angels here on earth. Therefore, if you want guardian angels, perform Mitzvot.

The second lesson from this dream is that in life, we will always encounter ups and downs. Going up and coming down. Life is a constant struggle of successes and failures. The most important part of this ladder is that to remember that when we are up, we should show gratitude to G-d, and when we are down, we should have faith that G-d is with us and that we can go up again.

May you create many good angels and may you have many ascensions.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram