Yaakov Avinu’s mission in life as the Av of Am Yisrael differs dramatically from the role of his father and grandfather. As the Darchei Noam writes that Avraham and Yitzchak had nisyonos tests, in contrast to Yaakov who fought religious battles. Yaakov fought with Aisav, his malach known as the סם, and Lavan. Avraham and Yitzchak remained aloof from this world of earthliness. Their wealth acquired from the beracha of Hashem which blessed them with herds of sheep cattle etc. were managed by their many slaves while they themselves were steeped and grew with concentration on Avodas Hashem. This is in contrast to Yaakov whose novel mission and approach was to enter and to occupy himself with the physicality of this world and strive to elevate it. Look how many thousands of letters that our holy wrote just to detail so many facets of his life that deal with the same daily mundane acts that most of us do during our lifetime. The Torah elaborates on his trip from Be’er Shevah, the exact location where he slept, the particulars of his camp, his dreams, his meeting with Rachel and their conversation, his kissing of Rachel, his over 20 years of work for Lavan, and how he set up his livelihood, his strategies with the staffs and the water troughs by which he outsmarted his father in law who was out to deceive him.
Yaakov up until this parsha was the תם יושב אוהלים was spending his present life in the Beis Medrash. He was the שבתי בבית ה’ כל ימי חיי Yid, who did not go to bed for 14 years straight. However, his mission from this moment on differed from his predecessors who were spiritual giants on their own. Part of Yaakov’s new mission was to implant in Am Yisrael the avodah of kedusha. Kedusha relates to Yaakov more than the other two Avos. As the passuk says (Yeshaya 29,23) והקדישו את קדוש יעקב. The Radak on this passuk explains that Yaakov’s special association with kedusha was because his נבואה from Hashem was with the vision of the ladder ascending to shamayim. Why is this nevuah so much different from the nevuos of the other two Avos that brought Yaakov to the level of the highest kedusha?
Kedusha means to elevate and to sanctify the mundane and the physical. This means to take the four levels of creation, the inanimate, vegetative, animal and man, and to enlist it for holiness into Hashem’s service. As the Shulchan Aruch says in Siman 231 בכל דרכיך דעהו in all your ways know Him (Mishlei 3,6). If one can draft all his physical encounters into the Army of Hashem even the דברי הרשות even when there is no pressing mitzvah from the Torah or the Rabbanan, then one actually connects to Hashem throughout the entire day with every one of his actions.
Yaakov’s mission was visualized in his dream about the ladder which touches the earth and its head reaches into the heavens. Man can be on the earth and live his daily life and still elevate the holy sparks that lie inside everyday mundane actions. The Baal Haturim brings that the gematriah of סולם is the same as ממון money. Money can buy the most physical pleasurable experiences. Yet at the same time it can be elevated to perform the most exquisite mitzvos of chesed, tzedakah, and Torah learning and support.
It is for this reason that Yaakov alone received the special beracha of Eretz Yisrael ופרצת ימה וקדמה צפונה ונגבה. Concerning this beracha the Chazal say (Shabbos 118) not like Hashem said to Avraham קום התהלך בארץ לארכה ולרחבה כי לך אתננה ארץ זו ולא יותר and not like Yitzchak where Hashem said to him כי לך ולזרעך אתן את הארצות האל, ולא יותר . But to Yaakov, Hashem said you will break out west, east, north, south נחלה בלי גבול ומצרים without any boundaries.
One who is able to fulfill בכל דרכיך דעהו is constantly with Hashem. Unlike fulfillment of commanded mitzvos where there a specific holy objects and specific times in which we must fulfill them, in the world of בכל דרכיך דעהו there are no boundaries and borders. The arena is wherever and wherever you let Hashem into your life. So too Yaakov who took on the mission of bringing the world to kedusha was rewarded also with no boundaries. Yaakov also merited to the special beracha כי לא אעזבך עד אשר אם עשיתי (28,15) that Hashem promises “I will not leave you” which was not given to Avraham or Yitzchak. This is also because of Yaakov’s avodah of kedusha which is the avodah of never departing from avodas Hashem since everything physical that one occupies himself with is a means of connecting with Hashem.
Yaakov’s first episode mentioned in the Torah after he left Be’er Shevah is with inanimate objects such as the stones surrounding his head. Chazal write that the stones were arguing amongst themselves that they wanted the tzadik to place his head on it thereby elevating and sanctifying them. This was Yaakov’s first encounter with his new avodah of kedusha of elevating even the inanimate object to the service of Hashem.
When Yaakov removes the stone from the mouth of the well after he meets Rachel, Chazal reveal the esoteric symbolism that occurred here. The well symbolizes the shul from where the flocks of Yidden come and listen to and learn the Torah. By doing so, they remove the rock from themselves which symbolizes the yetzer harah. Once they finish learning they return the rock to its place which symbolizes that the yetzer harah unfortunately returns. Rav Chaim Vital writes that by Yaakov there is no mention of the rock being returned? Yaakov whose mission is בכל דרכיך דעהו is always sanctifying the mundane which leaves the yetzer harah without opportunities to make him fall. Only one whose avodah is to separate himself from this world and it comes time to take care of his physical needs such as eating, he becomes vulnerable being that he must now leave his high spirituality of separation from the physical, and now deal with the opposition. Hashem will not leave you Yaakov because you will not leave Him since even while occupied with the physical needs You never leave Hashem.
How did Yaakov know that this mission of קדושה of sanctifying every aspect of daily life is the endeavor in which he must reach perfection and impart it to his descendants? The Yismach Moshe explains in last week’s parsha that it appeared as Rashi writes that when Yaakov and Eisav were in their mother’s uterus Yaakov was already a full blown tzaddik and Aisav was a full blown rasha. If so where is the role of bechirah? He explains that Yaakov was holding on to the heel of Aisav. From that contact Aisav was infused with some of the kedushas Yaakov, and Yaakov was infused with some of the tumah of Aisav. Therefore they both possessed bechirah when they were born. The difference between them was that Yaakov transformed the evil of Aisav into good and Aisav transformed the good of Yaakov into evil.
However, we can also interpret that Yaakov’s contact with the heel of Aisav was to serve as a catalyst for him to live his life in the mundane world of Aisav but nevertheless to elevate and sanctify it to a higher level. This is why Hashem called his name Yaakov because he was holding on to Aisav’s heel. Why is grabbing Aisav’s heel deemed such a monumental event that Hashem sees fit to call Yaakov his name because of it. According to what we explained that by doing so, Yaakov would have otherwise emerged from the womb totally spiritual and wholesome and would not have been able to go down to earthliness and sanctify it. He would have been like the other Avos. However, Hashem wanted Yaakov to bring about the kedusha even on this lower physical world of earth. This is the very reason why Hashem created the world because He wanted a dwelling place in the physical world where the challenge is to uncover the sparks of kedusha everywhere. Hashem called him by the name of יעקב to let him know that his mission is to elevate the עקב of Aisav the part that touches the earth, the gashmiyus the heel of the ladder whose bottom also lies on the earth. מוצב ארצה the ladder is standing on the ground. The gematriah of מוצב ארצה with its eight letters equals אמת the middah of Yaakov. Yet one can find the emes even on earth if one sanctifies the material. As the Baal Haturim writes מצב ארצה is the gematriah of מרכבו Hashem’s chariot to rest His Shechina upon it. A proof that this avodah of kedusha is possible and desirable is hinted in the Aseres Hadibros which possesses עקב 172 words carved on the two Luchos.
Yaakov represents Shabbos as the passuk says אז תתענג על ה’ והרכבתיך על במתי ארץ והאכלתיך נחלת יעקב אביך כי פי ה’ דבר (Yeshaya 58 14). The Radak explains if one will have oneg Shabbos then he will have oneg from Hashem. Adds the Radak
ורז”ל דרשו כל המענג את השבת נותנין לו נחלה בלא מצרים שנאמר והאכלתיך נחלת יעקב אביך, לא כאברהם שנאמר בו קום התהלך בארץ לארכה ולרחבה, ולא כיצחק שנאמר בו כי לך ולזרעך אתן את כל הארצות האל, אלא כיעקב שנאמר בו ופרצת ימה וקדמה וצפונה ונגבה:
We can understand the connection of Yaakov, who personifies the avodah of kedusha, with the essence of Shabbos. On Shabbos everything is elevated. All food that we eat from which we derive pleasure and enjoyment is a mitzvah of oneg Shabbos. All the beautiful clothing that we wear we fulfill the mitzvah of lekovid Shabbos. The enjoyment of eating by candlelight is lekovid and oneg Shabbos. The zemiros which we love to sing is also a mitzvah of kovid Shabbos. Those who find sleeping a pleasure on Shabbos also get a mitzvah of oneg Shabbos. The same wine we drink during the week, on Shabbos we get a mitzvah of Kiddush and oneg Shabbos for doing so.ויקדש אותו Hashem sanctified the Shabbos in that all the mundane activities that we do during the week are elevated and sanctified automatically to a mitzvah on Shabbos. This is hinted in the words והקדישו את קדוש יעקב, the end letters את קדוש יעקב spell שבת. Yaakov Avinu, kedusha and Shabbos are bound tightly together.
Yaakov battles for kedusha to be revealed in this world, in contrast to Avraham and Yitzchok who had nisyonos. Yaakov fought אבק against the סם לבן עשו which all together is gematriah ביום השבת. On Shabbos all of the above are defeated and kedusha takes reign over our lives if you allow it to happen.
– Rav Brazil