The Benefit of the Journey - ויצא

Wednesday, 30 November, 2022 - 10:29 pm

The Benefit of the Journey 

What is the point of the journey? 

Jacob was the first of the Patriarchs to spend significant time outside of Israel, away from his natural environment. The opening statement of our portion, "And Jacob departed from Beer Sheba, and he went to Haran", tells the story of our Patriarch Jacob's departure from the land of Israel and travel to the spiritually hostile environment of Charan. We read of how he emerged twenty years later with a large family and tremendous wealth. 

The Kabbalists teach that this story is the prototype for the descent of every soul from the figurative "land of Israel", the soul's abode in heaven to its descent into the spiritually challenging environment of life on this earth. 

But what is the point of the descent? Why should the soul be forced to engage in the painful journey instead of basking in G-d's light in heaven? What is the purpose of the turbulent journey we call life? 

When the soul descends into this spiritually dark world, its connection to G-d is challenged. The soul is forced to struggle to maintain its relationship to holiness. The tension and struggle intensify its spiritual strength and its natural love and awe of G-d. The soul emerges from this world with a deeper and more meaningful bond with G-d. 

This benefit, however, is limited, as it is merely an intensification of the bond with G-d that already existed. The more profound benefit is created when the soul engages with the physical objects of the world, transforming them from physical creations to holy objects that are a conduit to the Divine will. This transformation is a true novelty and is possible only through the soul accessing the infinite power of G-d, which is accessible exclusively "in the lowest realm", right here on earth. 

These two elements are expressed in the words Jacob spoke as he began his journey. As he departed the land of Israel, he requested that G-d protect him (verse 20), enabling him to serve G-d (verses 21 and 22). 

First, Jacob’s prayer to be able to survive and thrive in this world: 

20. And Jacob uttered a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and He will guard me on this way, upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear;

Then, Jacob explains the benefit of the struggle and the purpose of the journey. Firstly, the soul will emerge "in peace" from the challenges, and secondly, the "Lord will be my God", the soul's connection to G-d will withstand the challenges: 

21. And I return in peace to my father's house, and the Lord will be my God;

And then, Jacob describes the more remarkable achievement of life: 

22. Then this stone, which I have placed as a monument, shall be a house of God, and everything that You give me, I will surely tithe to You.

"The stone", a physical object, is transformed to become "the house of G-d". "Everything that you give me" becomes sanctified. 

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Likutei Sichos Vayetze 15 Sicha 3. 


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