Wednesday, January 18, 2012

304 - Vayishlach

Rav Wolbe cites a fascinating Medrash in this week's Parsha: "Reb Brachya said in the name of Reb Simone, There is none like The Almighty. Who is like The Almighty? Yeshurun - Yisroel Saba (Yaakov Avinu). Just as the Torah writes regarding The Almighty, 'And Hashem alone will be exalted on that day.' So too, regarding Yaakov Avinu the Torah writes, 'And Yaakov remained alone'" (Bereishis Raba 77, 1).

Hashem is described with the trait of aloneness, for when Moshiach comes it will be clear to one and all that there is no absolute truth aside from Hashem. In a similar vein, Yaakov is depicted as remaining "alone" since he personified this trait. The Torah tells us that he "dwelled in tents" i.e. spent all his days in the Bais Medrash. He lived in a spiritual bubble, and throughout his entire life he never left the confines of this abode that he had created for himself. No matter where he lived or what he was doing, he made sure that he was not influenced by the people and culture that surrounded him.

Rav Wolbe quotes his Rebbi, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz zt"l, who elaborated on this idea. Everyone realizes the proper way of living in accordance with the precepts of the Torah. Many people follow this blueprint for living when they are in the "safety" of their own homes. However, once they leave this comfort zone, their actions belie their convictions. They are constantly plagued by thoughts of, "What will they think about me if I do/don't do X, Y or Z." They are easily swayed by the culture and people around them. Such people lack the quality of "aloneness" for their actions are dependent on the endorsement of others.

There is yet an additional aspect of this quality, which can be gleaned from the following story. Rav Naftoli Amsterdam once bemoaned his spiritual state to his Rebbi, Reb Yisroel Salanter. "If I had the intellectual capabilities of the Shaagas Aryeh (a brilliant scholar), the heart of the Yesod V'Shoresh Ha'Avodah (a devoutly pious individual) and the character traits of Rebbi (Rav Yisroel Salanter), then I would be able to serve Hashem properly." To which his Rav Yisroel Salanter countered, "Naftoli, with your head, your heart and your middos, you, too, can serve Hashem properly!" Rav Yisroel Salanter was trying to ingrain in his talmid that each person has all the intrinsic qualities that he needs to fulfill his unique assignment in this world. It is incumbent upon a person to draw a circle around himself and to realize that his success in this world can be found within that circle. He does not need to mimic others, nor wish for physical or spiritual acquisitions of others, since everything he might possibly need could be found "at home."

A situation where our convictions are tested presents itself almost every day. Let us see if one time we can be faithful to what we know to be true, and act in accordance with this knowledge regardless of what others might think of us. This will enable us to emulate the middah of aloneness of Yaakov Avinu.

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