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Kedushas HaChaim

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Nov 26, 2022

לזכות נעכא גיטל בת ר' חיים צבי וכל יוצאי לחציה ולהיבדל בח"ל לע"נ ביתה בת מרדכי


בראשית כ"ח:י'
וַיֵּצֵ֥א יַעֲקֹ֖ב מִבְּאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ חָרָֽנָה׃

Yaakov departed from Be'er Sheva and went to Charan

 בראשית כ"ח י"ב
 וַֽיַּחֲלֹ֗ם וְהִנֵּ֤ה סֻלָּם֙ מֻצָּ֣ב אַ֔רְצָה וְרֹאשׁ֖וֹ מַגִּ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמָ֑יְמָה וְהִנֵּה֙ מַלְאֲכֵ֣י אֱלֹהִ֔ים עֹלִ֥ים וְיֹרְדִ֖ים בּֽוֹ׃


He dreamed, and, behold, there was a ladder set upon the ground and its top reached towards the heavens, and, behold, angels of God were going up and down on it.

Yaakov leaves Eretz Yisrael accompanied by angels and later enters again accompanied by angels which is a testament to his great spiritual level. 

There is a constant battle between the Jewish approach to Kedusha and that of the Gentiles. We believe that the elevation and קדושה of man is connected to natural life. The mitzva of קדושים תהיו is followed by איש אמו ואביו תיראו -- fearing one's parents. קדושה, family life, working the land, social interactions are all integral components of Jewish life. In stark contrast to the Weltanschauung of the Gentiles where קדושה and nature are inherently incompatible. 

The mitzvos of the Torah relate to natural life. That is why the Torah emphasizes that when one keeps mitzvos he is choosing LIFE - "ובחרת בחיים". That also explains the mitzvos that are connected to our physical existence such as eating matza, eating kodshim, eating in the succah etc. etc. That also explains the liturgy of the bracha "אשר קדשנו במצוותיו" - Kedusha that is brought about by a physical action. After the bracha and performance of the mitzva, there is an added element of קדושה, as one mitzva leads to another - מצוה גוררת מצוה. 

The deeds of the Avos are the roots of the קדושה in the physical world. When Yaakov leaves EY the angels had a doubt. On one hand, he is following the command of his parents who told him to leave and is thus doing a mitzva. This would be an elevation-aliyah which is symbolized by the angels ascending the ladder. On the other hand, he is leaving the Holy Land, albeit temporarily [ויצא implies a temporary exit as opposed to ויסע which implies a permanent one]. This is a descent in קדושה, as symbolized by the angels going down the ladder. If Yaakov is being elevated, the angels are being elevated with him. If he is descending - the angels follow suit. "והנה מלאכי א-להים עולם ויורדים". 

However, besides the mitzva of honoring his parents there is an additional element here. Yaakov is saving his life. "והנה עשו אחיך מתנחם לך להורגך" - Esav intended to kill him. It emerges that the rule if "וחי בהם" - living by the mitzvos and preserving one's life trumped the very great value of dwelling in the Holy Land. Therefore the exodus of Yaakov from EY to Charan was a mitzva. 

When Yaakov returned to EY, after he married and lived a natural life of קדושה, he saw angels in a place he called "מחניים" - i.e. two camps of angels., angels of mercy and angels of strict judgment [Zohar]. The return of Yaakov to EY was designed to elevate him yet more. That is why he had the power and capacity to send a delegation of angels to Esav. 

To live in the natural, physical world and to be elevated through them to spiritual heights is the special quality of the Jewish people. That is the meaning of the pasuk [Tehillim 68-19] "עלית למרום שבית שבי" - You went to the heavens and took a captive which Chazal understand as a reference to Torah [Shabbos 89a]. While it is true that he didn't eat or drink for 40 days, he brought down to the Jews the special segula to live a holy Torah life in nature and to actually be elevated THROUGH the natural life. 

[עפ"י שיחת מרן הרב זצ"ל סעודה שלישית תרפ"ט]       



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Learning on the Marcos and Adina Katz YUTorah site is sponsored today by Ruth Peyser Kestenbaum and Miriam & Alan Goldberg to mark the tenth yahrtzeit of their father, Irwin Peyser, Harav Yisroel Chaim ben R' Dovid V' Fraidah Raizel Peyser and by Esti Shulman in memory of her father R' Jacob Rabinowitz, who was Dean at YU for many years and by the Tirschwell, Albert, Abrams, Frankel, and Azar families as a zechus for a refuah shleimah for עקיבא אליהו בן נעמי