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The Great Connector Yaakov Avinu - From The Personal To The Communal

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Dec 1, 2022

Li--ilui Nishmas Rav Yaakov Moshe ben Zevulun Charlap on his Yahrtzeit. Rav Kook's last words on earth before ascending to his heavenly reward were "Yaakov Moshe", his beloved Talmid about whom Rav Kook said that he is the only one who truly understands him.  


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

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.

At the beginning of our Parsha, we are told of the unique revelation made to Yaakov which has different elements: A ladder, angels, Hashem standing. At the end of the Parsha, there is the story of Yaakov meeting the camps of angels.  וְיַעֲקֹ֖ב הָלַ֣ךְ לְדַרְכּ֑וֹ וַיִּפְגְּעוּ־ב֖וֹ מַלְאֲכֵ֥י אֱלֹהִֽים וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יַעֲקֹב֙ כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר רָאָ֔ם מַחֲנֵ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים זֶ֑ה וַיִּקְרָ֛א שֵֽׁם־הַמָּק֥וֹם הַה֖וּא מַֽחֲנָֽיִם.

The basic idea of revelation is not unique to the Avos. We find Hashem revealing Himself to Adam and Noach. Yaakov learned in the Beis Medrash of Shem and Ever where he most likely learned how to achieve levels of Divine inspiration [see Makkos 23b - רוח הקודש - בבית מדרשו של שם]. Until the Avos the revelation was a private matter perhaps for the Navi's own edification or for the needs of the generation. From the time of the Avos and onward, prophecy was given on a more grand and general scale - נבואה כללית. 

The level of נבואה כללית was unique in two ways - both in it's consistent appearance in Klal Yisrael and in its focus to unify the individuals who descend from the Avos into one nation. For that reason, the concept of Nevuah detached itself from from the rest of the world and became an exclusively Jewish phenomenon. Excluding the nocturnal vision of Lavan which was actually for the sake of the Jewish people. "השמר לך פן תדבר עם יעקב מטוב עד רע" [Bereshis 31:24] "Take care that you do not speak with Yaakov, either good or bad!". The revelation to Bilaam was also for the sake of the Jews. 

Only Am Yisrael being the force that gives life to the world has a concept of a "Klal" - a community. "בראשית - בשביל ישראל שנקראו ראשית" - The creation of the world was for the sake of the Jewish people. In the chapter of Tehillim that talks about the creation of the world, it says "מה רבו מעשיך השם" - while in the chapter that talks about Shabbos it says "מה גדלו מעשיך השם מאד עמקו מחשבותיך". We observe מה גדלו vs. מה רבו. What is the difference? ריבוי, multiplicity, relates to many individuals and relates to the nations of the world [עי' אורות התשובה פ' ט"ז ובעולת ראיה ח"א עמ' צ"ז, רכ"ט, רל"ט, רפ"ט, ובחלק ב' עמ' תמ"ח]. In contrast, about the Jews it says "לא מרבכם חשק ה' בכם" - Hashem didn't desire you b/c or your multiplicity, large numbers. What is special about the Jewish people is not the ריבוי, large numbers. That is what characterizes the Gentiles. Even when they unite, there is still no concept of a כלל - a solid community. [This idea has many expressions in Halacha, as we have written about elsewhere and particularly the Rogochover Gaon expanded on this]. They remain many individuals which doesn't create a new reality where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts as it does by Am Yisrael. That is why so many great empires disappeared from the world. Have you met a Hittite recently? What about a member of the Roman Empire? They don't have a true כלל which is indomitable. Only Jews do which is why we are still here with Hashem's help.

In contrast to the nations of the world, the pasuk says about Am Yisrael "אתם נצבים היום כולכם" and the Medrash expounds "אתם קיומו של עולם" - You are the existence of the world. The foundation of the eternity of the Jewish people depends on the כולכם, on the unity that creates the community. The thought of the One Hashem is unifying and with this mode of thought the Jewish people were created first "מחשבתם של ישראל קדמה לכל דבר". The first thought of the Jewish people is the כלל from which all of the details of creation emanated. 

Actions that merge into one general point are expressed in the pasuk "מה גדלו מעשיך השם" - How great are your deeds Hashem, Your thoughts are so deep. The Segulah of the Jewish people and their Avodah is the uniting of all of the details into one general principle. That is the גדלות of מה גדלו מעשיך השם. Not the many unconnected dots of מה רבו but one unified whole of מה גדלו. As a result, the Jews have Nevuah, which has a יסוד כללי - a general foundation, one that desires to see all of the Jews be prophets [see Bamidbar 11/29]. 

The very phenomenon of revelation before Matan Torah was a chesed just as all of creation is chesed. There were 26 generations until Matan Torah and Hashem sustained them all with chesed [Pesachim 118a]. From the time of Matan Torah, the hanhaga and governance of middas hanevuah was a type of din, just as the hanhaga of the world is with din and mishpat. "מגיד דבריו ליעקב חקיו ומשפטיו לישראל". 

The Avos merited revelation, Nevuah, from a perspective of chesed. But that was only in Eretz Yisrael, just like Nevuah in later generations comes only in Eretz Yisrael. About Yonah HaNavi it says "כי מלפני ה' הוא בורח" - He was running away from Hashem. Chazal explain that he went to Chutz La-aretz where the Shechina isn't revealed. So too it says in Moed Kattan 25a that Yechezkel first merited prophecy in Eretz Yisrael. :

טְפַח לֵיהּ אֲבוּהּ בְּסַנְדָּלֵיהּ, אֲמַר לֵיהּ: לָאו אָמֵינָא לָךְ לָא תִּיטְרוֹד עָלְמָא? מַאי ״הָיָה״ — שֶׁהָיָה כְּבָר. 

 His father tapped him with his sandal on his foot, thereby hinting to him that he should be quiet. He said to him: Have I not told you not to trouble everyone with questions in the middle of a eulogy? The Gemara answers the question: What is the meaning of the doubling of the word “came [hayo haya]”? It implies that it had already come before, i.e., that Yechezekel had already begun to prophesy in Eretz Yisrael, and his prophecy in Babylonia was merely a continuation of that prophecy.   

So too, all the mitzvos are primarily intended to be observed in EY [see Ramban Dvarim 11-18]. It emerges that this נבואה כללית which is the unique quality of the Jews and unites them is primarily in EY and its first expression is to Yaakov Avinu.  We first find with Yaakov Avinu the notion of details connecting to the community - פרטים המצטרפים אל הכלל. He established the 12 tribes from whom the Jewish people are built. The many stones merging under his head into one. [אבן is a composite of אב-בן.] In the nusach of ברכת המצוות we say "אשר קדשנו במצוותיו" - He sanctified us with His mitzvos. The emphasis on the plural form and קדושה implies the connection of the פרטים to the כלל. We, the sanctified, the special ones, are the פרטים which comprise the כלל. We are a group who fulfills mitzvos together. מצוה relates to the word צוותא which means "together". This started with Yaakov Avinu from whom the קדושה of the כלל began ["קדושנו קדוש יעקב" - Bentching]. So was the nature of his Nevuah: A ladder on the ground whose top reaches the sky, angels going up and down, and all of these details connect to one כלל which is וה' ניצב עליו - [One] Hashem standing above.  

On the pasuk "חברים מקשיבים לקולך" Chazal expound that the angels are called "חברים" friends, to the Jewish people implying an equality. In contrast, we find that the angels are called standing while the Jews are called מהלכים - those who walk and advance.  

וְנָתַתִּי לְךָ מַהְלְכִים בֵּין הָעֹמְדִים הָאֵלֶּה

I will give you advancement among those who stand. [זכריה ג ז שמות רבה כה ב]. 

Angels stand. Humans advance. Angels don't have free choice while human beings do and therefore we have the capacity of ascend or descend in ruchniyos. On the other hand we find that the angels fly, meaning movement and advancement "ובשתים יעופף" [Yeshayahu 6-2]. The notion of the friendship and equality between man and angels is that they guard us that we shouldn't fall from our level. That is the idea of the angels being those who stand. Consistency. On the other hand, the Jews have an element that helps the angels elevate and fulfill their purpose which is expressed in the fact that they fly. We are חברים. 

This relationship is only with the angels of EY. "ארץ אשר לא תחסר כל בה" - EY lacks nothing [Brachos 36b]. Meaning that the angels of EY are blessed with unique spiritual qualities both as "standers and "flyers". Therefore the angels of EY merge with the Jews both with respect to being עומדים and being מתעופפים. In contrast, the angels of chutz laaretz have a שיתוף [commonality] with the Jews but not complete equality. 

The special quality of Yaakov Avinu, called the בריח התיכון [linchpin], the chosen of the Avos, is being a connector. With Yaakov, the general, constant Nevuah, finds its full expression. With his ladder and its many rungs, he sees Hashem standing over it. חיבור הפרטים לכלל. 

When Torah was given, Yaakov was featured "תורה צוה לנו מורשה קהילת יעקב". This means that Yaakov connects the details to the general and that is the judgment that relates to Yisrael "מגיד דברו ליעקב חקיו ומשפטיו לישראל". The word דברו is written without a "י", implying singular details which Yaakov connects to חקיו ומשפטיו - the כלל of many laws. [עי' במלבי"ם ובדברי הרשר"ה שם ובשפ"א פ' משפטים שהעמיד כמה אוקימתות על החילוק בין דברו וחקיו ובין יעקב וישראל].

Yaakov also connects the two types of angels, the angels of EY with the angels of Chu"l, as we see at the end of the Parsha. He connects the notion of מהלכים [the human quality] with the notion of עומדים [the angelic quality], the notion of חברים with the notion of  מתעופפים [Am Yisrael connects to angels and helps them fly]. The angels of EY are called מלאכי א-להים while the angels of Chu"l are called regular מלאכים without א-להים. Yaakov connects these two elements and calls the place מחניים.       

[עפ"י תורת מרן הרב קוק זצ"ל סעודה שלישית תר"ץ עפ"י רשימות הרב קלמן פרנקל ז"ל ועיבודו של מו"ר הרב ח"י הדרי ז"ל. וראה מה שהוסיף מדיליה בס' שמועות הראיה עמ' 124-125]




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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 the Weinberg and Klepfish families l'ilui nishmas Zevy Weinberg, Refael Zev Avraham ben HaRav Moshe