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Parshas Vayeitzei

Vayetzei(Genesis 28:10-32:3)

People Smarts Part 1 - Being Right

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Published: November 19, 2012

I Need Needs

And Jacob made a vow saying, ‘If G-d will be with me and guard me on this path that I am embarking upon, and if He will give me food to eat and clothing to wear, and He will return to my father’s house in peace…’” – Genesis 28:20

Jacob Asks for Four Things

As Jacob is running from his parents’ home to escape from Esau, he recognizes that he is beginning a new chapter in his life. He turns to G-d and pleads for four things:

  1. G-d should be with him.
  2. G-d should protect him.
  3. G-d should return him to his home in safety.
  4. G-d should give him food to eat and clothing to wear.

G-d Granted Three out of Four

The Torah commentaries tell us that G-d granted three of the requests but not the fourth, saying, "If I guarantee him his daily needs, he won’t have any reason to turn to Me." So G-d did not answer the request for his daily needs.

Who Was Jacob?

This seems difficult to understand when we take into account that this is Jacob. Our sages tell us that Jacob was the greatest of the patriarchs. He was a man who walked with G-d – constantly. At the core of his essence was a deep craving to be close to G-d. He lived to serve G-d. What difference would it make if he didn’t have to worry about making a livelihood? Of course, he would still reach out to G-d. Of course, he would still see G-d in every occurrence in his life.

You Don’t Write; You Don’t Call; You Don’t Love Me Anymore

It almost sounds as if G-d is saying, “I have to keep Jacob from getting too comfortable; otherwise he will forget Me. I can’t promise him sustenance because then he won’t need Me. He won’t write. He won’t call. He won’t love Me anymore.”

Yet we know that Jacob was a person who was so motivated to have a relationship with G-d that he always clung to Him. What difference would needing sustenance have on such a relationship?

Understanding the Human

The answer to this question is based on a fundamental understanding of man. G-d created the human in a state of flux. G-d took a soul – pure, unadulterated intellect and understanding – and enveloped it in layers and layers of physicality. At the core of a person’s essence are certain understandings, concepts that we intuitively know, but which are blocked by the effects of being housed in a body. The goal of the human is to cut through the layers of physicality and keenly perceive those truths of purpose that are instinctive to our souls.

Every man, even a man as great as Jacob, is a still a man and requires exercise in seeing G-d. He needs to flex his spiritual muscles by calling out to G-d and recognizing his total dependence on Him. When a person needs something and must turn to G-d, that process brings him to a higher level of appreciating his dependence on G-d. For that reason, G-d didn’t guarantee Jacob sustenance. Jacob needed the need so that he would become closer to G-d

Life Would Be Much Better If Only…

This concept has great relevance to our lives. Often times we feel, “I would be better able to serve G-d if only…”

If only making a living wasn’t so difficult. … If only I didn’t have medical issues… If only I could find my soulmate...

At times it almost seems as if G-d is deliberately sabotaging our well-laid plans for serving Him. And it doesn’t make much sense.

Our Relationship to G-d

One of the reasons a person has to struggle in this world is so that he will recognize that it is G-d Who is at the center of his universe, and it is G-d Who orchestrates every part of this creation. The basis of our entire service of G-d is to perceive that G-d is completely, totally, irrevocably involved in everything that happens in this world – and we are dependent upon Him.

However, it isn’t enough for this to be a concept or thought; it has to become a reality. Much like a brick is hard, solid and heavy, I don’t just think it; I know it. So, too, I have to come to the knowledge that G-d is present and involved in my life, and I am completely dependent upon Him. To reach that level of knowing requires a change of perspective.

I Need Needs

When I need something and am forced to cry out to G-d for help, I come to this realization – not in theory, not in principle, but in reality. I get it. When I don’t know how I am going to make a mortgage payment and I cry out to G-d for help and “somehow” things work out, that process – the asking, the feeling helpless, and then seeing the salvation – brings this reality home.

Needs” aren’t annoying obstacles to my spiritual growth. Quite the opposite, they are often the catalysts to my finally getting it, to understanding that G-d is involved in my life, that G-d really cares about what happens to me, and that I am dependent upon Him.

We need needs – real needs, deep needs – because only with needs can we become aware of that it is G-d Who is the Provider. Only then can we recognize that we are creations dependent upon our Creator.

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