Rabbi Hackenbroch and Gila, Rabbi Wayland and Suzanne, family and friends.
To mark my Bat Mitzvah I have prepared a short Dvar torah which I hope you will find interesting.
Today we read the Parasha of Vayetse, one of the most fascinating Sedra’s in the book of Bereishit. We actually find that there are no mitzvoth in this sedra. We read about Yacov leaving his parents’ home and journeying to his uncle’s home, to search for a wife. A wife with whom he would be able to build the future of the Jewish people.
We find him resting his head on mount ‘Moriah’ (More re ah) and dreaming a most interesting dream – in his dream he sees a vision of a long ladder which starts here on earth and ends up all the way in to the heavens. Angels are climbing up the ladder and then climbing back down again.
Our sages say that the ladder symbolises the path for one’s personal and spiritual development.
The word for ladder in Hebrew is sulam (sue lum) – Sulam has the same numerical (new merica l) value as Sinai. Sinai was the place where the torah was given and where we received the instructions as how to behave as members of the Jewish people.
In the same way that when climbing up a ladder one cannot rest half way, but has to either go up or down. Now that I’m making this huge transition from a child to an adult in Jewish law, I too have become responsible and privileged to partake in the mitzvoth that were given at Sinai.
I am excited to start climbing my own personal ladder, moving on to a new chapter of my life and I’m also looking forward to the journey it’ll take me on.
I have the opportunity now to have a new beginning as an adult, and can grow, learn and experience new mitzvoth that I’ve not been able to do before.
A few verses further along in the Sedra, we read about Yacov’s arrival to Paddan Aram, (pad an, aa ram) the town where his uncle Lavan lives. He arrives to find all the shepherds sitting idle by the well. They were unable to water their flocks due to a large boulder covering the mouth of the well. Yakov, on enquiring why they are unable to water their flocks, is informed that they require all the shepherds to gather together to be able to lift off the large boulder.
Yacov, who was quite puzzled by this attitude, steps forward and removes the rock all by himself, and then decides to water the sheep that Rachel, his future wife, was tending to at the same well.
Rashi, one of our commentators, mentions on this verse, that Yacov removed the rock as easily as one removes a cork from a bottle.
This episode that the Torah describes over quite a large number of verses, seems puzzling.
On one hand we have the shepherd’s that were doing this job, day in and day out, and they did not have the strength to remove the rock.
On the other hand we have Yacov who had just spent the last 14 years learning in a yeshiva (yeh she va). He was definitely not a macho man or one with huge muscles, rather he was pale and skinny after learning day and night.
How did he have the strength where others failed?
In the prayer for rain, which we recite on Shemini atseret - just a couple of weeks ago - one of the verses we read is directly linked to this episode in the Torah – the verse reads:
‘He concentrated his heart and then rolled off the stone’.
In other words, Yacov did not use his biceps or strong muscles to move the stone, yet he used concentration of the heart. It was all a matter of motivation. He was able to succeed where others failed because of his determination and single mindedness to do an act of kindness.
When one has a goal, and is driven by it, he can achieve that which is beyond the scope of normal achievements. With extraordinary determination Yacov managed to do that, which the shepherd’s deemed impossible.
There are amazing stories of people that have managed to do the impossible, and moments later, when they reflect on what they have done, are astounded by how they have managed to achieve that. Like the story of a mother who was able to lift a car because her child was pinned underneath it. These stories are all about having that one single minded purpose.
The difference between Yacov and the shepherds was one of motivation.
The shepherds were really not concerned if it took another 4 hours till the rock would be removed – their attitude was one of ‘who cares’. But when Yacov saw the scene and saw everybody waiting around, he saw an opportunity for kindness, and he put his heart to it and was able to do it.
I learn so many valuable life lessons from Yacobs journey.
The angels in his dream, leaving earth to go up in to heaven teach me that everything I do here on earth has a ripple effect up in heaven. So no matter how small my actions may seem at times, nothing goes unnoticed. His dream teaches me that it’s good to have aspirations of what we can achieve with the life that Hashem has granted us. Visions and dreams lead us to aim high and hopefully achieve a lot.
His motivation when seeing a possibility of doing an act of kindness, teaches me to be the one to come forward when an opportunity presents itself.
At times, things might seem hard to achieve and out of my reach. This Sedra teaches me that as long as I’m motivated and try my best, with Hashems help, I’ll be able to achieve that which might otherwise seem impossible.
Thank you for listening and Shabbat Shalom.