Jewish Soul Journey

THE JOURNEY OF THE GENERATIONS

             

         When Hashem
speaks to Avraham saying, Lech Lecha we are privileged to hear the
opening notes of a symphony.  It is a
symphony  that unfolds in the ensuing parshiyos,
weaving together the physical movements and spiritual developments of our
forefathers.  It is for our eternal
benefit, for we, too, are in motion, journeying through our lives, and the
overture for this personal voyage begins right 
here.

         Avraham –
Yitzchak – Yaakov:  What do we notice
about their journeys?  Avraham is told to
leave his land and his people, and he does so never again returning to his
homeland.  When he seeks a wife for his
son, Yitzchak, among his family members he does not go himself but sends a
messenger, his servant, Eliezer.  
Yitzchak remains in the land
of Canaan and his wife is
brought to him.  However, Yaakov does go
back to his grandfather’s homeland to find a wife and in fact lives there for
many years.      

                  The
first thing we need to understand is the nature of the journey.  The journey Avraham Avinu took was not merely
measured in miles, although it did span large physical distances.  Primarily, it involved changes in attitude
and behavior.  Of course, in the case of
Avraham, who began this journey at age seventy-five, the changes in him that
preceded it and that separated him from his family, people and countrymen were
many.  Long before he was commanded to
travel, Avraham Avinu had achieved astounding spiritual heights and an
understanding of Hashem that distanced him from his idol worshipping
neighbors.   Nonetheless, Hashem sent him
away from those bad influences to a place where he would be able to have
positive influence on others.  Avraham
did not return, although he did, in fact, travel out of Canaan,
and Yitzchak, whose level of kedusha made him a worthy sacrifice, never
left Canaan. 
Thus, it was only Yaakov who returned to the place of Avraham’s
upbringing.

                 The reason for these
variations  lies  perhaps in the fact that the spiritual-genetic
legacy of the Jewish ation was not vouched safe until the birth of Yaakov in
the third generation.  Initially, Avraham
Avinu perfected the trait of chessed, loving kindness. With that midda
alone he could not withstand the negative effects of a corrupt
surrounding.   His son, Yitzchak Avinu,
perfected the trait of gevura, restraint and discipline in the service
of Hashem, which served to build a protective shield against foreign
influence.  Yaakov Avinu represents the
harmonious blending of chessed and gevura in tiferes, a
glorious combination of the diverse energies which can face confrontation and
play an influential role.   As such he
embodies the three foundational traits of the Jewish people – Torah, avoda and
gemilus chassadim which  provided
the spiritual and emotional armor that protected him when he returned to the
idolatrous climate of his grandfather’s homeland.

                 Each
of us as we mature and develop have experienced, at some level, our own lech
lechas
.   We have all faced
circumstances that have forced us to change our physical locations and jobs and
even our circles of friends to some extent. Hashem’s ultimate purpose in
sending these changes to us is to prod us toward spiritual growth.  These are opportunities that allow latent
energies to blossom so that all of our potential is realized.

               To better understand this process, we can
think about a familiar Chazal that teaches us that we, unlike the malachim,
are in a constant state of spiritual flux. 
We are holchim, “walkers,” and not omdim, set and
stationary “standers.”  Our job is to
keep moving.  Even when we feel achieved
in all or most of the areas of our lives, we cannot rest because if we are not
elevating ourselves spiritually, we will end up going in the opposite
direction.  If we do not continue to make
improvements in our thoughts, feelings and actions, moving up the spiritual
ladder so to speak, then we will, unfortunately, find ourselves slipping back down
that ladder. So, we have no real choice. 
We must journey and it is from the journey taken by our forefathers that
we take our road map.   

                As
we try to move toward a life of enhanced holiness by instituting changes in our
daily habits, we remain vulnerable to a process known to scientists as entropy
or attrition. This is a condition that causes all orderly systems to return to
their former level of disorganization unless prevented from doing so.  In the physical world we see that gardens
must be weeded, rust must quickly be removed from objects and things must be
returned to their proper places before chaos takes over.  This tendency toward entropy, toward a return
to our old ways, our old life styles, can create a serious impediment to
complete spiritual transformation.  Thus,
we may ask whether there is ever a safe time for us to revisit, interact with
and even confront the past?

                    We see that Yaakov Avinu,
who had perfected the three fundamental traits, was able to live for many years
in the home of Lavan, the master of deceit, without compromising his
righteousness.   Yaakov was able to find
and redeem the good and valuable from this unholy environment, bringing out
from this prison of spiritual darkness into the light of day – holiness – his
wives and children, the future foundation of the entire Jewish nation.  Perhaps this why the navi Yeshaya (29:22)
refers to Yaakov as being the one who redeemed Avraham.  Out of the darkness of Avraham’s old home, he
kindled sparks of life which combined into the flame of Israel. 

                However,
we must be very careful when we do a salvage operation, trying to rectify those
parts of our personality that remained unresolved.  We could well stir up the enemy within.  This is precisely what happened when Yaakov returned
with his wives and children.  He
encountered Esav, his twin brother, the personification of the yetzer hara.  Our yetzer haros are our twins – ever
prepared and lying in wait to destroy our achievements and discourage our
advancement.

               For insight into this challenge and to
learn a strategy for overcoming it, we look at the ways that Yaakov prepared
himself to interact with Esav.  First,
Yaakov sent gifts which emanate from the midda of gemilus chassadim –
his spiritual inheritance from Avraham Avinu.  This shows that our goal and aspiration is
not selfish, not to amass for ourselves but to be of benefit – a source of
blessing for whomever we contact.   In addition
Yaakov prepared himself with tefilla, prayer, his spiritual inheritance
from Yitzchak Avinu.  Chazal tell
us that only through our sincere prayers can we overcome our yetzer hara.  When we are tempted, we can imagine that the yetzer
hara
is given forty-nine votes to the yetzer tov’s forty-eight.  It is only when we sincerely turn to Hashem
asking for help that He, so to speak, casts the remaining votes in our favor,
allowing us to triumph.  Thirdly, we must
also prepare ourselves to go to battle. Yaakov was prepared for war.   We can go to war against the yetzer hara
using Torah which arms us with the implements necessary to defuse the evil
influences of the world and infuse holiness into those which can be
sanctified.  May Hashem guide us in our
journeys, bringing to the ultimate goal of the final geula, soon in our
days.

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