One of the
most famous confrontations in history has an interesting “footnote”. We are informed by the Midrash that the
battle between the angel of Eisav and Yaakov was so intense that the “dust” it
raised reached the Kisei Ha-Kavod., and then we are told wondrously that all
the successes of Yaakov Avinu, in business ventures and in battle as well as
the success of all of his descendants throughout the ages comes in the merit of
this “dust of contention”. (Shir Hashirim Raba: 3:6:2)
These puzzling and profound statements warrant
further attention but before we look into the spiritual molecular structure of
this “dust,” we will add one more dimension and that is the element of time.
Our holy Zohar (Vayikra 100b) implies that our tikun of that battle takes place
on the evening of Yom Kippur.
What is this
“dust” that guarantees blessings throughout the generations?
We begin our analysis with the understanding that every human being
is a composite of soul and body, intellect and emotions, the spiritual and the
physical. When we make choices in our everyday activities – those choices can
either align us with Hashem’s purpose for us or send us off in the opposite
direction. We falter when we lose the “soul perspective” which is “cosmic view”
of the world that allows us to see the “terrain” for what it is and travel
safely over and around the pitfalls in life. These small challenges can be as
insignificant as someone taking our parking place or jumping ahead of us on
line. If we are in a tired or in a
hurry, these perceived slights can be enough to throw us off balance and
unleash feelings of frustration and resentment that could lead to regrettable
thoughts, words or actions.
When, as was the case with Ya’akov
Aveinu, all of these components are in equilibrium– balanced and focused upon
serving Hashem – then moral stability is achieved.
As is well known,
Esau, who came with four hundred men to confront Ya’akov, symbolizes the yetzer
hora’s efforts to try to upset this synergistic balance. That night Yaakov
returned over the Yabuk to collect – pachim ketanim – small vessels and had a
dramatic encounter with the angel of Esau. Near the end of the battle, Yaakov’s
gid hanasheh, the cord/sinew that coordinates balance and movement and allows
us to effect a change in physical position, was dislocated. Perhaps we can
say that the gid hanasha not only represents the pivotal point for movement but
also symbolizes the moral direction we choose.
Interestingly, the exact size army that Esau
came with is the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for straw (kash) spelled – kuf shin. The nature of straw is that each
strand itself is weak, but when many strands of straw are bound together they
become strong and resilient. Each of the
four hundred men individually represents a relatively minor challenge, however
together they could seem overwhelming.
Perhaps we can
derive from this that if a number of difficulties and challenges befall us, we
should keep a clear soul prospective not allowing ourselves to become
overwhelmed by bundling the issues together. Thus, for example, if an
emergency arises and we need to take someone to the hospital but the car in
front of us is moving too slowly, or our children start fighting in the back
seat, or the secretary at the registration desk is rude, the strategy is to
separate each contentious factor (kash) and thus diffuse the intensity of the situation,
staying focused on the primary goal. This process has two aspects. One is that
a person should respond quickly to the emergency at hand and equally important each
challenge should be handled with self-control, thereby making a Kiddush Hashem
each step of the way.
The conflict between Yaakov and Eisav symbolizes
the quintessential battle between selflessness and selfishness. The Zohar in
Parshas Toldos informs us that everything that Yaakov Avinu did was for the
sake of Heaven (l’Sham Shamayim). The Midrash tells us that Yaakov is the symbol
of the Yetzer Tov while Esau corresponds to the Yetzer Hora. At the end of the
titanic struggle that lasted until the break of dawn, Yaakov Avinu was able to
triumphant over the angel of Esau. Our forefather Yaakov, like his predecessors
Avraham and Yitzchak, was able to successfully realign his spiritual genetic
propensities thus enabling us to be the perpetual beneficiaries of this
treasury of moral refinement.
Each of us in life has been given a unique set
of temptations and tribulations along with ammunition and the strength of the
Torah to succeed in overcoming all obstacles. There is no incident that is too
small to gain from, for example, a child leaves his bike lying in our driveway
or someone failing to return our call on time can serve as a barometer of our
discomfort as well as an opportunity to subdue our agitation.
The avoda of Yom Kippur can be
understood as the battlefield where the confrontation between the material and
the spiritual takes place, as it is a time of extremes. On Erev Yom Kippur we are
asked to live in seemingly disparate realms. We spend the day examining our
actions and our motives in an effort to do sincere teshuvah and immerse in the
waters of purification (the holy mikva) and yet are commanded to eat well throughout
the day with culminating with a full seuda. Beginning with the evening of Yom
Kippur, we continue the process of purifying and rectifying our soul-body
relationship through the five restrictions.
In essence, the effort we make in our
striving for holiness has three major components/dimensions. They are person,
place and time – nefesh, makom and z’man. Yaakov Aveinu and his counter part Eisav
represent the two diametrically opposed aspects of nefesh – moral extremes of
good and bad. The gid hanasheh
represents – mokom – place since it is the mechanism which allows us to
position ourselves in the physical and moral planes. [In the Tikuni Zohar it is
written that the gid hanasha corresponds to media of tzadik which corresponds
to the attribute of yesod – (tikun 18 duf 32b)]
The third component is Yom
Kippur which is separate and apart from the rest of the calendar year [that Rashi
brings from one pashot in the Tana devay Eliahu – Raba – perek alef on Tehillim
(139 pusack 16) indicating that Yom Kippur is a uniquely sanctified day. [also
see the Sefer Likutey Moharan – simon 179].
On Yom Kippur we are
compared to malakim because we are not limited to the realm of this mundane
world. It is a time and opportunity to reach new levels of closeness to G-d
through His Torah. The eve of Yom Kippur can bring with it a shift in
consciousness from the earthly to the spiritual realm, with the “break of dawn”
perhaps symbolizing the new light of day which has the power to shine its
beneficence throughout all the rest of the year.
May we all
experience each moment as the perfect time and every situation as the ideal
place, thus transforming the “dust of confrontation” into the “gold
dust” of the final geula, may it be soon in our days.
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