The queue seems to move so sluggishly … a line of people slowly move towards the entrance of the small room. It seems as if he has a fixed place here and the procedure is equally monotonous; signatures, guarantees and queues and at the end of it all … another loan.
He doesn’t recall exactly when this all began, when he changed from being an avreich sitting peacefully on the benches of the beis-medrash into a wandering debtor, borrowing in order to pay his old debts and journeying between the gemach and the bank time and again. His thoughts carry him back to the days of old, how good it was to be surrounded by kedusha, how wonderful it was to sit peacefully learning Torah for hours on end without concern and worry … how much sweetness he tasted with every tefillah … the days were filled to their greatest capacity … he was healthy and strong and even parnassah didn’t hassle him; everything was so tranquil – a magical world that was filled with nothing but Torah and avodah.
Those times seem to him now like a faded dream. Today he’s on the outside and the current reality seems infinitely more powerful than any memory of comfort and pleasure. It has its own demands, to run to and fro, to cover his debts and to find parnassah. His heart is shriveled in pain: why me, why was it decreed upon me to wander the earth poor and impoverished … they’ve taken everything from me, even Torah and tefillah … I cannot even manage to fit one real learning session into my hectic day … just a moment here and a moment there … even a bracha they won’t let me make without bother.
Then, just a moment before the whole world caves in on him he decides – NO! I will not abandon my bitachon, this is my last hope and with it I intend to completely renew myself. I will begin to pray, to scream and to plead “from where will my help come”- I already know- “…My help is from Hashem”(Tehillim 121).
So many days had passed by but now finally understood. He will try from this day forth with all his strength to hold tightly to Emunah and bitachon in Hashem. He will not allow any thoughts of pain, heaviness, laziness, sadness and illusion to take root in his heart. He will try to what he can from now on, what was and has been is none of his concern. He will fill his mind with thoughts of Hashgacha (providence) and bitachon. He will concentrate always on the fact that Hashem is with him in every place and situation.
Slowly but surely his thought patterns began to change, there are no more thoughts of the past, only simcha in the present. He thanks Hashem for every relief, rejoices with every bit of good – he is rich.
He suddenly reveals that his day is filled with Torah and tefillah … he is constantly involved with some mitzvah or another – the ways of avodah are opening up before him … he has a ladder that is set upon the earth with its top reaching the heavens.
The world is full of suffering and worries, everyone knows how dangerous the overwhelming thoughts and fears are. It is not for nothing that everyone is rushing around in a frenzy. They are doing everything they can to make sure there is no time to think. All that is important is to move forward, to be successful – to be on the inside, and woe to he who is has been cast outside the train of life.
Despite this, most people are still to be found on the ‘outside’ envying the successful and sunken in worry and fear. Even the successful themselves are not spared of worry and distress. Everyone is searching for the solution and in general most find it in nonsense that only adds to the pain and heaviness. This is the portion of the Goyim.
The portion of Yaakov
This is not the lot of Yaakov. The soul of every Jew is rooted in that of Yaakov, the choicest of the Avos. In his heart he knows that only with the light of Emunah can he find comfort for his soul. Only it will heal him of his pain and suffering.
Everyone knows that consistency in Torah and avodah will open for him a gateway to a true world rich with meaning, a world of avodas Hashem with simchah and chiyus. This is the portion and lot of the life giving Torah.
Nevertheless, it may be that a person finds himself very far from this great inheritance. Middas Hadin (the attribute of judgment) causes many obstacles to every person – this is the chase of Eisav that every descendant of Yaakov must endure, and he, like Yaakov, must leave and flee.
Then, when a person finds himself outside, in galus hanefesh (spiritual exile) and constricted consciousness, removed from the place of success, when it is impossible to revive himself with the light of the Torah, how is it possible to come close to Hashem? Is this not the very time that the klippot (evil forces) are spreading out before him, attacking him and causing him despair?
There really is advice for this. If a person makes an effort to pray and to scream out to Hashem in the right way, to beseech Him with submission and bittul (self-nullification) he merits finding guidance in the light of Emunah, then he will certainly find the path of life and the ultimate way of Emunah which itself is the very purpose for which a person is sent to this world – to live with the light of Emunah in every situation.
This is truly Hashem’s main desire for every person- that he should enliven his soul with the light of Emunah and raise himself out of the concealment and din (judgment).
In this way there is nothing that can bring him to a loss of his senses, to fear and to worry. On the contrary, he will always understand that everything comes to pass through Hashem’s kindness and infinite goodness. Sometimes Hashem even makes a person fall into constricted consciousness and din in order to test him and thereby to bring him to the light of Emunah of the level of the world to come- the knowledge that literally everything is truly for best.
For we surely have the ability to proceed in the light of Emunah and hold strong in complete bitachon, even in extremely difficult circumstances. We can achieve this if we strengthen ourselves in those times to think only of what needs to be done today in Torah and tefillah and not to overburden our thoughts, just to involve ourselves in each thing in its proper time from amidst faith in Hashem’s help.
Even when we look at our spiritual situation, the challenges, the falls and the failures, we must not allow them to cause us to lose our spirit. Rather to do whatever we can at this very moment and not to bother our minds with thoughts of what was and what will be.
Even if a person sees that he fell from a level that he had already achieved and now seems to be completely lost and this brings him to be full of questions and bewilderment, our holy Rebbe teaches us to look at things completely differently. For in truth there is no such thing as falling or becoming distanced and the fact that we encounter the arousal of desires and the like is purposely brought about by Hashem in order to raise a person to a higher level. From all of these challenges and encounters tremendous pleasure is generated in heaven, and the feelings of distance are nothing but imagination since Hashem is always with a person.
Even in the most difficult situations, when the light of Emunah has been completely dimmed and it seems to a person as if he is doing nothing but damage every second, it is absolutely forbidden for him to give in completely. Rather, he must do whatever he can and search for Hashem in every place. He must be stubbornly persistent to know that Hashem is with him and close to him and this within this contractedness is a great kindness and a great success since “the ultimate purpose of the fall is the ascent.” For all feelings and thoughts of distance are complete nonsense and imagination for everywhere that a person goes he causes rectifications and brings about great pleasure above.
In general, when we come across the Rebbe’s wondrous ways of hischazkus (strengthening) we are bewildered. Are these things said about us too? Can we too merit finding a constant life path of simcha and closeness to Hashem in the light of Emunah and bitachon? Can we forge for ourselves a path of success amidst all that happens in this world?
Now, at this time, the opportunity presents itself, when we read the parsha of Vayetzeh about Yaakov Avinu, all that he went through and how he managed to pass through it all in peace. If we contemplate the wondrous things that Reb Nosson reveals here we too can renew ourselves to walk in the light of Yaakov who endows a portion of his strength.
In short, from his teachings we learn that this parsha takes place in the life of every person. It happens that he must leave the aspect of Be’er Sheva – a place of holiness, to go to Charan- the place of din (judgment) and Charon-aff (wrath). Then, at the time that he is fleeing from Eisav, Eliphaz chases him and steals everything from him. He is left alone but nevertheless does not give up. He strengthens himself and says ‘even though I have gone through so much and I am impoverished I will not abandon my bitachon.’ He strengthens himself to begin to pray and then “he encountered The Place (Hashem)”- it becomes revealed that it is possible to find Hashem even along the way, in a manner of “he encountered” – even without the proper preparation and with constricted consciousness and din, he nevertheless finds Hashem to be with him and near to him.
Then he reveals the truth. That what seemed to be an empty place devoid of kedusha where he is distant, is in fact the place of Avodah, the place of the Beis Hamikdash. For there is “a ladder that is set upon the earth and its top reaches the heavens”- from everything in the world there is pleasure that is raised up to Hashem and influxes of holiness are drawn down. Nothing is empty, for Hashem is always found, in everything and at every time, even in the dealings of parnassah.
The word ‘Mamon’ (money) has the same numerical value as ‘sulam’ (ladder), in everything there is hashgacha (divine providence) and everything reaches the heavens. Then Hashem begins to give Yaakov guarantees, and we too, his descendants, must take encouragement from these words. Hashem tells him: “behold, I am with you” and close to you,” I will protect you”, do not be drawn down by a fall, “I will return you”- you will return to your perfect level, even if it will take time … if you strengthen yourself you will surely get there. “For I will not abandon you”- every person needs to truly internalize that Hashem will never abandon him no matter what. “Until I will have done what I have spoken”- that you merit to rise a new level.
This is our main avodah, to create ‘an arousal from below’, meaning, to strengthen ourselves with such great strength that we should never see any downfall at all and to hold strong to complete bitachon.
Just like Yaakov was carried by the strength of his heart and had the ability to endure Lavan and to withdraw from there the holy Imahos, Rachel and Leah, producing the twelve tribes who represent the ways of Emunah, so too, we will merit to uplift ourselves from all din, from the aspects ofEisav and Lavan and to rise to complete bitachon, clinging to Hashem and rebuilding the holy Beis Hamikdash, speedily in our days, amen.