Parashat VaYishlach 5778
We just returned to Israel from a great trip to the States. We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to spend precious time with family and friends, and to do some teaching, and grateful for the opportunity to be back in Erez Yisrael. Touching down in Israel is an experience of existential joy – calm and invigorating at the same time, a visceral and spiritual feeling of being embraced by home.
In this week’s parashah, Yaakov and his family also return home to Erez Yisrael, and tucked in between all the challenges they confront upon their return is also a peaceful moment of appreciation:
בראשית פרק לג פסוק יח
ויבא יעקב שלם עיר שכם אשר בארץ כנען בבאו מפדן ארם ויחן את פני העיר:
And Yaakov came whole to the city of Shechem in the Land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram, and he encamped facing the city.
In the Gemara Shabbat 33b, Rav interprets:
ויבא יעקב שלם ואמר רב: שלם בגופו, שלם בממונו, שלם בתורתו.
And Yaakov came whole – Rav said “whole in his body, whole in his property, whole in his Torah.”
Rashi explains that the mention of wholeness at this point signals the successful resolution of the major dangers that Yaakov had faced: that his body was healed from the injury he received wrestling with the guardian angel of Esav; his property was still sufficient even after giving a generous gift to Esav; and his Torah learning was whole even after all the time he spent in the house of Lavan.
The Zohar takes this principle of wholeness as an existential level that Yaakov attains upon arriving in his own proper place after overcoming his challenges and accomplishing major Tikkunim, major spiritual renovations in the world:
זוהר כרך א (בראשית) פרשת וישלח [דף קסה עמוד ב[
וכדין ויבא יעקב שלם, שלם מכלא ואוקמוה, וכתיב (תהלים ע”ו) ויהי בשלם סכו וגו’ ואוקמוה, וכלא רזא חדא כדין אתחבר עמיה מהימנותא כד הוה שלים כד אתעטר בדוכתיה דאתחזי ליה, וכדין האי סכה אתעטרת בהדיה דהוה שלים מאבהן דהוה שלים מבנוי ודא הוא שלם, שלם לעילא שלם לתתא, שלם בשמיא שלם בארעא, שלם לעילא דאיהו כללא דאבהן, תפארת ישראל, שלם לתתא בבנוי קדישין, שלים בשמיא שלים בארעא וכדין ויהי בשלם סכו ואוקמוה,
Then “Yaakov came whole,” whole in all… it is all one mystical allusion. Then, when he was whole, the principle of faith connected to him, when he was crowned in his place that is fitting for him, and then the Sukkah crowned him, for he was whole with his ancestors, since he was whole with his children and that is “whole,” whole above and whole below, whole in heaven and whole on earth. He is whole above, for he comprised the totality of the patriarchs, Tiferet Yisrael, whole below with holy children, whole in heaven and whole on earth and then “his Sukkah was whole.”
Wholeness here is not just achieving a specific set of results; it is reaching an abiding spiritual awareness and power. In kabbalistic terms Yaakov, accomplishing critical Tikkunim and finding his true place in his return to Erez Yisrael, achieves the synergistic synthesis of the expansive spiritual love of Avraham and intense spiritual discipline of Yitzhak, issuing in true and compassionate spiritual harmony and stability, symbolized in the image of the Sukkah as referenced from Tehillim:
תהלים פרק עו
(ג) ויהי בשלם סכו ומעונתו בציון:
And his Sukkah and dwelling were whole in Zion.
The dynamic wholeness the Zohar refers to is also alluded to in a comment Yaakov makes to Esav earlier in the parashah. After their moving reconciliation, Yaakov urges Esav to accept the generous gifts he has sent him. Esav politely demurs, saying “I have abundance.” Yaakov responds:
בראשית פרק לג פסוק יא
קח נא את ברכתי אשר הבאת לך כי חנני אלהים וכי יש לי כל ויפצר בו ויקח:
Please accept my blessing that I have brought you, for God has been gracious to me and I have All, and he urged him and he accepted.
Esav had an abundance – of things. Yaakov has All – not just all things, but an attunement to the divine principle that guides the totality of existence that enables him to move in complete harmony with the divine Will, as the Ramban explains on Gen. 24:1 “and HaShem blessed Avraham in All.” The midrash Or HaAfelah in VaYishlach comments:
נאמר באברהם בכל ונאמר ביצחק מכל ונאמר ביעקב וכי יש לי כל ללמדך שנתברכו בכל דבר בעולם הזה ולעולם הבא.
By Avraham it says “in All,” by Yitzhak it says “from All,” and by Yaakov it says “I have All (Gen. 27:33),” to teach you that he was blessed in everything in this world and the world to come.
We reference this attunement that the Patriarchs attained to the divine principle that guides the totality of existence when we say in Birkat haMazon “May the Merciful bless… us and all connected to us just as our forefathers Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov were blessed ‘in all, from all, all,’ so may He bless us, all of us as one with a blessing of wholeness, and let us say Amen.”
We have an opportunity to realize this blessing and share an experience of this spiritual wholeness, be-ezrat HaShem, in an upcoming spiritual tour of Israel being offered by Tal Orot in partnership with Livnot U’Lehibanot in Tzfat called “Renovation of the Soul: an experience to build connection to Soul, Self, Israel and the Jewish People.”
From May 7-12, 2018, we will explore our personal connections to Judaism. It’s for adults, open to men and women of all backgrounds. We will apply the kabbalistic principle of cultivating wholeness in all dimensions of our lives, offering a range of challenging and inspiring activities for refreshing and renovating our spirit. The program will be led by us and the staff of Livnot U’Lehibanot, with an extension option for a two-day intensive workshop in Jewish Meditation on May 13-14.
This is an opportunity to embrace our heritage and make it truly our own, in our own way and at our own pace. Since each of us has much real valuable life experience, we are using the term Renovation to show that we can build upon the past, identifying areas in ourselves that can use reinforcement and thereby strengthening ourselves for the future. Taking advantage of the gifts that the city of Tzfat offers, we will explore the natural beauty of the area as well as connect to leaders in the fields of Jewish mysticism, art, culture, and community service. We include meaningful study of these topics with sources from our heritage and, for those interested, Jewish meditation practice to realize our spiritual awareness. See the complete description on our Tal Orot website, and for further information contact Anne Sendor at email@example.com.
Please join us for this spiritual adventure, and may we all merit to experience together the wholeness that Yaakov Avinu attained, that empowered him to prevail over all the challenges he faced, not just for himself but as a heritage for all of us, his children, for us to share together and with the whole world “in All, from All, All.”