This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Physical Fear, Moral Distress
Twenty-two years have passed since Jacob fled his brother, penniless and alone; twenty-two years have passed since Esau swore his revenge for what he saw as the theft of his blessing. Now the brothers are about to meet again. It is a fraught encounter. Once, Esau had sworn to kill Jacob. Will he do so now – or has time healed the wound? Jacob sends messengers to let his brother know he is coming. They return, saying that Esau is coming to meet Jacob with a force of four hundred men – a contingent so large it suggests to Jacob that Esau is intent on violence.
Jacob’s response is immediate and intense:
The dream of the ladder in our Parshah is something that has captivated people’s imaginations for thousands of years. Jacob, the ancestor of the Jewish people, was on a journey going far away from home. The sun set, and he lay down and slept, dreaming of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven.
The basic perspective of Judaism is that “earth,” meaning practical, physical life in all its detail, and “heaven,” spirituality and holiness, are closely connected.
The Thrill of Discovery
Did you know that our patriarchs were devoted well diggers? Imagine digging for hours or even days on end, with no visible success. You dig thirty meters and find only soil and rock. You wonder about your prospects. You wonder if your efforts are in vain. Have your prospectors miscalculated? Did you choose the wrong location? Should you persevere and dig deeper?
You decide to keep going, and your determination is shortly rewarded. Imagine the thrill of discovering a new wellspring. Fresh water suddenly abounds and you know that the invested hours and days were purposeful. Your discovery has fulfilled them; your effort has crowned them with achievement.
Striking water is the purpose of well digging. Discovering the wellspring is what it's all about. It is the reason well digging was such a preferred occupation of the early Jews.