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Jacob made a vow to G-d: 'If G-d will be with me, and guard me on the way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and I may return home in peace to my father's house, and the Almighty will be a G-d to me - then this stone which I have set up as a pillar shall become a house of G-d…' (28:20-22)
Jacob's vow is his reply to G-d the first time He ever spoke to him. It was in a dream, in the framework of angels going up and down the ladder that joined Earth to Heaven. G-d told him that he would give him and his numerous children the Land… He would be 'with him, take care of him wherever he goes, bring him back to this Land, and He would not forsake him' (28:14-15). Jacob's demands, however, were far more modest. He only asked for the bare essentials - bread to eat and clothes to wear - so that he would have the necessities to carry out his role in life - as the third Patriarch of the future Israelite nation. As the Radak explains, the righteous only ask for necessities, not luxuries. In effect, Jacob was in a similar mind-frame to when, much later on, he exclaimed: 'I am unworthy of all the kindness… You have shown… for I crossed this River Jordan with only my stick, and now I [have enough property to go] into two camps' (32:11).
What, however, did Jacob mean when he said: the Almighty will be 'li lelokim' - 'a G-d to me?' And why was his vow: 'then this stone which I have set up as a pillar shall become a house of G-d' contingent on that?
In response, look at King David. He was in a similar situation. He wished to build the Temple: 'Behold! I am living in a house of cedar - should the Ark of G-d remain behind a curtain?' (Sam. II 7:2). The Prophet Nathan's first response was - 'Go and do what you wish, for G-d is with you.' Only afterwards did G-d appear to Nathan and tell him that David would not have the privilege of building the House of G-d - the Temple. He had been 'a man of war who shed blood' (Chron. I 25:3). But nevertheless, G-d had been a 'deeply involved personal G-d to David, stage by stage' - from when He moved events to take him out of the shepherds pastures, enable him to strike Goliath, and later on, just squeak past Saul's numerous attempts on his life, to making him a King over Judea and later over all the other tribes. It was from this involvement that David could aspire to build the Temple.
And Jacob, in making this vow, was essentially making a similar statement. He recognized what mattered and what he needed. He needed G-d to be intimately with him in everything he did - and extreme version of Hasgacha Peratit - G-d interacting with every step a person. That is the meaning of Jacob's wish - that Almighty would be li lelokim - and only if he had such a close relationship with G-d as David was to have long after him could he think of the next stage - being able to let this stone that he had set up as a pillar become a House of G-d… which suggests that those involved with erecting structures to serve G-d should ideally aspire to do so out of deep gratitude for the role G-d has played in their personal lives…
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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