This Week’s Torah Portion | Nov 22 – Nov 28, 2020 – 6 Kislev – 12 Kislev, 5781
In A Nutshell
The portion, VaYetze (And Jacob Went Out), begins with Jacob leaving Beer Sheba and heading for Haran. He stops for the night and in his dream he sees a ladder “set up on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Genesis, 28:12). The Creator appears before him and promises him that the earth on which he is lying will be his, that he will have many sons, and that He will watch over him. The next morning, Jacob sets up a monument in that place and calls it, Beit El (House of God).
Jacob comes to a well near Haran, where he meets Rachel and her father, Laban the Aramean, who offers him to work for him for seven years in return for permission to marry Rachel. At the end of the seven years Laban deceives Jacob and gives him Leah instead. He compels Jacob to work for him seven more years, after which he gives him Rachel and Jacob marries her.
Leah has four sons from Jacob, while Rachel is barren. Rachel gives to Jacob her maidens, who give birth to four more of his sons. Leah delivers two more sons, until finally Rachel conceives and gives birth to Joseph.
Jacob asks Laban to pay for his work. Laban gives him some of the flock, although they had a different agreement. Jacob shows the flock the troughs, and they conceive and deliver. Some of the lambs are born striped, some are speckled, and some are spotted.
Jacob feels that Laban is not treating him as before. At the same time, an angel appears before Jacob and tells him to return to the land of Israel. He leaves without notifying Laban, and Rachel steals the idols. Laban chases them in search of the idols, catches up with Jacob on Mount Gilead, and rebukes him for fleeing and stealing the idols.
Finally, they make a covenant on the mountain. Jacob is preparing to enter the land of Israel, he sees angels accompanying him, and he calls the place, Mahanaim (two camps).
Commentary by Dr. Michael Laitman
Kabbalah always interprets stories as stages in a person’s inner growth, according to man’s purpose in this world—to discover the Creator, to achieve His degree, meaning to achieve Dvekut (adhesion).
Thus far, all the portions related to man’s initial point, Abraham, which is scrutinized through study, the group, connection with the teacher, and the books of Kabbalah. Subsequently, a person discovers the next stage, Isaac, followed by Ishmael, and then by Esau.
The portion, VaYetze (And Jacob Went Out), speaks of Jacob, who is the middle line. Abraham is the right line, and Isaac is the left line. Jacob is special in that the middle line contains all the qualities, the good, as well as the bad. In the middle line, the evil inclination and the good inclination merge in order to achieve the degree of the Creator, our goal.
The work in the middle line is done entirely in faith above reason, in bestowal, above the ego. This is the quality of Jacob in a person, and this is how it develops. Jacob leaves Beer Sheba, meaning a certain place, an inner state, and heads for Haran, which is another stage along the way. On the way there he must shift from state to state through the day and the night. In other words, Jacob experiences internal, spiritual ascents and descents.
Each ascent means that a person rises above one’s stony heart, above the stone he had placed under his head, and performs a special operation known as “sleep,” which means raising MAN. Subsequently, in a dream—in connecting to one’s higher degree—one discovers the ladder, “Jacob’s ladder,” which is the ladder of degrees. The ladder consists of 125 degrees that a person climbs up to the house of God.
While one still cannot see the entire ladder, one sees that it reaches the heaven. This is the discovery of the beginning of the way, obtained in the middle line. This is why the Creator appears before him and tells him that He is giving him an Eretz (land), meaning Ratzon (desire), with which he will now begin to work.
In other words, the whole of the desire will be sanctified, in order to bestow, to approach the Creator, and Jacob is guaranteed that he will achieve it. This is why Jacob sets up a monument in that place, at the foot of the ladder, and determines that this is the house of God (Beit El). Henceforth, he ascends directly to the purpose of creation.
As always, when a person begins to work with the desire, he or she begins to change. On the one hand, more of the evil inclination appears. On the other hand, the person corrects it through the good inclination.
An empty desire is called a “pit.” When it is full, it is called a “well.” We see in stories in the Torah that special states of ascent from state to state take place next to wells. This happens with Abraham, Isaac, Eliezer, Moses, and Zipporah.
From The Zohar: And He Looked, and Behold a Well in the Field
“When Jacob sat by the well and saw that the waters were rising toward him, he knew that his wife would come there. It is the same with Moses: when he sat by the well and saw the waters rising toward him, he knew that his wife would come there. And so it was: Jacob’s wife had come there, as it is written, ‘While he was speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep. … And it came to pass, when Jacob saw…’
“And so it was with Moses, as it is written, ‘And the shepherds came and drove them away,’ and his wife, Zipporah, came there, since the well caused them that. The well is the upper Nukva. And as they met in the upper Nukva, they met with the Nukva in this world.”
Zohar for All, VaYetze (And Jacob Went Out), item 95
The Zohar puts a special emphasis on the parallels between Jacob and Moses because here there is an extension of the middle line that has been built. In the previous wells that our fathers dug, they were still in the right or left lines. Here, however, they are in the middle line.
According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, Jacob’s arrival at Laban’s (in Hebrew, Lavan means white) indicates the upper whiteness, a very powerful light, literally the light of Ein Sof (infinity). Although it is written that Laban was wicked, it is because he appears opposite the whole of the will to receive before it has been corrected. This is why he is titled “wicked.”
Obviously, Laban is very interested in Jacob. He agrees, and he is very pleased because it is actually the governance of the Creator appearing from above, both opposite the good inclination, as well as opposite the evil inclination. That governance acts in everyone.
Laban, the upper light, the governance opposite the whole of the desire that the Creator created, wishes for the entire desire to be corrected in a person, not merely the small part known as Rachel, the small Nukva (female), but also Leah, the big Nukva. This is why Laban immediately goes for the entire desire, opposite his upper whiteness. This is the desire for which he seeks correction.
This is why he deceives; it is the governance of the Creator. This is how He tricks us each and every time, manipulating us, and we understand that this is precisely how we are straightened out: through ostensible deceits. The deceit is because we ourselves are “twisted.”
The result is that a person is compelled to take whatever is available, understanding that even if this is not the beloved Nukva, one must still take it and rise to it, despite the difficulty and the mismatch with one’s own degree.
Is Nukva a deficiency, a big desire?
Yes, Nukva is a deficiency. It is written  that a man’s wife is as his own body. The body is called a Nukva, the desire (in the soul) with which we work.
In the story about the striped, speckled, and spotted, it seems that Jacob knows how to set up the genetic process. The work here is in three lines—striped, speckled, and spotted—which are the three worlds.
“Striped” refers to the world of Adam Kadmon, the highest world, where Laban is most dominant. Then comes the “Speckled” (world of Nekudim), where the breaking took place. This is where the black dots over the white background come from. It is specifically through them that the revelation comes to a person. The “Spotted” is the world of Atzilut, opposite Adam’s soul. Through it, we correct ourselves and discover the entire Godliness.
Jacob, the middle line, set up his work in such a way that the evil inclination and the good inclination conjoin, meaning the intention to bestow with the egotistical desire to receive. Jacob can work on the stone, on the stony heart; he can connect within him all three worlds—striped, speckled, and spotted. Through this work in the middle line we truly ascend to Beit El, the house of God.
It is clear that in this manner, Rachel cannot bear children duet to lack of Hassadim, the lack of clothing for the light of Hochma. The light of Hochma cannot reach the small Nukva, only the big one, Leah. Yet, a person advances nonetheless, where by delivering more and more Kelim (vessels) on the current degree, one corrects one’s will to receive for the next degrees, called one’s “sons.”
Thus, Jacob has four sons from Leah, then more sons from Rachel’s maidens, and finally Rachel gives him Joseph.
When Jacob asks for the pay he deserves, he wants to receive the upper light in order to bestow into his Kelim, but Laban insists that everything is his. Indeed, the entire will to receive that was created, was created opposite the great upper light, which is Laban. Jacob is still not ready for it because he is still called “little Jacob”; he must fight and ascend many degrees before he becomes great and merits the name “Israel.”
Therefore, it is inevitable that Jacob and Laban will part. Jacob seemingly escapes from Laban, and Rachel steals the idols because they are her powers, her Kelim, which will have to be corrected.
What is the meaning of Rachel’s theft?
In spirituality, stealing means receiving what does not belong to me (in relation to my current state), but for which I will pay later. I cannot receive what I do not deserve. There is no bias in spirituality; everything works according to the rule, “They borrowed from Me and I collect.”  In other words, I can receive now and pay later because I cannot do it with my current strength. This is how we grow.
Children deserve to receive everything from the family, although they do not bring any income. In the next degree, when the children become parents, they repay.
Jacob flees and Laban catches up with him near Mount Gilead, where they eventually make a covenant. Although along the way Jacob follows the middle line, which is seemingly inconvenient for Laban because he wants disclosure in all the Kelim, it is clear that the disclosure must be limited, in small portions. This is why there was a conflict between Jacob and Laban, and why they made the covenant. Man and the upper force form a special system, in which we gradually advance until we achieve congruence with the upper force.
What are the angels that appear in the portion when they ascend and descend on the ladder, and when they accompany Jacob?
Angels are forces in a person on the way toward the revelation of the Creator in the corrected Kelim, according to the law of equivalence of form. We constantly acquire new forces over the will to receive, according to the ego, until we are corrected into aiming to bestow, from hate to love.
The way to reach the Creator is through “love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the great rule; it is our entire correction—love of others. A person who advances on this path and constantly ascends has assisting forces. On the Eve of the Sabbath we say (as written in the Sabbath service text), “Come in peace, angels of peace, angels of the Upper One.” This symbolizes the end of correction.
Is it a force from within or are these forces that the Creator operates?
These are forces that the Creator operates, which is why they are called “angels.” Angels are as the still, vegetative, and animate in this world, which help us sustain ourselves. An angel might be a horse or a donkey, forces that accompany us and help us carry out tasks, but which are managed by the human degree in us.
What is a discovery of an angel? When a person finds an angel, is it a discovery of the force that operates on the person?
A person discovers forces by which to continue rising from degree to degree.
The Creator seems to always appear in dreams. What is a dream?
A dream is a higher degree to which I currently cannot rise. However, I can connect to it by annulling my Kelim: my mind, my brain, and my emotions. It is as though I enter a state of Katnut (smallness/infancy), usually lying down, in order to achieve a higher degree.
When I put the stone under my head, I thus cancel all my perceptions and desires, and walk into a dream. That is, I enter a state of Katnut specifically in order to obtain a higher degree, since everything I have acquired in the previous degree is unfit for the higher degree.
In spirituality there is a gap between degrees. Each higher degree is the complete opposite of its predecessor. This is why there is the concept of going through the night, through a dream, and struggling with the angels, particularly with Esau’s angel. Each time, a person has to overcome one’s ego and sort out with what one should continue to the next degree, and what one should refrain from using in the meantime.
We can see many connections here to the upper degree: a dream is a connection; the stolen idols are a loan for the next degree; Laban is a degree that is still unattainable; is everything a kind of connection here?
The connection happens specifically now, when Jacob wants to enter the land of Israel, when Malchut connects with Bina, when the will to receive connects with the intention to bestow, when such a great correction unfolds in the desire. It is therefore clear why he calls the place Mahanaim (two camps), a place where the Creator is already present, the actual beginning of the ladder, which one has reached through the angels called “angels of the Upper One.”
From The Zohar: And Behold a Ladder Was Set On the Earth
“A ladder implies that he saw that his sons were destined to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai, since Sulam [Ladder] is Sinai because Mount Sinai is, as it is written, ‘Set on the earth with its top,’ its merit, ‘Reaching to heaven.’ All the Merkavot [structures/chariots] and the camps of high angels were descending there along with the Creator when He gave them the Torah, as it is written, ‘And behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.’”
Zohar for All, VaYetze (And Jacob Went Out), item 70
We climb up the ladder of degrees only by using the ego, the will to receive, the hatred, Mount Sinai. The ladder is built according to the exact same principle as that of the Tower of Babel. It is the whole of the ego that the Creator created, because “I have created the evil inclination.” When we correct it, we rise above it through the “spice of Torah,” using all the Torah, all the light, Laban, meaning the upper whiteness, which we use in order to correct ourselves until we reach heaven, a state where our entire will to receive is as bestowal, love.
Does this portion relate to what is happening in the world today? Are we, too, facing a degree we do not understand?
Today, all of us, throughout the world, must understand that first and foremost, we are connected; there is no way out of it. Because we are connected, we must use all our powers. Also, we must understand that it is impossible to keep using only the left line, the egotistical line by which we have been growing thus far, and by which the entire world has been progressing. Rather, now we must also find the right line within us, and build the middle line out of the two. This is why the situation we are in right now is just as though we were standing at the foot of the ladder.
The compelling, on the one hand, and the dissemination of the wisdom of Kabbalah, on the other hand, will ultimately bring us to a state where we will finally feel that we have two angels, one on the right, and one on the left. This is when we will ask, “Come in peace, angels of peace.” We will ask that they will come and make peace and put some order between us, as well as turn the egotistical qualities in each of us into qualities of bestowal. Thus, we will be able to connect to one another through those angels. All the corrections are from above. When they arrive, our desire becomes the house of God, Beit El.
According to the story in the portion, it seems that things were easier in the past. There were only Jacob and his father. Today it feels as though there are many people and it is very difficult to communicate.
The Torah seems to present nothing but a story, which we must actualize in our world. The Torah narrates it as an allegory, and we need to know how to use it.
Do we have a place where we can act?
Today the whole world is one big Esau. Opposite that, we must “extract” those people who engage in the interior part of the Torah, who are from the right side. It is said about them, “For you are the least of all the nations” (Deuteronomy, 7:7). However, they are the ones with the method.
Those from the left should also be extracted, and from the two of them together, the middle line needs to be built, “For they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them” (Jeremiah, 31:33). We and the entire world must rise up to Beit El.
We see that there is another falsehood here. How can a Kabbalist know for certain that we are not being fooled again, tricked into the next degree? Or is this how it is should be?
Why not? Jacob places his entire reason as a stone under his head and wants to climb up in a dream. He cannot climb up the ladder except in Jacob’s dream.
Does this mean that otherwise the ego will not let it happen?
I dedicate myself to this ascent. This is how I rise to the upper degree because otherwise I will not be able to leave the previous one. It always happens under the force of bestowal from above, from the force of reception known as “faith above reason.”
When we study, it sometimes feels as though we truly are completely operated, but it is very difficult to feel it in our everyday lives.
This is why we have a means called a “group.” In the group we learn how to annul ourselves before others in the group, before love of friends, love of others. In this manner, we learn to dedicate, to leave our minds and hearts, and to connect with the others “as one man with one heart,” literally in one desire, until we cannot tell one’s own from that of others. We simply become one of everyone.
Can that state exist in a family or among spouses?
It can, provided that the whole world is drawn toward it. We learn how to act this way in a group because toward the group, we can measure it. A person can advance with people with whom one studies and works in mutual spiritual work. When everyone in the group strives for it, each acquires all the powers that exist in the group and can ascend. Any other way is impossible.
Read the Original Portion Here »
Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Bechorot, 35b
Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Beitza, 15b.
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