Vayetze: Humans and Angels; Who Needs Whom?

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The Zohar notes an interesting distinction in Torah’s description of the angels who met Yaakov on his way out of and into the Land of Israel. Who searched for whom, and why?

Single vs. Married

When Yaakov returned to Israel after his years in Charan, the verse says, “And the Angels of Hashem came to him.” Years earlier, when he left Israel, it says, “And he came to the place” [where he dreamed of angels].

The Zohar explains:

“When Yaakov went out to Charan, he was unmarried. And the verse states, ‘And he came to the place.’ After he was married and returned with all the tribes, it was as if the camps of angels met him and entreated him, as it is written, ‘And the angels of Hashem came to him.’ They came to meet him. At first, he ‘came to the place.’ But now, they, i.e. the angels – ‘came to him.’ … Also, at first, he saw them at night in a dream. Now he saw them with his eyes during the daytime.”

In other words, before Yaakov had embarked on fulfilling his life’s mission, still as a single man, he was forced to go and search for the place [of G-d, where he had the vision of angels]. And more so: His vision of the angels on a ladder was only in a dream. But when he returned from Charan after carrying out his mission, together with his sons (whom the verse calls “his brothers”), with a wholesome family, along with the product of his years of work, the sheep, (along with their spiritual equivalents), he no longer needed to seek them out. To the contrary: they searched for him, as the verse says, “and the angels of Hashem met him.” And moreover: it wasn’t in a dream, it was in broad daylight.

Chassidism explains that when Hashem sends a revelation from above (called it’aruta dili’eilah) in order to inspire the individual (called it’aruta dilitata), the revelation doesn’t ‘permeate’ the subject. In other words, its impact isn’t guaranteed; the individual must act for the revelation to have lasting results. However, when the individual begins with his own deeds, and reaches higher spiritual levels on his own, it is guaranteed to produce a revelation (and continued revelations) from above.

When the Angels Look for You

This is a lesson for every person’s personal life mission:

If a Jew occupies himself with only his own spiritual goals, he will remain be a loner no matter how high he reaches, and he will always need to ‘search’ for his ‘place.’ And even after finding it, it will be only in the form of a ‘dream.’

But when a Jew embraces his mission to educate one Jew, than another, and than another, and fulfills his mission as it should be fulfilled, notwithstanding the fact that his mission brings him to Charan, far from the Land of Israel – then, God’s blessing comes in the form of ‘angels seeking him out.’ He doesn’t need to search for it; heaven offers its help and assistance in whatever he may need – and not in a dream, but in reality.

This task is expected of every single Jew, even those who pursue full time Torah study. They too, each have a unique mission to accomplish in the world. Our Sages taught (as we cited earlier in the Chassidic discourse), that Adam, the first man, designated the purpose of every location in the world, meaning, that every place – and every person – has a designated mission and purpose. 

Indeed, the Chabad Rebbes emphasized the importance of spreading Judaism to other Jews and noted that this is the obligation of every individual without exception. For, no matter how much one invests in his own spiritual growth, he will always be “searching out G-d” instead of “G-d searching him out” as a result of engaging with others.

4 Cheshvan 5721. (Toras Menachem vol. 1 pg. 187).

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