Where Every Jew is Family

Build the Wall?

A family leaves the country stealthily to build a better life.  But the authorities caught up with him and they built a wall.

I’m speaking of Jacob and his family.  For years he worked for his uncle Lavan.  He had to leave clandestinely with his wives and cattle in order not to arouse the ire of his uncle.  But Lavan found out and they had a confrontation.  He complained, “the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks.”

You see, there are two aspects to life.  There’s the material (business, farming, leisure) and the spiritual (prayer, study, mitzvot).  Lavan was upset that Jacob was escaping.  He reasoned:
“I am willing to concede that you should live your life Jewishly.  But I’m not willing to yield the children—the new generation.  These children are the product of modern times and should be raised in the spirit of modernity and progress!

“Furthermore, religious observance is only acceptable in the synagogue, when you are praying or studying the Torah. But when you are outside the synagogue, ‘tending your flocks’ and pursuing your livelihood, you must do it my way. You must leave behind the Torah and conduct business in the ‘normal’ manner. Otherwise, how do you expect to earn a living?”

But Jacob’s response is that although materiality may appear to be the domain of ‘Lavan,’ it is really God’s domain; our mission is to elevate it and sanctify it by conducting our affairs it in accordance with the Torah’s lofty expectations of us!

Upon parting from his father-in-law, Jacob symbolically expressed these conditions for their continued relationship—which allowed for some interaction between him and Lavan—by constructing a mound of stones. As opposed to a solid wall, a mound is a collection of unconnected stones, signifying that the separation is not absolute.  Spiritually, this means that Jacob was not erecting an impenetrable barrier between himself and the realm of Lavan. He would continue to enter Lavan’s realm for the “business” of harnessing the sparks of holiness that reside there, but he would do so while remaining detached from the Lavan-like approach to life.

Similarly, the “mound” we erect to distinguish between ourselves and the mundane world around us must be left semi-permeable. Although we must cross that mound in order to conduct our business of sanctifying the material world, we at the same time must remain aloof from its materialism.

Shavuah Tov!
~Rabbi Yossi

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