THIS IS YOUR LIFE
On his way from his parents' home in B'ersheva to Laban's house in Charan, Jacob camps overnight at a place he will later name Beit El. The Torah states that he took some stones, placed them around his head, and went to sleep (Genesis 28:11).
On his way from his parents' home in B'ersheva to Laban's house in Charan, Jacob camps overnight at a place he will later name Beit El. The Torah states that he took some stones, placed them around his head, and went to sleep (Genesis 28:11). Rashi, the fundamental Torah commentator, notes that the stones served to protect Jacob from wild animals. This explanation begs the question - why didn't Jacob camouflage his entire body with stones? Why surround only his head?
Jacob's journey from B'ersheva to Charan can be understood as a model for the journey of life. Hopefully we all begin life in B'ersheva, a warm and caring home, and most importantly an oasis for moral and spiritual growth. The time comes, however, when the umbilical cord is cut and we must confront the "real" world with all its challenges and obstacles. The word Charan is associated with the Hebrew word "charon" which means "anger". It is a metaphor for the world at large where materialism contests with spirituality and "angers" G-d.
Jacob knew he would get involved in material and mundane matters. He and we have no choice but to do so. However, he resolved to protect himself from becoming overly enamored and obsessed with these matters, for it leads to immoral and decadent behavior. Jacob was willing to expose his hands and feet to Charan, but not his head. Yes, he would physically do what it takes to function and even succeed in the secular word, filled with wild animals of all sizes and forms, but his passion and love for Torah and spiritual development would always be preserved and nurtured.
Rabbi Yossi New is spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Tefillah in Atlanta.
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