TAKING THE GOOD
In this week's Torah portion, Hashem appears to Jacob in the famous dream of the ladder reaching to heaven, and promises him that his descendants will inherit the land of Israel. Hashem also declares that Jacob's descendants shall be as numerous "as the dust of the earth" (Genesis 28:12-15).
In this week's Torah portion, Hashem appears to Jacob in the famous dream of the ladder reaching to heaven, and promises him that his descendants will inherit the land of Israel. Hashem also declares that Jacob's descendants shall be as numerous "as the dust of the earth" (Genesis 28:12-15). When Jacob wakes up from his dream, he realizes the magnitude of what he has just experienced, and makes a vow to Hashem. Jacob begins his vow by reiterating the promises that Hashem just made to him in the dream, concluding with Hashem's agreement that He "will be my G-d" (ibid. 28:21), and continues by delineating what he will do in return.
Rashi, the fundamental commentator on the Torah, explains that Jacob was asking that Hashem's name should be upon him from beginning to end - that Hashem not find anyone unfit among Jacob's descendants. Meaning, there should be no Jews throughout the history of the Jewish people that are unfit to be a part of G-d's chosen people.
As the descendants of Jacob, we must do everything that we can to make sure we remain fit to be the people of Hashem. Because of this promise that Hashem made to Jacob, every Jew is fit to live like a Jew. From that time, Hashem created us all with the potential for developing a meaningful relationship with Him.
We see proof to this all around us. Unfortunately, so many of our Jewish brethren are choosing not to live as Jews, and this is clearly resulting in lives being lived in the absence of G-d. Far too many have become so enwrapped in the culture around them that they have dismissed any connection that they might have had to the Jewish people, thereby breaking all ties with Hashem.
Rabbi Mordechai Willig, of the Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchonon, recently related the following idea on Parshat Lech Lecha: Both Abraham and his nephew Lot descended to the land of Egypt to avoid the horrible famine raging in the land of Israel. While in Egypt, they both accumulated much material wealth, but there was a huge difference between the two of them. Abraham was able to acquire the material wealth without becoming corrupted by even one of the abhorrent customs of Egypt, while Lot become so entrenched in this pitiful society that, within a short period of time, Abraham couldn't even have his nephew live in the same place as him anymore.
We have to follow this lesson from our Patriarch. Abraham was able to take the good from Egypt without touching the bad. So should we only take the things that we need out of the society that surrounds us, without touching those things that could drive us away from the service of Hashem. Hashem has given all of us the potential to be an Abraham, and only when we ignore our responsibilities do we stoop to the level of a Lot.
May we all grow in our study of Torah and observance of mitzvot, so that we can fulfill the potential that was promised to us from Hashem through Jacob.
Pinchas Landis, a native Atlantan, is in his first year at the Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchonon (Yeshiva University) in New York.
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