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Higher Purpose

Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3 )

by Rabbi Yehoshua Berman

On his way to Charan to temporarily live in the house of his uncle Lavan, Yaakov stops in a certain place to rest. "And he took from the stones of the place and he put [them] by his head and he lay down (to sleep) in that place (Gen. 28:11)." That night, Yaakov had his famous dream about the angels going up and down the ladder, with the Shechina, God's Presence atop the ladder. In response to this revelation "he arose in the morning and he took the stone that he [had] put by his head and he placed it as a single-stone alter and he poured oil on its top (Gen. 28:18)."

Our Sages note the obvious discrepancy between the plural tense "stones" in verse 11 and the singular tense "stone" in verse 18. They explain that the stones began to argue with one another, each one saying, "Upon me shall this tzaddik rest his head." In order to satisfy them all, God caused the stones to merge into one.

With this homiletic expression, our Sages are teaching us a fundamental reality of existence, and a lesson of tremendous import in respect to the moral obligation of the human being in general, and of the Jew in particular.

This concept is elucidated by the "Mesillas Yesharim". In the chapter entitled "In the Explanation of the Obligation of the Human Being in His World" he writes as follows: "And if you will delve further into the matter you shall see that the world was created for the usage of the human being. However, behold, it stands in a great balance, for if the human being shall be drawn after the world and thus become distanced from his Creator, behold, he becomes ruined and he ruins the world with him; and if he controls himself and becomes close to his Creator and makes usage [of things] from the world only to be for him as an aid for the service of his Creator, he is uplifted and the world itself becomes uplifted with him. Because behold, it is a great elevation for all creatures when they serve the complete human being who is sanctified in the sanctity of Hashem."

Human beings are not like cows that are perfectly content with a patch of grass in a nice shady spot. The human being has an incessant, innate drive that constantly pushes him to be in an unceasing search of achievement, purpose, and meaning. God created the human being with this innate, internal awareness because it is only through the human being that the purpose of creation can be fulfilled.

The human being, whether he is aware of it or not, is in constant search of his Creator.

If he will become consciously aware of this fact of the human condition, he can then in turn become cognizant of the fact that the human being will never discover true meaning in purely worldly endeavors. Only in that which transcends mundane existence - only in the realm of the spiritual (infused into the physical) will real meaning be found.

Only by serving and cleaving to his Creator does the human being find true satisfaction and joy. If he will ignore the innate stirrings of his soul, though, he will be doomed to go from distraction to distraction (which society has ruefully dubbed "entertainment") in order to escape from the torturous pangs of a meaningless life.

Of course, it is the Torah that teaches us how to achieve the depth of purpose and meaning in life that our souls seek.

However, we must not think that this is only a personal matter that each individual decides for himself. Rather, one must realize that the decisions one makes in this regard impact the entirety of existence. The world was created solely for this purpose of achieving true meaning, by serving the Creator, and thus becoming attached (as it were) to Him. Everything that the human being (and in particular the Jew) makes usage of to this end infuses that item with this kedusha (holiness) of being attached to the Creator. Furthermore, it generates a unification of the disparate aspects of creation in revealing that they all come from One Source. This can be understood from the fact that the stones merged together. In short, we must be aware that the path we choose in life determines not only the attainment of our personal purpose, but the impact also travels far, far beyond each individual's personal sphere.


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