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And Yaakov made a vow saying if Hashem
will be with me and guard me on this path that I am embarking upon,
and if He will give me food to eat and clothing to wear,
and he will return to my father’s house in peace
…. “ – Bereishis 28:20

As Yaakov Avinu is running from his parents’ home to escape from Eisav, he recognizes he is beginning a new chapter in his life. He turns to Hashem and pleads for four things:

  1. Hashem should be with him.
  2. Hashem should protect him.
  3. Hashem should return him to his home in safety.
  4. Hashem should give him food to eat and clothing to wear – parnassah.

The Midrash tells us Hashem granted three of the requests but not the fourth, saying, “If I guarantee him his daily needs, he won’t have any reason to turn to Me.” So Hashem did not answer the request for his parnassah.

This Midrash seems difficult to understand when we take into account that this is Yaakov Avinu. Chazal tell us Yaakov was the greatest of the Avos. He was a man who walked with Hashem – constantly. At the core of his essence was a deep craving to be close to Hashem. He lived to serve Hashem.

It almost sounds as if Hashem is saying, “I have to keep Yaakov from getting too comfortable; otherwise he will forget Me. I can’t promise him sustenance because then he won’t need Me. He won’t write. He won’t call. He won’t love Me anymore.”

Yaakov, however, was a person so motivated to have a relationship with Hashem that he always clung to Him. What difference would it make if he didn’t have to worry about making a livelihood? Of course he would still reach out to Hashem. Of course he would still see Hashem in every occurrence in his life.

The answer to this question is based on a fundamental understanding of man. Hashem created the human being in a state of flux. Hashem took a neshamah – pure seichel, unadulterated intellect and understanding – and enveloped it in layers and layers of physicality. At the core of a person’s essence are certain understandings – concepts we intuitively know but are blocked by the effects of being housed in a body. The goal of the human is to cut through the layers of physicality and keenly perceive those truths of purpose that are instinctive to our neshamos.

Every man – even a man as great as Yaakov Avinu – is a human being who requires exercise in seeing Hashem. He needs to flex his spiritual muscles by calling out to Hashem and recognizing his total dependence on Him. When a person needs something and must turn to Hashem, that process brings him to a higher level of appreciating his dependence on Hashem. For that reason, Hashem didn’t guarantee Yaakov Avinu sustenance. Yaakov needed the need so that he would become closer to Hashem.

If Only…

This concept has great relevance to our lives. We often think we would be better able to serve Hashem if only

If only making a living wasn’t so difficult…If only I didn’t have medical issues…If only I could find my bashert

At times it almost seems as if Hashem is deliberately sabotaging our well-laid plans for serving Him. And it doesn’t make much sense.

But one of the reasons a person has to struggle in this world is so that he will recognize it is Hashem Who is at the center of His universe and it is Hashem Who orchestrates every part of creation. The basis of our entire avodas Hashem is to perceive that Hashem is completely, totally, irrevocably involved in everything that happens in this world – and we are dependent upon Him.

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Rabbi Shafier is the founder of The Shmuz is an engaging, motivating shiur that deals with real life issues. All of the Shmuzin are available free of charge at or on the Shmuz App for iphone or Android.