Life does not alway go as planned. Dismissal from a job, separation from a spouse, financial troubles, and other pressures can jolt us out of our comfort zone and force us into an unknown future.
Such is the situation in which Ya’akov finds himself in Toldot, the Torah portion we just read on Shabbat. Ya’akov is an “ish tam yoshev ohalim,” a wholesome man living a contemplative life who is forced to leave his home since his brother Esav wants to kill him. He flees to Charan, alone and penniless.
But our commentators explain how, just before leaving, one event changes everything. His father Yitzchak summons him, blesses him, and charges him with a mission: to continue the lineage established by his grandfather Avraham and to build the nation of Israel. Go to Charan, find a wife, raise a family, guide and lead them with the values of your forebears.
Ya’akov is transformed from a refugee on the run to an individual who builds a glorious future not only for himself but for the entire nation. He is no longer “fleeing from” but “going towards.”
This outlook of looking forward to the future with a sense of purpose is worthwhile to adopt in our personal and national lives. It’s always possible to change our perspective, especially when our team at work, our children, or just ourselves are given a task, a purpose, and a mission; then, all of a sudden, everything looks different as life takes on new meaning with greater potential than ever before.
The Power Of Rachel; The Power Of Love
Two amazing passages appear in this week’s Torah portion and both of them teach us much about the power of love.
At the beginning of the parasha, we read that Rachel Imeinu comes to water her flock at a well which is covered with a massive stone. Generally speaking, a combined effort of several shepherds is needed to move this stone from the mouth of the well. But what happens when Ya’akov takes one look at Rachel? “When Ya’akov saw Rachel . . . he went up and rolled the stone off the mouth of the well.” Suddenly the heavy stone becomes light. Inspired by the sight of Rachel, Ya’akov virtually defies the law of gravity itself.
Afterwards, Ya’akov works seven years in order to marry Rachel, and this period is described in the following beautiful verse: “So Ya’akov worked seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.” Once again we see how love vanquishes an arduous challenge: Seven years pass like a few days. If previously the law of gravity was defied, now the idea of time is rendered meaningless.
The connection between Ya’akov and Rachel reminds us of the power of love, of human connection, of those individuals who awaken us, inspire us, and give us extraordinary strength. There are people who clip our wings and others who give us wings. By whose side should we choose to live?