As we begin this week’s Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we notice that the Torah focuses on Jacob’s spiritual service which is done while in an undesirable environment. Jacob is forced to leave the land of Israel and go to Charan, a city whose very name is associated with the arousal of G-d’s wrath. He is forced to work for the deceitful Laban, and marries and establishes his family, laying the foundation for the Jewish people of all future generations. Even after leaving Charan, Jacob’s path is fraught with difficulty when he must confront his brother Esau.
At first glance, it seems unusual that the Torah would concentrate on these aspects of his life instead of centering on Jacob’s activities in the sphere of holiness. But the narrative of Jacob’s difficulties is included in the Torah precisely because “the deeds of the Patriarchs are a sign for their descendants.” There is much for us to learn and emulate from Jacob’s trials and tribulations.
The Torah states: “He (Jacob) encountered the place. He slept there because the sun set, and he took from the stones of the place and put them around his head. And he lay down in that place.”
Analogously, the concealment of G-d in this material world causes the Jew to “lie down.” When a person lies down, his head and his feet are on the same level. In contrast, when a person stands, and even when he sits, his head–his intellectual faculties, are raised above the rest of the body. When a person lies down, all the parts of the body are on the same level.
As applied to us, the concealment of G-dliness in the physical world, particularly in our generation, which immediately precedes the coming of Moshiach and the Messianic Era, causes the revelation of a person’s conscious powers to be hindered to the extent that one’s head and feet are on the same level.
Yet there is a positive aspect to lying down as well. When Jacob chose that site to lie down and sleep, it was the first time he had slept in many years. We are taught that during the 14 years he spent learning in the House of Study of Shem and Eber, and likewise, during the 20 years he worked for Laban, Jacob did not sleep at night but instead read from the book of Psalms. Also, that very place where he chose to sleep was none other than the future site where the Holy Temple would be built in generations to come.
Although lying down would usually imply a descent, a lowering of the level of one’s higher, spiritual powers, it can also be interpreted in a positive manner, for the revelation of G-d’s essence is above all particular qualities and is simultaneously reflected in them. In relation to the greatness of G-d, head and feet are on the same plane.
This level of connection to the infinite can continue even after a person arises and stands on his feet. Although his conscious powers assume control, he will still recognise the fundamental equality which stems from a connection to G-d’s essence. Thus, the Jew confirms that not only can the material never obscure the spiritual, and in fact, is a vehicle for its expression, but he can reach a level above all limitations, establishing a unity between the material and the spiritual. Moshiach NOW!!!