Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

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Parshat Vayeitzei 5782
Rabbi Jablinowitz

We read in this week’s parsha about Yaakov’s journey to the house of Lavan. The Torah tells us that at the beginning of the journey, he stops at a well. The pasuk says (Chapter 29, Pasuk 2), וירא והנה בארבשדה, Yaakov saw a well in the field. And the pasuk continues and describes shepherds from three flocks who would gather at the well. Finally, the pasuk concludes והאבן גדולה על פי הבאר, there was a large stone atop the well. In the next pasuk we read that the shepherds from the three flocks, in order to give their sheep to drink, would join together to remove the stone from the Be’er, a task which ultimately Yaakov Avinu was able to accomplish himself, ויגל את האבן מעל פי הבאר.

The commentaries agree that there is a deeper meaning behind the well, the stone, and the three flocks. The Ramban teaches that the well represents the Beis Hamikdash, the source of our Divine connection in this world. And the shepherds of the three flocks represent the עולי רגלים, Clal Yisrael going up three times a year to the Beis Hamikdash. And it’s during this time that Bnei Yisrael would be able to remove the rock and imbibe themselves with inspiration from the Chag in the Beis Hamikdash. And upon leaving, the rock would be placed back on the Be’er, a נעילת החג, waiting for the next Yom Tov and the next opportunity to breathe in the holiness of Yom Tov in Yerushalayim in the place of the Beis Hamikdash.

The Sfas Emes teaches a different meaning of the encounter at the Be’er. He quotes his grandfather the Chidushei HaRim who says in the name of the Arizal that the world is compared to a desert. Just as a desert is desolate, so too this world lacks a clear indication of Gd’s presence and involvement in the world. This changes on Shabbos. On Shabbos, the world is like a Sadeh, a field, as the pasuk says in Shir HaShirim (Chapter 7, Pasuk 12) לכה דודי נצא השדה. Just as the significance of a field is in its ability to be planted and produce, so too, Shabbos creates many opportunities of feeling and experiencing Gd in the world and in our lives. On Shabbos, we move from a desert to a field. But just as working a field requires much work, so too experiencing an inspirational Shabbos necessitates effort.

According to the Sfas Emes, the three flocks removing the rock represent man putting in his full effort. בכל לבבך, ובכל נפשך, ובכל מאודך. Just a man puts his full efforts during the week in his worldly matters, his work, his business, etc., on Shabbos all of his focus is on Shabbos Kodesh. And this is the essence of the cessation from Melacha. We put our entire focus on the beauty of Shabbos and totally remove ourselves from our mundane lives. And when the three powers of man combine together, then we are able to imbibe from the באר בשדה, from the wellsprings of the holiness of Shabbos.

But the impediments are great; והאבן גדולה על פי הבאר. Chazal teach in Avos (Chapter 5, Mishnah 6), that the פי הבאר was created on Erev Shabbos, בין השמשות. The word Erev is spelled ערב which means mixture, and בין השמשות is a time of light and dark together. When Shabbos comes in, we need to remove the rock first. The light is accompanied by darkness, so we need to focus all our energy to achieve the Kedushah and take in the light and remove the darkness. And one who achieves the level of Emes of Yaakov Avinu can do it easily. The honest, sincere Jew who anxiously awaits Shabbos and focuses all of his כוחות on Shabbos removes the rock with ease like Yaakov, ויגל את האבן מעל פי הבאר.

Good Shabbos

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