Vayeitzei – Angels

When our forefather, Yakov, left his homeland for the house of his uncle Lavan, he lay his head down to rest on the Temple Mt, and dreamt of the ladder with angels ascending and descending.  The descending angels came to accompany Yakov out of the land of Israel.  These were guardian angels, who came to make sure that no harm came to Yakov as he set out on a dangerous journey.  He did not know what awaited him in his uncle’s house, nor how we would make ends do.  And whenever a man sets out on an unknown journey, there are unknown tests and challenges that await him.  The angels accompanied Yakov as he left to guard and watch over him.  The word that the Torah uses for Yakov’s encounter with these holy creatures was vayifga – “and he met up with.”

We find the Torah using the same word at the end of next week’s parsha, Vayishlach.  There, Yakov returns to Israel after twenty years of work in Lavan’s house, and he brings his four wives and eleven children (Binyamin was born later) with him.  As he approaches the land of Israel, a band of angels comes “out” to meet him and accompany him back into the land of Israel.  They’re not supposed to do that; the angels of Israel are on a high level not matched outside of Israel and therefore they are not meant to leave the land.  However, for Yaakov, they did so…And here as well, the Torah uses the word, vayifga’u – “And they met up with.”

The second group of angels that met Yaakov were not the same “type” of angels who accompanied him out of the land of Israel.  The second group met up with a very accomplished and successful man, not the same as the untested and young Yakov who left Israel twenty years earlier.  And that is why the Torah says vayifga’u – “and the met up.”  Yaakov’s high level was unexpected for them, for the angels.  In fact, even while Yaakov was outside of ISrael, he achieved the level of spirituality normally associated with the land of Israel.  That, for the angels, was surprising.  And that also explains why they were willing to leave Israel to give Yaakov an “honor guard” and accompany him on his way back home.  They weren’t really leaving Israel, because Yaakov was on the level of Israel.  They were just meeting with Yaakov to bring him back in…

And that also explains why the third prayer of the day – ma’ariv – is associated with Yaakov. The other two prayers, shacharit and mincha, were ordained by the Torah.  We know the spiritual level that they stand for, and therefore we can prepare for them.  However, the evening prayers were an obligation that the Jews took on themselves, of their own initiative.  And whatever we initiate on our own is associated with a higher level, a level for which we cannot prepare ourselves.  Just as Yaakov left Israel and attained new and unexpected levels of spirituality in the diaspora, so the evening prayers have the ability to raise us to new and unexpected levels.

For more detail and explanation, go to www.jerusalemconnection.org/weekly/w_Vayeitzei_5767.php

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 25, pp 150-158

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