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Shabbat Parashat Vayechi 5774

Ein Ayah: A Universal and a Particularistic Closeness to Hashem

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:356)

Gemara: The pasuk says: “Hashem shall answer you in a day of troubles, the Name of the G-d of Yaakov shall strengthen you” (Tehillim 20:2). It says the “G-d of Yaakov” and not “the G-d of Avraham and Yitzchak.” From here we learn that the owner of the beam should enter the thickness of the beam (Rashi – when a beam is moved, its owner should carry its thickest part; so too, Yaakov had the most toil raising the children and prayed extensively for them). 


Ein Ayah: One can divide the feelings that can bring one close to his Maker into two categories. Some are built on elements in which Bnei Yisrael are unique as the chosen nation closest to Hashem, the G-d of Israel. There are also elements that are general to mankind in its relationship with Hashem.

Avraham and Yitzchak called out in the Name of Hashem in a general manner before the Nation of Israel was formed as a separate entity operating independently. They called out in Hashem’s name for all the world to hear. With Yaakov the Nation of Israel began to flourish as a special nation with a special connection to Hashem. From then on, the advancement of the whole world depended on the separation of a nation to serve Him.

The closeness to Hashem that one experiences in a time of troubles should be aroused in matters that are close to the heart and the emotions. One pours out his soul to Hashem, knowing that Hashem is his G-d and will help those who seek His help. A Jew needs to focus his thoughts at that time according to his nation’s special characteristics. This brings his heart to strong feelings of love for and excitement about Hashem, the G-d of Israel, who allowed us to serve Him and gave us His Torah.

The universalistic connection to Hashem is full of correct ideas that straighten the mind. However, they do not energize the emotions to the special type of closeness to Hashem that is needed in a time of troubles. This requires the good actions that bring a Jew to a unique love and fear of Hashem.

Now we will connect the ideas to the gemara’s reference to the owner of the beam. [Ed. note - Rav Kook understands this as a tree trunk that is connected to branches and roots]. There are many side things, connected to a trunk, which are comparable to the universal elements of Hashem’s connection to mankind, represented by the concept of the G-d of Avraham and Yitzchak. These elements are connected to Israel’s unique national connection. However, the distance of these elements from the Jew make it harder for him to increase his connection to Hashem through the general elements. Rather, he should always focus on the particularistic elements, which are closer to the heart of a Jew who is loyal to His Torah.

This advice is true not just for an individual’s troubles but also for a community’s. People should join together under the flag of Israel, returning to proper fulfillment of the Torah and enthusiasm for the emotional elements that are special to Israel. When Israel will strengthen itself, it will also advance all of mankind’s spiritual agenda. For the ultimate, eternal goal of Israel is to call out in the Name of Hashem to the whole world, teaching all the message of peace. However, Israel’s universal impact is powerful specifically when Israel’s standing in the world is exalted. This in turn requires them to function well internally, both physically and spiritually. Then the blessing to Avraham, “In you will be blessed all the families of the world” will be fulfilled. However, at a time of troubles, the focus must be on particularistic spirituality, represented by “the Name of the G-d of Yaakov.” The thickest part of the trunk (the particular) is connected to branches and to roots on the two sides. This connection will inspire the nations of the world to desire to “go to the mountain of Hashem, to the house of the G-d of Yaakov” (Yeshaya 2:3).

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