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Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach 5777

Parashat Hashavua: All about Yatzov

Harav Yosef Carmel

Hebrew is a special language, as the Ramban (Shemot 30:13) explains so beautifully. We call it Lashon Hakodesh because the words of Torah and of prophecy were given in this beloved language, including invoking His holy names. In fact, Hashem used Lashon Hakodesh to create the world and name everything in it, including giving the names of the righteous people. Today we will look at the deep way in which the root “yatzov” is used.

The pasuk says that after settling in Shechem, buying a field, and pitching tents, Yaakov “erected (vayatzev) an altar, and he called it, Kel Elokei Yisrael” (Bereishit 33:20). The term vayatzev is puzzling, considering that we usually talk about building an altar (out of smaller stones), not erecting one (which implies one large stone).

The root is found several other times regarding Yaakov, in last week’s and this week’s parashiot. Yaakov saw a ladder mutzav (standing) on the ground, Hashem was nitzav alav (standing over him), and he erected a matzeva (monument) at the place where he received the prophetic dream (Bereishit 28:12-18). Upon returning to this holy place after the long stay with Lavan, the root appears three more times from Bereishit 35:9-15, discussing his erecting another matzeva for worship of Hashem. Later in our parasha, Yaakov erects another matzeva, this time on the burial place of his wife Rachel (ibid. 35:20).

We will use the thesis that we have demonstrated elsewhere, that the root yatzov is a hint at the revelation of the Divine Presence. Sometimes this is explicit in the context, and sometimes it is the Torah’s way of hinting at this Presence. Thus, the monument on Rachel’s grave is not simply a way of marking it but indicates that Yaakov established a spiritual center for service of Hashem at that holy site. Therefore, there should be no surprise when we note that the root arises in the description of Bnei Yisrael encamped at the foot of Mt. Sinai in preparation for the Divine Revelation at the giving of the Torah (Shemot 19:16-17).

The root is also used to describe Miriam standing by to observe what would happen to her baby brother, Moshe (Shemot 2:4). Bnei Yisrael are likewise nitzavim in unison before Hashem to enter the covenant together. In next week’s parasha as well, the sheaves that represent Yosef and his brothers stand up (Bereishit 37:5-7). With that account, Yosef was telling his brothers that his special relationship with his father did not just find expression in his special cloak (ketonet passim). Rather, he inherited his father’s ability to receive prophetic dreams in which Hashem reveals Himself, as is hinted by the root yatzov.

Let us pray that we too will merit to all stand before Hashem and receive a Divine Revelation through which much light will chase away the darkness that surrounds us.

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