Parashas Vayeitzei

This week’s parashah describes Yaakov’s sojourn in Charan. The Midrash describes Yaakov’s thoughts and prayers to Hashem at the outset of his journey (Bereishis Rabbah 68:2):
“I shall lift my eyes toward the mountains (harim)” (Tehillim 121:1) – to my ancestors (horim), my teachers, and my counselors. “Whence will come my help?” (ibid.) – “When Eliezer went to fetch Rivkah, he took with him abundant assets and treasures, including ten camels and all of Avraham’s great bounty, a gold ring and a two gold bracelets. But I am setting out on the way without even a single ring or bracelet.” … “Shall I despair of Divine help? Far be it! I shall not despair. Rather (ibid. 121:2): ‘My help is from Hashem.’”
Yaakov was a firm believer. And, indeed, he affirms: “My help is from Hashem.” Why, then, did he even raise the possibility that all was lost?
The Maggid explains with a parable. A rich man gave his son a large sum of money to get him started in business. However, the son was unsuccessful, and he eventually grew poor. He told his father his troubles, and the father responded crossly: “I don’t owe you anything anymore. I gave you your due portion of my wealth. Now you must manage on your own, with what you have left of what I gave you.” The son knew, however, that if he ever hit rock bottom, his father would bail him out generously. After some time, a fire broke out in his neighborhood and burnt his house down. The neighbors pitied him, but he himself was overjoyed, for he knew that now his father would step in and take care of all his needs.
The parallel is as follows. Hashem uses two alternate mechanisms to care for us: natural means, within the normal operation of the world, and miraculous means. Natural means corresponds to a father giving his son an endowment to establish a business and support himself. Miraculous means corresponds to a father directly taking care of all the son’s needs. Hashem generally leaves a person to manage on natural means as long as he is able to maintain a basic subsistence that way, even if the subsistence is very meager. But once it becomes absolutely impossible for a person to subsist on natural means, Hashem intervenes with miraculous means.  
When Yaakov set out for Charan, he had reached rock bottom within the world’s natural system: He was left with no assets at all. This situation prompted him to ask rhetorically: “Shall I despair of Divine help?” But, in truth, the situation did not lead him to despair. On the contrary, he rejoiced, for he knew that now he would receive help “from Hashem” – he would now be granted a higher level of Divine help, through the mechanism of miracles.   
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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