Parashas Vayeitzei

This week’s parashah opens by describing the dream Yaakov had at the site of the Beis HaMikdash. The Torah relates that when Yaakov awoke from his dream, he declared (Bereishis 28:16-17):
Indeed, Hashem is present in this place, and I did not know. … How awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of God – it is the gate to heaven.
Speaking about the second verse in this passage, the Midrash states (Bereishis Rabbah 69:7):
This verse teaches that Hashem showed Yaakov the Beis HaMikdash being built, being destroyed, and being built again. And he felt fearful, and he said: “How awesome is this place!” – this alludes to the Beis HaMikdash being built, as it is written (Tehillim 68:36): “You are awesome, O God, from Your sanctuaries.” This is nought – this alludes to the Beis HaMikdash being destroyed, as it is written (Eichah 5:17-18): “Over this, our hearts were sick; over these, our eyes darkened. Over Mount Zion, which lies desolate, foxes prowling upon it.” But the House of God – this alludes to the Beis HaMikdash being rebuilt and fully adorned in the end of days, as it is written (Tehillim 147:13): “For He has set firm the bars of your gates [referring to the gates of the Beis HaMikdash].”
This Midrash is puzzling. Yaakov’s statement, “This is nought but the House of God,” is evidently a portrayal of the supreme sanctity of the site where the Beis HaMikdash would eventually be built. What prompted our Sages to read into this statement an allusion to the Beis HaMikdash’s destruction?
To explain what the Sages had in mind, the Maggid turns to the following verse (Yeshayah 45:15): “Indeed, You are a God who conceals Himself – O God of Israel, Savior.” This verse describes how Hashem watches over us from behind the scenes, working wonders to save us when we are in peril. Chovos HaLevavos, Shaar HaBechinah, ch. 5, puts the matter as follows:
If a person in our times wishes to behold a phenomenon resembling the miracles of yore, let him take an honest look at how we have endured among the gentile nations from the time we went into exile, and how we have managed to conduct orderly lives among them, despite the fact that we differ from them both inwardly and outwardly, and they know that this is so.
The Maggid discusses this matter at length in his commentary on the haftarah of Shabbos HaGadol. In this haftarah it is written (Malachi 3:6): “For I, Hashem, have not changed – and you, the sons of Yaakov, have not perished.” The fact that we have not perished is proof that Hashem has not changed – that He continues to take loving care of us, as it is written (Vayikra 26:44): “But despite all this, though they are in the land of their enemies, I have not rejected them and I have not abhorred them to destroy them, to break My covenant with them, for I am Hashem their God.” The difference is simply in the way Hashem’s care is manifested. In the glory days of yore, Hashem performed open miracles for us, and His wondrous kindnesses could be seen clearly by one and all, from the wisest sage down to the simplest commoner. But now His kindnesses are hidden, and can be perceived only by discerning men who look upon our situation in exile with a penetrating eye. Thus, Hashem is a God who conceals Himself, but remains our guardian and savior.
During the era when Hashem cared for us through open miracles, there was no need to present proofs of His providence – it was an obvious fact that no one would deny. But in the present era, with Hashem caring for us in a hidden fashion, we need our righteous leaders to present proofs of Hashem’s continuing kindnesses to bolster our faith that He is still with us. These two eras of Jewish history are alluded to in the first two parts of Yaakov’s statement. Yaakov begins by saying: “How awesome is this place!” Here, he is alluding to the era when Hashem tended to us through awesome acts. He then continues: “This is nought but the House of God.” It is as if Yaakov is striving to refute those who doubt Hashem’s providence, bringing proofs that the world remains Hashem’s domain. Our Sages reasoned that this statement must be alluding to the era after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, when Hashem’s providence ceased to be openly manifest, and proofs became necessary to show that Hashem is indeed still caring for us.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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