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Peace and Prosperity

Imagine that you are living in a place where everything is going your way. You are successful in your job, well-respected by your family and friends, at peace within and without. And then one day, you pick up and leave. Leave your secure home and set out on a journey fraught with difficulty, to a destination known as a treacherous place, where you will face swindlers who will cheat you at every turn.

What would induce anyone to do such a thing? Let us ask our forefather, Jacob.

“And Jacob went forth from Beersheba and went to Charan.”

Beersheba represented a place of serenity and prosperity. It was called Beersheba, which means “seven wells,” to commemorate a peace treaty that Abraham had signed with Avimelech, king of the Philistines. After the agreement was signed, they dug seven wells as a remembrance.

Jacob left Beersheba, a place of peace, security and comfort, and went to Charan. Charan represented the lowest that the world had to offer at the time. And what was his purpose in going there? To find a wife! Surely going to a place like Charan is an inauspicious way to establish a family.

Yet Jacob chose to go to Charan. This is the theme of our lives. Staying in a cocoon is comfortable; it’s easy. However, a cocoon is nothing more than a good preparation for life. It is not where life itself is meant to be played out.

Before the soul comes down to the world, it is in heaven, where it basks in the glory of G-d’s presence on a constant basis. Then G-d chooses a soul and sends it down to earth, to fulfill its mission in a lowly place, devoid of spiritual light and warmth. The soul cries, why? Why must it leave the Divine embrace for the cold environs of the physical world? Yet G-d wants us to do exactly that—to go forth, face the challenge and go out into the world, to bring the light of G-dliness into the world at large. To transform the materiality of the world into holiness, by utilizing the physical world to serve G-d.

What did Jacob do on his way to Charan? The verse says, he stopped on the way to pray. He didn’t stop to buy himself some new clothing; to learn the language of the land; to seek out business opportunities in Charan. All of these might seem to be a fitting preparation for an eligible young man who wants to get a new start in life. But Jacob did none of these. Instead, he stopped to pray. Jacob realized that his success in life would not come as a result of his physical actions. He knew that he would need to lean heavily on G-d for support and protection. Jacob stopped to pray.

But hadn’t Jacob spent the entirety of his early life doing just that—praying, and studying Torah with his father, Isaac? Why stop to pray now, just when he is setting out on his own for the first time?

Because there is no better time to pray than now. At the verge of independence, at the verge of a new life, of establishing a home and family—that is when we are most in need of prayer. Whatever spiritual accomplishments Jacob had up to that point would not fortify him for the challenges that lay ahead. He needed to gird himself with even greater spiritual powers. He needed to pray more deeply and devoutly than ever. Jacob stopped to pray.

And Jacob’s prayers carried him through his marriage to Rachel and Leah, and his dealings with his tricky father-in-law, Laban. They carried him through the births of his children, the twelve tribes of Israel. And they sustain us still, as we work to complete the mission of Jacob, to finally bring the Divine presence down, here into the physical world.



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