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Nov 15

Moving Sidewalks!

The speed of travelling was greatly advanced with the advent of mechanical and fuel powered engines. Before that, the speed of travel was limited to walking or using animals and ships.

However, the Talmud points out that there were two trips referred to in the Torah, when high-speed travel was employed.

When Eliezer travelled out of Israel to Charan, an arduous journey of many days, to find a wife for Yitzchok, his master Avraham’s son, he arrived at his destination on the very day that he left. Eliezer even proved this by producing a document that had been signed and witnessed on that very same day in Israel.

The second instance is recorded in this week’s Parsha. Yaacov also set out to travel from Israel to Charan. When he reached Charan he realized that he passed by the Temple Mount where his grandfather Avraham and father Yitzchok had prayed and he decided to retrace his steps. He too, made it back to the Temple Mount in a flash.

The Hebrew phrase describing this type of supercharged journey is, Kvitzas Haderech. There is a dispute between two great commentators, Rashi and Ramban as to how this phenomenon worked. Rashi understands that the destination moved toward Yaacov and Eliezer, while the Ramban says that Yaacov and Eliezer’s person sped up to arrive at their desired destination.

The Shem Mishmuel wonders why Rashi explains that the destination came to where Yaacov and Eliezer stood. He explains that Eliezer was searching for a wife for the highly spiritually infused Yitzchok, who had been placed on an altar to be sacrificed. This required a uniquely qualified person as a match. Rivka was raised in a family of idolaters.

How would Rivka and her family agree for her to leave home and marry a holy person like Yitzchok, someone totally foreign to them?

To remedy this, Rivka and her immediate surroundings came to the holy environment of Eliezer in the exalted land of Israel. This holy atmosphere enabled Rivka and her family to see things in a correct spiritual perspective so that Rivka agreed to marry Yitzchok, and her family did not stand in her way. The trip back to Yitzchok was shortened as well since they were already located in the land of Israel.

In Yaacov’s situation, when he realized that he bypassed the Temple Mount, a place previously designated for prayer by his forefathers, the Temple Mount moved toward him. Perhaps this is to display that wherever and whenever a Jew prays, his prayers are directed to the Temple in Jerusalem. This is where all prayers around the world travel, and they ascend to the Heavens through a special conduit above the Temple Mount.

The Torah portion opens describing that Yaacov left Be’er Sheva and then he went to Charan. The question raised is why doesn’t the Torah cut to the chase and simply state, Yaacov left for Charan? Rashi explains that the Torah highlights Yaacov leaving Be’er Sheva to teach us that when a righteous person leaves a place, his splendor, radiance and beauty goes with him causing a void. His holy countenance affects every area where he steps foot.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. points out another reason the Temple Mount came towards Yaacov. G-d brought the holiest place to Yaacov to show that Yaacov infused wherever he was with holiness. Reb Moshe tells us that this idea applies to us as well, for every person can effect holiness on any place he is!

The Torah relates that Yaacov fell asleep on the Temple Mount and had a prophetic dream. He dreamed of a ladder with angels going up and down the ladder. G-d then gave Yaacov instructions and a blessing.

Rabbi Nissan Alpert o.b.m. explains the significance of the ladder. At that time, Yaacov was running for his life from his hateful brother Aisav, and heading to live with his deceitful father in law Lavan. Yaacov’s spiritual space was stifled from all sides. Through the imagery of the ladder, G-d was hinting to Yaacov that the direction which is spiritually limitless and unhampered by outside influences is upward. Indeed Yaacov kept himself and his family in a spiritually charged atmosphere during his challenges by soaring above. He was not dragged down, clouded, or influenced by the deceitful Lavan or the wicked Aisav.