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Torah Thought for This Week

Prepared by Rabbi Asher  Zeilingold

The Torah reading of this Shabbat is Vayetze, (beg. Gen. 28:10). The Parsha begins by telling us, "Vayetze Yaakov..." Jacob left his parents home in Be'er Sheva to flee from his wicked brother Esau, who wanted to kill him. On the advice of his mother Rivka, he was headed to the house of her brother (his uncle) Laban who lived in Charan

Be'er Sheva was a place of spiritual warmth where Jacob's father and grandfather, Abraham and Isaac, had dedicated themselves, and brought others, to the service of the One G-d.  Charan was a town of corruption and dishonesty, but it was G-d's will and design that Jacob should leave Be'er Sheva and travel to Charan where he would marry and where the Tribes of Israel would be born and raised. 

In a deeper sense each one of us experiences this Vayetze. Our Neshama, - the soul, comes from the celestial heights of 'B'er Sheva', but G-d orders it to leave -'Vayetze Yaakov' and descend into this material world, Charan. Only by overcoming the obstacles and pitfalls of a materialistic society, is the Neshama able to ascend to a much loftier plateau, a level that it could never have reached had it remained in 'Be'er Sheva.' In the first verses of this Torah portion we read how Jacob sees (in a dream) a ladder entrenched in the earth and reaching high into the heavens, and angels of G-d are ascending and descending on the ladder. The letters of the Hebrew alphabet are also the numbers, (the first letter 'Aleph' is also the number one, etc.) therefore every letter has a numerical value. Our sages point out that the numerical value of the letters of the Hebrew word 'soolom' - meaning 'ladder', (136) add up to the same numerical value as 'momon', - the Hebrew word for 'money'. Money, - our financial assets , are like a ladder entrenched in the earth and its pinnacle reaches into the heavens. Money can be the root of all evil by corrupting and debasing individual people and entire nations. However, if a person uses his assets wisely he can not only provide well for his family but can also do much good for the community and the world through the Mitzva of Tzedaka, and then his wallet - and bank account - will 'reach into heaven.'     'Money' is a metaphor for everything material. G-d has placed each one of us in this world which is 'gashmiut' - crass materialism. Each one of us is given a ladder, - we can take the materialism of this world and raise it all to the highest of the heavenly heights. When we use something for a worthy purpose in accordance with Torah, we refine its material aspect and transform it into a holy substance. Each one of us has the capacity to turn this world around and make it into a place of goodness and sanctity. A ladder is a two way street. As we raise the material to become spiritual, at the same time we bring G-d's spiritual blessings down to this earth to become blessings of material prosperity and success for ourselves and for our families.