December 15, 2022 / 21 Kislev, 5783 • Parshat Vayeishev
Issue 748
Dedicated in loving memory of Mrs. Miriam Friedman

Jacob lived in the land where his father had lived, in Canaan. 


Rabbi Dovber, the Maggid of Mezeritch (the successor of the Ba’al Shem Tov) interpreted this verse allegorically, as follows: “Jacob tarried in earthliness in order to gather [the Divine sparks therein and elevate them] to his heavenly Father, in a profitable manner.”

Engaging the material world (“tarrying in earthliness,” eating, sleeping, earning a livelihood, etc.) is a descent from the spiritual life of studying the Torah, praying, and observing the commandments.

But when we (a) descend in this way in order to reveal the Divine potentials inherent in materiality, and (b) do so for the sake of furthering G-d’s goals rather than for the sake of personal spiritual growth, we emerge from this engagement spiritually unscathed, just as Jacob emerged unscathed from his encounters with Laban and Esau.

Moreover, just as Jacob profited from his engagements with Laban and Esau, we too will profit both spiritually and materially by elevating the sparks of Divinity inherent in even the simplest physical acts.

—from Daily Wisdom 3