I RAISE MY EYES TOWARDS THE MOUNTAINS TO SEE WHERE MY RESCUE WILL COME FROM
It is written: "I raise my eyes towards the mountains to see where my rescue will come from. My rescue will come from the Eternal who made the Heavens and the Earth". When man examines his conscience, recognizes the sins he committed against the Creator, sees how he soiled his body and soul and how he irritated G-d through his numerous sins, he sinks into despair and says: "Where will my rescue from?" How will his repentance be accepted? What help can he get from Heaven? He then discovers that he is nothing and that he must return to G-d by his own means.
But, according to King David, man should never fall into despair because by doing so, he is surrendering to the work of Satan. The doors of Teshuvah are never closed for any Jew, even if he has sinned. For example, Menache, King of Israel, introduced idolatry into the Holy Temple. But when he repented, the Eternal accepted the repentance. The verse continues: "My rescue will come from the Eternal". Do not be discourage. Know that the Eternal will help if you admit your sins, if you recognize how many universes you have ruined... by your transgressions.
King David continues: "...who made the Heaven and the Earth." Why did he say this? Doesn’t everyone know that G-d is the Creator? He said this because Heaven and Earth undergo changes as a result of the sins committed by man: The accusers come out from everywhere and demand the destruction of the world. But the existence of the universe and the works of the Creation are possible only when we study the Torah and carry out good deeds. The Eternal renews His Creation every moment and shows His mercy. He also helps man to "renew" himself through Teshuvah as long as man recognizes his mistakes and constantly examines his conscience. For it is essentially the evil inclinations that try very hard to prevent man from examining his conscience. This is why King David says: "It is the Eternal who protects you, He is at your right like your tutelary shadow...May the Eternal guard you from all evil". Sin distances man from G-d, but if he repents and comes back to his Creator, the Eternal helps and protects him jealously.
It is written in the Talmud (Midrash Rabah, Vayetseh, 68): "Rabbi Shimon ben Netanel opened his teaching by: Song of degrees. I raise my eyes towards the mountains to see where my rescue will come from..." What does the verse say about Eliezer who went searching for Rebekah on behalf of his master? "The servant took ten camels..." But Jacob said: "I have no ring or bracelet" and he continued: "I will not, in any case, lose faith in G-d. All my hope is in Him for my rescue will come from the Eternal who created the Heavens and the Earth".
Our patriarch said to himself: "If Eliezer succeeded in making Rebekah leave the house of Laban and Betuel, it is because of the gifts he brought. Everyone saw the riches he brought from my father’s house. How will I be able to marry one of Laban’s daughters since I have neither bracelet nor ring?" In other words, Jacob understood how far he was from the deeds of his ancestors and even from Eliezer, Abraham’s servant. Do not forget that when Laban tried to kill Eliezer, Eliezer saved himself by pronouncing the ineffable Name. Laban became scared of Eliezer and invited him to his father’s house where he had just got rid of the idols. As for Jacob, Eliphaz deprived him of his possessions. Why would Laban fear him? He was ready to kill him.
"I raise my eyes towards the mountains", said Jacob - towards the patriarchs. Their virtue even saved Eliezer from Laban, materially and spiritually. I did not have this privilege, Jacob continued. "Meain yavo ‘ezri - Where will my rescue come from?" Didn’t Jacob trust the Eternal who promised to protect him? It should be stressed that, when man is assailed with suffering of any kind, he must examine his deeds. To save himself from Eliphaz, Jacob could have also pronounced the ineffable Name, just like Eliezer did. But he understood that he had gaps to fill. After having realized he was far from the path of his fathers, he went to study at the Yeshivah of Chem and ‘Ever for fourteen years. His main preoccupation at the time was paving a path for his children and showing that they shouldn’t try to escape problems by pronouncing the divine Name. Instead, they should find the source of their hardships. And if they had difficulties, it was a sign that they were far from the path of their ancestors. In that case, they would have to examine their behavior but they should never sink into despair...They would then become aware of their "nothingness" - MEAIN - and tell themselves: the rescue, certainly, cannot come from myself: - MEANI - alone, I can’t do anything. "My rescue will only come from the Eternal."
One should, therefore, never lose hope. Instead, one must raise his eyes towards the Eternal and trust Him. He will always find a way to help us... Instead of being despaired, Jacob prayed to the Eternal for a rescue. He told himself that he had no less merit than Eliezer, and, contrary to his servant, he would be helped by G-d without having to pronounce the ineffable Name. Then came Eliphaz who deprived him of his possessions. Sometimes, this is how the Holy One, Blessed Be He, acts in order to save the body and soul of man. The most important here is that He strips him of his possessions for "Charity saves from death."
I read in a Mussar (Ma’ayane Ha’hayim) that it is forbidden to use Tefila and blessings from a Tzadik for petty matters. After having received blessings for themselves and their descendants, our patriarchs used them for the perfection of their service to the Divine. They also comforted their descendants and asked them not to rebel against the Eternal for the ways of the Holy One, Blessed be He, are always just.
This is what Jacob also did: after having received all the blessings, he left in joy to fulfill his wish...When, after the massacre of Chekhem, the divine ire spread all over the cities, our patriarch "took a stone and set it up as a memorial pillar" in honor of G-d. Soon after, his wife Rachel died. Wasn’t this a terrible trial for Jacob? No, because he accepted G-d’s judgment. This shows how much he loved his Creator.
On the other hand, G-d’s judgment protected the children of Israel...Rachel was buried on the way to Bethlehem. If she had not been buried there, many misfortunes would have happened to them. Thus we now understand why Jacob "set up a memorial pillar" in Bethel. Before she died, he took twelve stones and put them under his head because he was scared of the savage beasts that could attack his head during his sleep (see Rashi who quotes our Sages.) But the stones argued: "It is on me that the righteous will lay his head." What did G-d do? He joined them together into one stone. It is written: "He took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep" (Genesis 28:11). A number of questions can be brought up here:
1) Why did our Patriarch only fear for his head? The savage beasts could have devoured all of his body!
2) How can we imagine that Jacob feared the savage beasts?
3) Why did he exactly take twelve stones?
4) Why did G-d join them all together into one? Couldn’t he have made them be quiet? Warn them? They could be stuck together but not necessarily form a pillar!
This can be explained by the fact that Jacob wanted to prepare a clear path for his children. We know that in Heaven, there are twelve doors for prayer (see the writings of HaAri, zal) and Jacob knew that he would have twelve children. He feared the evil inclinations that would put bad thoughts - and especially thoughts of dispute - into man’s heart and head, particularly during prayer. It would not be easy for the twelve tribes to form a perfect homogenous unit: "The tribes of the Eternal that celebrate the name of the Almighty...". One cannot imagine that disagreement regarding inheritance, status, etc... would separate them. For dissension in the inferior world also cause dissension in the superior one. The Divine Providence slips away, and harsh trials torment the world. Everyone knows that the second Temple was destroyed only because of gratuitous hate, as for the first Temple, it was destroyed because the precepts of the sabbatical year were not observed correctly (people were only concerned with their own well-being and didn’t share their fields with the needy).
Jacob who was at the spot where the Temple was to be erected, gathered the twelve stones, which represent the twelve hearts of the tribes, and put them under his holy head to chase the savage beasts away, thus sparing the stones from the forces of evil. Hence, when he gathered and united the tribes in the area where our Holy Temple was to be built, there was an "awakening from beneath" that lead to an "awakening from above" destined to help man.
As a result, the stones started to argue because every tribe wanted to benefit from the Tzadik’s influence in order to better fight the battle against evil inclinations. G-d saw that this dissension was dangerous to their unity. He also understood Jacob’s good intentions aimed at paving a way for his descendants. Thus He didn’t show His anger towards the stones - the tribes. He didn’t order them to gather into one big stone. He Himself united them into a homogenous block. They had to permeate themselves with good intentions in proportion to Jacob’s. Had the Eternal reprimanded them, there would be empty spaces between them.
We now understand why Jacob erected a pillar at the death of our mother Rachel. He did it for the sake of the unity of the next generations. It is said that "he poured oil over it". Why did he use oil?
To be united means to stay away from hatred in the sense of Halakha, it also means winning the battle in the name of the Torah. This battle unites the hearts in the same way as the twelve stones are kept together. "Our patriarch poured (nessekh) oil over the pillar". NeSseKh has the same numerical value as Qol, the voice of Jacob, that is, the Torah. Union without Torah has no value.
When the People of Israel is a homogenous solid block, it has one soul (note that the terms HaSHeMeN (oil) and NeSHaMaH (soul) have the same letters). When the Jews are united, each one is responsible for the other; every soul corrects the other and comes forward, offering help and comfort.
As we know, Rachel only had two children: Yossef and Benyamin. They alone had to come pray at her tomb on the way to Bethlehem. But the reality was different: "One could hear a voice from above...Rachel weeps for her children", that is the People of Israel. Her tomb makes allusions to the unity of Israel and not to the exile (it is for this reason that she is called "the principal mother"). If by some misfortune, the hearts separate, the prayers recited at Rachel’s tomb will rectify everything. The Eternal will not abandon His children for He Himself united, in a solid block, all the tribes of Israel.
Moreover, when the Eternal gave the ten commandments, He wrote them down on two tablets. Eventhough they were separated in the hands of our Teacher Moses, they constituted a whole in the same way that Moses represents Israel as one. But when the People committed the sin of the golden calf and destroyed each other, following Moses’ orders, there was no longer any reason to hold them. However, Moses was opposed to the idea of the Eternal of putting an end to the existence of all the People of Israel (even if it was only his own descendants that were to become the great People of Israel). He intervened on their behalf and ask for two new Tablets of the Law.
Only unity, when it is closely tied with the Torah, can help man in his battle against the evil inclinations. This is reflected in the verse of Yithro, where it is written: "Israel was encamped in front of the mountain" (Exodus 19:2) "as one man" ("with one heart" as Rashi comments, quoting our Sages). The Holy One, Blessed Be He, gave the Torah to the children of Israel which would allow them to fight and win the battle because rest and unity alone can be dangerous. Our patriarch Jacob, as the Talmud teaches us, asked for several years of rest, but G-d sent him the trial of Yossef. Rest in this world, even for the Tzadikim, can be dangerous because of the evil inclinations. The righteous must therefore study the Torah with no respite.
Let us now examine the struggle between Jacob and the angel of Esav the night Jacob met his brother. It is written: "Jacob himself remained behind, all alone. A man wrestled with him until daybreak" (Genesis 32:25). According to our Sages, the dust from their feet rose towards the celestial throne.
A few questions can be asked:
1) What does "Jacob remained all alone" exactly mean?
2) Why did the angel have the name ISH (man)?
3) Why did the dust have to rise precisely up to the Heavens?
1) Collective studying of the Torah can generate new ideas. Study groups feel more compelled to discuss different issues and challenge each other with questions regarding the Halakha. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, becomes literally delighted and says: My children "have won over me"!
If the man (evil inclination) "wrestled" with our patriarch and tried to weaken him, it is because he was alone. Discussions and disputes can be so lively that they rise up to the Heavens. But when one studies the Torah alone, man is at greater risk of being exposed to the evil inclinations.
2) A Jew who lives far from the community is cut from receiving a beneficial influence; the evil inclinations are watching him, even if he is studying the Torah. The study of the Torah must be done in surrender and humility (the person should accept the ideas of others). This will aid him in the battle against the evil inclinations with help from the Heavens. However, humility can attract the anger of evil inclinations. But this angel of fire becomes an ISH, a simple and weak man, that the Sage can beat with his modesty.
The text continues: "When he saw that he could not overcome him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh so that Jacob’s hip was dislocated as they wrestled" (id. 26). The question is evident: Was this the Torah? Was this his reward? Our father Jacob overcame the angel! He was able to bring him down to the level of a simple man by studying the Torah in total surrender and humility. When the angel saw that he couldn’t beat him, he still managed to dislocate his hip. Why was the miracle not complete? The verse seems to contradict itself! On one hand, it is written: "when he saw he could not overcome him" which means that he lost the battle. On the other hand, it says that he managed to physically hurt Jacob.
The force of the evil inclinations is characterized by the fact that it is able to fight back after its defeat. For man’s victory is never final and the battle against evil inclinations should never stop, even for a moment! Man must always be ready to confront it. He will win the battle only if he constantly studies the Torah. One must not forget that the Yetser Hara will never cease harassing man, especially in our times. Because of our numerous sins, impurity is growing and the forces of evil are gaining ground. "There is no corner without death". Again, only the study of the Torah helps man in his battle against evil inclinations. The healing of the hip can be achieved through good deeds and charity. Without Torah, all efforts are useless.
The goal of the evil inclinations is to weaken man by causing physical and moral harm. And in the case mentioned above, if the evil inclinations can’t beat man, it leaves him with aftermath. Therefore any contact with the evil inclinations is deadly.
The hip YereKh refers to laziness (‘ATSLOut), softening (which made Jacob TSOLeA, limp). As we said, if the evil inclinations do not succeed in defeating man, it, at least, softens him (rakh = soft), and only by studying the Torah can we defeat jealousy, rivalry, hate, bad thoughts, precisely, during prayer. Indeed, when we love the Torah and joyfully observe the divine commandments, we distance ourselves from sins and bad inclinations. Only man himself chooses the road he travels on (Makoth 10b). The power of the Torah helps and protects man and prevents him from falling into the trap of the Yetser Hara.
I’m not spared from the evil inclinations that give rise to different thoughts in my mind during prayer: trips abroad, financing of Institutions, etc...Then I remember that it is forbidden to have such thoughts but because of my many sins, I also fall into the trap of the evil inclinations. But only I, alone, am responsible for that. If my studying of the Torah was more assiduous, the Heavens would have surely helped me more. I call upon the Holy One, Blessed Be He, ask Him to forgive me and be merciful towards me. When feet (YeRaKhim) are not running to the Yeshiva to study the Torah, the wound only deepens and the dangers of a spiritual fall rise.
May the Virtue of my ancestors, of blessed memory, be of endless help. May I and all my descendants show my love and fear of G-d. May the Holy One, Blessed Be He, fulfill the wishes of all our friends, wherever they are! It is by the Virtue of my ancestors that I am able to get back on my feet and strengthen myself in my service to G-d. May G-d gather the exiles from the four corners of the world and hasten the arrival of our Moshiah. Amen!