Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Vayeitzei

We asked Hashem the same question that so many children ask of their parents: ‘are we there yet?’ This was his answer…

How quickly do we reach the light at the end of the tunnel?

In Parshat Vayeitzei, in the midst of the epic dream that Yaakov had, in which he saw that ladder connecting heaven and earth. Hashem appeared to him and said, “Ufaratzta – Your descendants will become dispersed throughout the world,” “Yamah V’Keidma V’Tzafona V’Negba – To the west and to the east, to the north and to the south.”

But surely the direction should have been either clockwise or anti-clockwise? Why from one extreme to the other?

An answer is given in the Yalkut Shimoni, an anthology of Midrashim. It comments on Psalm 20 which says, “Ya’ancha Hashem B’Yom Tzara – The Lord will answer you on your day of sorrow.” This suggests that when the redemption comes, it comes very speedily, like the swing of a pendulum going from one extreme to the other.

There the Midrash tells the following story. It is about a father and his son – “Av U’Ben,” “Sheyahu Mehalchim Baderech – They were on their way.” They were going to a destination that the son had never been to before. After a while the son became a bit ‘kvetchy’ and he said to his father, “Abba, Heichan Hei HaMedina? – Father, where is this city that we are going to?” I suppose it was an ancient version of the modern ‘are we there yet?’.

So the father replied to his son: “I will give you a ‘siman’ – a sign.” “Im Raeiyta Beit Hakvarot Lefanecha Hamedina Karov Eilach – When you see the cemetery you will know that we are close to the city.” It was a good sign because, as we know, cemeteries are positioned outside the boundaries of the cities’ limits. So when the child saw the cemetery he would know that they were nearly there.

Rabbi Isaac Bernstein brilliantly noticed that, in this Midrash, the term for ‘city’ is not a regular term. It is ‘Medina’ which we understand to be ‘the state’. The State of Israel. He went on to explain that this Midrash is actually a prophetic description of what would take place for the Jewish people over two millennia.

The father and the child – Hashem and the People of Israel. We have been on a journey ever since the destruction of our Temple. And we have continuously turned heavenwards and said, ‘Heichan Hei HaMedina?’ ‘When will we return back to Zion and have our own country once again?’

Now, with hindsight, and with a lot of pain and sadness, we realise that there was a sign. When we passed through those cemeteries of the Shoah – Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buchenwald, Belsen, and many others – we were nearly there. Within three very short years we had ‘HaMedina’ back in our hands.

The light at the end of the tunnel suddenly appeared to us in the midst in the darkest hours of the history of our people.

And this is our prayer – that the Almighty should bless the Jewish people, in the State of Israel and around the world. That we will see that light at the end of our tunnel and that we will enjoy peace, security, happiness and success. And that ultimately, the total redemption will come speedily in our time.

Shabbat Shalom


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