Parshas Vayishlach
Genesis 32:4 - 36:43

Returning to Bethel ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

The parsha study is a lesson on the weekly portion {parsha} of the Torah specified for study by our sages. Each week of the year is assigned a particular portion for study by the Jewish people. It is an essential element of Judaism meant for the upliftment of Kal Yisroel.

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in loving memory to Mr. Michael and Mrs. Channah Sakash may they rest in peace.

Story: Lost in the Mountains Feeling Insecure
Naomi and I were out on a late afternoon summer drive. We were looking for a home that was listed for sale. From the description it sounded like the type of home we were looking for. It was affordable. Our real estate agent passed along the directions from another real estate agent so we could drive by. It was a mountain home closer to the big city. We were interested! After making a few turns here and there, we entered the area that was supposed to lead us to the home we were searching for. After driving for more than 30 minutes we could not find it. We pulled off the main street. A car pulled up behind us. A lady walked up to the passenger side of the auto and began speaking with us. She was also a real estate agent. She was also Jewish. She introduced herself as Rebecca ..... She asked if we were looking for a property. We acknowledged we were. She asked for the address. We gave it to her. She looked puzzled. After a little while she blurted out, “OH, that must be the house with the composite toilet!” Naomi and I looked at each other. Composite toilet sounded really bad. It sounded strange. I questioned, “What is a composite toilet?”

After learning that our imaginary dream home had a composite toilet in the closet and no running water we understood why it was in our price range. We had driven so far to see this home. Even though it was now dark and we were disappointed we still wanted to just drive by. The agent gave us additional directions. Shortly after leaving the agent we got lost, really lost. It was at this time that we began to attempt to backtrack. For awhile it only got worse. We were in our car on a rough, dark mountain road. Naomi had been driving up until now. She wanted me to drive. We went a few blocks later and hit something. Naomi and I were frightened! It was a loud thud. We stopped! I got out of the car and looked all around. I got down on my knees and looked under the car fearing that we had hit a large rock. We did. From the way things looked nothing appeared damaged. Naomi switched to the passenger side as I continued examining our car. We began hearing animal noises close by. I jumped in the car and we took off. Thank G-d we eventually found the main road, got back on the path and drove home. We were so happy and thankful to get back home where we felt safe and secure.

In this week’s parsha we can only imagine how Yaakov felt after his daughter Deenah had been violated by Shechem, prince of the land, and after his sons Shimon and Levi had taken revenge on the inhabitants of the land by killing Chamour and his son Shechem and all the male inhabitants of the land. Yaakov was feeling very vulnerable... He said to his sons, “You have made much trouble for me...” Genesis 34:20 Yaakov was fearful that the other inhabitants of the land would seek revenge on him and his family.

Dear readers, it was at this time that Hashem instructed Yaakov to “go up to Bethel and live there.” Genesis 35:1 Now this is not the Bethel near Ai. It is the Bethel near Jerusalem. It is near Mount Moriah where his grandfather Avraham offered his father Yitzchok as a sacrifice. It is near the place where his father prayed and meditated. It is the place where he experienced the gates of heaven opening to him. This was a special place where he felt safe and secure. Yaakov and his family moved into the House of G-d!

Before Yaakov accepted Hashem’s invitation to “go up to Bethel...” he instructed his family to forsake their foreign gods, to purify themselves and to put on clean garments. In other words, he told them to prepare to enter a very holy place.

Holy readers, amidst the world’s problems after September 11th I was asked by my son, “Will America make it? Avie, will America survive?” Just as my son felt uneasy, shaken, worried and fearful after the evil attacks, death and destruction on September 11th, many shared his emotions. Anytime we feel threatened we want and need to feel secure. This was how Naomi and I felt when we got lost in the mountains at night during our house search. This is how Yaakov felt when fearing that his neighbors might attack him and his household. This might be how we feel at the loss of a dear loved one. We might feel this way when experiencing divorce or separation. We might feel like this when separated from home during family celebrations of Chanukah or Pesach.

When facing these emotions we need to follow Yaakov’s example. As individuals and families we need to rid ourselves of evil influences. We need to purify ourselves after removing evil influences. We need to change our garments. In other words, our clothing should reflect the inner changes we have made. Then we need to visit the House of G-d! We physically need to visit the House of G-d and we spiritually need to visit the inner House where G-d dwells in us.

Dear ones, this is what we do when we feel emotions of insecurity.

Wishing you the best!

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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