וייקץ יעקב משנתו ויאמר אכן יש ה' במקום הזה ואנכי לא ידעתי. ויירא ויאמר מה נורא המקום הזה אין זה כי אם בית אלקים וזה שער השמים.
“And Yakov awoke from his sleep and he said, “It is so that Hashem is at this place, and I didn’t even know.” And he was fearful and he said, “How awesome is this place; it must be that this is the house of G-d and here is the gate to Heaven.” (Bereishis 28:15-16)
The second verse is a continuation of the first. If so, why does the possuk interrupt Yakov’s words by stating again “and he said…”? Why does the Torah divide Yakov’s words into two separate statements?
The sefer Derech Emes brings an insightful teaching from Rebbe Velvel of Zibariz, in the name of the holy Maggid of Mezritch. Rebbe Velvel writes that when a person goes through a difficult time, and he is full of fear and anxiety, he should remember that what is happening to him is not a bad thing. Hashem is sending him these difficulties in order to bring the person closer to Him. These hardships are a wake-up call so the person should not waste his life on errors.
Let us imagine the following scenario: A person is woken up in the middle of the night by loud rapping on his door. He is utterly frightened to see a group of soldiers, who’ve come to arrest him in the name of the governor. The person pleads with the soldiers to leave him alone. He cries, begs and even tries to bribe them, but all to no avail. After all, the soldiers are only fulfilling their duty. They are not the ones responsible for the arrest order; they were merely sent to carry it out. If the person wants to revoke the decree, he must try to reach the governor himself.
The same is true about a person who is struggling with life’s difficulties. He may try to get rid of his troubles, but all his efforts will prove to be fruitless. His only recourse is to turn to Hashem, the One who sent him these troubles, and pray to Him directly. He should examine his actions and ask himself why Hashem is doing this to him. He should mend his ways and become close to Hashem, and then Hashem will resolve all difficulties.
The verse can be interpreted to teach us this beautiful message: And Yakov awoke from his sleep and he said – when a person wakes up from his spiritual sleep due to his hardships he shall say, It is so that Hashem is at this place - the name Hashem refers to Divine kindness. He should be aware that his present state of affairs is all due to Hashem’s kindness. And I didn’t know – and I didn’t know that Hashem’s kindness is behind all my troubles.
And he was fearful and he said – and if a person goes through a period in his life that is full of fear and anxiety, he shall say: What is awesome – what is there to fear? This place – the word makom – place, is a reference to Hashem. Hashem is behind all of this. Even if my life is full of fear, I will not be fearful, because it must be that this is the house of G-d – from the outside (“house”) it seems like a harsh Divine judgment (the word Elokim refers to judgment). However, here is the gate to Heaven – in truth, this is how I can become close to Hashem and reach greater heights.
There were several Chassidim of the tzaddik Reb Moshe of Kobrin who lived in a village some distance of Kobrin. Due to their poverty, they could not afford to travel frequently to the Rebbe. Since they didn’t want to miss a single week of the Rebbe’s divrei Torah, they set up a rotation system, sending a different Chassid each week. The Chassid would make sure to remember the Rebbe’s teachings and upon his return he would repeat everything to his friends.
When war broke out in the area, traveling became even more dangerous. The Chassid whose turn it was to travel to the Rebbe arrived on Parshas Vayeitzei. The Rebbe spoke about this verse, explaining as follows: “And he was fearful, so he said: ‘Mah norah – what is there to fear? Hamakom – only Hashem!’ Hashem is here with us, we have nothing to fear!”
The Rebbe’s powerful words left a deep impression on the Chassid. He imparted this lesson to his fellow Chassidim, and they were all strengthened by the Rebbe’s message. Their fear of the war dissipated as they put their trust in Hashem.
When fearful things happen in the world, people sigh and say, “Moshiach must come already!” The possuk says, vayira vayomar – and he was fearful and he said. The word vayomar is an acronym for the Hebrew words that mean “May he come and redeem us, Moshiach the anointed of Hashem.” When we are fearful, we express our longing for Moshiach’s arrival.
Some people think that all fear is difficult to bear, including yiras shamayim - fear of Heaven. In truth, fear of Heaven sweetens a person’s life. In the beloved Shabbos zemer Ko Echsof by Rebbe Aharon Hagadol, we sing: “Bestow upon us the sweetness of Your fear… to delight in Your love and in Your fear…” Fearing Hashem fills a person’s life with sweetness and delight.