MAY GOD BE WITH YOU
Rabbi David Walk
The six part Hobbit movie saga reached its climatic conclusion this week. I loved the books, and really appreciated the lovingly crafted screen versions by Peter Jackson. These are tales of danger, hope and ultimate redemption. In fact they seem quite Jewish in their tone and message. These yarns are really two great adventures about leaving home for a perilous quest, and then returning home to find that the remarkable accomplishment was that the participants were transformed into fulfilled personalities. Remember Bilbo's memoir of his trek is called There and Back Again. A continuing thread throughout these chronicles is the character of Gandolf arriving at just the right moment to save our plucky heroes from imminent disaster. Allow me to make a facile analogy. Gandolf, the Gray Wizard, l'havdil eleph alphei havdalot, is like God performing the necessary miracle to extricate the Jews from the clutches of the latest incarnation of Amalek, our eternal nemesis. This reality of a supernatural guardian is hinted at in this week's Torah reading.
Before Jacob leads his seventy member clan into our first exile, God appears to him for the last time, and informs him, 'I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid of going down to
The Ohr Hachayam (Rabbi Chaim Attar, 1690-1750) explains that this could mean that the Shechina or Divine Presence went down to
The Kli Yakar (Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz,1550 –1619) explains God's announcement as describing the fulfillment of the promise given to Avraham at the Covenant of the Parts that the Jews will be strangers in a strange land long enough to become a nation there and to suffer persecution there. Ya'akov is informed that he shouldn't be afraid for two reasons. First that this was part of the plan for Jewish nationhood and that God would accompany them. The Kli Yakar understands the assurance to include the idea that the Divine Presence will precede them down into
So, what frightened Ya'akov? These ideas were presented by the Ohr HaChayim and the Kli Yakar to explain God's promise to maintain a presence with Ya'akov in
Sadly, Ya'akov's fears were well founded. Many times in our long history of wandering and exile there didn't seem to be enough Divine presence to protect our fragile status surrounded by a dominant culture often bent on our demise. Too many times Jewish communities have been destroyed or lost to our people. Ya'akov foresaw this potential danger, and was given the assurance that the Egyptian experience wouldn't be that way.
Our generation needs to read and understand this directive to Ya'akov. We face the exact peril he foresaw. We must remember that God is with us wherever we may be, but we must search for that presence diligently. I pray we have the energy and wisdom to find the Godliness in our midst.