Angels on the Move by Rabbi Craig Berkowitz


At the end of Parshat Vayetzei, Yaakov departs from Charan with his whole entourage, and in what seems like deja vu, encounters two camps of angels.  Rashi explains (32:2-3) that Yaakov was abandoning the angels of the Diaspora, with the Eretz Yisrael replacements soon filling the gap.  Here, Ramban takes issue with Rashi, since Yaakov had not yet crossed the Israeli borders.  In fact, he was considerably distant from it – rendering the changing of the angelic guard geographically premature.

Ramban does indeed have a point, yet Rashi says the same thing at the beginning of the Parsha (28:12).  During Yaakov’s celebrated dream, the angels of the Holy Land climbed up the ladder, while the protectors of Chutz Laaretz descended.  Same switch, reverse order.  But the exchange occurred on Eretz Yisrael soil (in Bait El), miles ahead of the Charan frontier.  Once again, the angels of one location took center stage a bit early.

We learn from here that one is defined not necessarily by his present location, but by his intended destination.  In his journeys away from home, Yaakov needed to protect himself and build a family, so his mentality focused upon Charan, soon to become his twenty-year, uncomfortable home away from home.  But when he separated from Lavan, he was back on the Eretz Yisrael track, even before he actually arrived there.

In a similar vein, the Midrash tells us (Devarim Rabba 2:8) that Moshe Rabbeinu did not merit entry into the land of Israel because Yitro referred to him as an “Egyptian man” (Shemot 2:19) and he did not protest.  Even though Moshe had never lived in Eretz Yisrael, it should have been his natural homeland; it should have been the way he defined himself.  (See Rabbi Mirsky’s Higyonei Halacha, vol. 2, pp.228 for more examples of this idea.)  Every Jew, whatever his present situation might be, wherever the fortunes of life place him, must identify himself as a Ben-Eretz Yisrael, rejoicing in its victories, mourning during times of distress, and always desiring to reside there, or at least tread upon its hallowed grounds.  As we pray for an end to the horrific madness of the past two-plus years, Yaakov’s angels teach us to reinforce our bonds to the Jewish homeland.  Let us support Acheinu Bnai Yisrael Beeretz Yisrael not only with our Tefilot, but also with our physical presence there, even if for a short visit.  Let us declare to our brethren and to the world that our bodies may reside overseas, but our hearts long for that tiny country in the Middle East.

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