Olim VeYoredim by Rabbi Yosef Adler


In the initial episode of Parashat VaYeitzei, the Torah describes Yaakov’s journey from Eretz Cana’an to Charan. When he stops for the night in Beit Eil, he famously dreams of angels ascending and descending a ladder that extends from the ground into the Heavens. Rashi (Bereishit 28:12) comments that Yaakov was constantly escorted by heavenly angels when he traveled. He had designated angels that escorted him in Eretz Canaan, and they were replaced with the Chutz La’Aretz angels as he approached the border.

Ramban (ibid.), however, argues that there was only one set of angels. The angels only ascended to the Heavens to ask Hashem if they had any additional responsibilities once they finished accompanying Yaakov to the border, because no angel can engage in any earthly activity without receiving the express permission of the Ribono Shel Olam. They were then instructed to continue to guard Yaakov as he traveled through Chutz La’Aretz. The vision served as a demonstration of Hashem’s supremacy over the Heavenly bodies.

I would like to share with you another idea developed by the Rav, HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik. HaKadosh Baruch Hu has an expectation for each person that he creates. Everyone has natural talent, but they must also take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. As a teenager, when I played football, I was always the wide receiver. No matter how hard I tried, my lack of NFL caliber talents precluded from reaching the level of one of my favorite players, Del Shofner (a star Giants player of the 1960s). Furthermore, even if I had the talent, many other conditions would need to be met before I could achieve my goal. I would need to be well trained, accepted to a college with a strong football program, and be recognized by an NFL scout. This process also applies to how we develop as a human being. We must implement our natural talents, take advantage of given opportunities to improve society, and not focus on what is completely unrealistic. From time to time, HaKadosh Baruch Hu checks to see if we have grown as Bnei Torah, as Talmidei CChachamim, or as members of society. The angels that are Olim Ve'Yoredim represented God's inquiry into Yaakov’s development. The angels had to survey Yaakov, and report if Yaakov had fulfilled Hashem’s dream of emerging as the third of the Avot. After finalizing their report, they are Olim, and return to Hashem.

Each and everyone of us experience similar episodes during our lives. Hopefully, we are cognizant of this and recognize the challenge of trying to regularly improve ourselves, and our designated angel will be delighted to be Olim V'Yoredim on our behalf.

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