The Need to Need by Moshe Davis


VaYetzei begins with a very interesting story.  Ya’akov Avinu is heading towards Charan to his uncle Lavan after departing from Be’er Sheva, when he pauses his journey to sleep. Rashi (28:11 s.v. VaYifga BaMakom) comments that although the Pasuk does not specify the place where Ya'akov sleeps, as it says, “VaYifga BaMakom VaYalen Sham,” “And he reached the place, and he stayed there” (BeReishit 28:11), we can learn through the use of the word “Makom” (22:7) by Avraham that this place is Har HaMoriah.  The Torah presents Ya'akov’s dream, describing a ladder going from the Earth to the sky, with angels ascending and descending.  Hashem tells him that He is going to give all the land in visible distance to Ya'akov’s descendants, and that He will not forsake Ya'akov until He completes His promise.  Ya'akov then wakes up and praises that place, calling it a “House of Hashem,” once again alluding to the fact that it would, in the future, be the home of the Beit HaMikdash.  Suddenly, Ya'akov makes a promise on a condition, “Im Yihiyeh Elokim Imadi UShmarani BaDerech Hazeh Asher Anochi Holeich VeNatan Li Lechem LeEchol UVeged Lilbosh…VeHayah Hashem Li Leilokim,” “If Hashem will be with me and guard me on this path that I am embarking upon, and if He will give me food to eat and clothing to wear… then Hashem will be a God for me” (28:20-21).  Ya'akov is saying that as long as Hashem watches over him and gives him food and clothes, he will be loyal to Him and serve Him. 

The Midrash (Tanchuma 3) states that Ya'akov was really asking for four things: that Hashem should be with him, that Hashem should protect him, that Hashem should return him to his home in safety, and that Hashem should give him food and clothes.  Conversely, the Midrash goes on to say that Hashem granted only three of Ya'akov Avinu’s four wishes.  He refused to guarantee Ya'akov food and clothes, because if He promised Ya'akov everything, there would be nothing to Daven for, and Ya'akov would lose his special connection with Hashem.  However, this Midrash seems troubling considering the fact that Chazal tell us that Ya'akov was the greatest of the Avot, a man who walked with Hashem constantly.  His essence revolved around being close to Hashem, so why would his livelihood affect his Avodat and Ahavat Hashem?  Hashem seems to be concerned that Ya’akov will become complacent with what he has and stop Davening to Him.

To answer this question, we must first explore the fundamental nature of man.  Man was created with a pure Neshamah which is surrounded by a physical body. The Neshamah allows us to know what is right, but the body can sometimes block these feelings.  Our goal is to break through the layers of physicality and understand what we need to know.   Even Ya'akov needed to exercise his ability to reach out to Hashem.  When someone has a need for something and recognizes that he must turn to Hashem to fulfill the need, it brings him to a higher level of appreciating what Hashem does for him or her.  The only way for Ya'akov to draw closer to Hashem was for him to need something.

This has great relevance to our every-day lives.  Sometimes, we entertain thoughts such as, “If only Hashem did this for me or that for me, I would be able to serve Him better.”  At times, it might even feel like Hashem is sabotaging our plans to serve Him.  When we struggle with this, it brings us closer to Hashem because we recognize every single thing that He does for us, and we realize how much we depend on Him.

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