In this week’s Torah portion, Veyeitzei, Jacob is forced to flee the wrath of his brother Esau. Big brother Esau had sold the birthright to Jacob, but that fact didn’t calm him down when he realized that he had lost eternal blessing. Jacob had to run for his life.
Why couldn’t Jacob have been born first? Why couldn’t Esau accept the sale of the birthright with grace? Why does the truth have to be revealed in such a complicated way? Why does the Divine message to mankind always appear from amidst hardship?
The complexity of life, structured to connect body and soul, the material and the spiritual has fascinated humanity from time immemorial. Christianity and Islam chose to solve the paradox by granting exclusivity to the spiritual or to the material, respectively. But it is Jacob who knows how to synthesize the two.
“And he (Jacob) reached the place.” Our Sages explain that the place is the Temple Mount, the physical place on earth touched by G-d, the place from where His Divine Presence emanates to permeate the world. This meeting point between the physical and the metaphysical conceals the key to the secret of life.
Our Sages say that from the day that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the vivid experience of life has been taken from us. Food has become tasteless, colors have lost their brilliance and we can no longer truly enjoy the pleasures of life. We are oscillating violently on a pendulum between the physical and the metaphysical, incapable of achieving equilibrium.
Jacob, Israel, has the tools to restore the flavor and balance to life. He will build the Temple; the palace of the Creator in this world and he will enliven the human experience. When Jacob shoulders the responsibility for this destiny, he merits the Place: “The Land upon which you (Jacob) lie – I will give it to you.”