The Sun of Yaakov and Brilliance of Jerusalem
As Yaakov departs for his uncle’s house in Haran, he encounters “the place” and stays there for the night “ki va hashemesh” for the sun had set. While sleeping in this place, Yaakov experiences the famous majestic vision of the heavenly ladder as Hashem promises him the land of Eretz Yisrael. As is clear from Yaakov’s exclamation upon waking, this mysterious place is none other than the future site of the holy temple, the epicenter of Jerusalem.
The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 68:10) homiletically interprets the phrase of ki va hashemesh as a double entendre. As the sun was physically setting and the world turning dark, the angels witnessing Yaakov coming to the future site of the Beit HaMikdash exclaimed, “The sun (in reference to Yaakov) has arrived! The sun has arrived!” It was at this moment that Yaakov instituted the evening prayer of arvit.
As the medrash famously notes, Yaakov had placed twelve rocks around his body before going to sleep. Yet, when he awakens, the verse implies there was only one stone. Hazal explain that each rock began arguing and jostling for the opportunity to have Yaakov lie down on it. In order to alleviate the conflict, Hashem miraculously joined the rocks together into one stone. These twelve rocks are clearly symbolic of the future tribes that would issue from Yaakov, each one vying to become the ultimate spiritual heir of the avot.
Hazal are highlighting the ultimate irony of Yaakov’s current predicament. This is the darkest moment of Yaakov’s life. After years of living in quaint tranquility, he is now running for his life with no physical comfort or security. The world has turned physically dark, and he is alone. Even if he escapes the barbaric viciousness of Eisav, he will then have to face the moral vacuity of Lavan.
It is specifically at this moment, and in this place, that Yaakov exhibits his ability to generate light; to enlighten the world around him even as the world seeks to extinguish him. Jerusalem is also the Oro shel Olam, the light of the world (see Bereishit Rabbah 59:5). When Yaakov encounters Jerusalem for the first time, surrounded by darkness and danger, the unification of his future children is guaranteed. The disparate rocks join together into one stone, equally bearing the name of Yaakov. Together, they will enlighten the entirety of creation with their united brilliance.
Walking in the footsteps of Yaakov Avinu, Jews worldwide are currently “davening maariv.” We are surrounded by a deep night filled with danger and uncertainty. In Eretz Yisrael, a bloodthirsty enemy awaits the opportunity to cut us down. Outside of Eretz Yisrael, we are subjected to the absurd hypocritical and twisted logic of those who criticize Israel for defending itself. Just as Lavan’s smooth talk barely hid the moral corruption and hatred for Yaakov lurking beneath the surface, the rhetoric of those denouncing Israel’s righteous war barely conceals their hatred for the Jewish people. Many Jews I speak to are simply tearing their hair out; they feel alone, betrayed, and tortured by a world that was supposed to stand for moral clarity.
This is when we remember that we are the source of light. As the sun sets on the world around us, the Jewish people arise in brilliant unity, projecting their spiritual beauty, loyalty to each other, and tenacious hold over the land of their forefathers. Instead of despairing over the lack of light from the outside world, we should recognize and embrace the light that shines forth from Tzion. The sun and sons of Yaakov shine brightly. May we merit to see the revelation of the ultimate spiritual light in Jerusalem speedily in our days.