You are here
ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR ERRORS
In this week’s parsha, Vayetze, we find that, upon the advice of his parents, Jacob departs from the land of Israel and comes to the city of Harran in search of his life partner. And then the passage continues, "Vayifga BeMakom" -- "He encounters The Place" (Genesis 28:11) This very unusual term teaches us that upon arriving in Harran, Jacob realized that he had neglected to stop at the Temple Mount where his father and grandfather had prayed, and to rectify his mistake, he immediately turned around to return to Jerusalem.
To appreciate the awesomeness of this, just try to imagine how you would react if, upon returning from Israel, drained and exhausted, having surviving a terrorist attack (just as Jacob had narrowly escaped Esau’s son’s murderous intent) while waiting for your luggage at JFK you suddenly realize that you had neglected to pray at the Holy Wall. Would you make an immediate about face and go back, especially in view of the fact that Arafat and company were lying in wait for you just as Esau and his clan were in Jacob’s case. Jacob’s attribute was "emes" -truth, and above all, he was committed to the pursuit of that truth, even if it meant undertaking an arduous hazardous journey, and even if it meant conceding his mistakes. We can appreciate the awesome strength of Jacob’s character if we contrast his reaction to that of his brother Esau. In last week’s parsha, Esau sold his birthright for a pot of beans, but his arrogance would not allow him to admit that he had acted foolishly and impetuously, so instead of doing tshuva he became further embedded in his lies and spurned his birthright by expressing contempt for it (Genesis, 25:34).
The ability to recognize one’s mistakes and shortcomings is what elevates a man. It’s not so much the mistakes that we make that condemn us, but how we react to them that counts - and that is the meaning of tshuva. When G-d sees that we are determined to embark upon this path of tshuva, then He meets us more than half way, comes to our aid, and performs miracles on our behalf. Thus, as soon as Jacob admitted to his mistake and expressed his desire to return, G-d shortened his journey and the Temple Mount appeared before him - he encountered The Place. It is this ability to admit to the truth, recognize one`s mistakes, and do tshuva, that distinguishes the great among our people. The kings of Israel descended from Judah because he had the strength of character to openly admit that he had erred. In this same vein, his descendent David, conceded to Nathan the Prophet "I have sinned", and those words of David have inspired man throughout the centuries. In these difficult times, when we are challenged to examine our lives, we would do well to follow the example of Jacob, Judah, and David and summon the courage to say "I was wrong - I will learn from my mistakes - I will do tshuva and do my share to make the world a better place. And if we do that, then G-d will make miracles for us, miracles to ease our paths even as He did for Jacob "and we too will encounter The Place”.