One of the most mysterious places on earth is the city of Luz. Chazal note that the malach hamavet (angel of death) had no entry rights to this city and its inhabitants lived forever. What do we know of this city? And what was the significance of renaming the city Bet El? In truth, notes Rav Scheinerman in Ohel Moshe, it is a mistake to think that a person can live forever and escape the Angel of Death. Chazal tell us that when a resident of Luz got tired of life he would leave the city and thus die. In renaming the city, Ya’akov Avinu teaches us that the only way to achieve eternal life is through Torah; creating a ‘Bet El’ connects one to spiritual immortality.
Rav Weiss in Mishbetzot Zahav examines the link between Luz and Bet El. The midrash explains that one who entered the city of Luz was vibrant and fresh in their mitzvot like a luz (hazelnut) tree. This symbolizes the need to connect with Torah through passion and excitement, as if it was given anew every day. The other quality of the luz is that it has no opening to crack it. This is symbolic of the city’s dwellers who were careful to guard their mouths. As such, negative forces had difficulty entering and causing harm. A person whose mouth is a channel for Torah and mitzvot, who is careful not to bring harm to others with their speech, is a true “house of Hashem.”
Rav Eisenberger in Miselot Hanevi’im explains that everything in this world exists in three dimensions: time, place and body. If there is a place which has this long-lasting quality, it must exist in the other dimensions as well. Indeed, within each of our bodies is a bone at the back of our necks with the same name—luz. The Kaf HaChayim explains that when Adam sinned and ate from the eitz hada’at (Tree of Knowledge), all of man’s bones were affected with the exception of the luz bone. Since this bone was not tainted by the effects of the sin, it is eternal. We are taught that the seudat melave malka nourishes this bone and it is from this bone that one will be resurrected in the future. Motzei Shabbat is a time when we sing about Eliyahu HaNavi, who himself never died. It is also a time of longing for Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash whose remnant, the Kotel, has housed the Shechina (God’s presence) for all time.
The Slonimer Rebbe in Netivot Shalom finds hints of these ideas at the beginning of our parsha. Ya’akov Avinu leaves Be’er Sheva, the source of seven which is a reference to Shabbat. He journeys toward Charan, an allusion to the anger of the world, the regular work week. On his way he sees a sulam, a ladder, in his dream with angels ascending and descending upon it. Sulam can be an acronym for seudah levayah malka, the meal that transitions the Shabbat angels to heaven and the weekday angels coming to escort us into our new week. The seudat melave malka is the meal that allows us to take the kedusha, holiness, of Shabbat and use it to infuse the coming week. It is at this auspicious time that Ya’akov Avinu symbolically erected a stone and named this place Bet El. In doing so, he transmitted the message that one day the third Beit Hamikdash will stand in this place, the place that the nations will say, “Let us go up to … the house of the God of Ya’akov” (Yeshayahu 2:3). Truly this Beit Hamikdash will last forever and Luz will be transformed into the ultimate “House of Hashem.”
Mrs. Shira Smiles, a lecturer, author and curriculum developer, is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau (www.mizrachi.org/speakers).