July 19, 2024
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Parshas Vayeitzei: The Big Meeting

Rabbi Avraham Jacobs, a senior managing director at JP Morgan, oversaw global stock research on telecommunications companies and provided strategic advice on some of the largest mergers in his industry. JP Morgan was working on a multimillion-dollar merger, and the CEO of a merging company asked to meet the key JP Morgan players at company headquarters in Texas. Rabbi Jacobs and three colleagues would be flying in from different cities.

Anyone living on the East Coast knows winter flights are not easy. This would be no exception. Everyone booked a Tuesday departure to get to Texas for their 9 a.m. meeting with the CEO. And the snow began falling. Rabbi Jacobs was at Newark Airport when all flights were first delayed, then canceled. He quickly reached his colleagues in Boston, Cleveland and Chicago. Everyone was in the same boat. Rabbi Jacobs called his manager, explained the dilemma and suggested that leased private jets might be used to get to the meeting, at a cost of $25,000 each, for a total of $100,000. The plan was approved; the meeting was too important to miss. Their planes took off despite the snow, and despite some very rough spots, landed safely in Texas that night.

Rabbi Jacobs and his JP Morgan colleagues were all at headquarters by 8:30 a.m. They were in the waiting room for a few minutes before the secretary came out and said, “I am sorry gentlemen, but the boss just called. He said he can’t be in today because of a slight cold. He’ll call you later to reschedule.” The big meeting would not happen.

Their company had just moved mountains and spent $100,000 to fly all four directors to make this meeting, and the boss canceled because of a few sniffles!

Our parsha also has a big meeting, this one between Yaakov Avinu and Hashem. Here also mountains were moved, but the meeting was not canceled because of a cold. Quite the contrary. When Yaakov left Eretz Yisrael and reached Charan, it says vayifga bamakom, “he encountered the place.” What is the meaning of this strange terminology? The Gemara in Chullin explains Yaakov had inadvertently traveled past Har Hamoriah—the site of the Akeida and future Beis Hamikdash. He realized this when he reached Charan a day later. Embarrassed to have bypassed Har Hamoriah, Yaakov turned around and started the day’s journey to travel back there to daven. Seeing Yaakov’s determination, Hashem performed a miracle and moved the mountain to greet Yaakov. This explains Yaakov’s miraculous “encounter” with Har Hamoriah.

The Ramban compares Eliezer’s swift journey to that of Yaakov. Eliezer also experienced a miraculous, accelerated journey when he traveled from Avraham’s home to find a mate for Yitzchak. However, the Ramban points out a key difference between the two miracles. Eliezer traveled a long distance in a short amount of time, but Yaakov’s journey was shortened by Hashem moving the mountain to greet him. Why the difference?

The answer lies in a deep understanding of prayer. Prayer has many names in the Torah, and each has its unique meaning. There is tefillah—introspection; techina—supplication, and pegia—meeting.

I believe the connection between Yaakov’s prayer and his “encounter” with Har Hamoriah explains why Hashem made the mountain move to greet Yaakov. It’s all about the word “vayifga”—he met. Every prayer is in fact a special meeting with Hashem. The definition of a meeting is “a coming together of two or more people, by chance or arrangement.” Sometimes, one has to travel a long distance to a meeting, and sometimes the people meet in the middle.

This explains the different miraculous journeys of Eliezer and Yaakov. Eliezer was on a mission for Avraham, so Hashem gave him a “turbo boost” to reach his destination sooner. However, Yaakov made the effort to return to Har Hamoriah to daven (meet with) Hashem. When someone goes to the trouble to daven to Hashem, Hashem comes to meet him. That’s precisely why Hashem made the mountain move to greet Yaakov—to demonstrate that for prayer, Hashem meets the person halfway.

This gives us a deeper understanding of the Gemara in Brachos that records that Hashem comes to attend every minyan. If a minyan of 10 is not there, Hashem gets upset because He came to the meeting and the requisite quorum didn’t show up.

Every scheduled time of prayer is a scheduled meeting with the Almighty Himself. Hashem always shows up on time; He doesn’t cancel because of a cold. When we realize the deeper sense of prayer as a “meeting,” we can approach our prayer to Hashem with a greater sense of concentration, not to mention a greater motivation to be on time.

By Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim


 
Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. PTI has attracted people from all over northern New Jersey, including Teaneck, Paramus, Rockaway and Fair Lawn. He initiated and continues to lead a multi-level Gemara-learning program. Recently he has spread out beyond PTI to begin a weekly beis medrash program with in-depth chavrusa learning in Livingston, Springfield and Fort Lee. This year he joined Yeshiva Heichal Hatorah as a Gemara iyun rebbe. His email is [email protected].

 

 

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