This Torah portion is usually read on the Shabbos either before or after the 9th day of the Hebrew month Kislev, the birthday and yahrzeit of R. DovBer, the second Chabad Rebbe and the following day which commemorates the anniversary of his release from prison in Czarist Russia.

When R. DovBer was in prison, he took ill. Fearful of the consequences if he would pass away while interned, the authorities immediately summoned a team of doctors to treat him.

The doctors had one piece of advice: “Let him teach his people for that is the only thing that will spur his vitality.” So every day, the Russian soldiers would escort a group of chassidim into the quarters where R. DovBer was being held. R. DovBer taught and his condition improved.

On a different occasion, the Tzemach Tzedek, his son-in-law and successor, said: “If they would prick my father-in-law’s finger, chassidic teachings, not blood, would ooze forth.”

Recalling such an elevated personality is important to us, even though we may be very involved in worldly matters and far removed from such heights. For by focusing our sights higher and looking at a picture that is greater than our immediate material circumstances, we can overcome the challenges which life forces us to confront.

Parshas Vayeitzei

This week’s Torah reading describes how our Patriarch Jacob left his home and fled to Charan. It was a lonely journey. No one accompanied him. He was attacked, forced to surrender all his possessions, and arrived at his destination empty-handed.

When he arrived at Charan, he stayed with his uncle Laban who did not welcome him warmly and immediately put Jacob to work tending his sheep. As Jacob later protested: “By day, scorching heat consumed me and frost, by night. My sleep faded from my eyes.”

At first, Jacob was single. He wanted to marry his cousin Rachel and made an agreement with Laban that he would work seven years for her hand. But when that time was completed, Laban tricked him and under the darkness of night substituted his older daughter Leah. Jacob had to agree to work another seven years before he could marry Rachel.

But Jacob did not despair and he placed his trust in G‑d. The very fact that he had no one else to rely on but G‑d made it ever so clear to him that he could indeed rely on G‑d. Despite the trying situation in which he was found, he was certain that G‑d would help him. As a result, each morning, he began his day with joy and confidence.

Ultimately, his trust was rewarded, as the Torah states: “The man became exceedingly prosperous; acquiring fertile flocks, maidservants, servants, camels, and donkeys.”

What is the key to the spiritual dynamic? It is nice to say: Have faith in G‑d and you will be rewarded, but why is that so? On the surface, there is no substitute for hard work and skilled effort. Without these, with all the faith and trust man has, he will never achieve lasting prosperity.

Jewish thought does not argue the last point. We are told: “G‑d will bless you in all that you do,” implying that we should work at creating a medium for G‑d’s blessings. But we should realize that our efforts are no more than a medium. Ultimately, our success is dependent on G‑d’s blessings.

Any person involved in business knows that he can develop a perfectly logical plan of action, execute it perfectly, and still come out short. On other occasions, initiatives in which he had faint hope will succeed beyond his wildest expectations. A believer does not call this luck. Instead, he recognizes it as G‑d’s providence.

To attain G‑d’s blessings, you can’t just sit and wait, you have to invest something. This means not only your own work, but also spiritual input. That’s where trust comes in. Trust in G‑d is not a passive, sit back and hope approach. Rather it is an active effort in which a person digs deep within himself and identifies with G‑d. He places himself in G‑d’s hands and relies on Him.

This evokes a parallel pattern Above. When a person truly trusts in G‑d from the depths of his soul, to the extent that he has no worry at all, his arousal of trust itself causes G‑d to grant him kindness, even when, he is not worthy of such blessings on his own accord. As our Rabbis have taught: “If a person would place his hope in G‑d as is fitting, kindness would never be withheld from him by G‑d.”

Looking to the Horizon

After he achieves prosperity in exile, Jacob receives a command from G‑d: “Arise, leave this land and return to your native land.” Implied is a fundamental lesson. No matter how much affluence a Jew achieves in exile, even if his parents, grandparents, and ancestors for several generations have lived in a particular land, that is not his home.

Every Jew’s true home is Eretz Yisrael and not Eretz Yisrael as it exists in the present age, but as it will exist in the era of Mashiach. We are not speaking about a homeland merely in the patriotic sense, nor are we seeking a change of geography. We are speaking about the introduction of an entirely different spiritual gestalt — that the world will start looking at things from a different vantage point.

Of course, at the time of the redemption, the Jews will all return to Eretz Yisrael. But more importantly, at that time, Eretz Yisrael will return to its true self. It will become openly apparent that this is the land “upon which the eyes of G‑d are focused... from the beginning of the year until its end.”

We should not look forward to the redemption out of desperation, hoping for it to happen because we have no other way of coping with our immediate situation. Instead, after emulating Jacob and achieving success and prosperity, we should seek something more, a deeper spiritual fulfillment that cannot be achieved in the world’s present state.