I often hear teens complaining about Avodas Hashem, Mitzvos, and particularly davening, how when they do these things they don’t “feel anything” or ”feel any connection” or “don’t feel like God is really there listening/talking”. While learning the parsha this week, the following thought came to me:

Yaakov Avinu is brought by Hashem to the future makom Hamikdash before he leaves Eretz Yisroel for Lavans house, Yaakov falls asleep, has the dream with the ladder, and then awakens to exclaim:

אָכֵן֙ יֵֵ֣שׁ יְהֹוָָ֔ה בַּמָק֖וֹם הַּ זֶּ֑ה וְאָָֽנֹכִּ֖י לֹ֥אֹ יָדָָֽעְתִּי, יִּירָא֙ וַּיאֹמַָּ֔ר מַּ ה־נּוֹרָ֖א הַּמָקֵ֣וֹם הַּ זֶּ֑ה אֵֵ֣ין זה כִִּּ֚י אִּם־בֵֵ֣ית אֱלֹהִָּ֔ים וְ ז֖ה שַֹּׁ֥עַּר הַּשָמָָֽיִּם

Yaakov slept near the Kodesh Kadashim, the even shesia, the holiest place on earth, the place of the akeida, and the future place that will be closed off save for the Kohen Gadol a few minutes once a year. It is the gateway for all Tefilos around the world. Chazal tell us the avos are the “chariots” that carry Hashems presence in this world. Yakov Avinu in particular has a special place, his midda being Torah/Emes, all of his children becoming Shevatim, and even our nations name as Bnei Yisroel, emphasize his spiritual greatness. Yet in the holiest place in the universe he didn’t “feel” Hashem! I am not analyzing what this pasuk means, lets look at its implications. If Yaakov avinu, on his level, in that place could lack the feeling of Hashems closeness, even though he was right there with him (he brought him there specifically and gave him the dream) how can we expect ourselves to always “feel” Hashem, given our level and the level of Kedusha we create in our rooms, homes, where we go etc. Put another way, who said that avodas Hashem is contingent on a “feeling”. Is this a logical justification in being lax towards our heritage and responsibilities, our spiritual growth and development? Almost everyone I know can point to a moment in their life, a davening or shmoneh esrei, where they “felt” it. That is a gift, not the norm. Hashem gives us that so we know what to work towards. The real parodox is how did we get from being so spiritually poor to so spiritually spoiled! We all prefer the most inspirational and inspiring experiences all the time, often giving up on the opportunities where the real growth takes place, the moments we don’t “feel” it but do it anyway. We sell ourselves short and rob ourselves of our potential when we have this attitude. Nothing in life is inspirational and exciting forever. Once that falls away what is there to keep a person involved in anything? I had a Rebbe who explained that everything in life runs in cycles of the avos: The first stage is always exciting and new and has an energy-chessed. The second stage is always tough, the excitement wears off and now its time to really get to work-avodah. The last is after pushing through it becomes a part of you, not the excitement of new, the feeling of accomplishment, of being at piece and knowing yourself-Emes. Perhaps that’s why this message specifically comes form Yaakov Avinu, who encapsulized Emes.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Ari Deutscher MSW