Linda Pardes Friedburg
Russian-speaking American Israeli Community-building Mom

Parshat Vayetze – Striving Beyond the Status Quo

On the Temple Mount this week, from where all blessing flows to the world. (Photo: Linda Pardes Friedburg)

As he was fleeing from his brother-turned-enemy, Jacob dreamed and saw a “ladder firmly planted on the ground, its top reaching heavenward.”
“וַיַּֽחֲלֹ֗ם וְהִנֵּ֤ה סֻלָּם֙ מֻצָּ֣ב אַ֔רְצָה וְרֹאשׁ֖וֹ מַגִּ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמָ֑יְמָה וְהִנֵּה֙ מַלְאֲכֵ֣י אֱלֹהִ֔ים עֹלִ֥ים וְיֹֽרְדִ֖ים בּֽוֹ.” (בראשית כח:יב)

And the message of this dream was: Now you are in flight. Now the angels of Galut are entering your soul (so hints the midrash), and you are full of wariness and fear, because your future is unknown.

But that is not forever, and that is not the ideal. You will work hard, you will do things you’ve never had to do in the safe tent of learning in your parents’ home, you will struggle against corrupt and conniving people, you will love, you will lose, and you will raise twelve deep, diverse tribes of your People.

But then you will come home again, as Yisrael – having striven with, and been strengthened by, both man and God.
“…צֵא֙ מִן־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֔את וְשׁ֖וּב אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ מֽוֹלַדְתֶּֽךָ.” (בראשית 31:13)

The angels of Eretz Yisrael will reenter and inform your heart and actions as a refined man of Israel, “b’tzelem Elokim” – unafraid to live your faith proudly and “to call in God’s name,” and serve Him with love, like your grandfather Avraham, knowing the purpose of your soul in this world!

This week on the Temple Mount, accompanying a dear friend about to be remarried, there was no intimidation by Wakf officials or by paid, shrieking Arab grandmothers.

Only a small regiment of sweet Israeli policemen, Druze and Jewish, accompanied us, after briefing us with the official mantra of how any sign of Jewish worship is forbidden – no siddurim, no bowing, no “Sh’ma Yisrael,” God forbid.

They are as aware of the absurdity of these demands as we are, and this time, our hodgepodge group of both chassidically-dressed and simple Jews, men and women of all ages, were given time and “freedom” to pray, albeit quietly, and only from our cellphones, and at a distance, while Arabs and tourists roamed the Har freely.

The first building one passes on the right upon entering the Temple Mount is the El Aksa mosque, which faces Mecca, and where Moslems pray today with their backs to the Dome of the Rock, built purposely on top of where the Holy of Holies once stood, and before El Aksa in the seventh century.

Which means: the religious focus of Moslems was and always will be Mecca. Their “struggle” for the Temple Mount is purely political. They recognize its significance more than we do.

Har HaBayit – Hebrew for the Temple Mount – is indeed the Jewish People’s home. It’s the real thing. The Kotel is a mere entry-way below.

Though most members of our group did not know one another, we sang together as we walked through the planked, enclosed corridor to the Har, in honor of the bride-to-be and our tradition, which cherishes religious freedom, life and joy. Such a dichotomy, compared to the violent demonstrations and death-worship of those who wish to prevent our presence there.

The feeling on the Har is something special, holy. There is so much space up there, waiting for our return, and for the return of all God-loving nations.
“כִּי בֵיתִי בֵּית תְּפִלָּה יִקָּרֵא לְכָל הָעַמִּים.” (ישעיהו נו:ז)

I do not closely follow the doomsday statements about the government in formation, but I think Jews the world-over can take wisdom from Yaakov, who in the Kabbala represents “Tifferet” – a harmonious blend of Avraham’s Chesed and Yitzchak’s G’vurah.

Having experienced a bit of this world and returning home, with a sensitive, God-loving consciousness, we, like Jacob, are meant to be proud, un-gagged Jews in our own land, and not at all comfortable with the “status quo” of cowering before our enemies’ deadly attacks, tantrums and demands.

After almost 75 years of tremendous sacrifice and achievement, the Jews of Israel must be ready to live, hike, build and pray freely everywhere in our Land – to expel the “angels of Galut” from our hearts, which chain us to the stagnant “status quo.”

We must continually strive upwards – not only build start-ups and the physical foundations of our country, but soar to the spiritual heights our nation is meant to achieve. Not wring our hands with worry about what the world will say, but speak our own truths and create the just, flourishing reality that we know will bring peace.

Sh’ma Yisrael! Remember, each of us, the children of Jacob, and rejoice in who we are!

Only when we are true to our identities, when we celebrate and perpetuate our traditions and behave sovereignly in this 5000+ year homeland of ours, will our brothers-turned-enemies become brothers again, and will the light of Israel bring real peace to our world.

Shabbat shalom!

About the Author
Linda Pardes Friedburg made Aliyah from New Jersey in 1990. She is Founding Director of Shishi Shabbat Yisraeli National Jewish Leadership Initiative for Young Russian-Speaking Israelis, is grateful for her six kids and one Belarussian husband, and still feels the need to pinch herself every time she drives up the hill to Neve Daniel, Gush Etzion, their home since 1994. OLIM FOR TZAHAL
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