Itzchak Evan-Shayish
Dedicated to sharing Rav Kook's lights with the world.

Rav Kook on Parshat VaYetzeh: The House of Jacob’s Universal Mission

“וַיֵּצֵ֥א יַעֲקֹ֖ב מִבְּאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ חָרָֽנָה׃ — Jacob left Beer-sheba, and set out for Haran”                 (Breishit 28:10)

And so begins Yaakov’s journey into exile as he flees Esau’s wrath. In his first night, he has an extraordinary dream vision of a ladder whose top reached up toward heaven. Angels were going up and down and YHVH on top told Yaakov the ultimate historical result:

“I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south. All of the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants” (Ibid: 13,14)

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook TZ’L explained that: “The ladder that Yaakov saw presented the process  of history that HaShem prepared so that the final purpose will  be realized…He saw that the ladder and the angels of Elohim were directed by the Blessed One to arrange the ways of history among the nations of the world. 

But in relation to Yaakov the ladder and the angels are not relevant. The fulfillment of Israel is not a gradual natural process. Even in Yaakov’s weakest point he sees that ‘YHVH is standing on top of the ladder’.” (Midbar Shur:199)

At that moment YHVH addresses Yaakov: “ I am YHVH the Elohim of Avraham your father, and the Elohim of Yitzchak. I will give the land that you are lying on to you and your descendants.” (Breishit 28:13)

Rav Kook comments on this most significant moment and statement: “Avraham and Itzchak called in the name of HaShem in a universal way- without beginning the building of a specific singular nation. Their goal was to call in the name of HaShem to the whole world.

From Yaakov Avinu the nation of Israel begins to flower as a unique nation that unites with HaShem Elohim alone. This is because the time came to begin the universal preparation through a particular division.” (Eyn Aya, Brachot- 9:356)

The parsha continues to detail the complex birth of the family of Yaakov. Their  particular identity is forged to enable them to ultimately fulfill the universal destiny that Avraham and Yitzchak were called to.

As Rav Kook explained: “Each one of the Avot attained a unique level through their way of service…Avraham attained a very high level of consciousness through which he lovingly called in the name of HaShem to the whole world …Yitzchak attained the level of Pachad/Dread of Yitzchak (Breishit 31:53)From this fulfillment of the levels of chachma/wisdom and yiraa/awe emerged actual practical behavior  in the inheritance of Yaakov -in the house of the God of Yaakov. ‘We are instructed in his ways and must follow his guidelines’ (Isaiah 2:3).” (Olat Rayah 1:269)

The Parsha concludes with Yaakov leaving exile with his wives and children and heading homewards.  At the border of the Land of Israel, Yaakov encounters the angels of Elohim again:

וְיַעֲקֹ֖ב הָלַ֣ךְ לְדַרְכּ֑וֹ וַיִּפְגְּעוּ־ב֖וֹ מַלְאֲכֵ֥י אֱלֹהִֽים׃ –Jacob went on his way, and angels of God encountered him.

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יַעֲקֹב֙ כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר רָאָ֔ם מַחֲנֵ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים זֶ֑ה וַיִּקְרָ֛א שֵֽׁם־הַמָּק֥וֹם הַה֖וּא מַֽחֲנָֽיִם׃ –When he saw them, Jacob said, “This is God’s camp.” So he named that place Machanaim-twin camps:                      (Breishit 31:2,3)

Rav Kook comments about this encounter at the twin camps of Machanaim“A great source of the Israelite nation’s ability to focus on a singular purpose and its usefulness is embedded in the wondrous legacy of  Yaakov Avinu. He is now beginning to establish a separate nation as he builds a home for the ‘tribes of YaH, a testimony for Yisrael, to give thanks to the Name of YHVH.’ (Tehillim 122:4)

And so he said: ‘Let this stone that I have set up as a pillar becomes a בית-home for Elohim’ (Breishit 28:22). This is not like Avraham who is called ‘הר-mountain’ and Itzchak who is called ‘שדה-field’ (Pesachim 88:1). They are not separated by a barrier. But the ‘בית-home’ is separated [walled in] showing the uniqueness of the Israelite spirit ‘in the land that is under the scrutiny of YHVH Your Elohim’ (Dvarim 11:12).

And thus the  inheritance of Yaakov is particularly limitless. Its ironic uniqueness comes from a complete awareness; it is not only absorbed solely in its private or national identity. It is a focus that enables the greatest power of worldwide influence and connection . Therefore many nations will specifically say: ‘Let us go up the mountain of YHVH to house of the Elohim of Yaakov’ (Isaiah 2:3) 

This represents the union of the two extremes- the gathering of the individual in their own border in order to create a completely good power for the sake of the all.

Therefore Yaakov arrives to the place where the angels of the Land of Israel and the angels of the rest of the world meet. This special place is appropriately and eternally titled ‘machanayim-the twin camps’. The center of the Land of Israel will give support to the whole world. Through this widening ‘the land of Israel is destined to expand to the whole world’ (Sifrei, Dvarim 1:1)” (Eyn Aya- Brachot 9:263)

In the early 1900s in Yaffo Rav Kook explained that: “From the beginning of the planting of this nation- who knew to call out in the name of the clear and pure Divine Idea at a time of wildly impure idolatry- was revealed the aspiration to establish a large human community who would ‘keep the way of YHVH doing righteousness and justice-לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת צְדָקָ֖ה וּמִשְׁפָּ֑ט. 

This is the aspiration to help humankind emerge from terrible spiritual and physical suffering and to bring it to a life of freedom full of splendor and bliss. All humankind will then thrive in the light of the Divine Idea. 

In order to fulfill this aspiration it is necessary for this community to become a nation, politically and socially. It must become a sovereign nation at the height of human culture. ‘A great nation of wise and understanding people’.(Dvarim 4:6)

The light of the Divine Idea…will then act upon the entire world.” (Orot,104-5)

Rav Kook is emphasizing to us that as the children of Yaakov we must remember that our collective role is to serve the perfection of all humankind and existence.

BeMhera BeYamenu-Quickly In Our Days


Prepared by Rabbi Itzchak Evan-Shayish, , .

About the Author
Rabbi Itzchak Evan-Shayish (Marmorstein) is a passionate student of the teachings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (1865- 1935) He is doing pioneering work in bringing Rav Kook to the public through classes, writings and creative musical and dramatic presentations in Israel and all over the world. He is the gabbai and educator at Beit HaRav Kook Synagogue in Jerusalem. He is the chairman of Ohr LeRayah, a Jerusalem based organization dedicated to sharing the universal teachings of Rav Kook with the whole world. ( He is a musmach of Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, Z"L , Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach Z’L and Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi Z'L.
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