And he arrived at the place and lodged there because the sun had set, and he took some of the stones of the place and placed [them] at his head, and he lay down in that place. (Breishis 28:11)
and he lay down in that place: [The word הַהוּא] is a restrictive expression, meaning that [only] in that place did he lie down, but during the fourteen years that he served in the house of Eber, he did not lie down at night, because he was engaged in Torah study. –Rashi
From Yaakov’s brief rest here, we have a minor hint that points to the fact that Yaakov did not go directly to Charan to find a wife as his father had directed him. Rather he took a fourteen year detour to study Torah with extreme diligence in preparation for meeting the challenges of the world. What kind of Torah was Yaakov studying there? The Torah had not been given for many generations. How was he preparing?
Even though the Torah as we know it had not been revealed, there were traditions from the time of Adam regarding the Hebrew Language and the meaning of everything. Eber would be a bearer of those traditions. There is an ancient book from that time called Sefer Yetzira- “Book of Creation” which is still extant today. It is written there: “Twenty-Two foundation letters: He engraved them. He carved them. He permuted them. He transformed them, and with them He depicted all that was formed and all that would be formed.”
What does this mean? It is talking about the Hebrew Aleph -Beis! Was the world really created with the letters of the Aleph-Beis? Yes! Imagine artistically as you read the statement above from Sefer Yetzira that it is talking about the elements on the periodic table: ‘He engraved them and carved them and permuted them and transformed them and with them He depicted all that was and would be formed!’ Amazing! Everything in the physical world including you and me is constructed from some combo of those same elements.
The Hebrew Language is more like chemistry than any other language. Western languages employ letters that make sounds. There is nothing inherently significant about an A, or a B, or a C. In the eastern lands, there are only pictures of a flower, or a house, or friendship. Those pictures awaken files of spoken language.
It’s not surprising that Hebrew, the original and Holy Language has both pictographic and ideographic features. The name of the letter LAMED, means to learn. It has the shape of a profile, of a silhouette of a person sitting and learning. As a prefix it means “to”. Through learning a person gains a direction.
The letter BEIS, can be found inside a letter PEH in white. BEIS means a house. When the Tanna said that he called his wife his BAIS, his house, what did he mean? When the pitch was being placed on Noach’s ark, it is written that it was placed, “M’bais u B’Chutz” from inside and outside. BEIS means inside! Used a prefix BEIS means “in” or “for”. The Tanna was saying that his wife was the essence of the home. She was the internality of the house. LAMED and BEIS point together to learning about the inner world. LAMED + BEIS = LEV or HEART. The SHEM- name of a thing is not just an arbitrary sound but rather a description of the optimal purpose for which it was created.
There is more information around these days than ever before, but wisdom is at an all-time low. Imagine a combination of stores, Staples, Home Depot, Tiffany’s, with all their goods piled into the middle of a warehouse floor with no proper organization: The priceless and the worthless lying side by side. With all the “information” and no clear knowledge about what’s of lasting value and what’s a passing fancy, the lines between reality and fantasy are lost. Yaakov was preparing for the complexities of life, building shelves, and pricing everything in advance. Fourteen sleepless years was a small investment in the internal infrastructure for the rest of his life.
By: Rabbi Label Lam
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