Vayetze

Posted in Breishit on Sunday, 26 June 2011.

Ya’akov’s flocks of sheep.

The Midrash describes the Jewish people as God’s “sheep” (Shir Hashirim Rabah 2:16), as an expression of their total dedication to God, like sheep that follow their shepherd unquestioningly.

Ya’akov exemplified this level of dedication while he worked for Lavan, remaining loyal to God’s commands despite the spiritually alien environment. Thus, to hint to Ya’akov’s dedication, God rewarded him with wealth that came about through amassing sheep.

However, when Ya’akov returned to confront Eisav, he did not stress sheep as his most important acquisition, but rather, oxen (32:6). Ya’akov was hinting, “Because I am dedicated to God like a quiet sheep, therefore I have God’s might behind me, so I will be as strong as an ox against you!”

This teaches us that, in our observance of mitzvos we should be utterly humble towards God like a sheep; but when fighting the forces that oppose Judaism in the outside world, we cannot stand by sheepishly and watch Jews be drawn away from their heritage. Rather, we must fight for Jewish values with the strength of an ox.

(Based on Likutei Sichos vol. 15, p. 252ff.)

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