Parashat Veyeseh- Ends and Means
We read in Parashat Vayeseh of Yaakob’s famous dream, in which G-d appeared to him as he made his way to Haran, promising that he would care for him, bring him back to Eretz Yisrael, and produce a great nation from his offspring. Upon awakening, Yaakob exclaimed, “Indeed, there is G-d in this place, yet I did not know!” (28:16). Rashi explains that Yaakov would never have slept at that spot if he had known what a sacred place it was. He went to sleep at that place along the road without thinking there was anything special about that particular location. But then he had a dream of a ladder extending from his head to the heavens, and G-d spoke to him. It was now clear to Yaakob that this place was special and unique, as he proceeds to say, “This is only the House of G-d; this is the gate to the heavens.” Yaakob thus regretted sleeping there, as it is inappropriate to sleep at such a sacred spot.
We have much to learn from Yaakob’s response to his dream. From his perspective, it would have been preferable to forego on this extraordinary experience, on beholding a prophetic vision, in order to avoid violating one Halachic detail. Yaakob did not feel it was worth neglecting a Halachic technicality to experience this vision; he was committed to abiding by each and every Halachic nuance even if this meant forfeiting something as significant as a prophetic message from G-d! As far as he was concerned, the ends do not justify the means – even if the “end” is prophecy and the “means” involve the violation of a “minor” Halachic technicality.
Unfortunately, many of us are too flippant when it comes to Halachic technicalities, and prepared to compromise Halachic standards for the sake of important goals. For example, there are those who, for the sake of helping their children find marriage partners, compromise modesty standards by running inappropriate social events. Yaakob Abinu’s reaction to his dream should remind us of the paramount importance of Halachic details. We cannot simply dismiss Halachic restrictions because we are pursuing noble and worthwhile goals. Our job is to observe Hashem’s laws, and if this observance hampers our ability to achieve certain important goals, we must trust that He will find a way for those goals to be achieved without the need for illegitimate Halachic compromises.