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He encountered the place and spent the night there because the sun had set; he took form the stones of the place which he arranged around his head and lay down in that place (Bereishis 28:11).
In its description of Yaakov’s visit to Beis-el the posuk employs the unusual word vayifgah. This word has been translated to mean encountered. The connotation of this word implies a sudden unexpected meeting. Chazal explain that after Yaakov arrived in Charan he said to himself perhaps I have passed Mount Moriah, the place where my father and grandfather prayed and I had failed to stop and pray. Yaakov then decided to return. Immediately thereafter the land miraculously contracted and Yaakov found himself at Mount Moriah. It was thus a sudden meeting with the place.
Chazal also explain that the word vayifgah is related to prayer. Indeed this posuk teaches us that Yaakov instituted the evening prayer. The commentaries explain that the evening is symbolic of the darkness of exile. Yaakov’s evening prayer is thus symbolic of the power of prayer in times of galus. Yaakov’s institution of the evening prayer is indeed very meaningful and practical for us now living in galus.
It is no coincidence that chazal derive these seemingly two distinct concepts from the same word. The homiletic message is that just as the travel time for Yaakov was miraculously shortened likewise the objects of our desires although they may seem distant can be miraculously attained through prayer.
Chazal further note that the shortening of the road that occurred with respect to Yaakov was qualitatively different than the shortening of the road that occurred with others, specifically Eliezer. With regard to Eliezer chazal note that the road became shorter. The location of his destination remained in place. It was only that Hashem miraculously reduced his travel time. However, here chazal derive that Yaakov did not travel at all, instead the place of his destination came to him. (Chulin 91b)
When we combine this observation with the above idea we derive an insight into the power of prayer. One would be inclined to believe that through prayer we receive Divine assistance to achieve our goals. However, even with prayer we must take the necessary steps needed to achieve our objectives. Our prayer helps only to remove obstacles that stand in the way or to prevent any deviation in our course. However, from the above observation we may learn that prayer is so powerful that it may even cause the objects of our desire to come directly to us. Sincere prayer has the power to completely eliminate the necessary steps needed to achieve our objectives.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5762/2002