In this weeks סדרה we find that יעקב passed by ירושלים and ended up in חרן. Realizing that he had passed the place where his ancestors had davened, he decided to go and pray at this auspicious place. רש"י[i] based on a גמרא[ii] says that he set off on the way and upon reaching בית אל was זוכה to קפיצת הדרך – the land contracted towards him.
The רמב"ן[iii] however argues on רש"י because we don’t actually find in the גמרא that יעקב even started walking towards
בית אל, he just "יהיב דעתיה למיהדר" – “set his mind to return”? From where did רש"י get it from that he actually walked this part of the way back?
Reb Ezriel Rosenbaum Shlita gave an answer he heard from Reb Leib Lopian Zatzal. When רש"י learnt the גמ' he understood that this has to be the פשט. We know that to be זוכה to a נס one has to do some type of השתדלות. But the mere fact that יעקב mentally decided to undertake the journey back, was still only a theoretical idea, and not yet of real worth until he actually put it into action. Nice fluffy ideas are not what Hashem wants, it has to be real action to be worthy of a נס.
Reb Leib compared this to that which we find in הלכה that an acquisition is considered to be binding if there is גמירת דעת – complete consent on behalf of the buyer and seller. But חז"ל said that this consent is only shown when you do a certain action e.g. pick it up, or write a legal document. This is because only action proves that your thoughts of really למעשה and you really want to do it. It’s good to want to give lots of צדקה and to talk about getting up for שחרית but only the actual deed amounts to anything of worth.
This idea of putting out hypothetical thoughts into action in order to show concrete commitment, was brought out by R’ Dovid Kaplan Shlita on the פסוק[iv] which describes after the עקידה how אברהם was told "אל תשלח ידך אל הנער ואל תעש לו מאומה" – “don’t stretch your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him”. רש"י is bothered by the superfluous expression “and do nothing to him”. He answers that being told “not to stretch his hand forth” meant not to shect יצחק. But אברהם said “if I do not shect him then I came here in vain, so I will slightly cut יצחק just enough to bring forth a bit of blood”, whereupon Hashem added, “do nothing to him, don’t even give him a מום”.
What was the point of giving יצחק a scratch, asked R’ Dovid? Why would this make his whole journey worth it? He answered, that what we see from here is that all the tremendous התעוררות – arousal that אברהם experienced, would have gone to waste had he not translated this into some type of action. This small action would have served to be מוציא לפועל – to bring forth his internal desire into real tangible intended action[v].
[i] בראשית כח:יז ורש"י ד"ה כי אם בית אלקים.
[ii] חולין צא:
[iii] רמב"ן בראשית כח:יז.
[iv] בראשית כב:יב ורש"י שם.
[v] ויש להוסיף ובמה שרואים שה' לא רצה אפילו המעשה קטן מגלה לנו שאצל אברהם אבינו המחשבה היה ממש כמעשה, ולא צריך להוכיח ע"י המשעה.