• Rabbi Tzvi Abrahams

Vayeitzei: All Along The Watchtower ~ Tzvi Abrahams


Parshas וַיֵצֵא

All along the Watchtower

מִצְפֶּה: watchtower

צָפוּי: foreseen

צָפוּן: hidden

צָפוֹן: north

מְצַפֶּה: expect

צַףְ: float

צְפַת: Tzfas

צִפּוּי: plated, coating

הַר הַצוֹפִים: Har HaTzophim

בַּעַל צְפוֹן: Baal Tzaphon

צְפַנְיָה: Tzafaniah (prophet), Stephan, Steven

צִפְצוּף: chirping

מִצְפֶּה: Watchtower

וַיֹּאמֶר לָבָן הַגַּל הַזֶּה עֵד בֵּינִי וּבֵינְךָ הַיּוֹם עַל כֵּן קָרָא שְׁמוֹ גַּלְעֵד:וְהַמִּצְפָּה אֲשֶׁר אָמַר יִצֶף ה’בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ כִּי נִסָּתֵר אִישׁ מֵרֵעֵהוּ. And Lavan said, “Let this heap of stones be witness between me and you today, therefore its name was called Galeid. And the Mitzpah, for he said Hashem will watch over, between me and you, when we are out of sight from each another.”1

Amitzpehis a watchtower, a place to look out and observe from afar what is going on. One who is at ground level is limited to how far he can see, whereas the mitzpehaffords one a far greater vantage point. Compared to one at ground level, at a lookout one is able to see things coming ahead of time.

So this is what the pasukis saying: the gal/the mound of rocks, symbolizing a pact between us, is the point that we shall not crossover. Even though the galis at ground level and is limited to how far it can be seen, let Hashem be our mitzpeh/watchtower from above, making sure that when we are no longer in view of thegal, we will not trespass over one another. In other words, in time, after we have traveled away from the galand the pact fades into the distant past, let Hashem, Who sees from above, be witness to the guarding of the pact in the future. (This is unlike Bilam, who trespassed this point, causing his leg to be crushed along the gal).

צָפוּי: Foreseen; צָפוּן: Hidden

We can easily see how these words are related. Hidden and foreseen are two sides of the same coin. What is hidden by definition is not seen, while what is seen by definition is not hidden.

The exception to the above rule is the one who is high up in the watchtower, who can see what is hidden in relation to those who are on the ground.

הַכֹּל צָפוּי,וְהָרְשׁוּת נְתוּנָה,ובְטוֹב הָעוֹלָם נִדּוֹן.וְהַכֹּל לְפִי רֹב הַמַּעֲשֶׂה Everything is foreseen (by Hashem), yet we are given free choice; in goodness the world is judged, and everything according to the majority of our deeds.2

I once heard a great analogy from Rabbi Zemir Cohen (Hidabrot) that helps explain the seemingly contradictory notions of having free choice with Hashem still knowing everything.

You are traveling on the motorway. Ten miles from the direction you have just come from is your past, and ten miles ahead is your future. Where you are now is the present. One who is flying in the air, directly overhead, has the birds-eye view; he can see all your past, present, and future at the same time. Ten miles away from home you call your wife to tell her you will be home in ten minutes. Although this is your expectation, the one flying in the air can see that in five miles there is a traffic jam!

The traffic jam is in fact being completely controlled by air traffic control, namely Hashem, from the watchtower above. The traffic is aנִסַיוֹן/test to see how you deal with the situation. Do you become frustrated knowing you are now going to be late for dinner, or do you turn on the “autopilot” and recognize that Hashem is in control? Hashem just wants you to see Him. (There have been many times when I personally have given control over to Hashem and suddenly the traffic clears inexplicably.)

We think we are in control of our lives, but really it is Hashem who is directing every little detail from above. He sees our past, present, and future at the same time, and so adjusts what happens to us now in order that we reach our required destination on time — our destination being recognition of Hashem. הַכֹּל צָפוּי, from Hashem’s view nothing is hidden,וְהָרְשׁוּת נְתוּנָה , and the choice is given to us to see that all is in the hands of Heaven except our ability to see Hashem (הַכֹּל בִּידֵישָׁמַיִם חוּץ מִיִרְאַת שָׁמַיִם).

And where do we see this principle of Hashem running the show? No other place than with Yaakov and Rachel, as it says: וְרָחֵל בָּאָה עִם הַצֹּאן/And Rachel came with the sheep.רַב הוּנָא אָמַר הַכֹּלצָפוּי לִפְנֵי הקב”ה/everything is foreseen before Hashem. Before Yaakov came to Charan, Hashem had already set the stage; He sent a plague among the flocks of Lavan, where there only remained a few from many, so Rachel became the shepherd, as it says: וְרָחֵל בָּאָה עִם הַצֹּאן אֲשֶׁר לְאָבִיהָ כִּי רֹעָה הִוא/and Rachel came with the sheep of her father because she was a shepherd.3

צָפוֹן: North

The earth tilts in relation to the sun, causing the sun to shine in a southerly arch. Therefore, the north, for the most part, is hidden from the sun’s rays and light, making it more obscure then the south, which is bathed in sunshine.4

There is a Gemara in Bava Basrathat says that whoever wants wealth should daven toward the north, and whoever wants wisdom should daven toward the south.5This is represented by the fact that in the Beis HaMikdash, the Shulchan is in the north while the Menorah is in the south. The Shulchan is the table upon where the Lechem HaPanimare placed, where bread signifies parnasah, while the Menorah represents light and spirituality.

There is another Gemara that states that brachahonly comes from what is hidden.6For example, if you have a purse full of money, once you count the money the total becomes fixed and cannot be blessed with an increase. However, as long as you don’t know how much there is, you give Hashem the opportunity to bless it. This is just like the analogy of the road, whereby in ten-miles time there is a traffic jam, which at this moment you can’t see. If you tune into the traffic report on the radio, you become aware of the traffic and it becomes real. As long as it remains hidden, it gives Hashem the opportunity to change what will be without having to perform open miracles.

In short, we see that brachahcomes from what is hidden, where brachahmeans increase. So now we can also understand why facing north when we daven is a segulahfor wealth, because the north also alludes to the hidden.

מְצַפֶּה: Expect

Expectation is to have an idea of what will happen in the future, even though the future is out of sight.

From our example of driving on the motorway, you expect to be home in ten minutes yet you don’t see the traffic. This is our expectation, but our expectations don’t always come to fruition.

So our expectations are really our hidden futures.

צַףְ: Float

Just like a סְפִינָה/boat that floats on the water is only partly seen above the water while part is hidden below the surface, so too many times in our life we only see the tip of the iceberg.

צְפַת: Tzfas

צְפַתis the city of רוּחַ/air and represents spirituality, which is hidden from the eye like air. Positioned high up on the mountaintop, Tzfas overlooks most of the north of Israel.

צִפּוּי: Plated, Coating

At the same time the coating is seen, it conceals what is underneath.

הַר הַצוֹפִים: Har HaTzophim

הַצוּפִיםis the name given to the vantage point that overlooks the Beis HaMikdash. As long as one is in view of the Makom/the place, one is bound to certain conditions of return if one has forgotten to burn leftover hekdesh/holy meat. But once one is no longer in sight, hidden from view, one is no longer required to return.7There is a discussion among the Rishonimif צוּפִיםis an actual place, or any place overlooking the Makom HaMikdosh. According to the opinion that צוּפִיםis an actual place, there is also a discussion as to what direction it was in relation to Yerushalayim. Most opinions say it was to the east. Since there is an opinion that צוּפִיםis connected to צָפוֹן,8it would suggest that צוּפִיםwas to the north of Yerushalayim like Har HaTzofim today. It is also more likely that the Mishnah is addressing the majority of people who are leaving Yerushalayim on their way home, and since Yerushalayim is to the south of Eretz Yisrael (in the times of the Temple), most people visiting would be leaving to go north.

בַּעַל צְפוֹן: Baal Tzaphon

SeeTargum Yonasanthat describes בַּעַל צְפוֹן as being connected to the north star of the desert, symbolizing darkness and desolation, which misled Pharaoh into thinking that בַּעַל צְפוֹן had the power to cause the Bnei Yisrael to be in the dark and lose their way in the desert (סָגַר עַלֵהֶם הַמִדְבָּר).

צָפַנְיָה: Tzafaniah (the prophet), Stephan, Steven

Literally means “the hiddenness of Hashem.” A fitting name for aנָבִיא/prophet, who reveals what is hidden. Similarly, Pharaoh gives Yosef the nameצָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ, because he was able to reveal the hidden.

צִפְצוּף: chirping

כִּי עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם יוֹלִיךְ אֶת הַקּוֹל וּבַעַל כְּנָפַיִם יַגֵּיד דָּבָר Because the birds of the heavens carry the voice, and the possessors of wings will relate things.9

פּירוּשׁ יוֹנַתָן:הֵם חַכְמַי הָעוֹפוֹת שֶׁבְּצִפְצוּפִים יֵדְעוּ עַתִידוֹת/The Targum explains that צִפְצוּףis the wisdom of understanding the chirping of the birds who know the future.

According to the Ramban,a מְנַחֵשׁis someone who looks into the flapping of bird’s wings or their chirpings, because anyone who hastens to know the future before it happens is called נִיחוּשׁ. Similarly, Shlomo knew the art of צִפְצוּף, and this is not considered an abomination among the goyim,but rather it is considered a wisdom.10

Lavan uses נִיחוּשׁ,11whereas Yaakov is אִישׁ תָּם/a man of purity. For us it is a תּוֹעֵבָה/abomination to seek to know the future, since it shows a lacking of being תָּמִים תִּהִיֶה עִם ה’/ wholeheartedly with Hashem.

The way צִפְצוּףworks is that winged creatures, being able to fly high and mix with themazalos, are able to glimpse into the future. This is also why the goyimsacrifice to the demons — because demons also can fly and see into the future.12However, their perspective is limited compared to angels and to those who possess ruach hakodesh, which comes from far above what the birds and demons can see.

Accordingly, we are not meant to seek out chochmas hagoyimbecause their ability to see properly is limited. The birds-eye view overhead can see the traffic jam; however, the one who has true vision knows that the traffic can soon clear (depending on if we relinquish control to Hashem).

תָּמִים תִּהִיֶה עִם ה’/being pure in the ways of Hashem means that we should only consult with Hashem through His נָבִיא/prophet,אוּרִים וְתּוּמִים/Urim V’Tumim,or צַדִיקִים/tzaddikim. Only those possessing ruach hakodesh— Hashem being the point of call, because He sees everything that is hidden — therefore do not seek out an inferior source, a middle man, medium, astrology, fortune teller, palm reader, or crystal balls. Going to the medium and bypassing Hashem is, by definition,avodah zarah.

One cannot discuss trusting in Hashem without distinguishing between two fundamental concepts: emunahandbitachon.I once heard a seminar by Rabbi Zemir Cohen (Hidabrot) in which he said that in order to reach simchah, one first has to have emunahand bitachon. He described it as a building whose ground floor is emunah/faith in Hashem. The next floor is bitachon/trust in Hashem, and the higher floor is simchah. Just like the second floor cannot exist without the underlying floors, so too simchahcannot be achieved until one first attains emunahand bitachon.

The Difference Between Emunahand Bitachon

There’s a tightrope walker doing his act at the circus. Each time he goes across, the crowd shouts, “You can do it, you can do it!” One time he goes across with a bar, another time on a unicycle. Next, they take away the safety net. The crowd stands on its feet and again shouts, “You can do it, you can do it!” After this, the tightrope walker turns to the crowd and says, “Do you think I can walk across with someone on my back?” Again the crowd shouts, “You can do it, you can do it!” When he asks, “Which one of you is going to be the volunteer?” the crowd is suddenly silenced.13

This is the difference between emunahand bitachon. We all know that Hashem can do it, but are we prepared to climb on Hashem’s back? Hashem has a great track record. He took us out of Egypt, performed all those miracles for us, split the Reed Sea, defeated the mighty Egyptian army — He can do it! But when it comes to our own lives, are we willing to climb on Hashem’s back and let Him play an active role in our lives? Most of us are unable to trust in Hashem to the point where we can allow Him to run our lives. Rather, we feel insecure unless we take charge, so we support ourselves by working eight hours a day, five days a week, year in, year out, because no one else is going to do it for us — as you know, money doesn’t grow on trees!

Those who have money cannot truly know what it is like to have full bitchonin Hashem, for they are not reliant on Hashem for their פַּרְנָסָה/sustenance, as it says: שֶׁחָזַר הקב”ה עַל כָּל מִדוֹת טוֹבוֹת לִיתֵּן לְיִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא מָצָא אֶלָא עַנִיוֹת/ the best measure Hashem found to give to Yisrael was poverty.14One who has money cannot truly know what it is like to have fullbitchonin Hashem, for Hashem has already supplied him with his.

Mychavrusaonce said to me that he can see the pain on people’s faces because they are carrying such heavy loads on their shoulders. To them, life is a burden. When we are on the level of bitachonin Hashem, we allow Him to carry us on His shoulders. We realize all along that He is carrying us, and we can just let go.

I am not really the driver; Hashem is the driver and controls every detail of my life. I am really Hashem’s passenger; I am here to enjoy the ride — to spectate and observe — and to connect to the reality of אֵין עוֹד מִלְבַדוֹ/there is nothing else but Him.

When I let go of the reins and trust in Hashem that every little thing will be all right, then life is much lighter; I am no longer carrying the heavy load of life. Life is no longer a burden.

וַיִשָׂא יַעַקֹב רַגְלָיו/and Yaakov lifted up his legs.15After Hashem appeared to Yaakov in the dream of the ladder, Hashem promised him that He would return him safely. Yaakov’s level ofbitachonwas lifted, and so he lifted up his legs instead of his legs carrying him. The Rashbam comments on the same pasukthat through trusting in Hashem, Yaakov went willingly with simchah.

Fromemunahand bitachoncomes שִׂמְחָה. One feels light and lifted to the point of being like a birdבְּצִפְצוּפִים/singing Hashem’s praises; one has a birds-eye view, one has expanse, one has vision, one has wings.

Maybe this is what is meant by the double lashonof וַיֵצֵא וַיֵלֶךְ — that Yaakov went out of his emunahlevel and went to the bitachonlevel, from driver to passenger. וַיֵלֶךְfromlashonוְהִתְהַלֵךְ, where Avraham, Noach, and Chanoch, who were all tzaddikim,walked with Hashem, letting Hashem be the driver.

Allowing Hashem to watch over us reminds us of the very famous mashalof the Ramchal in Mesilas Yesharimof life being compared to a maze of hidden pathways, where the only way out is to seek counsel from the One Who is on high, the One who all along the watchtower sees everything.

1Bereishis 31:48–9.

2Avos 3:15.

3Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer 36.

4See the Kli Yakaron the pasuk, ופרצת ימה וקידמה צפונה ונגבה,Bereishis28:14.

5Bava Basra 25b.

6Bava Metzia 42a.

7See Pesachim 49a.

8Vayikra Rabbah 2:11, Maharzu; צפוןbeing lashon צופיה.

9Koheles 10:20.

10Devarim 18:9.

11Bereishis 30:27.

12See Ramban to Vayikra 17:7.

13Example given by Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein.

14Chagigah 9b. See Tanna D’vei Eliyahu Zuta5 for further explanation.

15Bereishis 29:1.


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