Parshas Vayeitzei opens with Yaakov heading towards Padan Aram and the house of his uncle, Lavan. The pasuk tells us that during his journey, he happened upon “the place”. “וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם וַיָּלֶן שָׁם כִּי בָא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וַיִּקַּח מֵאַבְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם וַיָּשֶׂם מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו וַיִּשְׁכַּב בַּמָּקוֹם הַהוּא” “And he (Yaakov) arrived at the place and lodged there since the sun had set, and he took some of the stones of the place and placed (them) at his head and he lay down in that place” (Bereishis 28:11). Rashi explains that this “place” is none other than the future location of the Beis Hamikdash. Chazal explain that Hashem wanted Yaakov to stay in His most special place and leave his mark on it with his tefillos and Torah study. Therefore, he arranged that Yaakov should arrive there just as night fell and would be forced to sleep there.
The Kli Yakar points out how the word “מָּקוֹם”, “place”, appears three times in this pasuk when once would suffice. We see this same repetition later in the pesukim after Yaakov wakes up. “וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב מִשְּׁנָתוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר אָכֵן יֵשׁ יְהֹוָה בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה וְאָנֹכִי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי… וַיִּירָא וַיֹּאמַר מַה נּוֹרָא הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה אֵין זֶה כִּי אִם בֵּית אֱלֹהִים …וַיִּקְרָא אֶת שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא בֵּית אֵל” “And Yaakov awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Indeed, Hashem is in this place and I did not know’…and he was frightened and he said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of G-d’…and he called that place Beis-El” (Bereishis 28:16-17, 19). Again, in the various pesukim, emphasis is placed on repeatedly calling this location “the place”. What is the reasoning behind this?
The answer is simple and is consistent with this place’s purpose. The Kli Yakar explains that the three mentions of the word “מָּקוֹם” represent the three Batei Mikdash (Holy Temples). The first Beis Hamikdash was home to Hashem’s Shechinah in its purest sense. Incredible miracles happened every day while it stood from which it was clear that Hashem existed and was in control. In the end, it was destroyed since the Jewish People could not stay away from Avodah Zara. The first mention of “מָּקוֹם” in each set in the pesukim represents the first Beis Hamikdash. Immediately when Yaakov arrived at “the place”, the sun set before its time and he went to sleep. Similarly, the first Beis Hamikdash was destroyed before its time. When Yaakov wakes up, he says, “וְאָנֹכִי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי” “And I didn’t know”. Many times when the word “אָנֹכִי” is used in the Torah, the commentaries say it is in reference to when Hashem uses that same word by Har Sinai by the prohibition of idols, “אָנֹכִי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ”… When Yaakov uses this same word here, it is in connection to the first Beis Hamikdash which was destroyed when Bnei Yisrael did not listen to that commandment.
The second Beis Hamikdash was a beautiful structure, Chazal called it the most beautiful building ever built, but it was lacking in an area where the first Beis Hamikdash was not. Several key elements which were present in the first Beis Hamikdash were not present by the second such as the Aron, the heavenly fire on the Alter, and the complete presence of Hashem’s Shechinah. Yet, in spite of all this, the entire world recognized Hashem as the ruler of the world through this Mikdash. When Yaakov takes “from the stones of the place”, it is referring to the absence of the two Luchos which were stored in the Aron and were therefore not present in the second Beis Hamikdash. In the second set, Yaakov refers to the place as “בֵּית אֱלֹהִים” and does not use the four-letter name of Hashem since because of the lower level of Shechinah present in the second Mikdash, Hashem’s four-letter name was not used.
The final mention of “the place” is in reference to the third and final Beis Hamikdash, which will never be destroyed. The pasuk says that Yaakov called the name of the city, Beis-El, which had originally been known as Luz. Even though the Beis Hamikdash has been destroyed twice, the next time it is built, it will be forever, just as Yaakov named the city, “The House of G-d” forever. The fact that he chose that place to go to sleep is also symbolic of the eternity of the Third Temple. As long as the Beis Hamikdash has not been rebuilt, we cannot rest from our enemies’ destruction of it. Yaakov’s sleeping in that spot shows us that soon we will be able to rest peacefully as the Beis Hamikdash will be rebuilt and will last forever.
This explanation is obviously not the simple one, but the lesson from it is very true. We see several times by our Avos that they visited certain places in which important events would occur in the future to their descendants in order to daven that they should turn out well. Two examples are Avraham davening in the city of Shechem and Yaakov davening in the city of Chevron. So when we hear this vort of how Yaakov acted and spoke in a certain way in this place, we can be sure that he had these thoughts and intentions in mind. Based on that, we can be certain that the Beis Hamikdash will be rebuilt and it will last eternally. May it be soon!
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