THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THIRTY-SIX

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Chapter Five

Ya’akov Avinu

Sarah conceived and gave birth to a son for Avraham in his old age at the appointed time God had said. Avraham called his son that Sarah bore for him ‘Yitzchak.’ Avraham circumcized Yitzchak his son when he was eight days old as God had commanded. Bereishis 21:2-4
When Yitzchak was circumcized on the eighth day of his life, he became infused with all that "eight" represents, raising him forever above the natural world. This is why he, at such a young age warranted to see the Divine Presence like his father and why he was so willing to offer himself up as a sacrifice to God:
Yitzchak said to his father Avraham, ‘My father ...’
‘I am here my son.’ he answered.
He said, ‘Here is the fire and the wood - where is the sheep to be offered?’
Avraham answered, ‘God will reveal the sheep to be offered, my son.’ The two of them walked together.
Bereishis 22:7

... Even though Yitzchak understood that he was going to be slaughtered, they still walked together with equal intent - Rashi.

Yitzchak’s life was not free of struggle. Still, the issues of “thirty-six” and “twenty-five” did not play such a major a role in his life, at least not in any obvious way. Certainly this is true in comparison to the life of his son, Ya’akov. Ya’akov’s life from beginning to end seems to have merged the realities of the Hidden Light of creation with mankind.

Considering the following midrash, it is not surprising that the account of Yitzchak’s life (even after the Akeida) is not as elaborate as Ya’akov’s:

Rav Shmuel ben Rebi Yitzchak said, ‘Avraham would not have been saved from the furnace of fire had it not been for the merit of his future grandson, Ya’akov.’ A parable explains this: once a man was brought to be judged before the Sultan who then ruled that the man should be burned to death. However, by way of astrology it was revealed to the Sultan that in the future, the man (should he not be executed), would father a daughter who would one day marry the king. The Sultan said, ‘It is worth saving this man’s life for the daughter that will one day marry the king!’ Thus, though Avraham was judged to be burned in Ur Kasdim, when it was revealed before God that in the future Ya’akov would descend from Avraham, God said, ‘It is worth saving Avraham in the merit of Ya’akov!’ Bereishis Rabbah 63:2
Avraham was a tzadik whose very life embodied the values of the Hidden Light of creation. Yitzchak was a pure individual who reached a great spiritual climax at the tender age of thirty-seven. However, as the midrash alludes, it was the life of Ya’akov that truly told the story of the light that was hidden for people such as Ya’akov Avinu.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And these [aileh] are the generations of Yitzchak, the son of Avraham ... Bereishis 25:19

Her days became complete to give birth and she had twins in her stomach. The first one came out completely red and covered in hair like a wool coat, and they called him, ‘Eisav.’ After that his brother came out holding his ankle, and he called him, ‘Ya’akov ...’ Bereishis 25:24

He called him ... The Holy One, Blessed is He [called him ‘Ya’akov] - Rashi.

The midrash which states that Ya’akov was the merit necessary to save Avraham from the flames of Ur Kasdim is based upon the above possuk, "And these are the generations ..." Though the possuk refers to both Eisav and Ya’akov, its deep meaning alludes specifically to Ya’akov.

Perhaps then, in this case "aileh" having the numerical value of thirty-six refers to Ya’akov, as if to say, thirty-six was the descendant of Yitzchak, meaning Ya’akov. This is not so absurd considering how much of Ya’akov’s life was connected to this number and considering that he resembled an angel:

Ya’akov: the gematria is [equal to] Malach HaElokim (Angel of God) - Ba’al HaTurim (25:27)
On the other hand, perhaps it is the combination of all three Forefathers that resulted in a perfect expression of the supernal light, a synergization given form in the life of the last father, Ya’akov.
Avraham = 1 + 2 + 200 + 5 + 40 = 248
Yitzchak = 10 + 90 + 8 + 100 = 208
Ya’akov = 10 + 70 + 100 + 2 = 182

Total of the three fathers = 638

(The mispar katan of "638" is "17" - 6+3+8 - the gematria of the word "good" [Tov] used to describe the original light of creation, which can be reduced even further to "eight").

So Ya’akov bought the birthright from Eisav (Bereishis 25:31). He took the blessings from Yitzchak (Bereishis 27:1). He fled for his life from before Eisav. But it is not until much later in Ya’akov’s life that thirty-six and Chanukah become prevalent factors in his story of Ya’akov, sometimes against his will:

It was morning, and behold it was Leah [Ya’akov had married] ... Bereishis 29:25
For seven years Ya’akov toiled for Lavan in order to marry his youngest daughter Rachel (Bereishis 29:20). But, Lavan, ever the trickster, gave Ya’akov Leah instead whom he had not wished to wed. However, God thought otherwise, and "injected" thirty-six into his life (Leah=30+1+5). It was through Leah that Ya’akov fathered the source of kings (Yehuda) and priests (Levi).

Eventually, Ya’akov married Rachel also. Rachel died at the young age of thirty-six while giving birth to Ya’akov’s twelfth son, Binyomin. This was just before Ya’akov entered the land of Canaan - after being away from home for a total of thirty-six years!

From here we learn that Ya’akov hid in the house of Eiver for fourteen years and after that went to Charan ... twenty [additional years] Ya’akov was away from his father in the house of Lavan, and two years he delayed along the way - Rashi (Bereishis 28:9)
And as he approached the borders of Canaan, it was then that Ya’akov’s life became truly intertwined with thirty-six, and the Hidden Light of creation. It was then that Ya’akov also achieved a spectacular self-transformation. For, in going back across the Yabok River for some small containers, Ya’akov made possible the thirty-six candles of Chanukah:
Ya’akov took them and crossed them over the river and all that was with him. Ya’akov remained alone ... Bereishis 32:24

He remained for small jars (Chullin 91a).

God said to Ya’akov, ‘For endangering yourself for a small container, I Myself will repay your children with a small container to the Chashmonaim [at the time of Chanukah].’ Midrash Tzeidah LaDerech

However, the container Ya’akov returned for was no ordinary container, nor was it empty:
From where did Ya’akov get this jar? When he picked up the stones from under his head and returned them in the morning, he found a stone that had a jar of oil in it, and he used it to pour on the top stone. When it refilled itself, Ya’akov knew it was set aside for God. He said, "It’s not right to leave this here ..." Yalkut Reuveni, VaYishlach
Fleeing for his life Ya’akov left Be’er Sheva for Charan where his uncle Lavan lived. Just prior to leaving Canaan, Ya’akov camped for the night at Har HaMoriah, the place Avraham referred to as koh, the place from which God created the entire universe. After praying there, an angelic voice called out:
Ya’akov has arrived! The great Ya’akov who, like the sun, sheds light on the universe! Bereishis Rabbah 68:12
There Ya’akov slept the night with a stone as a pillow, and there he dreamt prophetically of a ladder that reached into heaven. The next morning, Ya’akov took the stone he had slept on and built a monument to commemorate his prophetic vision.

After building the monument, Ya’akov then anointed it with oil, miraculous oil he had miraculously found at a holy place for a holy purpose. Fifteen hundred years in the future, in the same holy spot, Ya’akov’s descendants would also miraculously find miraculous oil ... oil they would merit to discover, because an ancestor called "light" traveled back across the river for it!

And in returning for the small little jar of oil that never diminished, Ya’akov battled with a "stranger" the entire night.

Ya’akov remained alone, and a man battled with him until the morning light. When he saw that he could not overcome him he touched his hind thigh and uprooted the thigh of Ya’akov ... Bereishis 32:25
The battle was not a typical fight between two men. The night was Jewish history and its long bitter exiles; the angel was all the enemies of the Jewish people that would try to extinguish the light of Torah and the people meant to be a light unto nations. Ya’akov’s victory was the eventual redemption of the Jewish people ... and the Hidden Light of creation:
He said to him, ‘What is your name?’
He answered, ‘Ya’akov.’
He said, ‘No longer is it Ya’akov, but Yisroel, for you fought with God and with men and overcame.
Bereishis 32:28

No longer is it Ya’akov ... "He strove with an angel and overcame it; he cried and pleaded to him (Bocho vayischanen lo... )"Hoshea 12:5 - Rashi.

B’ch"o vayischanen l"o... ("he cried and pleaded to him") can be read as, on the twenty-fifth (bc"h Kislev) there will be a chayn (i.e., Chanukah) of thirty-six (l"o numerically is equal to thirty-six).

Even the gid hanashe where the angel injured Ya’akov before taking his leave, is tied to the holy oil of Chanukah (Ohr Torah 10), conceptually and numerically ...
gid hanashe = 3+10+4 + 5+50+300+5
= 377 ... 3 + 7 + 7
= 17 ... 1 + 7
= 8
This is the same gid hanashe that Yosef had removed before his brothers eyes:
U’tvoach tevach v,hachain - Slaughter and prepare ... (Bereishis 43:16)

Prepare ... Remove the gid hanashe in front [of the brothers]. Chullin 91a

The five last letters of U’tvoach tevach v’hachain spell Chanukah, and their total numerical value is equal to 44, the number of candles of Chanukah (including the shamashim) - Eliyahu Rabbah, Chanukah 10.

And how could the damage caused by that long, bitter night be healed?

The sun shone for him (lo) ... (Bereishis 32:32)

The sun shone for him (lo) ... The word l"o refers to the thirty-six candles of Chanukah - Maharil (Avodah Zara 3b).

When Ya’akov left Peniel, the place that he "saw God face-to-face," he left a changed man. Ya’akov’s victory was as much an inner one than any other kind of victory. It transformed him into Yisroel - the namesake of all his descendants and the description of the perfected nation ... the "light unto the nations."

However, as climactic as the victorious moment was, Ya’akov still had to "grow" somewhat into the role and instill the trait of Yisroel into the national psyche of the people he had begun to create. Unfortunately this drained Ya’akov of his life’s energy and even led to an early death at the age of 147 years.

First, his daughter was violated in Sh’chem, the place "set aside" for punishment (Bereishis 37:14; Rashi). Even as disastrous as this was, somewhere amidst the tragedy and confusion lurked the light of creation, albeit hidden. This we have already seen from the acronym of "Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom forever" - Boruch shem kavod malchuso l'olam va'ed - bscm lu - In Sh’chem thirty-six.

Shortly after dealing with that episode, Yosef, Ya’akov’s chosen spiritual heir was sold into slavery by his brothers. This occurred, of all places, in Sh’chem. At what age was Yosef sold? At seventeen years of age - the numerical value of "good" which the light of creation was called.

For twenty-two difficult years Ya’akov could not be consoled over the loss of Yosef, who can be compared to the light of the menorah:

Ya’akov settled in the land of the sojournings of his fathers, in the Land of Canaan. These [aileh] are the generations of Ya’akov: Yosef was seventeen years old ... Bereishis 37:1

Ya’akov settled ... A flax-driver came into town with camels laden with flax. A smithy wondered, ‘Where will all this flax go?’ A certain wise guy answered, ‘One spark from your bellow will burn it up!’ Thus Ya’akov saw all the chieftains of Eisav mentioned in the previous chapter (i.e., Chapter 36!) and asked, ‘Who will be able to conquer them?’ What’s written after? ‘These are the generations of Ya’akov: Yosef .. .’ as it says, ‘The house of Ya’akov will be fire, the house of Yosef will be a flame, and the house of Eisav will be straw; one spark will go out from Yosef and burn it all up - Rashi.

A spark which comes from a hammer and damages makes one culpable. If a camel was loaded with flax which pressed through the door of a store and caught fire from the storekeeper’s candle, burning down the building, the camel owner is culpable. However, if the shopkeeper left his candle outside, the shopkeeper is culpable. Rebi Yehuda says, if it was a Chanukah candle, he is not culpable. Baba Kamma 62b

Making a very long story shorter, Ya’akov and Yosef are eventually reunited in Egypt. At the extremely emotional reunion of father and son, while Yosef cries on his father’s neck, Ya’akov recites the twenty-five letters of the Shema.

The last seventeen years of Yisroel’s (Ya'akov's) life were spent in Goshen (Gsnah is the acronym found on the dreidel nes gadol hayah shom - a great miracle happened there). Yisroel taught his own grandsons as he saw his son, Yosef, resume his role as leader of the family. And when he finally died, Divine tribute was paid to Ya’akov; for he was the prism through which the light of the first day of creation shone and splintered off into his descendants. The Talmud states that,

In the beginning, before the Egyptians saw the way the entire world honored Yisroel (Ya’akov), they did not conduct themselves honorably toward the brothers of Yosef. However, after they saw how they were honored by the entire world, they too paid their due respects. The following possuk indicates this, "And they came to the threshing-floor surrounded by thorns. " (Bereishis 50:10). Is a threshing-floor made of thorns? Rav Avahu said: This is to teach you that they [the kings of the entire world] surrounded the coffin of Ya’akov with crowns like a threshing-floor surrounded by thorns ... They went to do war, but when they saw the crown of Yosef on the coffin of Ya’akov, all of them took off their crowns and placed them on Ya’akov’s coffin: thirty-six crowns they placed on the coffin. Sota 13a
There is no denying it: Ya’akov fulfilled the purpose represented by thirty-six: He shone with the light of creation.

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