Vayetzei - Protection from Sin

In the opening scenes of the parshah, when Yaacov sees the angels going up and down the ladder, he suddenly saw G-d.

"G-d said, 'I am G-d, L-rd of Avraham your father, and L-rd of Yitzhak. I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying, the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south. All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go and bring you back to this soil. I will not turn aside from you until I have fully kept this promise to you.'"

Here Yaacov received not only a vision directly from G-d, but blessings and promises that will ensure his legacy on earth. It would seem that 'he is set.'

Yet, just a few pasukim later, upon waking he has the following reaction.

"Yaacov made a vow. 'If G-d will be with me,' he said, 'if He will protect me on this journey that I am taking, if He gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return in peace to my father's house, then I will dedicate myself totally to G-d'"

On the surface, it seems like an odd reaction considering the verses that preceded this statement shortly before.
1. Why is Yaacov questioning if G-d will be with him, when G-d Himself said directly that He would be with him?
2. Why is Yaacov looking to get material benefit, from food and clothing?
3. And really, why is Yaacov presenting a deal to G-d, stating his terms for dedicating himself to G-d, where is faith, and the promise shortly before?

The Kli Yakar addresses these issues.
"Heaven forbid that one should say that Yaacov was in doubt about the direct promises from G-d. Since as we saw, G-d already said 'I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go.'
Rather the explanation of this issue is that Yaacov did not request any bodily protection that was not already promised him. However he was requesting protection for his soul against potential sin.
Supporting this position, we see the words from G-d's promise 'I will protect you wherever you go' - where the word ANOCHI is superfluous. G-d had said to him 'and bring you back to this soil' - where the return to the land was dependent on G-d's divine supervision, while Yaacov's statement was 'and if I return in peace to my father's house' - making his return dependent on Yaacov's, himself, behavior. G-d said 'to this soil', while Yaacov stated 'to my father's house.' There were talking about 2 different journeys.

From all these differences, we can see that Yaacov's request was only to be protected from sin. Protection from sin, or that is, from the act of sinning, this is dependent on the personal choices of man, yet to be protected from confronting sin, itself, requires divine intervention. So we saw that G-d's statement to Yaacov referred to providing physical protection in the statement 'I will protect you wherever you go.' The pasuk uses the term 'wherever' (BKOL) since all roads are dangerous and many paths exist, so there really isn't just one path to go on. So Yaacov said 'protect me on this journey that I am taking.' And G-d directs Yaacov to the special path that Yaacov should specifically go on, and that is the Path of G-d and Torah and Mitzvot.  Since Yaacov earlier stated 'G-d is in this place,' and from out of there comes Torah. 

To walk in the path of Torah is dependent on the choices that a man makes, and so that is why the word 'ANOCHI' is added where G-d says 'I will protect you wherever you go', to emphasize that divine protection is required protect man in his encounters with sinful influences, and thus Yaacov referred to this when he said 'protect me' and let me return 'complete' from the sin and so made his return dependent on his own choices and actions.

Regarding physical protection, G-d said 'I will protect you wherever you go' since Eretz Yisrael is called the 'eyes of G-d' and when a man has physical protection in Eretz Yisrael,  so he needs  protection when going out of Eretz Yisrael. Since G-d promised to Yaacov 'and bring you back to this soil,' so he was ensured physical protection upon returning to Eretz Yisrael.

Yet regarding the issue of protection from sin, like not learning from the ways of Lavan. And not just Lavan alone, but also the Canaanites that sit in Eretz Yisrael are a nation that do things that should not be learned from. And also to be concerned about learning from the Emory. And so that is why Yaacov made his personal request 'and if I return in peace to my father's house' - not that he should be physically protected until reaching his father's house, but that Yaacov should be protected from the influence of sin throughout his journey (to not learn from Lavan, not be influenced by Canaanites, and Emory).

Finally the issue of Yaacov's request for food and clothing. He was not looking to benefit materially, and we see this by the specific statement 'if He gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear' - where Yaacov specifically asks for bread to eat, and clothes to wear. He wants to emphasize that he is only asking for his basic sustenance needs to be satisfied, and that he should not be driven by stress of poverty to come to sin. Morever, had Yaacov been interested in material gain, he would have asked valuable goods like gold and pearls.

So we see that this encounter is far from doubt on the side of Yaacov, and not at all a form of 'striking a deal' for his faith. What we see here is a dialog. G-d offers provide physical protection and guidance, while Yaacov accepts this implicitly and instead turns the discussion to the fate of his soul, asking for different ways to protect him from influences the sinful world that surrounds him.

It goes without saying that in today's world, the dialog that Yaacov conducts at the outset of his great journey, serves as a guide for our daily struggle. Every day, we leave the safety of the homes we have built up and enter the world, bombarded by media selling us all kinds of foreign values and tempting us to sinful ways. Just as our great forefather understood the weakness of man and looked to G-d for guidance and protection, so also do, even more so, need to implore G-d to direct down the right path, steering us clear of sin.

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