When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. — Genesis 28:11
The Torah portion for this week, Vayeitzei, which means “and he left,” is from Genesis 28:10–32:3, and the Haftorah is from Hosea 11:7–12:14.
Confucius once said, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” However, most people wouldn’t even get that far. Looking at a huge mountain, who could believe that it would be possible to move it? Why even try at all? And yet, history is filled with stories of people of faith who accomplished monumental feats all because they were willing to start small and do their best.
In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob began a long journey toward Haran. He faced hundreds of miles through mountains and the desert in the harsh Middle Eastern climate. However, the Jewish sages teach that God shortened Jacob’s journey. The verse tells us that Jacob left Beersheba and then “reached a certain place.” The Hebrew word used in the verse for “reached” is an unusual choice. Literally, it means “and he happened upon.” In other words, Scripture is telling us that Jacob got to his destination suddenly. He happened upon it when he wasn’t expecting to be there yet. The sages explain, “God shrank the road beneath his feet.”
This isn’t the first time God made someone’s journey shorter and easier than it should have been. Jewish tradition teaches that the same thing happened for Abraham’s servant when he went to find a wife for Isaac. It happened again for the spies who went to scout out the Promised Land. And it’s true for us, as well. When we go on a journey in accordance with God’s will, God will help us out. Things can happen faster, easier, and more efficiently than we ever thought possible.
The young country of Israel is a perfect example. It was only 69 years ago that the Jewish people were able to officially return to their homeland. It was only then that we began in earnest to rebuild our country, which had been in ruins. Seven decades later, Israel has made the desert bloom. Our tiny sliver of land is responsible for numerous medical and technological breakthroughs that are changing the way people live everywhere. Our army is one of the mightiest and most formidable. Israel has accomplished more in 70 years than many countries have accomplished in centuries.
That’s God shortening our journey. It’s God helping us out in supernatural ways. When we set out on a path that is blessed by God, there’s no telling how fast we might get there.
Never be discouraged by any monumental task that you might feel called to accomplish. With God’s help, we can move mountains and travel long distances in a short amount of time. The key is to step out in faith and take the first step. God will see us through the rest of the journey.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President