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Vayeshev: Serenity with Fear

“And Jacob dwelled in the land of the residence of his father, in the land of Canaan.[1]” Why is it important to emphasize that it is the land of the residence of his father? There is a deep secret hidden here about the connection between Isaac and Jacob. The special character trait of Isaac is yir’ah, fear, as Jacob himself says, “Pahad Yitzchak”, “the Fear of Isaac”. This is alluded to in the expression in the above verse, megurai aviv, “the residence of his father”. The word magor means fear and awe.

One would think that a person who lives with a constant sense of fear cannot feel serenity or calm for even one moment. He is always vigilant, tense and cannot relax. Nevertheless, the verse says, “And Jacob dwelled in the land of the residence (megurai -fear) of his father. Jacob is capable of dwelling in a state of serenity within the sense of his father’s fear.

Calmness is connected to the character trait of chesed, lovingkindness. With his trait of tiferet, beauty, Jacob completely connects the love of Abraham with the fear of Isaac.

How is it possible to be immersed in fear of Heaven and to be simultaneously calm and not pressured? The key is in the last words of the verse, “in the land of Cana’an”. In Hebrew, the word Cana’an shares a root with the word hachna’ah, which means “submission”. When a person has the trait of submission in his soul – humility and lowliness – he is able to integrate love with fear and to serenely dwell within fear.

Image by Robert Alvarado

[1] Genesis 37:1.

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