When Adam violated God's command and ate from the forbidden fruit, it ruptured the original innocent harmony that had existed between man and God. In consequence, man's alignment with nature was also upset. Before, in the Garden of Eden, all Adam's needs were immediately available. But from now on: "The land is cursed because of you: through toil you will eat all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it will sprout for you, and you will eat the grass of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread..." (Genesis 3:17-19).
Until today the great majority of humanity still struggles to eke out a bare living from an often hostile environment. Even those who have everything they need and more are often plagued by a deep-rooted insecurity about the future. It is this insecurity that drives people to the compulsive pursuit of wealth, fueling endless strife and wars over conflicting interests.
Today we watch helplessly as reckless greed, extravagance and waste cause irreversible damage to the global environment. More and more people recognize the serious threat to long-term human survival. Yet for all the talk about environmental responsibility, the practical protective measures being taken by governments, industry and others fall far short of what is necessary to halt the destruction.
This is not surprising since the secular materialistic culture dominant in most of the world is actually fueled by waste and extravagance. "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!"
The mission of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was to forge a path for all humanity in order to transcend the innate selfishness that caused Adam to sin and which today threatens his descendants' very survival. These Founding Fathers came to teach mankind that, for all our human intelligence and ability, we must recognize that God is above all of us. If we want it to go well for us, we have no alternative but to submit to God's superior wisdom and follow His law.
For Abraham the service of God was a lofty Mountain. For Isaac it was a Field of steady toil and effort. However, great mountains and even fields are beyond the range of many people's normal experience. The exalted spiritual service taught by Abraham and Isaac still had to be brought down to a level where it could be understood and applied practically by everyone, men, women and children, each on his or her own level. For only when all humanity can understand and pursue the service of God will it be possible to rectify Adam's sin and restore man's harmony with God.
Jacob's mission was to make serving God comprehensible and applicable to everyone. He did it by explaining the service of God in terms of the idea of a House.
In the words of Rebbe Nachman:
The nations of the world cannot know the greatness of the Holy One except through Jacob. Thus in time to come all humanity will say, "House of Jacob, go, let us walk in the light of HaVaYaH" (Isaiah 2:5). For Jacob revealed God more than the other founding fathers. "Abraham called it a mountain and Isaac called it a field" (Pesachim 88a). A field is more understandable and more necessary to people than a mountain. But "Jacob called it a House" (ibid.) A house is more of a place of human habitation than a field. In other words, Jacob called the place of the Holy Temple, which is a place of prayer, a House. A house is a place that people live in all the time. Jacob elevated prayer -- the service of God -- from being a distant mountain or field to being a House. This is an idea that people grasp more readily than that of a mountain or a field. Everyone understands the idea of a house, as it says, "For My House will be called the House of Prayer for all the nations" (Isaiah 56:7).
Likutey Moharan I:10
Jacob's vision of the House is of crucial importance to humanity today as we face the challenge of surviving on Earth and creating a meaningful global culture.
A house is a building. Houses -- and factories, offices, shops, schools, colleges, places of entertainment, medical facilities and all kinds of other buildings -- are the basic spatial units around which civilized human life is organized. It is houses, houses and more houses that make up the vast urban agglomerations in which almost half the human race already live and which form the main centers of the materialistic culture that is destroying the global environment.
This culture encourages people to make their homes and houses a major focus of their materialistic aspirations, equipping them with lavish comforts, conveniences, entertainment technology, jacuzzis, exercise machines, etc. etc. all in a phantom quest to create a pseudo-paradise in which to relax and enjoy all the delights of the flesh, each according to his tastes.
Jacob came to teach mankind a different way. We must put soul into the spaces in which we live. We must devote our main efforts into sanctifying our homes and houses so as to make them dwelling-places of divine light, love, kindness, peace and harmony. Our homes and houses should be places where we not only sleep and eat but also pray, meditate, study, talk about God and discuss ways of serving Him, rejoice with one another, sing together, dance...
Jacob taught this especially through the idea of the Temple, the House of Prayer for all the Nations. The Temple is a kind of model house, a centerpoint for all mankind to direct themselves towards in order to gain inspiration about how we should live and conduct ourselves in our own homes and houses. It is precisely because everyone understands the idea of a house that it is such a powerful metaphor through which to teach mankind about God and how to serve Him.
We must learn to revere God in our homes and houses and indeed in the most intimate areas of our lives. We must learn to revere God as the source of our lives, the source of our very food and drink and everything else we consume. We must learn to moderate our consumption according to the rules and norms laid down in God's wisdom. Only then will humanity be able to make peace with the natural environment -- God's creation. Only then will we survive.
CLICK TREE TO PROCEED TO THE NEXT COURSE SEGMENT
Back to "The House: Jacob" / Course Guide