By Rabbi Zalman Goldberg

One of the principal mandates of bitachon is to focus on Hashem and to realize His omnipotence in the world to the exclusion of all else1. Throughout our lives, this perspective is consistently challenged; our duty is to notice the conflict with bitachon, hopefully sooner than later, and then to surmount the challenge through strengthening our bitachon. We will focus on one of those challenges now.
It is logical to think that depending on the lifestyle a person leads, that’s where his focus would be. If it is a lifestyle in which Torah study and t’filla are stressed, such as a yeshiva bachur’s life, then the focus will be more about Hashem and what He wants from life. However, if a person’s schedule revolves around mundane and worldly related matters, then the focus should be more about what the world thinks of how we should behave.
In this week’s parsha we learn an amazing lesson from Yaakov Avinu. He is about to set out in the materialistic world, leaving the atmosphere of yeshiva, and he first and foremost busies himself with activities which are more in line with where he was coming from than where he is going to. The first thing he does is daven2.
Seemingly, this davening on the way down to the coarsest location in the world (at that time) seems out of place. Now is the time to learn, get educated, and figure out how the world expects a young man to dress and present himself, but the Torah doesn’t relate any of this to us, it only mentions a spiritual, soulful experience.
The reason for this is that Yaakov held differently. Yaakov’s position was that upon entering the world we must intensify our efforts to connect to Hashem, because that is what will bring us success. The second surprising thing Yaakov did was to protect his head with stones as he retired for the night. The purpose of this action was to ensure that while entering this world, his head should remain totally unaffected, and uninfluenced. The head should be reserved exclusively for G-dly things and not utilized for materialistic things. The way to accomplish this is with stones. Stones refer to kabbalas ol, accepting the yoke of Hashem’s Kingship without questioning. This is the way to protect the head and keep it in the safe haven of holiness.
These were Yaakov’s preparations and first steps into the world, strengthening his connection to Hashem and increasing his protection from outside influences.
The Rebbe made a somewhat humorous observation3 on the difference between how most people travel these days to how Rabbi Akiva travelled. When Rabbi Akiva travelled he brought along only items that would enhance his Torah-study; a candle for light, a rooster to wake him up early to continue his avodas Hashem, and a camel to ease the burden of carrying these items. Today, however, when we travel, we ensure that we pack a checkbook.
Here again, there are the same two options. We can embark on a trip with mainly materialistic intentions in mind, which will be expressed by what we pack and thus what was planned. Or we can continue our avodas Hashem wherever our travels take us, with davening and learning remaining the primary focus.

Rabbi Zalman Goldberg is a well sought after speaker and lecturer on Chassidic thought. His writings and recordings on the topic of Bitachon can be accessed at http://www.gotbitachon.com.

1) שער הבטחון פרקים א’ ב’ וג’.
2) לקו”ש ח”א ויצא ס”ב.
3) תורת מנחם ח”ט עמ’ 97.

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