Insights into “Word Concepts” in the Torah Portion

VaYisah et Einav; Raise Your eyes (Genesis 18:1-22:2).

Moshe Kempinski

Judaism Look after your eyes
Look after your eyes
צילום: PR

There are those that will see a flower or a sunrise and will find G-d. There are others that see the storms or the vastness of the universe and find emptiness .Mortal beings can look at the same reality and see different truths. They can look at the same truths and not see then at all. What, then, seems to be the method to truly see and to deeply understand?

The term Vayisa et Einav-he lifted up his  eyes appears over ten times in the Tanach. We see it in the Torah portion  of Chayei Sarah when Rebecca encounters Isaac coming from the field.

And Rebecca lifted her eyes, and saw Isaac, and she fell down from the camel.( Genesis 24:64)

What did she see that made her fall down, or dismount according to some of our sages .It is important to remember that this dramatic event occurred even before she knew who Yitzchak (Isaac) was:

Now Isaac was on his way, coming from Be'er Lachai Ro'i, and he dwelt in the land of the south.           63And Isaac went forth to pray in the field towards evening, and he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, camels were approaching.        64And Rebecca lifted her eyes, and saw Isaac, and she let herself down from the camel. ( Genesis24:62-64             

It is only after this that she finds out who this mysterious man was

And she said to the servant, "Who is that man walking in the field towards us?" And the servant said, "He is my master." And she took the veil and covered herself.  And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done.( ibid 64-66)

What was it that she saw that so impacted her ? More importantly how was she able to see what she felt and saw?

We saw a similar use of the concept, Vayisa et Einav-he lifted up his  eyes, with Abraham. In the midst of his recuperating from the circumcision we read how Abraham” .. lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground”.( Ibid 17:2)

Then again , when Abraham was sent on the painful test of faith  with Yitzchak we read "On the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar."(Ibid 22:4). When Hashem decides to stop him from going ahead with what he understood Hashem was asking of him, we read"And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and he saw, and lo! there was a ram, [and] after [that] it was caught in a tree by its horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son."(Ibid 13)

we see the same word- concept  used in many other occasions as well. At times though, when the motive is earthly bound or self-serving we see this word-concept used negatively;

And beware lest you lift up your eyes to the heavens, and when you see the sun, moon, and stars, even all the host of the heavens, you be drawn away and worship them and serve them, things which the Lord your God has allotted to all nations under the whole heaven.

Deuteronomy 4:19)


Yet in most instances it denotes something elevated and positive. That is always the case when it is Hashem commanding the “lifting of the eyes” or when the purpose is related to the the fulfillment of Hashem's will.

Lift up your eyes on high and see, who created these, who takes out their host by number; all of them He calls by name; because of His great might and because He is strong in power, no one is missing.( Isaiah 40:26)


Clearly the word concept is that the raising of the eyes is raising them to the vision that is (so to speak) G-d's vision. Seeing reality through His perspective (metaphorically speaking again)

So Abraham raises his vision and sees more than three men wandering in the desert. He sees an opportunity to do the divinely inspired thing and help those people.

Rebecca raises her eyes and does not see a lone man coming out of the field but rather a man inspired, elevated and illuminated by his quiet meditation in the fields

This helps us to explore the questions we began with. In order to truly understand one must raise up or carry up your eyes. That is the literal meaning of the word-concept VaYisah et Einav-Raise up your eyes

To understand this wed need to focus on another use of the word” Vayisa( Raise up or carry up) in another context.

Yaacov (Jacob) was fleeing from a brother who was set to kill him. He was running away from the only home he knew. He was separating from a father who may have lost some measure of faith and confidence in his son. He was leaving without knowing when he was to return. He is fatigued and drained and he falls asleep on a rock in the middle of the field.

It is then that G-d reveals to him a powerful image: the ladder with its feet in the ground and its head in the heavens.(Genesis 28:12-13). It is then that G-d gives the fearful Yaacov a promise and a blessing

“And behold, I will be with you, and I will protect you wherever you go and bring you back to this Land...” (ibid 28:15)

Yet Yaacov then teaches us a great lesson. A lesson which helps to explain why Yaacov and not Avraham and Yitzchak becomes the father of the twelve tribes that become the people of Israel.

We read that after Yaacov’s encounter,

    “Then Yaacov went on his journey.”

The words in Hebrew are, “Va-yisa Yaakov raglav”, which literally means “Yaacov carried his legs”.

That is unusual form of phrasing, as the legs usually carry the rest of the body. Rabbi Chanan Porat Z’l taught that this can be best understood by looking at Rashi’s commentary on the verse. Rashi explains that “his heart carried his legs”.

Yaacov was concerned that he would be unworthy of the tasks before him. He was troubled by the strange world that he was being forced to enter. A world clouded by the unknown. But Yaacov “picked up his legs” and overcame his physical concerns and continued on his way. In many ways Yaacov represents us all.

Throughout this world and especially in this special part of this planet we are surrounded by uncertainty and threats. Here in Israel we are facing the threats of our neighbors and the cold shoulder of some of our “allies”. We have begun to hear the Palestinian leadership setting up the next conflict and crisis. We have witnessed a steady rise of terrorist stone throwing and Molotov bottle attacks.

Yet the people of Israel continue to move forward with determination. One of the residents of Judea and Samaria was asked on the radio if he and his family were afraid to venture unto the roads. His answer was simple and poignant. He said “we know we belong here and that this is what we must be doing. So we continue to live our lives.”

They and all of us must continue to learn the art of “Va-yisa Yaakov Raglav - Yaacov carried his legs” to move forward into our destiny.

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Esther