Welcome to this week’s Torah reading, Parshat Vayeitzei. Jacob is the father of the 12 Tribes of Israel. He instilled within his children the strength to overcome the dangers of living in the Diaspora. But he almost didn’t make it, if not for a Divine vision.
Parshat Vayeitzei Summary
- Jacob leaves home
- Jacob has a dream of the ladder
- Jacob meets Rachel
- Jacob marries Rachel and Leah
- Birth of 11 sons and 1 daughter
- The story of the spotted and speckled sheep
- Jacob and his family return to the Land of Israel
Vayeitzei The Dream
This week’s Parasha, Parashat Vayeitzei opens and closes with a dream of Angels. At the start of the Parasha Jacob spends the night in Beth El, he falls asleep and has his famous dream of the ladder with its feet on the ground and its head in the Heavens.
Angels are ascending and descending. In the dream, Hashem reveals to Jacob his destiny. That he will inherit the land of Israel, be the father of many children and that the mission of Abraham, to bring the teachings of Monotheism to the world, would be through him. Jacob wakes and makes a promise to Hashem, that upon his return he will dedicate a 10th of his possessions to Hashem.
Vayeizei then continues and describes the next 20 years of his life (34 if we include the 14 years in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever as brought in the midrash). Jacob works for 7 years for Rachel, only to have his uncle Lavan switch her for Leah. Jacob will then work an additional 7 years to have Rachel as his wife. After another 6 years, Jacob has a dream once again about angels. But this dream is remarkably different from the first dream: (Genesis 31:2-13)
Parshat Vayeitzei Text
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֔ב שׁ֛וּב אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ אֲבוֹתֶ֖יךָ וּלְמוֹלַדְתֶּ֑ךָ וְאֶֽהְיֶ֖ה עִמָּֽךְ׃
Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers where you were born, and I will be with you.”
וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח יַעֲקֹ֔ב וַיִּקְרָ֖א לְרָחֵ֣ל וּלְלֵאָ֑ה הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה אֶל־צֹאנֽוֹ׃
Jacob had Rachel and Leah called to the field, where his flock was,
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָהֶ֗ן רֹאֶ֤ה אָנֹכִי֙ אֶת־פְּנֵ֣י אֲבִיכֶ֔ן כִּֽי־אֵינֶ֥נּוּ אֵלַ֖י כִּתְמֹ֣ל שִׁלְשֹׁ֑ם וֵֽאלֹהֵ֣י אָבִ֔י הָיָ֖ה עִמָּדִֽי׃
and said to them, “I see that your father’s manner toward me is not as it has been in the past. But the God of my father has been with me. As you know, I have served your father with all my might; but your father has cheated me, changing my wages time and again. God, however, would not let him do me harm…
וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֵלַ֜י מַלְאַ֧ךְ הָאֱלֹהִ֛ים בַּחֲל֖וֹם יַֽעֲקֹ֑ב וָאֹמַ֖ר הִנֵּֽנִי׃
And in the dream an angel of God said to me, ‘Jacob!’ ‘Here,’ I answered.
וַיֹּ֗אמֶר שָׂא־נָ֨א עֵינֶ֤יךָ וּרְאֵה֙ כָּל־הָֽעַתֻּדִים֙ הָעֹלִ֣ים עַל־הַצֹּ֔אן עֲקֻדִּ֥ים נְקֻדִּ֖ים וּבְרֻדִּ֑ים כִּ֣י רָאִ֔יתִי אֵ֛ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר לָבָ֖ן עֹ֥שֶׂה לָּֽךְ׃
And he said, ‘Note well that all the he-goats which are mating with the flock are streaked, speckled, and mottled; for I have noted all that Laban has been doing to you.
אָנֹכִ֤י הָאֵל֙ בֵּֽית־אֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֨ר מָשַׁ֤חְתָּ שָּׁם֙ מַצֵּבָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר נָדַ֥רְתָּ לִּ֛י שָׁ֖ם נֶ֑דֶר עַתָּ֗ה ק֥וּם צֵא֙ מִן־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֔את וְשׁ֖וּב אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ מוֹלַדְתֶּֽךָ׃
I am the God of Beth-el, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now, arise and leave this land and return to your native land.
Sheep And Money
Jacob is blessed with a vision of an angel that speaks to him. In the vision, the angel speaks about how Lavan had tricked him and how now he is set to make a lot of money with his speckled sheep.
Immediately after this verse, Jacob hears the voice of Hashem. Remember your promise to return to the Land of your fathers.
This small voice jolts Jacob. Here was a man of incredible potential, a man who heard the voice of Hashem in one of the most famous prophetic visions in the Bible. Yet after his time with Lavan, his dreams are about sheep and money.
In the Book of Deuteronomy, and repeated in the Haggadah of Pesach, we read: ארמי אובד אבי an Aramean- Lavan, tried to destroy my father. How? We do not see that Lavan tried to kill Jacob.
Lavan attempted to destroy Jacob our father, in his role as Patriarch. How could Jacob be the heir of Abraham if all he was doing was tending and caring for sheep? Jacob had forgotten his mission and was slipping into the world of Lavan. The message of the Angel shocks him and after consulting with his wives, starts the journey of rehabilitation and return to his mission.
The Shocking Part Of The Story Parashat Vayeitzei
The shocking part of the story in Parshat Vayeitzei is that Jacob is the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham is married to two of the matriarchs and had Rivka as his mother. He had spent his life in the tents of learning. Even more, he had received a vision with Hashem Himself speaking to Jacob. Yet with all these pluses he was still seduced by Lavan and nearly forgot who he was. Were it not for the Divine intervention.
This is such a frightening concept. As Jews, we believe that we are following the right course. Yet all too subtly we are seduced by the society that we live in. If we look at how much time our children spend exposed to Facebook, YouTube and Netflix, we are hard-pressed to compete and offer our messages and values as parents and teachers.
Even the most dedicated parents are not spending as much time with their children as the devices are. Slowly they absorb messages that we find difficult. Many times they are so subtle that we don’t even realise the damage being caused.
For 20 years Jacob lived with Lavan and although he states that he dwelt with Lavan but was not strayed by him, that was only because of the intervention from above. Had he stayed he would have been lost.
Our Test, Are You Aware Of It?
When we read the weekly Torah portion we have to view our lives being mirrored by our patriarchs. If Jacob struggled with the challenges of the surrounding society. How much more so do we need to be wary as to what we are hearing, seeing and experiencing? How much more so do we need to be aware of what our kids are being exposed to. Jacob survived the test and became the third Patriarch.
Our test stands before us each and every day and we don’t even realise it.