Vayeitzei 5783

By: Dr. Jeffrey Buch

Vayeitzei, “and he went out.”  In this Parsha, Jacob went out from Be’er Sheva to Charan.  But did he only go out geographically or on another level?  Did Jacob in his search for a wife, also go in search of a life?  Why was it necessary?  For his personal and spiritual evolution did he need to go away from home to a land far away with different customs and get totally out of his comfort zone?

As we know, Jacob was a bit of a momma’s boy.  He may have been the original Jewish prince.  When any of us leaves the comfort of our familiar surroundings and our daily patterns we open ourselves up to the greater world and a host of new experiences resulting in a myriad of new opportunities.  Although there is comfort in staying with a known commodity, we can only learn what life has in store if we are willing to take a chance and get out of our comfort zones.  How many of you are Dallas natives?  How much richer is your life for having taken the chance to see what is out there?  And, when you did, how did it affect you personally, emotionally, career wise, finance wise, friend wise and most importantly in the spiritual dimension.  For me, taking the “road less traveled” has made all the difference.  And so, it would be for Jacob.

On the road to Charan, Jacob lays down to sleep in what he later realizes is a Holy place.  During sleep, he dreams of a ladder extending from Earth to Heaven with Angels ascending and descending.  G-d speaks to Jacob in his dream with the statement that he shall have progeny in numbers that rival the dust of the Earth and that he and his progeny will be a blessing to all the families of the Earth.  Wow!  Who could help themselves when they awaken from such a dream to feel G-d’s awe and the inspiration to fulfill such a legacy.  Of course, Jacob would not shirk his duty and went on to be the father of 12 sons and 1 daughter.  Pretty good start, right?

He awakened from that dream saying G-d was in this place, and I knew it not.  Jacob proceeds to consecrate that place, but then does something odd for a man of faith who has such a dream.  He says if G-d will do this and if G-d will do that and if I return in peace to my father’s house and land and if G-d will be my G-d, and if this stone which I have erected as a monument to you shall be the house of G-d, then I will give all that You give to me as a tithe back to You.  This type of bargaining must also be the original episode, or close to it, of Jewish chutzpah.  What nerve that young ancestor of ours had to bargain with G-d after having such a miraculous revelation in a dream.  I can go on with the “blow by blows” of this parsha, but what should be evident is that Jacob had a lot of emotional and spiritual growth to experience before he could become Israel after struggling with the Angel, but that is a story for a later parsha.

There is so much more in this parsha to explore, but let us stop there for a moment and go into further depth.  This parsha is the story of Jacob’s growth, on his way to becoming a patriarch and the father of a Holy nation.  Please remember, that Jacob was a calculating person in his youth who acquired his older brother’s birthright through manipulation and deception.  Should turnabout be fair play?  Should Jacob experience being manipulated and deceived to grow emotionally and spiritually?  You bet, and far be it from his father-in-law to be, Laban, to deny him this growth opportunity.

Jacob worked for Laban for 7 years to earn the right to marry the beautiful younger daughter, Rachel, but Laban would substitute the older daughter who was “dull of eye”, Leah, whose identity was hidden beneath the wedding veil.  Jacob was forced to wait one additional week before he could marry Rachel, and then he had to work 7 more years as his payment for the Rachel.  Of course, he would accumulate more sheep and goats in the process, but then he would have to work 6 more years so that Laban would let him leave with his family and his flocks.  But wait, there is more!  Laban, who kept pushing back the goalposts, so to speak, once again tried to reset the rules for Jacob.  Jacob would have none of it and quickly packed up and left with his flocks and possessions and his family.  Laban would chase after him, but the night before he would have caught up with Jacob, the Lord came to Laban in a dream warning him not to harm Jacob.  They then made a pact to do no harm to one another and Jacob proceeded toward the Holy Land.

Although the Holy Land is a place and Jacob consecrated as Holy the ground at which he dreamed of the ladder to Heaven, I would posit that it is what we do, and where we do it that creates Holiness.  Jacob had learned much, but his learning was far from over as we will see in subsequent Parshot. 

Shabbat Shalom!