Wednesday, December 3, 2008



This week's portion is Vayyetze.

At the end of the previous portion, Yitzchak (Isaac) and Rivkah (Rebecca) sent Yaakov (Jacob) to Rivkah's brother Lavan's home to escape Esav (Esau), and to find a wife. Our Torah portion focusses on Yaakov's adventures outside of Israel, and the growth of the Jewish people during that exile.

En route to exile, Yaakov has a vision of angels ascending and descending a ladder. In this vision Gd promises to protect Yaakov, and Yaakov promises to serve Gd materially and spiritually. Yaakov sets up a stone monument, the first of many he would set up as memorials and as places of worship.

Yaakov arrives at a well in Lavan's town, Charan, and rebukes the local shepherds for dallying by the well. When they explain that they need help to remove the well's stone cover, he single-handedly removes the cover.

Yaakov meets his first cousin, Rachel, and is instantly impressed. Her father Lavan enslaves Yaakov, though, to get both Yaakov's wealth and his labor. Yaakov works for 7 years to be permitted to marry Rachel, but Rachel's father Lavan then substitutes Rachel's older sister Leah for Rachel. Yaakov then marries Rachel a week later, promising to work another 7 years for his marriage to her.

The family then grows:
Leah gives birth to Reuven, Shimon, Levi and Yehudah.
Rachel sees that she cannot bear children and she gives her maid Bilhah to Yaakov, and Bilhah gives birth to Dan and Naftali.
Leah sees that she has stopped bearing children and she gives her maid Zilpah to Yaakov, and Zilpah gives birth to Gad and Asher.
Leah gives birth to Yissachar, Zevulun and Dinah.
Rachel gives birth to Yosef.

Yaakov, having completed now 14 years of work for his marriage to Leah and Rachel, demands a salary from Lavan for his work. Lavan agrees, and he and Yaakov arrange odd terms (see the Torah portion itself) which seem to minimize Yaakov's reward. Gd engineers it so that the terms actually increase Yaakov's reward, even as Lavan tries to change the terms repeatedly in order to shrink Yaakov's salary. This occurs over a six year span.

Gd then tells Yaakov it’s time to leave and go home, and Yaakov departs without informing Lavan. Lavan pursues the family, claiming that everything Yaakov possesses is actually his own. Ultimately, Lavan and Yaakov agree to a pact of non-aggression.

The portion ends the way it began, with a vision; Yaakov has a vision of angels as he re-enters Israel.

Have a great day,

No comments: