Torah Portion: Vayetze (And He Went Out) B’resheet (Genesis) 28-32
Haftorah Reading: Hosea 11:7-13:5
In this Torah portion we read about Ya’acov/Jacob leaving the Land for the first time in his life to begin a 22 year separation from everything he had known up to this point in his life. I would imagine he was filled with fear and anxiety. I want us to spend a bit of time talking about his journey and the experiences he had that influenced him and I think speak to us in our own lives.
Of all the patriarchs I think Ya’acov/Jacob may speak to us and our struggles the most. We see him and all his flaws yet he overcame and went on to stand out in many ways. His name is the name that Jewish people still carry today, the Land of Israel. All of his children stayed in the faith, unlike Avraham or Isaac’s.
As we study I pray we can learn what sustained him and also what can sustain each of us in our walk with G-d. To begin let’s look at B’resheet/Genesis 29:1. Here we read in English, “So Jacob went on his journey.” In Hebrew the wording is, “He lifted up his feet and went on his way.” What help is this in understanding this man? I expect all of us have these times where we look at our life and the issues that stand before us and resign ourselves to our situation. Jacob was in a pretty bad place in the opening verses of this portion. His brother was out to kill him. He had deceived his father and been forced to run for his life. However, here in our verse what did he do? He lifted his feet and took a step and went on with purpose. He did not sit down and say “woe is me.” Rather he set his feet to go where G-d was leading him. He rose above his fears and anxiety and went on his way with G-d. He kept going with G-d as must we when the way seems fraught with uncertainty, G-d is with us.
Now to return to the beginning of our portion. Ya’acov/Jacob left Beer Sheva, his home, with nothing except what he could carry. He was headed to a strange place and people he did not know. He used a rock for a pillow. How would we deal with such a dilemma in our life? When do we feel the closeness of G-d the most? Usually, it is in those challenging times of life.
I am sure Ya’acov/Jacob was afraid and felt alone on that night laying his head on a rock to sleep. I think we have mentioned before the process of getting oil from olives. The olive must first be crushed to produce oil. I think for all of us life is not always worry free. James, in the Messianic scripture wrote in James 1:2, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” James was not saying that we are to look for trouble but they will come to us all, Our challenge is how do we deal with them. These times are when we hear the voice of G-d the most, as Ya’acov did here. He has another time with G-d in next week’s portion as he returns to the Land of his birth.
I think this dream of Ya’acov’s was that word, that comfort to him that G-d had not forgotten him but was with him and would be with him through whatever he faced as he made this journey. G-d reaffirmed His promises to Ya’acov/Jacob. G-d even arranged the place where he stopped for the night. From the wording it seems to be, what would later become, in Israel’s history, the Temple Mount. We get a clue by the wording in Genesis 28:31 where the word Makom, which in English means place, is used. In Genesis 22:6 Avraham used the same word to describe the place that G-d was telling him to take Isaac. Also, here in our reading in Genesis 28:17 Ya’acov/Jacob called the place the house of G-d. G-d had all the details worked out in Ya’acov’s life as He does in ours.
When challenges arise we can trust Him. We have to hold on to Him in the storms. The only other choice is to give up. Ya’acov/Jacob never gave up. His life was not easy but he held on to his faith, as did his children.
My last question for the week had to do with Leah’s fourth son and the name she chose for him. Were you able to find the meaning or root of the name Judah? Why do you think Leah chose this name? The word has at its root the Hebrew word Thank or Praise. Why did she choose this name for her son? I think Leah had not had an easy time as Ya’acov’s wife. She felt unloved and was not the favored wife. However, when she came to this point of her life she was finally at peace and able to be at rest with who she was and what G-d had done for her. This is my prayer for us. We too can thank G-d for what He has done for us and praise His name.