Torah Portion: Vayetze (And He Went Out) (B’resheet) Genesis 28-32
Haftorah Reading: Hosea 12:13-14:10
This Torah section is filled with spiritual lessons for us form beginning to end. From these verses we can learn much from Ya’acov and his approach to his relationship with the Father. I would like to begin at the beginning of this section where we see Ya’acov leaving Israel and going to Haran. He was leaving the place where scripture says, “G-d’s eyes are on it from the beginning of the day until its end”, and travel to a place which had no thought of G-d, a place of deception and trickery. He came to a certain place near what would later become Jerusalem and laid down to sleep, putting a rock down for his head.
He fell asleep and had a dream/vision of a ladder with angels ascending and descending and at its top stood G-d. (Genesis 28:12-15) G-d spoke to him and promised him the land where he lay. He also promised He would be with him and bring him back to this place.
What seems out of place for Ya’acov was what was not in this message. G-d did not include any of the things that Isaac had blessed him with in the birthright blessing. However, this blessing of G-d did include the things that Isaac had given to him in his second blessing, the blessing of Avraham.
Apparently this word of G-d touched Ya’acov deeply for it seemed to set his life priorities in order. (verses 20-22) Ya’acov, in these verses, seems to have found his spiritual footing, what was important and what was not. His desire now was only for G-d to go with him, for the basics of physical life, food, clothing, and in fact at the end in verse 22 saying, whatever he had he would return one-tenth to G-d. Ya’acov learned from this vision that the point of life is not what he could accumulate. Like the ladder, he could live in the physical world but be firmly connected to the spiritual. In fact, his, and our life goal, can and should be to keep our life rooted in maintaining that connection with the Father, knowing that He is with us. A blessed life is one spent climbing the ladder, drawing nearer and nearer to the L-rd.
Back to the stone that he placed under his head, why does the Torah take time to tell us what Ya’acov used for a pillow, or really, according to the wording, beside his head? What do we associate with rocks or stones? We think of stability, solid as a rock or set in stone. So stones can be a symbol for permanence. Remember Ya’acov was leaving Israel and the holiness that was associated with that place. I think the stone was a way of symbolizing that his head, his spirit, would be protected and remain strong when he stepped into the world. Each of us must have a strong, solid as a rock, faith that will withstand the storms that swirl around us each day.
Now I want to finish with a few words about Leah, the unloved wife of Ya’acov. As we look at Leah’s emotional and spiritual struggle with never being loved by her husband we see, starting in Genesis 29:32-35, this struggle being played out in the names of her children. We see here she gives birth to four sons. What is evident in the names of the first three sons? Each name is a picture of her struggle to be accepted, to be loved by Ya’acov. Finally, when Judah is born her reaction is different. She finally seems to have some peace with her life and names him a name that means, “Now I will praise the L-rd.” What is interesting is that Judah is the first name we read in the Torah that includes the name of G-d and was the line through which comes the Messiah.
Back to Leah, what can we learn from her and her story? Leah was finally able to rise above needing Ya’acov’s approval and love. She was able to stand on her own and not be held back by what someone else thought or said about her. Most people struggle to rise above what people, parents, spouse or others think of them or say about them. We live our life trying to measure up or be what someone says we should be. What is really important? The most important thing is what G-d says we are. Then like Leah we can say, “I shall praise the L-rd.”