Torah Portion: Vayetze (And He Went Out) B’Resheet (Gen.) 28-32
HafTorah: Hosea 12:13-14:10
Our Torah portion this week covers at least 20 years of the life of Jacob/Ya’acov. We see him literally running for his life from Esau his brother. He went to the land of Abraham and his uncle Laban. He worked for Laban for twenty years. He was tricked into marrying not his first love Rachel, but her older sister Leah. This sets into motion a family struggle that would have many repercussions in Jacob’s life and his descendants. It is interesting to note that the unloved Leah actually birthed six sons to Jacob. Her sons formed the majority of the tribes of Israel. Rachel had two sons, Benjamin and Joseph. Additionally it was Leah who was buried beside Jacob in the tomb in Hebron while Rachel was buried some distance away in Bethlehem. So we see a family in turmoil for a good bit of history, yet from this turmoil G-d brought forth the nation of Israel.
Another interesting fact is that Jacob set up the first monument recorded in scripture. In fact he did this twice, here in our portion in Genesis 28:18 and in Genesis 31:43. However, one of the most intriguing questions is, why did G-d choose Jacob as the father of the 12 tribes? He was not righteous as the bible says of Noah. He did not leave his home in answer to a divine call as Abraham did and he did not offer himself up as a sacrifice as Isaac did. So why Jacob?
Maybe the answer lies here in the verses found in Genesis 28:12-17. In these verses we see the expression in Hebrew, “vahinea.” It occurs 4 times in these verses. Here it carries the meaning of surprise. Nothing had prepared Jacob for this encounter with G-d. In most bibles this phrase is translated as, “and look.” In the second verse of our portion we read “vaidgah” translated as “He came upon a place.” He stopped at a place, an unexpected encounter. The place “Hamakom” means a specific place unlike all the other and here he had his encounter with G-d. Here we may have our answer of why Jacob.
Jacob was a person who had his deepest spiritual experiences alone, at this time and also next week’s portion when he returned to Israel. He met G-d when he least expected to, when his mind was on other things, times when he was afraid of what would be, maybe even in despair. It was then at those times he found, “surely G-d is in this place and I did not know it.” It was here we see his spiritual encounter, his spiritual strength. It is here we all can draw strength. I expect many of us have felt or are feeling a sense of being overwhelmed.
Jacob shows us that G-d is always with us even when all seems lost When we feel the most alone we can remember G-d is with us. He is there to give us hope and the strength to go on. We see it in Psalms 69:2-3 and in Psalms 130:1. Sometimes our deepest spiritual experiences come when we least expect them, when we are in the darkest places. These experiences are the times when we are the most vulnerable, when we are the most open to G-d. It is then He can break through all of our defenses and self-confidence. Psalms 34:18 and Palms 147:3. G-d is not always found in holy places but often in the midst of a lonely or difficult journey, in the middle of the night. The most profound of spiritual wisdom can be the knowledge that the Father is always with us. We are not alone. He is holding our hand, lifting us when we fall and forgiving us when we fail, restoring us through the power of His love. Others may fail us. He never will. We may even lose faith in ourselves but He never does. G-d is always there urging us to move on. He has more for us, there are things we were created for, things no one else can do, things we were created to fulfill. So Jacob is an example of how even when it is the darkest He brings light to us.