Torah Portion: Vayetze (He went Out) Genesis 28:10-32:3
HafTorah: Hosea 11:7-13:5
This week we look at more than 20 years of Jacob’s life. We see him from the time he leaves home until he journeys back. He leaves with just his clothes on his back and returns with wives, children and many flocks. He leaves and actually becomes the first Jew to live in the galut. I think we can learn a lot by looking at his life and what it shows us spiritually. Let us begin with the first verse of our portion, Genesis 28:10. Here we see Jacob leaving the Land, that place on which the eyes of G-d are continually on and going toward Haran, a place of wickedness. Sometimes we are called to leave our comfortable, spiritual surroundings to go into a world that does not know G-d. How do we deal with it? How do we keep ourselves grounded in truth? Jacob made sure he left from a safe place, called “The Place” in Hebrew. This means more than just any place. His last night was spent, as he later states, in the house of G-d. There G-d speaks to him and promises him to be his protector and to bring him home. He does the same for each of us. I believe He is with us each step of our journey as we walk in His promise. When we leave our house each day G-d goes with us. Like Jacob we should begin our day having spent time with Him. We should prepare ourselves spiritually by being with Him each day. Our challenges each day should be met with our connection with Him, our knowing of His way and how we are to conduct ourselves in the world.
Later, in Genesis 31:45-55 we read where Jacob is coming home after being in exile. What do he and Laban do? They set up a stone to mark the boundary between the two of them, swearing to not cross over to do harm. To me it is like Jacob setting up a boundary between the world and his home, both practically and spiritually. It is as if he is saying, the influences of the world will not enter my house or my heart. My job is to influence the world not the other way around. Is it easy to keep the world’s influence out of our life and the life of our family? No, we spend much of our time out there in the world so we must spend more of our time being with G-d, meditating on His word, praying, reading. Only then can we remain unstained by the world. (James 1:27) This requires effort on our part. It requires time on our part, if not, the boundary between the holy and profane becomes blurred. Every step over the boundary makes the next step easier. I am sure most people, or most believers, who fall into sin did not start out with that in mind. Sin starts usually with a small thing but if not confronted for what it is, the next step goes further and further until we wonder how we got to where we are. The boundaries are gone.
So, for sure we should be able to see in Jacob a way of life that honored G-d and possibly even brought G-d into the darkness of sin. Sabbath is a good lesson in this. In that it sets limits. There are things or ways that we should spend the day and things that we are not to do. Why? Not because they are necessarily wrong but because they are not to intrude on the Holy day, the Sabbath.
How do we get to this place? Here I think Genesis 29:1 can give us a clue. In English it says, “Jacob went on his journey.” In Hebrew it says, “He lifted his feet and went.” In other words Jacob had to make the effort. He had to do something. For us to move the world, for us to not let the world change us, we must do something. We have to be active. We must make sure our guard is up against the evil inclination. We are to lift up our feet and take charge of our life spiritually. No one can do it for us.