November 20-21, 2015 – 9 Kislev 5776
Annual (Genesis 28:10-32:3): Etz Hayim p. 166; Hertz p. 106
Triennial (Genesis 31:17-32:3): Etz Hayim p. 181; Hertz p. 114
Haftarah (Hosea 12:13-14:10): Etz Hayim, p. 189; Hertz p. 118

Dreaming When Young and When Old

By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty

Maybe it wasn’t Che Guevara who said: “Anyone who does not dream at twenty has no heart; anyone who still dreams at forty has no head.” Google does not support what I remember hearing once, but the point is clear. Idealism is great for young people; but when we grow up we’re expected to become pragmatic, realistic, our feet on the ground.

In Parshat Vayetse Jacob takes center stage, which he will dominate until the end of Bereishit. He will share the subsequent parshiyot with this children; Vayetse is a solo performance. He leaves Canaan to escape the wrath of his brother, Esau, and to find a wife in his mother’s homeland; he is young, poor and alone. He returns twenty years later with a large household – two wives, two concubines and twelve children, plus wealth, flocks and servants. The parsha begins with his departure from Beer Sheva and Canaan and ends with his return to the Promised Land. He has a vision of angels just before he leaves (28:12-15) and angels of God greet him when he returns (32:2-3). The parsha is a carefully constructed literary piece.

The opening is very dramatic. Jacob’s first night out va’yifgah ba’makom, “he came upon a place,” literally, but it is often understood as “he encountered God,” ha’makom being one of God’s names. And when he lay down to sleep “he dreamed of a ladder mutsav artsa v’rosho magi’a ha’shamaima, fixed in the ground with its top reaching heaven; and the angels of God were going up and down on it.” This is no ordinary dream – the ladder represents Judaism – firmly implanted in this world, in reality, on the one hand, but with a vision of heaven on the other, important spiritual equipment for Jacob’s toolbox as he enters the real world and prepares to deal with shrewd operators like his uncle, Laban.

In twenty years in Haran Jacob learns a lot, on the personal and professional levels. His negotiations for his wages with Laban show that Jacob can now hold his own in the business world.   Jacob tells his wives that the sheep-breeding techniques he used with Laban came from a dream he had (31:10), “behold, the he-goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled, and grizzled.” The fellow, who at twenty had dreamed of a ladder reaching Heaven with angels of God going up and down, is now, at forty, dreaming of his flocks (“his stocks”?). No wonder Laban’s countenance does not look the same to Jacob as it used to (31:2) – when Jacob had first come, as a youth years earlier, he had had contempt for Laban’s purely material values and crafty manipulations. But the time with Laban had taken its toll on Jacob spiritually; he is now playing Laban’s game at Laban’s level and by Laban’s rules and values. It is at this point that God says to Jacob – “Lift up your eyes…for I have seen all that Laban has done to you (31:12).” Laban has not threatened Jacob physically, but he has lowered Jacob’s sights and compromised Jacob’s dream. Lift up your sights, God reminds Jacob, leave Haran and get back to Canaan, where you can live in reality and still dream of Heaven.

A Vort for Parshat Vayetse

By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty

After the birth of her fourth son Leah declared (29:35), “‘Now I will praise/thank (odeh – אוֹדֶה) the Lord’; therefore she called him (the newborn son) Yehudah.”  The Talmud says that Leah is the first person to express thanks.  Rashi says she thanked God now because she had “taken more than her share.”  As one of Jacob’s four wives/concubines Leah expected (prophetically) to have three of his twelve sons; Judah was the “extra share.”  We the Jews, yehudim, are named for him who represents gratitude.  The first Gerer rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, (19th, Poland) said that whatever we take from this world is “more than our share,” and therefore we should always express our gratitude to God.

Table Talk

By Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty

Jacob fled to his uncle, marries 2 wives and 2 handmaids (that’s at least 3 too many) and heads back to the land of his father with 12 children. Never a dull moment – let’s take a look:

1) On his way out of Canaan Jacob has a dream. What is his dream (28:12-15)? How is the image connected to the God’s speech? Why does God choose to deliver this message to Jacob just now?

2) Jacob works 7 years to pay the bride’s price for the beautiful Rachel. The night of the wedding Laban switches Rachel with her older sister Leah, which Jacob discovers too late. Why do you think that Rachel did not alert Jacob of her father’s intentions?

3) When Jacob discovers that he was cheated, he complains. Laban’s response ‘it is not done so [here]… to put the younger before the older’ seems to suggest that Jacob was paid back ‘a measure for a measure’; how so? (Think back to last week’s Parasha.)

*In the Hebrew, look at the use of language in 27:35 and 29:25. How does it link the two events linguistically

4) How much time passed between the 2 weddings? (Vv. 27-28) How does God help Leah with her unenvied position as the unwanted wife?

5) After many children and many years of shepherding for Laban, Jacob steals away with his family to return to Canaan. Rachel steals her father’s Terafim (house gods?). What might be her motivation?

* A challenging question

PDF Vayetse 5776