Wednesday, December 07, 2005

PARSHAH IN A NUTSHELL: Week of December 4-10, 2005 (Vayeitzei)


Kislev 6, 5766 * December 7, 2005


TORAH PORTION: Vayeitzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3)

Torah Reading for Week of December 4-10, 2005

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Jacob leaves his hometown Be'er Sheva and journeys to Charan. On the way, he encounters "the place" and sleeps there, dreaming of a ladder connecting heaven and earth, with angels climbing and descending on it; G-d appears and promises that the land upon which he lies will be given to his descendents. In the morning, Jacob raises the stone on which he laid his head as an altar and monument, pledging that it will be made the house of G-d.

In Charan, Jacob stays with and works for his uncle Laban, tending Laban's sheep. Laban agrees to give him his younger daughter Rachel -- whom Jacob loves -- in marriage, in return for seven years' labor. But on the wedding night, Laban gives him his elder daughter, Leah, instead -- a deception Jacob discovers only in the morning. Jacob marries Rachel, too, a week later, after agreeing to work another seven years for Laban.

Leah gives birth to six sons -- Reuben, Shimon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun -- and a daughter, Dinah, while Rachel remains barren. Rachel gives Jacob her handmaid, Bilhah, as a wife to bear children in her stead, and two more sons, Dan and Naphtali, are born. Leah does the same with her handmaid, Zilpah, who gives birth to Gad and Asher. Finally, Rachel's prayers are answered and she gives birth to Joseph.

Jacob has now been in Charan for fourteen years and wishes to return home, but Laban persuades him to remain, now offering him sheep in return for his labor. Jacob prospers, despite Laban's repeated attempts to swindle him. After six years, Jacob leaves Charan in stealth, fearing that Laban would prevent him from leaving with the family and property for which he labored. Laban pursues Jacob, but is warned by G-d in a dream not to harm him. Laban and Jacob make a pact on Mount Gal-Ed, attested to by a pile of stones, and Jacob proceeds to the Holy Land, where he is met by angels.

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- This... shall be the house of G-d (28:22)

Not like Abraham, with whom it is called a "mountain" (Genesis 22:14); not like Isaac, with whom it is called a "field" (Genesis 24:63); but like Jacob, who called it a "house". (Talmud)

- And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah (29:25)

All that night, Leah was impersonating Rachel. When Jacob woke in the morning and saw that she was Leah, he said to her: "Daughter of The Deceiver! Why have you deceived me?" Said she to him: "And you, did you not deceive your father, when he asked you, 'Are you my son Esau?'" (Talmud)

- And it was told to Laban… that Jacob had fled… And he pursued after him a seven days' journey; and overtook him in the Mountain of Gilad (31:22-23)

The Chassidic masters explain that, even after 20 years in Charan, there still remained "sparks of holiness" that Jacob needed to redeem; that is why Laban had to pursue him for their final encounter on Mount Galed. In other words, there are two types of "sparks " that a person redeems in the course of his life. The first are those which he consciously pursues, having recognized the potential for sanctity and goodness in an object or event in his life. The second are those which pursue him: opportunities which he would never have realized on his own -- indeed, he may even do everything in his power to avoid them -- since they represent potentials so lofty that they cannot be identified by his humanly finite perception. So his redemption of these "sparks" can only come about unwittingly, when his involvement with them is forced upon him by circumstances beyond his control. (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


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