Page 1 of 1

11.24.2017 Weekly Torah Portion

PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:37 pm
by RabbiMark
“Any fool can run toward the light. It takes a master with courage to turn and face the darkness and shine his own light there.” - Leslie Fieger

In this week’s parsha, VaYetze, we pick up our story with Jacob running from darkness. He has just stolen his brother Esau’s birthright and tricked his father Isaac into blessing him. In fear of being murdered by his brother, Jacob’s mother Rebekah sends him off to her brother Laban’s home to find a wife and to start fresh.

Along the way, Jacob hits bottom.

According to midrash, he is robbed by Esau’s son and is left with no money or possessions. As the night approaches, Jacob finds himself alone with nowhere to sleep other than rocks to rest his head upon.

As he dozes off, God reveals Himself in a dream where angels are ascending and descending a ladder that reaches the heavens. Jacob awakes in fear and says: “Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know. How awesome is this place! This must be the house of God and the gateway to heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17).

This is Jacob’s “Eureka” moment. His moment of awakening when he realizes he had better change his ways. He promises to do better. To reform. To be honest and not to cheat anymore.

However, instead of turning back and apologizing to his brother and asking forgiveness of his father, he keeps running from the darkness. He’s not ready to face his past. Even after having direct contact with the Divine, it’s still too hard for Jacob to do t’shuvah.

So Jacob keeps running. He reaches his uncle Laban’s home and immediately falls in love with Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel.

Jacob is ecstatic. He can’t be happier. He arranges to work for Laban for seven years in order to marry Rachel and “they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her” (Genesis 29:20). He thinks, “Who needs t’shuvah when I have love?! Love is all I need, it will heal my life, right?”

But of course, it is too good to be true. On the night of the wedding, Jacob’s father-in-law dupes him. He switches Rachel with his elder daughter, Leah.

As the morning sun shines, Jacob realizes what has transpired and the midrash recounts the conversation between him and Leah:

“Oh, You deceiver and daughter of a deceiver!” Jacob exclaims, “Why did you answer me when
I called Rachel’s name?!”

“Is there a teacher without a pupil?” Leah replies. “I merely profited from your teaching.
When your father called you Esau, did you not say, ‘Here I am?’”

Jacob is shocked!

Leah and the midrash employ the exact words Jacob used to mislead his father and brother [See Genesis Chapter 27].

He thought he could forget about the past and leave all his worries behind. He thought he could outwit his father and brother without any long-term repercussions. For the past seven years, he has estranged himself from his home and tried to recreate a new life in a new environment.

But now, it’s all catching up with him. The memory of the despair and destruction he caused his family come storming back when Leah utters those words.

After things settle down, post wedding fiasco, the Biblical text makes a clear mention of how Leah was hated by Jacob:

“...indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah….The Lord saw that Leah was hated and he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren” (Genesis 29:30-31).

Maybe it was due to the fact that he loved Rachel so much and was tricked into marrying someone else. But I like to believe it’s because she held a mirror up to Jacob and showed him his own shortcomings. His own hypocrisy.

As a result, Jacob was too ashamed to do anything but resent her.
Every time he sees Leah, he is reminded of Esau.
Whenever he hears her voice, he hears the echoes of his brother’s and father’s weeping.

In the end, it takes Jacob an additional thirteen years to leave his father-in-law’s home and muster the courage to face his brother again. A total of twenty years on the run!

Our sacred Torah is imploring us to face our problems. It’s asking us, “What are you still running from?” Imagine what kind of cosmic amends could have occurred if Jacob returned to his family immediately after that lonely night when God appeared to him?

May we have the awareness to see the dark spots of our past and have the strength to face them with grace and compassion; and may we transform the darkness into sparks of light.

Shabbat Shalom!

Joseph Shamash
Rabbinic Intern