Like his grandfather, like his great-great-grandchildren, and like us too, Jacob set on a journey, and so, the opening word – and the name – of this week’s reading is vayetze, “and (he) exited”. Rashi points to us the fact that this word is not needed. It would have been enough to say, Jacob went… but Jacob was a righteous person, and his departure, very noticeable. Kdushat Levi (Torah commentary written by Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, 1740–1810) adds that it should have said, vayered, and he went down, as most departures from Israel are considered a going “down”, but it doesn’t. Supposedly, the land’s holiness went with Jacob wherever he went. There are those who say his mom wanted him to leave, and his father, wanted him to go find a wife in Haran. In order to fulfill both his parents’ commands, the text repeats both: “and he left, and he went” (Genesis 28:10).
Rabbi Hirsch takes a slightly different look and says that this is so critical because it introduces a new section – the independent life of Jacob. He bases it on the fact that we already know Jacob left. We were told so in last week’s parasha, when Rebecca tells Jacob to go (Genesis 27:43), when Isaac tells him to go (28:2), when Isaac sends him again (28:5) and when the text clearly says: “and Jacob listened to his father and his mother and went”… (28:7).
But now we’re told yet again, “and Jacob left”. The departure itself is what’s important because unlike Abraham, his grandfather, Jacob travels alone and as far as we know, with mostly nothing. This is reinforced by his encounter with G-d, which happens right after his departure, and of whom Jacob asks to give him “bread to eat and clothing to wear” (28:20). Indeed, he only took one thing: his father’s “blessing”, proving that the blessing was not any physical-materialistic gains but spiritual ones. It also lets us know that any gains he might achieve are due to who he is and how he conducts himself, and not to the fact that he started out better off.
Jacob is us. As parents, we hate seeing our children leave; as kids, we hesitate taking the journey. Not everybody’s journey means traveling around the globe and living (at least for now-) 8000 miles away from home, but our forefathers seem to tell us that some space away is often needed for one’s growth.
It’s hard to talk about this parasha and not look at Jacob and his wives. Indeed, lots of things in Jacob’s life are not what they initially seem to be, but no doubt, one of the most complex is his marriage. Hints that things won’t work out right are already there his first meeting with Rachel: he saw her, he kissed her, he burst out crying, then he told her who he is, and then she went to tell her family (29:11-12). His love for her is so great that he is willing to work for her seven years and then another seven; he protects her in the upcoming meeting with Esau and spoils their first born, and yet, he ends his life with Leah, and is buried next to her. In the tension between nature (in this case, falling in love) and nurture (the daily grunt of building a relationship), Jacob provides us with a lot of room for thought.
Imagine: dinner at Lavan’s tent, shortly before Jacob is planning to leave and head back to his father’s land. The father in law; the mother in law? their sons and their families; Jacob, two wives, two maid-servants, eleven sons and at least one daughter. Anytime we plan to complain about family during this “holiday season”, we can pause and think of Jacob.
More people shop on Black Friday than vote, even in the best attended elections which means that: 1. If we want more people to vote, we should consider placing the polling stations at the entrance to Macy’s and Wal-Mart. 2. As long as this does not happen, how we shop is going to be more important than how we vote (courtesy of Lotem).