Parashat Vayetze – Erev Shabbat 24 November 2023 (5784)
Week of 19 -25 November 2023
Torah portion: Gen.28 :10-32 :18 Haftarah: Hos. 12 :13-14 :10
Theme: Jacob’s journey, our journey, Human wisdom and Divine Truth
Our Parashat for this week, Parashat “Vayetze” means “And he left” and is found in Gen. 28:10. Jacob leaves his hometown of Beersheva and journeys to Haran. One reason he left was because he was going to the land of his ancestors in search of work and a wife. We also read at the beginning of chapter 28 how Jacob buys the rights of the firstborn from Esau his older brother. Rebekah plays her role in favoring Jacob. After stealing the blessing of their father Issac, Jacob has to escape in order to save his life, as Esau was out to kill him.
I entertain and embrace the notion that we read the stories and traditions thousands of years past, and apply it to our journey and our lives now, as we are all on a journey, on a pilgrimage. The population movement: we have somehow moved by choice or by force in our world. I can say, we are “Vayetze”. We have left our homeland and we have found and settled in a new homeland. We use our initiative and we articulate with our human wisdom to road map our journey. Again as people of faith we trust in the Divine Truth as we journey to our final destination to our Eternal Home.
In Gen 28:11, we read “When Jacob had reached a certain place, he passed the night there, since the sun had set”. Why this certain place? Is it accidental or providential? God knows. In Gen 28:16-17, “Yes! G-d is in this place and I did not know! How awesome is this place! This could only be the house of G-d, and this is the gateway of heaven”. In halachah (Torah Law), there is much discussion on the status of twilight – the gray area between when the day stops and the night begins. A gateway is one of the most common metaphors of Torah: a place where you are either in or out, but part of both.
The dream of Jacob in verse 12 “he had a dream in which a ladder stood on the earth with its top reaching to heaven and on it were angels of God going up and down”. A simple literal interpretation for me will be, the angels are on a journey, from earth ascending to heaven and descending. The angels, are like a bridge, to link heaven and earth. “Another interpretation is that the place at which Jacob stopped for the night was in reality Mount Moriah the future home of the Temple in Jerusalem”. (en.m.wikipedia).
In Gen 28:18, “Then Jacob rose early and took the stone he put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it”. Is the stone, a glimpse and a shadow of rock being used as the image of G-d in the First Testament? So, Jacob alone and defenseless, put his head on G-d, as he goes to sleep in a deserted environment and perhaps inhabited by strangers. Perhaps, Jacob is saying, G-d you are refuge, my shelter and my rock. This stone, by setting it up as a pillar and pouring oil on it, is some kind of an altar for the offering of the sacrifice. In religious celebrations, we offer ourselves symbolically on the altar, to be sanctified and made holy by our G-d.
I am repeating here, what I said above but add to it another context “Jacob name this place Bethel, the House of God. The house of God, the dwelling place of God. Is this the Mishkan, the dwelling place of God? Mishkan comes from the Hebrew root meaning “to dwell”; the tabernacle was considered to be the earthly dwelling place of God. The notion of Mishkan developed and we now consider ourselves to the be Mishkan, the Dwelling place of G-d.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. In my life’s journey, where have I come from, and where I am now. 2. In our journey so far, can we identify the glimmers of grace, those unique moments in our lives where we felt the presence of God to be real in our lives. 3. Can I name a place or occasion, where I felt that I had an experience of the presence of G-d.
Bibliography: Patricia Grogan, Christian Community Bible(Quezon City : 2005); en.m.wikipedia.org;
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Aliki A Langi, Tonga, Bat kol Alumnus: 2005, 2018