Thursday, November 7, 2013
Parashat Vayetzei ("and he went out") Genesis 28:10-32:3 by Jon Eaton
Parashat Vayetzei ("and he went out") Genesis 28:10-32:3
By Jon Eaton
Genesis 25:23 states, “and the elder shall serve the younger.” This promise to Rebekah was most likely the reason that Jacob was more highly considered by her and it was possible that Jacob grew up with the expectation that he would be the promised heir of Abraham and Isaac. This ‘predestination’ of his birth-right may have helped calm his nerves as he "bought" the birth-right from his twin brother Esau and later deceived his Father Isaac, with his mother, to have the "blessing of the firstborn" imparted to him.
With this in mind, this week's parashah begins with Jacob leaving his childhood home in Beersheva to Haran; most likely out of fear for his life. It begins: “And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran”. Genesis. 28:10.
It was during this flight, that Jacob had a dream about a ladder that reached from the earth to heaven and the Lord stood above the ladder and promised Jacob that his offspring would be like the dust of the earth, and that through Him all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
Jacob replied with a vow saying, “If Elohim will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall Adonai be my Elohim: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be Elohim’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” Genesis 28:20-22.
The ladder in this magnificent dream can be understood to be Yeshua.
Adam Clarke, an early 19th-century Methodist theologian and Bible scholar, explains:
"That by the angels of Elohim ascending and descending, is to be understood, that a perpetual intercourse should now be opened between heaven and earth, through the medium of Christ, who was G-d manifested in the flesh. Our blessed Lord is represented in his mediatorial capacity as the ambassador of G-d to men; and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, is a metaphor taken from the custom of dispatching couriers or messengers from the prince to his ambassador in a foreign court, and from the ambassador back to the prince.”
Yeshua made reference to Jacob’s ladder in John 1:51, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of Elohim ascending and descending upon the Son of man”.
When Jacob awoke from this dream, he made a monument from the stone he had used as a pillow, anointed it with oil and called the place "the house of Elohim" Bet-El (בֵּית־אֵל); Bethel. Genesis 28:19. Also, Jacob had a revelation that all of us should take note of: “Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not” Genesis 28:16.
How often do we go about our life without consideration that His presence if ever near.
Also we have Yeshua in our life, “Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you” 2 Corinthians 13:5. Yeshua is the true "house of Elohim" (bet Elohim) as he said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19. Yeshua is also its Chief Cornerstone as we read in Matthew 21:42, “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner”.
Now the next question here is, “Was Jacob trying to make a bargain with Elohim?” Jacob made a vow that for as long as he was cared for by the Lord until he return home that he would tithe of all of his possessions and would return to worship at the alter he had just built.
But was his vow conditional? Was he actually saying, "If Elohim takes care of my material well-being, then I will serve Him?
Well, according to Rashi, these verses should be read as follows:
If Elohim will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, and Adonai shall be my Elohim, THEN this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be Elohim's house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you. Genesis 28:20-22.
This may be connected with what Yeshua stated in Matthew 16:18 to Peter, “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”.
The parashah then continues with the moment that Jacob met Rachel. I know how I felt when I met my Rachel (actually my wife’s name really is Rachel)!!
Jacob had immediately fallen in love with his cousin Rachel (no, my wife is not my cousin) and eagerly agreed to work as Laban's shepherd for seven years in order to marry her. At the end of the 7 years, Laban took advantage of Jacob's desire and swapped his eldest daughter Leah for Rachel on the wedding night - how much did Jacob drink??? Obviously Jacob was upset when he woke up next to the wrong girl in the morning and after a lot of protesting, Jacob was allowed to marry Rachel a week later as long as he worked for another 7 years.
How did Jacob mess up his own marriage so badly? According to Megillah 13b, Jacob understood that his uncle was crooked and had given Rachel a password to identify her veiled presence to him at the wedding, but when she later realized that her father intended to have Leah take her place under the chuppah, she quickly gave the password to her sister to save her from humiliation.
We read in Genesis 29:17 that Leah's eyes were weak (rakot רַכּוֹת), and Rachel was beautiful. But does ‘weak eyes’ mean unsightly or ugly? Is this a verse of contrast or does another meaning apply?
The Hebrew word rakot (רַכּוֹת) is the plural form of the word rak (רַךְ) which means soft or tender or even empathatic. Rashi commented that Leah's eyes were made "weak" (tender) from crying "until her eyelashes fell out" because she was constantly sorrowful about the prospect of marrying Esau.
Interestingly, it was Rachel, her not so teary sister, that was prophesied to weep for her children. Jeremiah 31:15.
The Talmud states that the word rak implies royalty (Bava Basra 4a), which is remarkable when we consider that two lines of royalty were destined to descend from Leah: Judah (King David and King Messiah) and the spiritual line of Levi (Moses, Aaron, and the Kohanim).
The next part of the parashah gives the account of the birth of the twelve sons of Jacob who become known as the twelve tribes of Israel.
It begins with the Lord seeing how Leah was unloved by Jacob and so he "opened her womb" while her sister Rachel remained childless.
The Talmud states that from the time of creation, no one offered gratitude “hoda’ah” (הוֹדָאָה) to the Lord until Leah did that moment (Berachot 7a). Whilst this might be far-fetched, it is interesting to note what made them regard Leah's gratitude as so special. The word hoda'ah (הוֹדָאָה) has two connotations; one is gratitude and the other is admission (or confession). "There is a gratitude that expresses appreciation for a kindness, but a deeper, more profound form of gratitude is when one admits that what initially appeared as something detrimental was in reality a great favor" (Maayan Shel Torah).
Leah was blessed in that the priesthood (through Levi) and the Messiah (through Judah) would come from her descendants, and this caused her to rejoice and give thanks to Elohim.
"According to the pain, is the reward" (Avot 5:22). HaShem sometimes allows difficulties in our lives in order to ultimately reward us. Consider that Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel were barren for so many years. Was it because HaShem would hear their prayers and reward them for their steadfast faith? "It was good that I was afflicted, that I might learn your decrees" Psalm 119:71.
The sibling rivalry had begun with Leah giving birth to Jacob's first four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. When Rachel realized that she was barren, she continued in the wacky example of her great grandmother Sarah and offered her handmaiden, Bilhah, to bear children on her behalf. Bilhah then bore Jacob's next two sons: Dan and Naphtali.
Just when everyone though that the madness had settled, Leah began to think that she was unable to have more children and thus gave her handmaiden, Zilpah, to Jacob to bear even more children. Zilpah then bore two sons: Gad and Asher. But Leah was wrong about her birthing lifespan and gave birth to two more sons, Issachar and Zebulon.
Finally, after this enormous mess, the Lord remembered Rachel's prayers and she gave birth to a son, Joseph and in the next parashah she gives birth to Benjamin.
Jacob's Twelve Sons and their meanings:
Reuben; "see, a son!"
Simeon; "hearing" or "heard"
Levi; "joined to" or "attached"
Dan; "a judge"
Gad; "troop," "company"
Issachar; "there is recompense"
Zebulon; "exalted," "honored"
Joseph; "may he add"
Benjamin; "son of the right hand"
After six more years of service, because Laban offered sheep in return for his services, Jacob received a vision from the Lord saying he was to go back to the ‘promised land’. He discussed it with Rachel and Leah and they decided that they should flee from Laban.
When Laban discovered what had happened, three days later, he chased after them. The Lord appeared to Laban on his journey and warned him to let Jacob continue on his way.
Seven days later Laban caught up with Jacob and then rebuked him for leaving without saying goodbye and for stealing his idols. Jacob denied the accusation and announced that the real thief would die. According to Rashi, her premature death, when she gave birth to Benjamin, was caused by Jacob's curse.
Finally, after Laban and Jacob made a peace treaty and ratified it with a pile of stones, Jacob continued his way back to the land of Canaan, where he was met by angels from Elohim (malakhei elohim מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹהִים). He then named the place Machanayim מַחֲנָיִם ("two camps").