Rachael’s Thoughts on Parshat Vayetzei

This week’s Torah reading, Vayetzei, begins with Jacob leaving his home, his family, the land of Israel, and ‘venturing outward’, which is what ‘vayetzei’ means.  Jacob is leaving all his comfort zones behind, and dreams of a ladder anchored where he is and reaching upward to God.  Angels are moving up the ladder from the ground and down the other side from heaven.  When he wakes up, he observes, somewhat surprised, that God had been there all along and he didn’t know it.  

Our first ancestors, Sarah and Abraham, were also told to leave behind all that was familiar to them as they began their journey with God.  But their grandson, Jacob, will take a uniquely different  journey, as it should be.  Jacob is not being instructed by God to do this nor is God leading him.  God is passively present in Jacob’s life, day to day, all the years that Jacob lives away from Israel.   

Jacob’s journey will lead him to his wives, his children, and to proficiency and success within a foreign culture.  He is not forging Covenant, he is learning how to bring Covenant into his busy life.  His generation will be the last of our ancestral generations because it is the final piece of the puzzle.  From here onward, Covenant will be inherited, not shaped. 

Our Jewish realities sit on the spectrum of our ancestral realities.  We, like Abraham and Sarah, build our Jewish homes filled with the anchors of Judaism and connections to God — homes that we intend to be the havens and anchors of our future generations.  At some point, like Abraham and Sarah, our children, or grandchildren, will venture out to find their own journeys.   God and Judaism may be present but fade into the background of their lives.  Like Jacob, they build their lives, and with maturity, they may look at life-changing moments only to realize, as did Jacob, God was in that moment all along “and I didn’t know it”. 

Like Jacob, our children eventually return to build their own Jewish homes that reflect their connections and covenantal expressions.  Abraham and Sarah would likely not have recognized Jacob’s Jewish home, as it contained elements of his ‘venturing outward’, but that is the path of our Jewish destiny – we never stagnate. 

I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate. 

Shabbat shalom,