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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Parshat Vayetze – Jacob Left

Posted by rabbiart on November 25, 2009

Our parshah begins with a simple six word verse that seems to merely set the scene for what is to follow.

וַיֵּצֵא יַעֲקֹב, מִבְּאֵר שָׁבַע; וַיֵּלֶךְ, חָרָנָה

Yakov exited from Be’er Sheva and headed toward Haran.

The Hebrew word vayetze is simple in meaning; “he went out.” When we think about the story that comes before it immediately takes on a variety of shadings and meanings.

Yakov exited.  He exited his relationship with his brother.  After seducing his brother out of his birthright for a bowl of soup and stealing his rightful death-bed blessing, he has abandoned any relationship with his brother.  He will not even see his brother for twenty years, but he will carry with him a burden of guilt and a palpable fear of what his brother would do to him.  Perhaps he knows of Esav’s vow to kill him as soon as the mourning period for his father is over.

וַיֵּצֵא Yakov exited. He exited his relationship with his father. Yitzhak, we are told by the text, had always favored Esav. After realizing how Yakov had deceived him, could he have felt any love for him?  This relationship too was damaged, if not completely destroyed.

וַיֵּצֵא Yakov exited. He exited his relationship with his mother. He had done what his mother told him to do.  She had said she accepted the responsibility; that the curse be upon her. He had always been a mama’s boy, but now he would have to become a man.

וַיֵּצֵא Yakov leaves his family behind him.  He is estranged from his father, his mother and his brother. He is not just leaving a geographical location called Be’ersheva; he is leaving the life that he has known behind him.

מִבְּאֵר שָׁבַע
Avraham dug wells in Be’ersheva, had a dispute and resolved it. Yitzhak dug the same wells that his father dug before him, and called them by the same names his father had called them.  (The Philipstines had stopped up the wells in the interim).  Yakov will not dig the wells of his father and his grandfather. He is estranged from his family history and traditions.
וַיֵּלֶךְ, חָרָנָה
Where does Yakov head? Toward Haran. This too is a powerful reminder from the text of the
loneliness of Yakov.  When his grandfather gathered his family and went toward Haran he was leaving his native land, his birthplace and his familial home.

This seemingly simple and straightforward verse that looks like it is nothing more than a restatement of “where we were before commercial break” is meant to tell us something about the heart of Yakov’s existential
condition. Yakov is a man who  is all alone in the most fundamental part of his being. If he is to go anywhere at all, he can only go upward from this point.

So of course this wounded and broken man dreams of a ladder that reaches into the heavens. In this the Torah gives us a powerful message; in the moment of our hitting rock-bottom, it is not only the case that we have nowhere to go but up; rather – the Torah tells us – we will go up; all we have to do is get on the first rung of the ladder.

Iin the story of the ladder Yakov quickly finds a deeper and more fundamental truth; he is not alone.  We are not alone; rather HaShem is with us, waiting for us to begin our own ascent. And… if we do, HaShem will send messenger angels to help and accompany us.

Shabbat Shalom


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