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When Jacob returned to Israel after twenty-two years of being a minority in the city of Haran, where his uncle Laban lived, he said “I sojourned with Laban . . . and I acquired oxen and donkeys, flocks, manservants, and maidservants.[1]
Why did he announce that he had sojourned with Laban, …

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Home » Vayetze

Vayetze: Food for Thought at your Dinner Table

Submitted by on November 6, 2007 – 4:30 pmNo Comment | 2,264 views

Sunday: Its all in the Mind

There are two levels of prophecy. The higher level is divine revelation. The lower level is divine communication. Our sages taught that G-d does not reveal himself to prophets in the diaspora unless they first merited at least one revelation in the holy land. This explains why G-d only spoke to Abraham while he was in Haran, but actually revealed himself to Abraham after arrived to Israel.

Jacob’s story is a little more confusing. He was born in Israel and from there embarked for the diaspora. In Israel he never received a revelation. In fact, when he embarked for the diaspora he received a communication from G-d, but only in a dream, not via direct revelation. Yet when he was in Haran, still in the diaspora, he merited a full revelation.

When Jacob received his first communication he was physically in Israel, but mentally he was already in the diaspora. He had decided to leave and was on his way out. When he received his first revelation he was physically in the diaspora, but mentally already in the holy land. He had decided to return and in his mind, was on his way back. Indeed, our state of being is determined not simply by our geographic location, but by our state of mind. Shem Mishmuel

Monday: Marriage and Torah

On his journey from Israel to Haran, Jacob detoured to a Torah academy where he studied for fourteen years. His father, Isaac, instructed him to travel to Haran and find a wife, but Jacob understood that physical marriage must evolve from spiritual marriage.

The Midrash taught that we, the Jewish people, are betrothed to the Torah. We enjoy an intimate relationship with Torah and our loyalty to it should be unquestioned. Before a Jewish couple can be married, both partners must establish their fidelity to Torah. Once this is accomplished, husband and wife can join together and build a home based on their principles of their common loyalty. When Jacob was instructed to seek out a partner in marriage he first sought out the Torah and betrothed himself to it, then sought out Rachel and married her. R. Bachye.

We might even suggest that Jacob was prophetically aware that he would be labor for fourteen years to marry Rachel, his true love. Perhaps this is the reason he dedicated fourteen years to the Torah, his other true love.

Tuesday: When all is a Gift

When Leah gave birth to her first son she acknowledged that it was a gift from G-d. She did the same when she gave birth to her second and third sons. When she gave birth to her fourth son she proclaimed, “This time I will thank G-d.” Rashi explains that she was prophetically aware that Jacob was destined to marry four wives and father twelve sons. Accordingly, each wife was entitled to three sons. When she gave birth to more than her fair share, she expressed her gratitude.

When our income is modest and we have enough to cover our expenses we tend to be grateful to G-d. The true test comes when we prosper and receive more than we require. The test of wealth is to avoid haughtiness in success and to remember that success is provided by G-d. Our matriarch Leah remained grateful and humble even in times of abundance and thus paved the way for us. Taam Vadaat

Wednesday: A Hint of Modesty

Leah named her fifth son Yisaschor. The name is actually pronounced Yisachor, leaving the second ‘S’ silent. The ‘S’ stands for the Hebrew word Sechar, reward. The name Yisaschor implied that G-d rewarded Leah for two sacrifices. She offered her maidservant to Jacob as a wife and she surrendered her jasmine plants, which were believed to have fertility inducing powers, to her sister Rachel, in exchange for an extra night with Jacob.

The first sacrifice is worthy of mention. The second sacrifice highlights her sister’s infertility and her own intimate bartering for an evening with her husband. True to her modest nature, Leah sought to offer discreet gratitude on this point by leaving the second ‘S’ of her son’s name silent. Torah Temimah

Thursday: Laban’s Deception and the Divine Response

After he completed fourteen years of labor for the right to marry Rachel, Jacob agreed to work for a fee. In return for tending the flock, Jacob would receive all the spotted, newly-calved sheep. Calving season occurs twice every year and over the course of five years Laban tried to deceive Jacob ten times (each calving season), yet each time Jacob was rewarded.

When Laban saw that most sheep were born spotted in the first season, he changed the terms of the agreement so he would heretofore receive the spotted sheep and Jacob, the flecked sheep. The next calving season G-d miraculously arranged for the most of the sheep to be born flecked. Laban again changed the terms of the agreement so that he would receive the flecked sheep, yet once again the sheep intended for Jacob were in the majority. So it went for five years till Jacob grew wealthy and departed Laban’s home. Ohr Hachayim

Friday: Utilizing Resources

Laban’s sons , jealous of Jacob’s success, grumbled that Jacob grew wealthy by depleting their father’s resources. In fact, Jacob, who was scrupulously honest with his father in law, earned his wealth through hard labor. Yet every word in the Torah is true; even this false accusation is true on some level.

The work of a tzadik is to utilize the resources of the material world for spiritual worship. Jacob emulated all that he saw In Laban’s home, but for the purpose of divine worship. Laban loved material  luxury. Jacob also loved luxury; the luxury of studying Torah. Laban rejoiced with financial prosperity, Jacob rejoiced with spiritual prosperity. Laban used his daughters to deceive Jacob, Jacob utilized Laban’s daughters to establish the twelve tribes. Indeed Laban’s sons were correct. Jacob’s spiritual success was made possible by utilizing the resources of Laban’s home. Tiferet Shlomo

Shabbat: Israeli Angels in the Diaspora

When Jacob left Israel he dreamed of ascending and descending angels. Our sages taught that the ascending angels were the Israeli angels, who accompanied Jacob to the border of the holy land and the descending angels were the diaspora angels, who would accompany him outside of Israel.

On his return to Israel Jacob encountered two groups of angels. Our sages explained that in this instance, the diaspora angels met the Israeli angels and handed over their charge. Why did the two groups of angels not meet up when Jacob departed the holy land as they did when he returned?

Israel is a holy place. A land where G-d’s presence is manifest. Israeli angels, who  function at lofty spiritual levels cannot tolerate the diaspora. They could not meet up with the diaspora angels for they could not countenance stepping out of the holy land for even a moment.

Living in the diaspora for twenty-two years, Jacob greatly enhanced the spirituality of the diaspora. At this point, the Israeli angels felt comfortable visiting with the diaspora angels. Shem Mishmuel

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