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Home » Vayetze

Vayetze: Identifying the Beast Within

Submitted by on December 4, 2005 – 3:08 amNo Comment | 2,101 views

The Commercial Enterprise

Our Patriarch Jacob grew wealthy through his cattle enterprises. He first raised a great flock of sheep. He sold the sheep and purchased oxen, sold the oxen and purchased camel, sold the camel, and purchased donkey, sold the donkey and purchased valuables.

As in all biblical anecdotes this story too carries a homiletic value. Each animal contains characteristics that are familiar to us as human beings. By investing in these animals Jacob endowed us with the ability to utilize these characteristics in the service of the Almighty.

The Animal Characteristic

The sheep is a naturally docile animal, humble, demure and unassuming. It is gentle in demeanor and accepts the yoke of its master. On the other hand it is lazy and self-indulgent. It doesn’t exert itself and never deprive itself of pleasure or convenience.

The ox is powerful and strong-willed. It takes what it wants and does not wait to be fed. It is a hard worker but doesn’t brook interference from anyone.

The camel is a durable animal; it conserves energy for long treks through the dessert, thus, carrying water to regions that are arid and parched. On the other hand it also smug and arrogant, it looks down from its tall and proud perch in a conceited, disdainful manner.

The donkey is a pack animal, it carries great loads across great distances, often working far beyond its capacity, drawing on sheer will power. It is very stubborn, once it sets out to perform a task it won’t let up until the task is completed. On the other hand the stubborn donkey will never bow to the force of argument or reason.

The Lesson

As we read these character descriptions we find these animal traits within ourselves. We recognize that every positive trait carries a negative factor and every negative trait carries a positive value. With his commercial activities our Patriarch Jacob’s taught us to transform that which is negative and enhance that which is positive. The entire persona, including humility, strength, durability and will power, must be utilized in the service of G-d.