• Gabbai

Vayetze – Life Outside the Circle

Our sages teach us that the actions of the ancestors are omens for their descendants. We like to attribute many qualities to those developed by our ancestors. The kindness of Abraham, the devotion of Isaac, the humility of Moses, all these are personalities we are proud of and we claim to be their heirs. Abraham’s negotiations on behalf of Sodom opened the door for pleading with God, using tactics such as the negotiations Abraham used. We are capable of sacrificing much, giving up even our own lives for the sake of serving God – we acquired this capacity from Abraham who first demonstrated his willingness to give up everything, his own child, at God’s behest.

We also celebrate the traits of Jacob, although not all of them appear desirable. His deceptions we see as cunning survival strategies. Otherwise Jacob is specifically known as the man of truth, the perfect harmony of Abraham’s kindheartedness and Isaac’s pure devotion.

In his flight from Esau Jacob camps at night and dreams of a ladder. He has a vision of God’s promise to him, reiterating the promise to his fathers that the land will be given to his descendants. The vision continues with God reassuring Jacob that He is with him and will watch over Jacob during his travels. God vows that He will fulfill His word to Jacob.

Jacob awakes in the morning, builds a monument and then makes a vow. “If God will be with me, will guard me on this way that I am going, will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear; If I return in peace to my father’s house – then Hashem will be a God to me.”

The commentaries recognize the difficulty of this passage. Jacob seems to be making a condition, accepting God’s sovereignty only if God cares for him and ensures his well-being until he returns to his father’s home. The flip side, if God does not watch over him, if he goes hungry for food and lacks for clothing to warm him; if he is unable to return to his father’s house – then he does not accept God’s sovereignty!

Maybe this is where many Jews take libertie