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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Weekly Bible Study~Vayeitzei~Genesis 28:10 to 32:3

This week's reading is Vayeitzei, "go out" and is from the book of Genesis, Chapters 28:10 to 32:3. Jacob leaves his hometown Be'er Sheva  and journeys to Charan to the home of his uncle Laban. He stops for the night at a place that traditionally is considered to be Har Moriah, the site of the Akeida, (the binding of Isaac)  and the location of the future Beit Ha Mikdash. We know it as the Temple Mount. Jacob dreams of a ladder. It was pointed out by one of the great sages that the ladder was described as having its "feet" planted in the ground (representing worldliness and basic decency) and that its "head" reached the heavens (representing spiritual pursuits). In his dream Jacob sees angels going up and down the ladder. Some say that this is a message telling us that wealth is temporary and can go "up" and "down", therefore if we are blessed with wealth we should use it wisely, constructively and charitably. Gd appears to Jacob and tells him that He will bequeath the entire land to Jacob's descendants, and that He would safeguard him (Jacob) until his return to Canaan. When Jacob wakes up, he recognizes the holiness of the location and erects a monument to Gd. He names the location Beth El (House of Gd) and makes a vow to tithe all his belongings when Gd's promise of a safe return would be fulfilled.

The next day he arrives at a well on the outskirts of Charan where he spots Rachel, Laban's youngest daughter, arriving with her father's sheep. When she is unable to remove the cover of the well, Jacob single-handedly rolls away the heavy stone and gives water to the flock. Rachel tells her father about Jacob, and Laban rushes out to greet him. Jacob goes to Laban's home, and after a month, Laban offers Jacob the job of tending to his herds, and asks Jacob what he wants in terms of wages.

Laban had two daughters--Rachel, and her older sister Leah. Jacob falls in love with Rachel and offers to serve Laban for seven years in exchange for her hand in marriage. Laban accepted the deal and after the seven years pass, Jacob tells Laban he wants to marry Rachel. Laban arranges a wedding feast, but when it is time to go to their tent for the night, Laban switches the girls, giving Leah instead of Rachel. Some sages say that Rachel cooperated in this ruse by giving Leah her "private signals" to Jacob. They say she did this to save Leah from a probable marriage to Esau, Jacobs elder brother. When Jacob realizes the deceipt he protests, so Laban offers to give Rachel to him as well--in exchange for another seven years service. Jacob marries Rachel, and begins another seven years of working for Laban. Leah gives birth to four children, Reuben, Simon, Levi, and Judah--but Rachel remains barren. Rachel and Leah both give their handmaids to Jacob as concubines. Rachel's maid, Bilhah, bears two children, Dan and Naftali, and Leah's maid gives birth to Gad and Asher.

Leah's son Reuben picked dudaim (fertility) plants for his mother. Rachel asks Leah for some of them, and Leah agrees, provided that Rachel relinquishes her turn with Jacob that night. As a result Leah gives birth to another two sons--Issachar and Zebulun--and one daughter--Dinah. Eventually, Rachel, too, gives birth to a son, whom she names Joseph. At that point, Jacob asks Laban for permission to take his wives and children and return to Canaan. Laban, not wanting Jacob to leave, points out that his divining reveals that his wealth and blessings are due to Jacob's presence in his home.

Laban wants Jacob to stay so he tells him to name his wages "And I will give it!" Jacob asks that all the streaked and spotted sheep born  be given to him and in return, he would continue caring for Laban's flocks. Laban, in a sly move takes all the existing spotted and streaked sheep from the herd and gives them to his son. Jacob makes striped poles for the strong and robust sheep to view while they are mating. As a result, the sheep give birth to striped lambs. Despite Laban's sneaky ways, and continual changing of the terms of Jacob's wages, Jacob soon becomes very wealthy and after six years, Gd commands Jacob to return to Canaan. Jacob talks to his wives, and they agree that it is time to leave.

Jacob waits until Laban is away, then takes his family and belongings and slips away. Rachel takes one of Laban's idols. Some say she did this in order to save her father from the sin of idolatry. When Laban discovers they have left he goes after them. The night before he reaches them, Gd warns Laban in a dream not to harm Jacob or his family. When Laban finally catches up to Jacob on Mount Gilead, he complains that Jacob didn't allow him to say goodby to his daughters, and he also says that one of his idols is missing. Jacob allows Laban to search for his idol in their belongings. Laban searches everything (except Rachel's personal belongings), and finds nothing.

Laban and Jacob made a peace treaty and erecte a stone monument to seal the pact. Laban  kisses his family good bye and returns to his home in Charan, while Jacob continues on his way. When he entered Canaan, he is greeted by welcoming angels.

Next week, as Jacob returns to the Holy Land, he once again has a dream--this time he will struggle with an angel. Jacob will get a new name, finally meets his brother Esau, then loses his wife.

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