VaYetze/And He Went Out
HafTorah Portion Hosea 12:13-14:9
Brit Chadasha John 1:43-51
The Strength and Humility of Jacob;
VaYetze begins with the famous stairway: ‘Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28:10-17.
The art of humility is the beginning of one’s strength. In verse 16, after Jacob awakes, we get a glimpse of his strength through his humility, ‘…I was not aware…’ We might have not recognized the immensity of it, however:
“…the Hassidic masters that remind us of it. Hebrew verbs carry with them, in their declensions, an indication of their subject. Thus the word yadati means "I knew," and lo yadati, "I did not know." When Jacob wakes from his sleep, however, he says, "Surely the Lord is in this place ve'anokhi lo yadati." Anokhi means "I," which in this sentence is superfluous. To translate it literally we would have to say, "And I, I knew it not." Why the double "I"?To this, Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz (Panim Yafot) gave a magnificent answer. How, he asks, do we come to know that "God is in this place"? "By ve'anokhi lo yadati - not knowing the I." We know God when we forget the self. We sense the "Thou" of the Divine Presence when we move beyond the "I" of egocentricity. Only when we stop thinking about ourselves do we become truly open to the world and the Creator.” (Rabbi Johnathan Sacks).
In Genesis 29 we continue to see his strength through humility. In Genesis 7-9 Jacob offers to water the flocks that have gathered, but he is told to wait. It is only in verse 10, when he sees Rachel and the sheep that he rolls the stone away from covering the well.
In Genesis 29:26-30 Jacob is confronted with the fact that he married the older sister, Leah. Again, he exhibits strength with humility as he agrees to work another 7 years to receive Rachel as his wife.
In the next parsha, Jacob wrestles with The Messenger, and his name and walk is forever changed. He becomes Israel, and the patriarch of the 12 tribes.
What does it mean to be strong through humility? Jacob could have declared that ‘he knew God was in this place.’ Instead, he reveals that ‘he knew it not.’
When we stray from the word of God, are we acting in humility? Or are we surrounding our egos with self-knowledge and self-righteousness. What would give us that authority to super impose our will upon the very Word of God? The person with true humility never has to be shown the place of God, for he is always striving to be in it, as was Jacob. God led him to that place, where he had the vision/dream. Jacob didn’t offer another place or time of his idea, but rather accepted with great humility the task that he was given.
The most common use of words in the Hebrew text for humility is anah, anvah, aniy, and anavah. Humility in Hebrew is עֲנָוָה anavah. Aniy usually denotes a condition of circumstance. Those who are 'aniy are suffering or afflicted and as a result find themselves in a lowly condition, whether physically, materially or socially. This affliction is often imposed by someone else: usually, the wicked. Isaiah 32:7 speaks of wicked men who come up with evil plans. In Deuteronomy 24:14-15 we received instructions against taking unfair advantage of the humble. Isaiah 3:14-15 instructs against those who oppress the humble.
The verb, 'anah (to humble") that not only refers to what one might do to one's enemies but also to what one does to oneself as a spiritual practice as in Leviticus 16:29-31 for Yom Kippur.
Scriptures speak of being humbled/afflicted and acting in a humble manner.
The prophetic messianic passage in Zechariah 9:9 speaks of the coming Messianic King as 'ani. Though most translations emphasize the humble character of the Messiah in this verse, we also remember that Isaiah 53 speaks of the Messiah as being afflicted, or humbled in verses 4 and 7. It is impossible to separate Yeshua’s humble circumstances from His humble character.
To express a humble character, anav is usually used. The word 'anav, refers to those that are spiritually humble in character.
God's relationship to the 'anav is seen in the Psalms:
Psalm 25:9 -God guides the 'anav
Psalm 149:4 – God crowns the 'anav with salvation
Psalm 34:2 -God encourages the 'anav by the story of others.
Psalm 37:11- The 'anav inherits the land.
Matthew 5:5 -Yeshua reiterate Psalm 37:11 in The Sermon on the Mount.
Vayeitzei / And He Went Out
Deception and Vows…
In this Torah portion, the deception continues. This time it continues with Rebecca’s brother Laban. Rebecca deceived, Jacob deceived and now Laban continues the deception.
We first encounter Laban welcoming Abraham's servant Eliezer when he comes to Charan to find a bride for Isaac. A generation later, Isaac and Rebecca send Jacob to Charan to "take a wife from the daughters of Laban, your mother's brother."
In Genesis 29 Jacob sees Rachel: ‘Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. 12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative and that he was Rebekah’s son. So she ran and told her father.’ Genesis 29:11-12.
Jacob works for seven years to complete the agreement to marry Rachel. But Laban replaces Rachel with her older sister Leah on the wedding night and Jacob discovers the deception the next morning. This mimics the switching that happened to Issac; Jacob for Esau. When Jacob discovered that it was Leah not Rachel, it is written in ancient scrolls that Leah told Jacob that ‘she was meant for Esau as the first born to the first born. As in the manner that you took the birthright, I was given to you. As you deceived your father, you have been deceived.’
Laban then agrees to give him Rachel in marriage as well — in return for an additional seven years of labor. For the many deceptions that accompany this incident, as well as numerous other ways in which Laban attempts to deceive Jacob in the twenty years that Jacob works for him (Jacob works for an additional six years to earn flocks of his own), Laban is known in Midrashic literature as Laban HaRamai, "Laban the Deceiver". Yet Jacob recounts that, in the end, he out did his father-in-law at his own game, turning Laban’s deceptions against him to earn for himself the great wealth with which he returns from Charan to the Holy Land. (Genesis 30:41-43).
The deception continues in Genesis 31:33-35 as Rachel steals the idols from Laban and lies as she hides them from him. Midrash suggests that Rachel stole the teraphim / idols from her father to either wean him from idol worship and/or keep him from discovering the route that Jacob took. If this was the only case, why not bury them along the way? Or burn them? Why steal them and keep them and then purposely lie to Laban?
In Genesis 28:20-22 Jacob makes a vow to God promptly after being robbed. (It is written that he was robbed by Esau’s son). ‘Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” In Genesis 31:13 God reminds Jacob of his vow; ‘I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’
It is noteworthy to see that God reminded Jacob of his vow. God could have simply commanded Jacob to go, but He not only reminds Jacob of the vow, but of the place where he made it. This vow followed the declaration ‘God is in this place.’
Genesis 28:10-16 ‘ Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. 12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it….Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
Jacob wakes with a start and exclaims, “Achein yesh Adonai bamakom hazeh v’anochi lo ya’dati! ‘Surely God was in this place, and I did not know it!’ Awestruck, he said, Mah norah hamakom hazeh! ’How awesome is this place! This is none other than the place of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.’” (Gen 28:16-17).
God was in this place, and he did not know. How awesome is this place. Until Jacob’s incredible dream, the place where he slept, where he put down his head on a stone, was just that - a place. A place along his journey. A place without any significance – until God reminded him of His Greatness. But Jacob did not realize this until after he woke.
God was in that place, and he did not know it.
'Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
Does Yeshua reference this in Matthew 6:25-27 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
May you be blessed as you study VaYeitzei…