At the start of this week’s portion, Jacob is a penniless young man fleeing for his life. Now is when he has his first personal encounter with the Lord, by means of a dream about angels going up and down a ladder to heaven (probably a ziggurat is meant here, rather than a ladder, according to Prof. G. Rendsburg. Definition: “an ancient Mesopotamian temple tower consisting of a lofty pyramidal structure built in successive stages with outside staircases and a shrine at the top” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ziggurat ) while the Lord reveals his destiny, what had been told to his father and grandfather concerning the land and his descendants, as well as a promise not to leave Jacob. Jacob wakes up, shaken, and names the place “Beth El” (House of God). He meets his lovely cousin Rachel at a well (a common ancient Middle Easter literary device), and it’s love at first sight. Interestingly, when he kisses her, he knows she is his cousin, but she doesn’t. Hmm. Jacob is welcomed into Uncle Laban’s household, works seven years in exchange for Rachel’s hand and instead is married to Leah. There are many stories about who was in on this deception and why (e.g., one story has Rachel bowing out voluntarily). A week later, Jacob marries Rachel after promising to work another seven years.
The ensuing breeding competitions (between Rachel and Leah for babies and between Jacob and Laban for livestock) have their mildly amusing moments, like Rachel offering a night with Jacob to Leah in exchange for mandrakes (a love charm) (30:14-17) and Jacob’s successful livestock breeding using peeled wands. But for Leah and Rachel, there is much pain. Leah only has one week alone with Jacob and is well aware how much he prefers Rachel. Rabbi David Hoffman, at http://www.jtsa.edu/Conservative_Judaism/JTS_Torah_Commentary/Va-yetzei_5771.xml , describes how Leah deals with her pain as each of her first four sons is born: The first is named Reuben (re’u ben), “for she declared, ‘It means the Lord has seen (ra’ah) my affliction’; it also means, ‘Now my husband will love me (ye’ehavani/re’uven).’ (29:32) The second and third: “‘This is because the Lord heard (shama) that I was unloved and has given me this one also’; so she named him Shimon. Again she conceived and bore a son and declared, ‘This time my husband will become attached (lava) to me, for I have born him three sons.’ Therefore, he was named Levi. (29:33–34).” Finally, at her fourth son’s birth, “‘This time I will praise (odeh) the Lord.’ Therefore, she named him Judah (Yehudah).” (29:35). Rabbi Hoffman writes, “Gratitude-in spite of the fact that there was so much that she did not have. At the moment that Leah transcends the limitations of her particular condition, when she feels the real pain and the wonders of her own life, the name for the Jewish people is born. Yehudah ultimately, is the source for the term Yehudim: Jews.” As was the case with Sarah, Rachel is initially barren and gives Jacob her maid Bilhah in her place. Leah gives Jacob her maid Zilpah. By the time Rachel gives birth to Joseph, the score card reads: Leah 6 (and 1 daughter), Zilpah 2, Bilhah 2, and Rachel 1.
Twenty years have passed since the dream at Beth El. Jacob has prospered to the extent that his relatives are jealous. The Lord tells him in a dream to go home (is that why he stayed an extra six years, waiting for a sign to leave?), and they leave without a farewell. Laban comes after them, claiming he wanted to make sure his daughters were OK, and claiming one of them took his household idols. Rachel did (again, there are various interpretations as to why – was she trying to “rescue” her father, or was she a bit insecure with total monotheism), and here we see another literary device, foreshadowing, as Jacob declares (31:32), “But anyone with whom you find your gods shall not remain alive!” Jacob chews out his former boss (which he can do since he’s already quit), they make up, and Jacob et al. move on.
A note from IGP:
Several of the verses at the beginning of this week’s portion were used by composer Joshua Groffman, 2010 winner of the Delaware Valley Chorale’s Composers Contest, in his piece, “And Jacob Dreamed,” which DVC will perform Nov. 14 and 21 [ http://www.delawarevalleychorale.org/concerts.htm ]. Mr. Groffman wrote, “And Jacob Dreamed is part of a larger set of three pieces concerning scenes from the life of Jacob, as told in the book of Genesis. I chose the Jacob story because he’s a fascinating character: brilliant, ambitious, a little bit unscrupulous, and clearly marked from early in life as someone who will accomplish great things. And Jacob Dreamed portrays the vision in which Jacob is given a glimpse of his future greatness as he sleeps; awakening, he is awed by the power of God and the magnitude of the destiny that awaits him. In composing the piece, I attempted to portray the text and story in a very dramatic fashion. Various musical elements are intended to depict different parts of the story (the cascading piano and choral lines at the beginning illustrate the angels going up and down the ladder to heaven, God’s voice is portrayed by forte unison voices, and so on), and I hope that throughout, the awe Jacob feels is perceptible.” ———————- http://talk.newagtalk.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=163263&mid=1170346#M1170346
Love at First Sight
A man is dining in a fancy restaurant and there is a gorgeous redhead sitting at the next table. He has been checking her out since he sat down, but lacks the nerve to talk with her. Suddenly she sneezes, and her glass eye flies out of its socket toward the man. He reflexively reaches out, grabs it out of the air, and hands it back. ‘Oh my, I am so sorry,’ the woman says as she pops her eye back in place. ‘Let me buy your dinner to make it up to you,’ she says. They enjoy a wonderful dinner together, and afterwards they go to the theatre followed by drinks. They talk, they laugh, she shares her deepest dreams and he shares his. She listens. After paying for everything, she asks him if he would like to come to her place for a nightcap. They had a wonderful, wonderful time. The next morning, she cooks a gourmet meal with all the trimmings. The guy is amazed. Everything had been SO incredible! ‘You know,’ he said, you are the perfect woman. Are you this nice to every guy you meet?’
‘No,’ she replies
She says, ‘You just happened to catch my eye.
Quotations about Gratitude
God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?” ~William A. Ward
Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone. ~G.B. Stern
The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you. ~John E. Southard
Polygamy vs monotony
A child at a Christian school was studying the early days of Mormonism in his class. He wrote on his paper, “The early Mormons believed in having more than one wife. This is called polygamy. But we believe in having only one wife. This is called monotony”
Dog Breeding [selected]
For all you dog lovers out there, here are some of the lesser known breeds that are being bred in different parts of the United States.
Pointer + Setter = Poinsetter, a traditional Christmas pet Kerry Blue Terrier + Skye Terrier = Blue Skye, a dog for visionaries
Great Pyrenees + Dachshund = Pyradachs, a puzzling breed
Pekingnese + Lhasa Apso = Peekasso, an abstract dog Labrador Retriever + Curly Coated Retriever = Lab Coat Retriever, the choice of research scientists
Malamute + Pointer = Moot Point, owned by….oh, well, it doesn’t matter anyway
Collie + Malamute = Commute, a dog that travels to work Deerhound + Terrier = Derriere, a dog that’s true to the end
The Babylonian General
An ancient Babylonian general was once involved in a plot to overthrow the king. His plot included a number of followers in the upper ranks of the army. However, his plot was uncovered, and the king threw him in jail. The king sentenced him to death without a trial.
However, from the jail he was able to secretly contact his followers to arrange to escape, meet his followers, and attack the king’s palace at night. So the night before his scheduled execution, the general managed to escape from prison. He fled to a ziggurat several kilometers away, where his followers would meet him. However, the ziggurat was one of several in the area, and he wasn’t sure if his cohorts would find the right ziggurat. By this time it was twilight, so he lit a small fire and sent smoke signals to indicate in which structure he was hiding.
However, the king’s loyal soldiers saw the smoke coming from the ziggurat, and came to arrest him before he could meet his followers. He was executed later that day.
The moral of the story? WARNING: The searching general has determined that smoking ziggurats can be extremely hazardous to your stealth.