Vayetze (Gen. 28:10-32:3)

In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob gets to know his mother’s side of the family.  Far from having to stay with Uncle Laban for “a few days,” as hoped by Rebecca, Jacob stays a total of 20 years, and mother and son never re-unite.  During those years, Jacob acquires two wives, two concubines, 11 sons (Benjamin is born in next week’s portion), a daughter, and a whole lot of livestock.  Trickery, or at least manipulation, occurs throughout.  Laban conspires that Jacob will marry Leah in place of Rachel, obtaining his labor for another 7 years so he can marry his beloved.  Leah “rents” Jacob from Rachel for a night in exchange for some mandrakes (potential cure for Rachel’s infertility).  Laban keeps changing Jacob’s wages and tries to ensure that Jacob will end up with the least desirable livestock, but Jacob outwits him by selective breeding.  When they finally leave Haran, Rachel steals Laban’s household idols and conceals having done so.  What a family.

There are a couple of bright spots in the portion, Jacob’s dream (28:10-22) and the love story of Jacob and Rachel.  In the dream, a fleeing, penniless Jacob sees angels going up and down a ladder (more likely a ziggurat) that reaches to heaven.  He hears a reassuring message from the Lord, like the one given to Abraham, and to Isaac, concerning their descendants and the land they will inhabit.  When he awakes, awed, he says, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I didn’t know,” and renames the place   “Beth El” (house of God).   He continues his journey until he sees his lovely cousin Rachel come to water her flock.  He rolls a large stone off the well (there’s always a well), waters the sheep, kisses her, weeps, and then introduces himself.  He works 7 years for her hand, “and they seemed to him a few days because of his love for her.”  I’ve always liked that verse, in spite of knowing what follows.

It is most appropriate that I am writing this on Thanksgiving, a family holiday (that so far has resisted being totally overshadowed by holiday shopping).  Usually my strongest memories of holidays are of food, but not this time, except for some pumpkin pie at Horn and Hardart’s downtown after Miss Wolf took us to see the Thanksgiving Day parade.  I remember things like, my uncles Charles and Syd watching football (nobody in my family watched football); having to stand from Boston to New York when I took the train home during my miserable first year of grad school; and my teenage son’s sudden, emotional realization of how old his grandmother was.  We’ve generally avoided exhibiting familial dysfunction at Thanksgiving, for which I am grateful.

Best wishes for a Thanksgiving on which we give thanks, and a Shabbat shalom (especially, shalom from an intact ceasefire),



Just Like Mom

submitted by: David Minkoff

During a regular early morning shul service, Rabbi Levy couldn’t help noticing 21 year old Benny sitting at the back of the shul looking very sad. He had his head in his hands. So at a convenient moment, Rabbi Levy goes over to him and asks, “What’s wrong, Benny? Tell me. Maybe I can help.”

“Oh rabbi,” replies Benny, “I just don’t know what to do. Every time I bring a girl home to introduce her to my parents, no matter how wonderful the girl is, my mother always tells me that she does not like her at all.”

“I’ve heard this story many times before,” says Rabbi Levy, “but you’ll be pleased to hear that I have a tried and tested solution for you. Next time you choose a girl, make sure she not only looks just like your mother, but also talks like your mother, laughs like your mother, cooks like your mother, and dresses like your mother. Believe me, Benny, if you find such a girl, your mother will absolutely love her.”

Many weeks go by before Benny finds someone just like his mother. And not only that, but the girl very quickly falls madly in love with him. So Benny invites her to meet his parents and this time is feeling very optimistic that all will go well.

At the next shul service, Rabbi Levy notices that Benny is once again sitting at the back of the shul looking unbelievably unhappy. So once again, during a break in the service, Rabbi Levy goes over to Benny. “What’s wrong Benny?” asks Rabbi Levy. “Couldn’t you find someone like your mother?”

“Rabbi,” replies Benny, “miraculously, I found a girl just like my Mom. Not only did she look just like Mom, but she also talked like Mom, laughed like Mom, cooked like Mom, and dressed like Mom.”

“So everything should have worked out okay for you,” says Rabbi Levy.

“No, rabbi, it didn’t,” replies Benny. “My father didn’t like her.”


Polygamy joke or not, Five Wives Vodka finds a spot at Idaho bar

June 07, 2012|By John M. Glionna

Steve Conlin knows this: A vodka by any other name would not sell as sweetly.

Conlin’s Ogden, Utah, distillery sells Five Wives Vodka, a product using a coy play on the state’s history with polygamy. But not everyone is laughing and, in fact, the neighboring state of Idaho refused to allow the liquor to be sold in the state, citing objections over the vodka’s name.


Large Family
Ben came from a large family. He had five sisters and three brothers.

One day he was looking through the family photo album with his mother
when he noticed, in page after page, that all the children were dressed
in the same colors.

He asked his mother why they were all dressed alike.

She explained, “At first, when we had just four children, I dressed you
alike so we wouldn’t lose any of you. “Then,” she added, “as the other
five came along, I started dressing you alike so we wouldn’t
accidentally take one home that didn’t belong to us.”


Top Ten Changes if the Pilgrims were Jewish: 

10. Indians’ “How” greeting would have been answered with “I’ve been on a vashtinkinaboat for 2 months, How do you think?”

9. The Mayflower Compact would have been brokered by Goldman Sachs and would have included Mexico and Canada

8. Breakaway minyans immediately open in Rhode Island and New Hampshire

7. Holiday of Succot would be renamed Teepees

6. Thanksgiving dinner was supposed to be veal, but there were turkey shabbos leftovers.

5. Plymouth Rock suddenly claimed as the Muslims third holiest site

4. Thanksgiving Dinner was arranged by the Ladies Auxiliary and is still looking for a sponsor

3. Jewish geography would be used as the great ice-breaker, ”Which Pocahantas? From Queens?”

2. Rubashkins’ immediately hires all Indians

1. Pilgrims become automatic Members of the Tribe


Quotes About Lying

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
― Mark Twain

“The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.”
― George Carlin

“I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me.”
― S.E. HintonThe Outsiders

“There are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
― Benjamin Disraeli

“I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.”
― Al Pacino

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