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

There is so much to write about regarding Vayetze:  A ladder with angels, a romantic encounter at a well, deceit, trickery, intrafamily jealousy and rivalries, a bad boss, greed, karma, sex, and 12 births.  Even animal breeding (aside from the 12 births).  But, because of a very balky computer and what I guess is a tryptophan hangover from last night’s (nonalcoholic) Thanksgiving feast (courtesy of local Master Chef Richard), I am going to include here comments from 2010.  “Prof. Rendsburg” referred to is the author of a Teaching Company course I heard on literary aspects of Genesis.

“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” 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 , 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.”

Shabbat shalom,



tph Ceal-Floyer-Ladder-2010-Courtesy-the-artist-and-Lisson-Gallery.-198x300 Ladder (minus 2-8) (2010)

Ceal Floyer at Lisson Gallery, London

LISSON GALLERYLondon 23 November 2010 – 29 January 2011 (excerpt)

… Ceal Floyer is part of a self-consciously self-deprecating and quotidian strand of post-90s British art that… reworked the lessons of conceptualism, while re-grounding it in the cheerfully humdrum experiences of the everyday.

Here Floyer keeps things colorless, using the aesthetic negative of conceptualist monochrome against the often bad-pun levity of her linguistic short-circuits. So Ladder (minus 2-8) (2010) is a standard aluminium house ladder with every rung removed except its first and ninth step. It might as well be titled In Advance of the Broken Leg, but it serves as a quick-fire assertion of Floyer’s interest in how minor gestures carried out on ordinary things immediately project them into the non-utilitarian function of art, and how the linguistic then detaches meaning from its usual object—Ladder is no longer a ladder, as it can no longer be climbed, yet neither is it anything other than a ladder, albeit one with rungs subtracted, which makes it…what, exactly?…


Devoted and Determined

During World War II my parents had planned a romantic Valentine’s Day wedding. Suddenly my father, then stationed at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts, received orders to prepare to ship out, and all leaves were canceled. Being a young man in love, he went AWOL. He and my mother were married four days earlier than originally planned and he returned to base to an angry sergeant. After hearing the explanation, the sergeant understandingly replied, “Okay, okay!” Then, as an afterthought: “But don’t let it happen again!”
—Contributed by Sandra L. Caron


Quotes about Bad Bosses 

Those in powerless positions aren’t about to complain about bullying bosses, abusive supervisors or corrupt co-workers. There is no safe way to do so and no process that promises redress.  Margaret Heffernan

It does not matter whether I am in Hong Kong or Sao Paolo – people always want to talk about toxic bosses and what to do about them.  Srikumar Rao

I had several different bosses during the early years of ‘Dilbert.’ They were all pretty sure I was mocking someone else.  Scott Adams


Selective Breeding

A Kentucky couple, both “rednecks,” had 9 children. They went to the doctor to see about getting the husband “fixed”.  The doctor gladly started the required procedure and asked them what finally made them make the decision — why after nine children, would they choose to do this?  The husband replied that they had read in a recent article that one out of every ten children being born in America was Mexican, and they didn’t want to take a chance on having a Mexican baby because neither of them could speak Spanish.


Crossbreed Dogs [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
Pekinese + 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



  • Polygamy is having too many wives. Monogamy is the same.
  • 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”
  • A Mormon acquaintance once pushed Mark Twain into an argument on the issue of polygamy. After long and tedious expositions justifying the practice, the Mormon demanded that Twain cite any passage of scripture expressly forbidding polygamy.
    “Nothing easier,” Twain replied. “No man can serve two masters.” [Matthew 6:24]


The rest of these were sent out in 2003:

A couple was having some trouble, so they did the right thing and went to a marriage counselor. After a few visits, and a lot of questioning and listening, the counselor said that he had discovered the main problem.

He stood up, went over to the woman, asked her to stand, and gave her a hug.

He looked at the man and said, “This is what your wife needs, at least once a day!”

The man frowned, thought for a moment, then said, “OK, what time do you want me to bring her back tomorrow?”

—– [dead link]

After a young couple brought their new baby home, the wife suggested that her husband should try his hand at changing diapers. “I’m busy,” he said. “I’ll do the next one.” The next time came around and she asked again. The husband narrowed his eyes as he looked at his wife. “I didn’t mean the next diaper. I meant the next baby.”

—– [dead link]

A new mother took her baby daughter to the supermarket for the first time. She dressed her little girl in pink from head to toe. At the store, she placed her in the shopping cart and put the purchases around her. In the checkout line, she noticed a small boy and his mother were ahead of her.

The small boy was crying and begging for some special treat. “He wants some candy or gum and his mother won’t let him have any,” she thought.

Then she heard his mother’s reply. “No!” she said, looking in her direction. “You may not have a baby sister today. That lady got the last one!”

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