The Give and Take of Biblical Vows

The Give and Take of Biblical Vows

Nov 12, 2021 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayetzei

We live in a world of give and take. Transactions involving the exchange of money for goods and services, which the rabbis explicitly call משא ומתן, “taking and giving,” are central to economic life. Successful relationships, whether professional or personal, are the result of effectively balancing the pursuit of one’s own wants and needs with acknowledging and accommodating the needs and desires of others.

Read More
The World in God

The World in God

Nov 27, 2020 By Gordon Tucker | Commentary | Vayetzei

Our patriarch Jacob reaches a night camp on his way to Haran, a fugitive from the anger of his brother Esau. And then the text of Genesis 28:11 tells us: Vayifga bamakom. The New Jewish Version translation [JPS 1962] renders that phrase according to its straightforward, contextual meaning [peshat]: “He came upon a certain place”—a place that we learn was first called Luz, and later Bet-El. But while the peshat is the primary way of reading a biblical text, it is almost never the only way to do so. 

Read More
The Monumental Act of Listening

The Monumental Act of Listening

Dec 6, 2019 By Jessica Fisher | Commentary | Vayetzei

Parashat Vayetzei brings us to a climactic moment of a 20-year conflict between Jacob and Laban. When Jacob came to Laban’s house after tricking his own father and brother, Laban made him work for seven years to earn the right to marry Rachel, only to be tricked into marrying Leah. So he worked seven more years and finally married Rachel. More hiding and trickery ensued, until finally Jacob decided it was time to leave this toxic dynamic and he snuck away with his family. But Laban caught up to them and, after years of deceit, they had it out with each other, putting everything on the table once and for all: Laban was hurt that Jacob had left without giving him a chance to say goodbye to his children and grandchildren; Jacob was resentful for the years of hard labor, lies, and harsh treatment. (Gen. 31:26-42)

Read More
Why Religion?

Why Religion?

Nov 16, 2018 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Vayetzei

Big picture: What is religion trying to do in the world?

Maimonides claims that the aim of Torah is the creation of lives and communities that manifest “mercy, loving-kindness, and peace” (The Laws of Shabbat, 2:3). All of the commandments, the entirety of our wisdom tradition, seeks to create people who—through their actions—bring more love, sensitivity, and peace into the world.

Read More
Escaping a Toxic Relationship

Escaping a Toxic Relationship

Nov 24, 2017 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Vayetzei

Poor Jacob is triply triangulated in Parashat Vayetzei! His boss, Laban, is not only his uncle, Rebecca’s older brother, but also his father-in-law, Leah and Rachel’s father. Leah and Rachel are bitter rivals, Leah resenting Jacob’s love for Rachel, and Rachel wishing for children when God has blessed only Leah with fertility. Complicating this tangle of relationships is the fact that Jacob and Laban work together, and Laban is not a fair employer. 

Read More
The Emergence of Praise

The Emergence of Praise

Dec 9, 2016 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Vayetzei

Our parashah begins with Jacob’s profound, life-changing encounter with divinity: his dream of the ladder; his vision of God promising that his descendants will multiply and be blessed; and his vow that “if God remains with me…the Lord shall be my God” (Gen. 28:20-21). But our parashah includes another profound, life-changing moment of connecting to God—a less famous one—experienced by Leah. After giving birth to three sons and naming each of them in accordance with aspects of her life experience, Leah gives birth again and says hapa’am odeh et Adonai (Gen. 29:35)—this time I will praise/thank/acknowledge the Lord—and names her son Judah (Yehudah, from odeh).

Read More
A Ladder to the Heavens

A Ladder to the Heavens

Dec 9, 2016 By Tim Daniel Bernard | Commentary | Vayetzei

As Jacob sleeps, he sees a ladder with its base on the ground and its top touching the heavens (Gen. 28:12). The seemingly unreachable realm above the earth, Jacob discovers, is actually relatively accessible, almost within our grasp. The images from the Hubble Space Telescope—and space exploration more broadly—play a similar role for us. One might have expected that humanity’s newly found ability to discover more about space would have blunted our sense of wonder, as more and more of the universe ceases to be so mysterious.

Read More
A Bold Exegetical Gambit

A Bold Exegetical Gambit

Nov 2, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayetzei

Why does Jacob abandon the security of his parents home in Beer-sheba?

Read More
Jealousy for the Right Reasons

Jealousy for the Right Reasons

Nov 11, 2010 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Vayetzei

When I struggled with infertility, the jealousy of our barren matriarchs was a great comfort.

Read More
Behind God’s Names

Behind God’s Names

Nov 20, 1993 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayetzei

Judaism is a wellspring that emits an endless profusion of names for God. The Bible contains some 70; rabbinic literature adds another 90 or more and no one as yet has bothered to tally the number added by Jewish mystics. As Gershom Scholem wrote more than a half-century ago: “In the last resort, the whole of the Torah [for the author of the Zohar] is nothing but the one great and holy Name of God.” The layers of names bespeak an unbroken dialogue driven by love and mystery.

Read More