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Parashat Vayetzei

November 12, 2021
8 Kislev 5782
Parashat Vayetzei
Genesis 28:10 - 32:3

Dear Friends,

Listening, hearing, being present, and stopping to take stock were not ideas that I would have associated with this week’s Torah portion, Vayetzei, meaning “and he went out.” Once more, we have a Torah portion packed or, shall we say, stuffed with stories. The portion begins with Jacob’s dream of angels going up and down the ladder, and continues with his journey to his uncle’s house, marrying two sisters and their handmaidens, having twelve children (we include Dina in our counting), and working for a father-in-law/uncle who kept moving the goal posts for what Jacob owed to him.

The Torah portion begins and ends with the process of going out. At the beginning, Jacob goes out from the home of his parents and at the end he has goes out from the home of his father-in law, Laban.

At the beginning of the Torah portion, he is running from the strife that his deception of his father over receiving the blessing has caused. At the end, there is strife over taking his wives, children, and livestock out of Laban’s control. At this juncture, both Jacob and Laban feel cheated by the other. We can only imagine the degree to which their tempers were flaring when Laban caught up with Jacob, protesting that he had been unable to say good-bye to his grandchildren and his daughters.

There is a moment I never noticed before when they each come to realize that they are family, forever connected to one another. It is a moment when all of the artifice in their relationship falls away and the secrets and trickery are left behind. It is a moment of mutual recognition, which they actualize by building a monument of stones and sharing a meal. 

Making peace is not easy, and the two men had a difficult time naming the place to meet, but the narrator lets us know that the name of the place Mitzpah means “May God keep watch between you and me since people are hidden from one another.” (Genesis 31:49)

Good negotiations are difficult. Coming to a place of peace takes effort from all involved. There is a midrash about this moment referring to the pile of rocks that they create to be “as large as the peak of Tiberias.” (Gen. Rabbah 74:13) We know that could not have been the case; however, the effort of being present for one another and recognizing their abiding connection to one another must have taken a great deal of effort by each of them. The resolution is not perfect; it is, however, a beginning.

Beginnings matter. They depend upon being present to the moment and opening our hearts.

“One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”
Antoine De Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince


Anything is possible when we do just that and be present to what is possible.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn


Sun, December 4 2022 10 Kislev 5783