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Parashat Vayeitzei appears to be the first in the middle of the three parshiot that focus on Yaakov Avinu - the Patriarch Jacob. The first - Toldot - sets the scene and escalates the tension between Jacob and Esau. Firstly over the birthright, and secondly, with the blessing. Jacob has to leave home and the Holy Land in a hurry, to the hospitality of Laban some eight hundred kilometers to the north. The second parasha - this week's - is the bridging 'roller coaster'. G-d promises him His protection wherever he goes. But he still has to endure falling in love with Rachel and his uncle holding her back, 'excusing himself' with local custom. And his success as a cattle breeder arouses Laban's family's jealousy to the degree that he has to leave - again in a hurry - with an enraged Laban in hot pursuit. And the greatest tension of all in the next parasha - Esau coming to meet him with four hundred men, which eventually gives way to Jacob's homecoming and (finally, albeit temporarily), literally 'Jacob living in quietude and at ease, with none to make him afraid' (c.f. Jer. 46:27).
In short, this week's Parasha is one of temporary - though spectacular - trials and tribulations, towards a greater goal.
The next three parshiot - are in the same rhythm; and this time the focus is on Joseph and his brothers, Jacob's sons. The first - Vayeishev - sets the scene and escalates the tension: more than once. With the dreams and Joseph's narrowly escaping death, and being sold into slavery. And his rising from a humble slave to the position of Potiphar's manager, getting him the 'attention' of Potifphar's wife, and her allegations of Joseph 'getting too close' - following which Joseph finds himself at the bottom of the Egyptian dungeons. The second parasha - Miketz - is again the bridging 'roller coaster'; his rise to the top of Pharaoh's court, his brothers having to make 'over-frequent journeys' between Canaan and Egypt for 'high-tension-charged' reasons - finishing on a note where Benjamin is to be taken into permanent Egyptian slavery. And again - with Judah's impassioned plea rising to the highest point of the tension opening the following parasha, the truth emerges that 'Joseph is still alive and he is a ruler in the land of Egypt' (45:26), and the family is finally re-united and reconciled.
In short, Miketz - the parallel parasha to this week's - is in the same mold. Like Vayeitzei, it goes through temporary - though spectacular - trials and tribulations, towards a greater goal.
Vayeitzei and Miketz have the distinction of not only being amongst the longest parshiot in the Torah, but have the joint uniqueness of being written in the Sefer Torah without a break - in one continuous prose paragraph. No other parasha in the Torah - however long or short - contains that characteristic. They are all broken up - as Rashi elsewhere (to Lev. 1:10) points out - to allow 'pause for thinking it over' between section and section.
Not so with Vayeitzei, not so with Miketz. Despite their great length, there are no pauses to catch breath and 'think things over'.
This arrangement brings an important message. Many honest people who strive to their great and worthy goals in life find themselves on the seemingly interminable lonely 'path less trodden', with tensions, trials, tribulations, and a long series of frustrations. The message is - like this week's parasha - 'Don't pause! Don't look behind'. Press on, with your compass pointing to those great goals and destinies which will become yours in due course - and only then, on arrival, can you sit and contemplate the long journey, whose 'trials and tribulations' will finally make sense as the dots join themselves all together.
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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