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BASIC QUESTIONS ON PARASHAT VAYEITZEI
Who said to whom, and in what circumstances?
(a) I shall give the land on which you are lying to you and to your descendants.
(b) The day is still long.
(c) Nevertheless you are my flesh and blood.
(d) Why have you deceived me?
(e) Am I instead of G-d, who withheld from you the fruit of the womb?
(f) If only it would be as you say!
(g) He gained all this wealth from what he took from our father.
(h) Leave this land and return to your native land.
(i) It is within my power to harm you.
(j) G-d is a witness between you and me.
(a) G-d to Jacob, through the dream of ladder, and the descending and ascending angels. This is the first recorded occasion of G-d communicating directly with Jacob (28:13)
(b) Jacob to the local shepherds of Haran, at the end of his long journey from the Holy Land. He rebuked them because they were finishing their day's work early, presumably at their employer's expense (29:7).
(c) Laban to Jacob: after Jacob had told him 'all those things' (text does not state what they were, but they hardly elicited an enthusiastic response), Laban admitted him to his household on the stated grounds of Jacob's being one of Laban's own relatives - 'flesh and blood'. (29:14)
(d) Jacob to Laban, on discovering after the wedding night that Laban's scheming caused him to unwittingly marry Leah instead of her promised sister, Rachel (29:25).
(e) Jacob's heated answer to Rachel's distress on being childless in the face of her sister Leah's already being the mother of four children (30:2).
(f) Laban to Jacob, following his suggested salary arrangements which, on the face of it, seemed entirely to Laban's advantage (30:34).
(g) Laban's sons - overheard by Jacob. It seems from the text that Laban's sons were talking among themselves. Their complaint was based on Jacob's prosperity as a cattle breeder, and his success in turning the impossible conditions for his salary to good account (31:1).
(h) G-d to Jacob (31:3) - after twenty years at Laban's house.
(i) Laban to Jacob, on catching up the fleeing Jacob and his family, but he acknowledged that G-d had ordered him otherwise… (31:29)
(j) Laban to Jacob. This refers to the treaty agreed on oath between Laban and Jacob. Jacob was to treat Laban's daughters, Leah and Rachel, with appropriate respect, and neither party was to pass the designated landmark with hostile intentions (31:50).
RASHI'S COMMENTARY ON PARASHAT VAYEITZEI
Why, according to Rashi, did
(a) the angels in Jacob's dream 'ascend and descend' (28:12) the ladder? One would have expected them to first 'descend' from on high, and then 'ascend'…
(b) Jacob raise his voice in weeping after he kissed Rachel (29:11)?
(c) Jacob have to stress to Laban that he would not be merely working seven years to marry merely Rachel, but to marry 'Rachel your youngest daughter' (29:18)? (d) Leah, on giving birth to her fourth son Judah, exclaim 'this time I may gratefully praise G-d'? (29:35)
(e) Rachel bring her Bilha, her associate, into Jacob's intimate household?
(f) Rachel die prematurely? (two explanations)
(g) G-d warn Laban to speak 'neither good nor bad' (31:29) with Jacob as he was about to catch up with him in his flight from his household. Why not just 'bad'?
(h) angels of G-d meet Jacob after he parted company with Laban?
(a) Jacob was at the frontier between the Holy Land and the rest of the world. As he crossed it, the angels entrusted to look after him changed - the first group leaving (ascending in having completed their mission) and the second group arriving (descending to start their mission). The angels serving in the Holy Land were not to serve outside, and vice-versa.
(b) He perceived through Divinely-inspired insight at that moment that their being together would be for a short period, and that when the time came, they would not be buried in the same place. More mundanely, he became conscious that he did not bring to their meeting the material wealth reminiscent of Abraham's servant when seeking a partner for his father, Isaac.
(c) He had already perceived Laban's dishonesty. Jacob sought to protect himself against someone else of the same name being substituted in Rachel's place.
(d) Leah had long perceived her inferior status in Jacob's household. She knew by Divine revelation that Jacob was to beget twelve sons: with four women involved, that would amount to three sons each. Judah was the fourth son, so she felt especially grateful in that despite her poorer position, G-d had enabled her to contribute to the household beyond her 'fair share'. (e) Rachel, according to Rashi, compared her distress at being childless with that of Sarah. As Sarah had finally given birth after promoting an associate wife into the household, Rachel took similar steps with her handmaiden, Bilha.
(f) Firstly, Rachel had, on her own spiritual level, shown disrespect to her husband Jacob, because she bartered the night she was to spend with Jacob to Leah in exchange for the 'Dudaim'. (30:15) Secondly, when Laban accused Jacob of stealing his gods, he answered "With whomever your gods are found, he shall not live… look for anything that belongs to you and take it for yourself." The verse continues, however, with 'Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them'… (31:32)
(g) Rashi quotes the tradition that both the favors and malice of basically corrupt and hostile people can lead to no good.
(h) Once more Jacob was at the frontier, but this time between the rest of the world and the Holy Land. As he crossed it, the angels entrusted to look after him changed - the first group leaving having completed their mission, and the second group arriving to start their mission. The angels serving outside the Holy Land were not to serve inside, and vice-versa.
OTHER COMMENTS ON PARASHAT VAYEITZEI
1. After G-d revealed Himself to Jacob for the first time, one of his main requests to G-d was that he would have 'food to eat and clothes to wear' (28:20) while he suffered exile from his father's home. Why, according to (a) the Sforno, and (b) the Radak, did Jacob specify these particular things?
2. What, according to the Sforno, were the 'Dudaim' (30:14), and why did Reuben pick some and bring them to his mother, Leah?
3.Through the terms of an agreement, the text records in detail how Jacob employed his skills as a cattle farmer to outwit Laban. How, according to (a) the Da'at Zekeinim and (b) Rabbeinu Bachye was that consistent with Jacob's personal integrity?
4. What, according to Hirsch, is the 'Pachad Yitzchak' alluded to in 31:42?
5. Part of the treaty agreed on oath between Laban and Jacob was that neither party was to pass the designated landmark with hostile intentions (31:52). Who, according to Rabbeinu Bachye, was the first to break the oath?
1. According to the Sforno, Jacob specified food to eat and clothes to wear so that poverty would not cause him to compromise himself in any way. The Radak points out that Jacob's request typifies the righteous in general: seeking only necessities, and no luxuries.
2. The Sforno holds that Reuben deliberately sought the 'Dudaim' - fertility-inducing herbs - out of respect to his mother Leah, whom he knew longed for more children.
3. Based on Talmudic sources (see also Sam. II 22:27, Psalms 18:27), the Da'at Zekeinim applies the principle that notwithstanding the prohibition of theft and deceit, one should take the appropriate steps when facing thieves and swindlers. Thus Jacob applied skills obviously outside Laban's experience which promoted the cattle to give birth to the type of young specified by Laban to become Jacob's property. Rabbeinu Bachya, however, comments that Jacob only resorted to those means after having been instructed by an angel (following 31:10-12).
4. 'Pachad Yitzchak' - 'the Dread of Isaac' refers to the dread Isaac himself felt during Abraham's supreme test - the Akeida - as he sensed the knife near his throat. The fear was instinctive, but Isaac conquered it and used it as a spiritual base on which to build his life towards G-d's service. Jacob credited his father's merits as defending him against the scheming Laban.
5. Baalam, from the same geographical area (Numbers 22:5) as Laban, and also one of his direct descendants, according to the Midrashic tradition cited Rabbeinu Bachya, broke the oath by crossing the forbidden line on his journey to curse Israel.
SOME ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION
1. The Passover Haggadah states that whereas Pharaoh wanted to destroy all the males, Laban sought to "uproot everything". Where may that be seen in this Parasha?
2. Laban accused Jacob of stealing his gods, he answered "With whomever your gods are found, he shall not live… look for anything that belongs to you and take it for yourself." The verse continues, however, with 'Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them'. (31:32) When Rashi, quotes the Midrash which sees the above as a reason for Rachel's premature death. How could Jacob have made what seems to be a needless vow with potentially disastrous consequences?
*Please note - My own attempts to deal with the issues related in #2 may be found in the archives for 5761 on Shema Yisrael - on Parashat Vayeitzei
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.
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