This week’s Parshah is Vayeitzei – Shabbat 17 November 2018
Jacob left Be’er Sheba and headed towards Charan, to his uncle Laban’s home. While traveling, Jacob encountered “the place” (Mount Moriah) and since the sun had set, he lay down to sleep. In a dream he saw a ladder reaching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending its rungs. G‑d appeared and informed him that He would bequeath the entire land to his descendants, and that He would safeguard him until he returned to Canaan. Jacob awoke, and now recognizing the holiness of the location, he erected a monument to G‑d, named the location Beth El (“House of G‑d”), and vowed to tithe all his belongings when G‑d’s promise of a safe return would be fulfilled.
Jacob continued on his journey, and arrived at a well located on the outskirts of Charan. Upon seeing Rachel, Laban’s younger daughter, arriving with her father’s sheep, Jacob single-handedly rolled off the heavy rock that sat atop the well, and gave water to the flock. Rachel told her father about the new arrival, and Laban rushed out to greet Jacob. Jacob went to Laban’s home, and after spending a month, Laban offered Jacob the job of tending to his herds, and asked Jacob what he wished in terms of wages.
Laban had two daughters, the aforementioned Rachel, and her older sister Leah. Jacob loved Rachel and offered to serve Laban for seven years in exchange for her hand in marriage. Laban accepted the deal. After the seven years of service passed, Jacob asked Laban to make good on his word. Laban arranged a wedding feast, but switched daughters, giving Leah instead of Rachel. When Jacob protested, Laban offered to give Rachel too—in exchange for another seven years of service. One week later Jacob married Rachel, and began serving an additional seven years. Leah gave birth to four children – Reuben, Simon, Levi, and Judah – but Rachel remained barren. Rachel and Leah both gave their handmaids to Jacob as concubines. Rachel’s maid, Bilhah, bore two children – Dan and Naftali – and Leah’s maid also bore two children—Gad and Asher.
One spring day, Reuben picked jasmine plants from the field, and brought them to his mother. Rachel asks Leah for some of them, and Leah agreed, provided that Rachel relinquishes her turn with Jacob that night. Leah gave birth to another two sons – Issachar and Zebulun – and one daughter—Dinah. Eventually, Rachel, too, gave birth to a son, whom she named Joseph. At that point, Jacob asked Laban for permission to take his wives and children and return to Canaan. In response, Laban pointed out that his divinations revealed that his great wealth and blessings were due to Jacob’s presence in his home.
“Specify your wages,” Laban told Jacob. “And I will give it!” Jacob proposed that all the streaked and spotted sheep that would be born to Laban’s sheep would constitute his payment. In return, Jacob would continue caring for Laban’s flocks. Laban immediately removed all the existing spotted and streaked sheep from the herd and put them under his sons’ charge—thus differentiating between the current ones, which belonged to Laban, and the to-be-born ones, that would belong to Jacob. Jacob made striped poles for the strong and robust sheep to view while they were mating. As a result, the sheep gave birth to striped offspring, and Jacob became fabulously wealthy—despite Laban’s deceptive practices, and his continual changing of the terms of Jacob’s pay. After an additional six years of service, G‑d commanded Jacob to return to Canaan. Jacob summoned his wives, who agreed that the time has arrived to leave.
Seizing an opportunity when Laban was away, Jacob took his family and belongings and slipped away. Before departing, Rachel stole one of Laban’s idols. Laban pursued them. On the night before he reached them, G‑d warned Laban in a dream not to harm Jacob or his family. Laban reached Jacob on Mount Gilead and complained that he was deprived of the opportunity to bid them an appropriate farewell, and protested the theft of his idols. Jacob suggested that Laban search for his idol amongst his belongings, but Laban turned up empty-handed in his search.
Laban and Jacob made a peace treaty and erected a stone monument to seal the pact. Laban returned to Charan, and Jacob continued on his way. When he entered Canaan, he was greeted by a delegation of welcoming angels.