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From the Rabbi

November 15, 2007

Parshat Vayetze; Genesis 28:10-32:3 By: Rabbi Denise L. Eger

The focus of the book of Genesis shifts this week to the next patriarch, Jacob. We really begin his journey of faith and exploration with this portion, Vayetze. Jacob, son of Isaac has traded for the birthright from his brother Esau and then stole the blessing that was to go to his brother Esau from his father Isaac. At the urging of his mother, Jacob masqueraded as his brother and Isaac, now blind and infirm, gave his blessing to his younger son.

There are commentators among our tradition that say that Isaac really did know that he was blessing Isaac and not Esau—because he acknowledges that it is the voice of Isaac not Esau that he hears. Yet Isaac proceeds to bless Jacob even as the truth was hidden since ultimately he is comforted knowing the future lies with the line of Jacob.

We meet Jacob, this week, as he is fleeing the wrath of his brother Esau. Jacob begins a journey with trickery and deception. These themes will be revisited throughout Jacob’s life. Sometimes he is the deceiver and sometimes he is deceived. Clearly Jacob has important lessons to learn. One of these lessons is about what is revealed and what remains hidden.

Yet, even as he flees God appears to Jacob. This is the first of many changes for Jacob. In this revelation, God appears in Jacob’s dream and promises the extension of the covenant of Abraham and Isaac to him. This seems to affirm Rebekkah, his mother’s urging that he take the blessing of his father in lieu of his brother Esau.

In this revelation God chooses Jacob even though he has seemingly lied and deceived both his father and his brother. This fulfills a prophecy to Rebekkah so long ago that the younger son would be superior (Gen: 25:23).

But what lessons are there that God can choose someone whose character traits are less than desirable? Why a blessing of covenantal proportions for one who deceives others? It doesn’t seem fair.

And yet we learn that through love and kindness people can be transformed. God loves Jacob and God promises protection and covenantal blessing for Jacob and his descendants. This gift of love from God to Jacob begins his transformation from deceiver to patriarch. It builds him and helps to alter his make-up. Jacob’s experience is so powerful that upon awakening he marks this special place of Divine encounter and transformation. Tradition teaches us that this moment begins his healing and changes his outlook. Jacob makes an oath to God that if one day he can return in safety to his father’s house his faith and loyalty will be continuous.

Thus love and kindness from God to Jacob begins a new journey of love and kindness that Jacob tries to follow.

This teaches an important value for our lives. That through the aspects of love and kindness we too can transform ourselves and others. We hope that through bringing these divine attributes into our world, as God showed to Jacob, we can create an environment that destroys cynicism, eats away at distrust and builds an atmosphere of humanity and a path of healing.

Jacob’s journey towards these begins this week. Let us pray our journey begins as well.

Rabbi Denise L. Eger is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood’s Reform Synagogue. She is Vice-President of the Southern California Board of Rabbis.

Posted by Aaron at November 15, 2007 09:26 AM