Commentary for Vayeitzei

1 Dec

This week’s parshah begins with Jacob setting out from his home in Be’er-sheva to go to his uncle’s house in Paddan-aram to escape the wrath of his brother Esau. When night falls, he goes to sleep and has a dream. In his dream he sees a ladder that stretches from the Earth to the heavens, with angels going up and down. God then speaks to Jacob and assures him that he will have Divine protection and reaffirms to Jacob the same promises made to Abraham; his descendants shall be too numerous to count and they will inherit the Land of Israel. Even if circumstances force them to leave, God will always stay with them and eventually return them to the Promised Land.


When he awakens from his dream, Jacob says something slightly startling: “Surely the Lord” is in this place and I did not know it (Gen. 28:16).” God’s omnipresence is one of the basic tenants of Judaism. How is it that Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebecca, grandson of Abraham and Sarah, who was noted for spending all of his time studying and who had just been designated the next leader of the Jewish People, did not know that God was in that place the whole time?


It is interesting to note that while God is everywhere in God’s world, the more that we focus on worldly needs, the harder that Godliness becomes to see. On the run for his life, taking almost nothing with him, Jacob was cold, tired, hungry, nervous, and afraid, to the point where even he, the son of Isaac and Rebecca, the grandson of Abraham and Sarah, and learned man, and the next spiritual leader of the Jewish People, lost sight of God’s presence in the world. And if it can happen to Jacob, it can surely happen to the rest of us. Fortunately, just like with Jacob, God is always there for us, trying to show us the Divine Presence in the world. All we need to do is keep our eyes open.

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