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Torah Commentary - Vayetze

                                                                                                                                           *Commentary courtesy of Menahem Me-Zahav

Our Sidrah is dedicated to Jacob, representing the third generation of the Jewish people. It is named after the Sidrah’s first word: “Vayeitze Ya’akov - And Jacob departed Be’er Sheva heading towards Haran” (Genesis 28:10). Jacob is now on his long way to Haran, putting a great distance between himself and his, revenge seeking brother - Esau (Who just expressed his determination to kill Jacob for ‘stealing’ his birthright blessing. See last week’s reading). On his way, Jacob lies down to sleep in the wilderness, using a stone for a pillow. 

Jacob’s Ladder.
That night he has a dream, in which angels climb and descend a ladder. 
The Ladder, while standing solidly on the ground nearby, is also reaching up into heaven. It became known in Jewish folklore as: Jacob’s Ladder - Sulam Ya’akov. (For more about this name - see the note at the end). 
God is seen by Jacob as being in Heaven. God then speaks to Jacob (who is still in his dream) reaffirming the promise that He (God) Had made to Abraham and Isaac, Jacob’s forefathers. God’s promise was, that their descendants (namely, Jacob’s children) will be so plentiful that no one will be able to count them: “The land upon which you sleep – I will give it to you and to your descendants. And your children will be as numerous as the sand granules. And you will spread to the west and the east, the north and the south. And all humanity will be blessed through you” (Genesis 28:13-14). 
When Jacob wakes up from his dream, he is so moved that he declares the place where he slept as holy, and he names it, Beth-El - God’s Home. According to Midrash, the place was to become part of the city of Jerusalem, and the Holy Temple was to be built, exactly at the spot, where Jacob did sleep. 

Beit El is today a city in the Benjamin region of Israel, located some 18 miles north of Jerusalem. It is named after the Biblical Beit-El. 
The present Beit El, was founded in 1970, It numbers today over 6,000.
Jacob continues on his way to Haran to live with his Uncle Laban. He soon falls in love with one of Laban’s daughters, Rachel. In order to win her hand in marriage, Laban asks Jacob to work for 7 years as his shepherd. The seven years pass very fast, as “they seem by him (Jacob) as a few days, because of his love for Rachel” (Genesis 29:20).  

Jacob starts a family.
On the wedding night, Jacob is fooled by Laban, who under cover of darkness and wearing a heavy veil, substitutes Rachel with her older sister, Leah. Despite witnessing Laban’s clear deceit, Jacob agrees to a new deal: He will work another 7 years for Rachel. Another 7 years pass and Rachel is also married to Jacob. Then in order to ‘accumulate’ some wealth (Meaning: sheep) of his own, Jacob works 6 additional years for Laban. By the time that 20 years have passed since arriving in Haran, Jacob has four wives (Rachel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah) 11 Sons and a daughter - a large family indeed. His 12-th son, Benjamin will be born later after returning to Canaan-Israel. 
Jacob now decides that it is the right time to take his sizable family back to his own homeland - Israel. Accordi
ng to Midrash, after the birth of Joseph, Jacob is not afraid anymore that Esau will harm him. He knows through prophecy that the descendants of Joseph are destined to decisively defeat the descendants of Esau - the Edomites “And the House of Jacob will be fire, and the House of Joseph will be the flame, and the House of Esau will be straw. And they shall burn it and devour it” (Obadiah 1:18). 
Jacob, after 20 yeas of watching Laban’s sheep, asks Laban for some wages.
Jacob asks Laban for his wages which both have agreed upon. He has been working for Laban for the past 20 years, and has yet to receive any compensation. Laban tries to deceive Jacob. Laban’s deceitful attempts backfire and Jacob earns way more than (Laban) expected. Jacob, being afraid that Laban will prevent him from returning to his homeland, leaves Laban secretly with his family and his newly acquired riches. The angry Laban pursues him. God warns Laban against causing any harm to Jacob.
At their meeting, Jacob and Laban forge a peace-treaty. “And they took stones and built a monument…And Jacob called it Gal-Ed - The Attesting (Verifying) Monument (Genesis 31:46-47). Continuing towards his homeland, Jacob meets Angels “And Jacob said: This is God’s camp so he names the place Machanayim - God’s Camping Ground” (Genesis 32:2-3).                        
Today’s Kibbutz Gal-Ed (founded 1945) and Kibbutz Machanayim (founded 1939), both in northern Israel, are named so, after their Biblical ‘ancestors’.

Haftarah: Hosea 12:13 – 14:10
The prophet Hosea - Hoshe’ah - lived in Samaria, the Capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Circa 780–725 BCE). He is the 1st of the 12 prophets whose prophecies were assembled into one Biblical book, named “Trei Assar” (“The twelve”). 
The Israeli Kingdom according to Hosea is doomed since it abandoned and betrayed its covenant with God. Hosea does not mention Assyria by name in all 14 chapters of his book, yet his message is loud and clear: “Repent & Return to God or face destruction (by the Assyrians)”. The one time that Assyria is clearly mentioned by Hosea is in our Haftarah “Assyria shall not save us” (Hosea14:4) meaning: “Do not rely on Assyria, God is your savior”.
In our Haftarah, Hosea recounts portions of Jewish history. First, it is a short statement that serves also as the linkage to our Sidrah: “Jacob ran away to Aram and worked for a wife and for a wife he was watching” – working (Hosea 12:13). It echoes Jacob’s flight from Esau, wandering to Haran and working there for 20 years (7 years for Rachel, 7 for Leah and 6 more for actual wages).
Hosea then describes more portions of our history culminating with Israel leaving God and turning to idolatry. The Haftarah ends with a call for repentance in the form of “Shuva Israel - Return O Israel unto your God” (Hosea 14:2-10). The section starting with “Shuva Israel” also serves as an opening for the Shabbat Shuva Haftarah (Shabbat Shuva, is the Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur). The return to God does never materialize. Their leaders do not understand the dire situation they may face for not repenting and returning to God. 
The Israeli Kingdom of Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians shortly thereafter with the Exile of the 10 Tribes (722 BCE). It is known today as “The exile of the 10 Tribes”.    

Note:  Jacob’s Ladder – Sulam Ya’akov in The Jewish Faith and Folklore.
           1.   There are numerous Midrashim, regarding the Ladder that Jacob saw in his dream.                                                                          
                 A popular Midrash compares Jacob’s Ladder to Mount Sinai. 
                 Either one namely, Jacobs Ladder, and Mount Sini, created a connection between the ground 
                 that we all stand on, to Heaven. It can be explained as follows:                  
                 The Ladder in Jacob’s dream, was standing on the ground, where he was sleeping. The Ladder 
                 was then connecting with Heaven, where God was seen by Jacob in his dream.
                 Similarly, Mount Sinai as we know, was based in the ground, on which the Jewish people were  
                 standing, when receiving the Torah. Mount Sinai served then, as the connection between the 
                 Jewish people and God who is in Heaven. 
                 The validity of the comparison between Jacob’s Ladder and Mount Sinai, is strengthened even
                 more, when using the numerical value (Gematria) of their spelling.  
                 The Midrash compares the word “SULAM” with the word “SINAI”. 
                 Each of these 2 words’ Gematria (Numerical Value) equals 130, as shown below: 

                  The word “Sulam” is spelled = Samech, Lamed & Mem = 60 + 30 + 40 = 130            
                       The word  “Sinai”  is  spelled = Samech, Yud, Nun & Yud = 60 + 10 + 50 + 10 = 130  

               2.     There are some entities that proudly display their adapted names of “Sulam Ya’akov” or 
                 “Jacob’s Ladder”. To name just a few:
                  There are congregations named Sulam Ya’akov.
                 There is a dance group named Sulam Ya’akov.                    
                 There are some songs named Sulam Ya’akov.
                 There are several cultural themes of interest (IE: Movies, exercise equipment and more) that 
                 proudly display their ‘claim to fame’ with their name “Jacob’s Ladder”.

          3.    A huge Sculpture of Jacob’s Ladder.
                 It can be seen in, a neighborhood south west of Jerusalem, named, Givat Mordechai. 
              It was created by Ezra Oryon. Named originally as “Stairway”, it is known 
              today almost solely, by its (much more) popular name “Sulam Ya’akov”.  
              In order to observe it, please download the picture:  


Thu, December 7 2023 24 Kislev 5784