Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #7: Vayetze ( He went out) B’resheit ( Genesis) 28:10-32(3)
Haftarah: Hoshea (Hosea) 11:7-12:11
B’rit Chadashah: Yochanan (John) 1:43-51
In this week’s parashah we learn early on the superficiality that occurs all too often when picking a spouse, or anything else for that matter. Although Jacob obeys his father in that he chooses a wife from within their kinsmen, he asks for the hand of Rachel in marriage in exchange for a seven- year contract with Lavan. We know she was loyal to her father’s house as she cared for his sheep. This is in keeping with one of the desired attributes of a spouse. But she was the younger of the two daughters and it was customary for the oldest to be married off first. Jacob was aware of this custom but was overwhelmed by Rachel’s beauty. Lavan followed the custom as well and knew in his heat he would not give up his younger daughter before the older. Chapter 29:17 describes Leah as having “weak eyes” which leads to much confusion and debate about her physical appearance. Was she ugly? Was she sad? Did she have poor vision? Let’s look at Rachel and Leah more closely. Was the road on the way to Beit-lechem and Leah was buried in the cave located in the field of Makhpelah where Avraham, Sarah, Yitz’chak and Rivkah are also buried (Gen. 49:31).
There isn’t any debate about Rachel’s beauty. But what of Leah’s “weak” eyes? English speakers understand this word to mean that Leah had poor vision. But that would not be obvious to Jacob unless she had such poor sight, she ran into everything! According to the Chumash,” Leah’s eyes were tender, because she wept constantly in prayer that she does not have to marry Esau.” According to Rashi,
“ People used to say that since Rivkah as two sons and Laban two daughters, the elder daughter would be married to the elder son, while the younger daughter was destined to marry the younger.” The Chumash translates the word as “tender,” as does the Hebrew-English Old Testament which describes her as “tender-eyed.”
From the above discussion, we can more easily conclude that Leah was not ugly. Rather, her eyes expressed a tenderness about her that is in reality more desirable than physical beauty. Furthermore, we learn that G-d favored her because she was unloved by granting her fertility before Rachel. Indeed, Leah was the mother of Levi who would become the priestly tribe, and Judah from whom the Messiah would come. So, we can learn a great deal from this narrative examining Leah’s “weak eyes.” She was tenderhearted, and favored by G-d. She was made fertile before Rachel, gave birth to the progenitor of the Levites and Judah from whom the Messiah would come, birthed Re’uven, Shim’on, and mothered Gad, Asher, Yissakhar, and Z’vulun through her slave-girl Zilpah. Finally, she is buried in the cave of Makhpelah, the place purchased by Avraham for his beloved Sarah.
Let’s compare Rachel to Leah. Of course, we know she was physically beautiful and loyal. Rachel became envious of Leah because she remained barren. She lashed out at Jacob who rightly put her in her place by telling her that G-d is in control. Rather than waiting and praying, she gives Jacob her made, Bilhah to surrogate a child for her. Interestingly, this son was named Dan(he judged) who is thought to possibly be the one from who the anti-messiah comes. This conjecture is in part due to the blessings of the tribes in Genesis and Deuteronomy. In Genesis 49: 16-18 we read: “ Dan will judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan will be a viper on the road, a horned snake in the path that bites the horse’s heels so its rider falls off backward. I wait for your deliverance Adonai.” Then in Deuteronomy 33:22 Moshe says, “ Dan is a lion cub leaping forth from Bashan.” So, what is the importance of Bashan?
Bashan is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament(60 times), and it would become important later in the Roman Empire. Bashan is located in what is now Syria. Zechariah 11 speaks of the future destruction of Bashan. Israel and Syria have been locked in perpetual warfare since 1948 with the establishment of Israel as a state. The Arabs have wanted to destroy Jews and the state of Israel to this day. We can see the application of the “blessings: on the tribe of Dan certainly provides a connection between a viper as the enemy of G-d’s people. This does not mean that all Jews from the tribe of Dan subscribe to supporting any effort to destroy fellow Jews or Israel. But it may indicate that the anti-messiah will come from the tribe of Dan. He will have to be genetically connected to Israel as a Jew in order for misguided Jews to herald him as the Messiah when he arises to control and advance the One World Order during the first three years of the Tribulation period.
Now we move to Chapter 30 starting at verse14. Rachel sees that Leah is in possession of mandrakes. This plant was thought to increase fertility. Of all things, she in effect poured salt on Leah’s lack of attention by Jacob, by trading a night with him for some of the mandrakes. Jacob consents and sleeps with her. G-d intervened on Leah’s behalf once again and gave her another son, Yissakhar which translates to mean both “hire” and “reward.” What an interesting play on meaning! Leah provided six sons in total before G-d allowed Rachel to become fertile. So that the last (Leah) of Jacob’s priorities was made to be first. Even when he made plans to prepare for the meeting with Esau, Leah was placed second and Rachel third, providing more protection for her should Esau attack the caravan.
Rachel was also capable of dishonesty when she carried loyalty beyond what she should have done when she stole the household gods of her father, placing Jacob in a position of potential danger when Lavan discovered they were missing. The lesson here is that we must channel our loyalty to what is true and right. G-d’s instructions and trust in Him must be not only our priority, but the source of every- thing we think, say, and do. Physical beauty is nice, but our priority should be seeking those character traits that run deeper than physical beauty. Asking G-d’s guidance in seeking a mate or in any other matter will save us a great deal of conflict and heartache and we will ultimately be blessed as only G-d can provide.
Haftarah: Hoshea 12:13
Hoshea uses the constant obstacles that Yaakov faces as a starting point for admonishing the Jewish people, who have already begun to forget G-d. The people have taken on idol worship and believe that that their own ability is responsible for their wealth and power. We must learn and remember that all power and success come from G-d at His choosing. We must not limit His power to human understanding just as Jacob realized in the narrative concerning Lavan’s flocks (Gen. 31:5,9,42).
B’rit Chadashah: Yochanan (John) 1:43-51
Let’s begin with the relevant section in our parashah from which we will compare the B’rit Chadashah. Genesis 28:10 and beyond reads “Ya’akov went out from Be’er Sheva and traveled toward haran. He came to a certain place and stayed the night there because the sun had set. He took a stone from the place, put it under his head and lay down there to sleep. He dreamt that there before him was a ladder resting on the ground with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of Adonai were going up and down on it. Then suddenly Adonai was standing there next to him; and he said, ‘I am Adonai, the G-d of Avraham your [grand] father and the G-d of Yitz’chak. The land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants…’”
If we now fast forward to John 1 49-51; “Natan’el said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of G-d! You are the King of Isra’el! Yahshua answered him, ‘you believe all this just because I told you I saw you under a fig tree? You will see greater things than that!’ Then he said to him, ‘Yes indeed! I tell you that you will see heaven opened and the angels of G-d going up and coming down on the Son of Man!’”
As we compare these passages, we see right away that Yahshua identified himself as the ladder upon which the angels of G-d are ascending and descending. This makes perfect sense as we compare the ladder to Yahshua. First, we know that Yahshua is the conduit between heaven and earth; man, and G-d. We cannot get to G-d (who is also Yahshua) without going through him. He is the Way- and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6) Rungs on the ladder go horizontally representing our relationship to man and the two side supports extend vertically representing our relationship to G-d. We must ascend the ladder one rung at a time as we learn to nullify ourselves. The Kabbalistic interpretation expands this view to include the purpose of ascending the ladder is to gain a higher perspective, a view from above, or “outside the physical water globe” of our perceived reality. The purpose of descent is to fulfill our purpose in creation. That is, to glorify G-d. When we ascend the ladder of creation, we begin to let go a little more of our “water globe existence” and get a glimpse outside the borders of our finite world. The higher we ascend in our relationship to G-d, the sharper our perspective on earthly spheres when we descend once more. Note that we ascend and descend, just as the angles, and just as the Israelites did on their journey. G-d did not allow them to remain on the mountain top forever. They had to descend and return to the “world,” but were commanded to remain set-apart from it at the same time. We are to do the same. In addition to our love and obedience to G-d’s Torah, prayer helps us to ascend and descend. On a Kabbalistic level, the aim of prayer is to attach the soul to its source, and to refine and elevate the crass nature of our animalistic drives and passions. These goals exist in tandem. Through elevation and attachment-ascent- we may refine our characters through a deeper understanding of the purpose of creation that was explained to Avraham and others. Hence, the Kabbalists write that the knowledge of this chain of creation is a great mitzvah, in that it brings man to “know G-d,” and stand in awe of Him. Of course, we have no earthly notion of G-d as he is; neither can we know the mind of G-d as some Christians interpret 1Cor. 2:16. This is another mistranslation of the scripture. But we can learn, although not totally understand His attributes as taught in Kabbalah. This phrase implies that we come to the realization of G-d’s sovereignty and our responsibility to serve Him wherever He places us. The Zohar makes a point of telling us that there is a constant struggle between the soul and the physical shell in which it is placed. G-d specifically “tears” our body apart now and then to build the soul. He applies pressures we too often perceive as adversity rather than blessing used to build our characters and our souls, guiding us to a higher rung on the ladder both horizontally in our behavior toward man, and vertically in our behavior toward G-d. We ascend and descend the ladder daily. Our bodies are created from earth and our soul is the breath of life. We fight the earthly aspect of our lives as “Esau” and strive for a closer relationship to G-d as “Jacob”. The angles and the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) assist us as G-d wills. At times we are spiritually uplifted and detached from the mundane, and at other times we are totally immersed in the materialistic quagmire. How can we continue to move forward and upward toward G-d? The answer lies in prayer, study, and practice. We pray for understanding in what we read. We are given the knowledge we need at the right time according to G-d’s timetable. We remain diligent in our studies and incorporate what we learn into our being internally and externally through our behavior. As we continue to grow in G-d’s Torah, our relationship becomes richer and begins to take precedence over the earthly draws of our humanity. In essence, as we ascend the spiritual ladder, we descend in our expression of pride and arrogance. We decrease so Yahshua can increase in us, just as John the Immerser said and understood. John’s statement describes our journey up the ladder perfectly. As we serve Yahshua by emulating Him before men (the horizontal rungs on the ladder representing our linear relationship to earthly creation), we ascend upward toward our goal of being saved and living with YHVH/Yahshua forever.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart