Genesis (Bereshit) 28:10 – 32:3
Jacob left for Beersheba and headed for Charan. He came to a familiar place and spent the night there because the sun had already set. He used some stones as a pillow and lay down to sleep there.
He had a vision in a dream. A ladder was standing on the ground, and its top reached up toward heaven. HaShem’s angels were going up and down on it. Suddenly he saw HaShem standing over them.
HaShem said “I am G-d, Lord of Abraham your father, Lord of Isaac, I give you and your decedents the land upon which you are lying. Your decedents will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north and to the south. All the families on earth will be blessed through your decedents. I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go and bring you back to this soil. I will not turn aside from you until I have fully kept this promise to you.”
Jacob awoke from his sleep. He was frightened. “How awe-inspiring this place is!” he exclaimed “it must be HaShem’s Temple. It is the gate to heaven.”
Jacob got up early the next morning and took the stone that he used as a pillow and stood it on end like a pillar and poured oil on it. He named the place HaShem’s Temple (Beth El). The town’s original name had been Luz.
Jacob made a vow. “If HaShem will be with me,” he said “if HaShem will protect me on the journey I am taking, if HaShem gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return in peace to my father’s house, then I shall dedicate myself totally to HaShem. Let this stone that I have setup become a temple to HaShem. All of that you give me I will set aside a tenth for you.”
Jacob set off and headed toward the land of the people of the East. He came to a place where he saw a well in a field. Three flocks of sheep were lying there beside it as it was this well that they drank from. The well was covered by a large stone. When all of the flocks came together the shepherds would roll the stone away and water the sheep. When they were done they would roll the stone back over it.
Some of the shepherds were there.
“Where do you come from, brothers?” asked Jacob.
“We’re from Charan.”
“Do you know Nachor’s grandson, Labon?”
“We know him”
“Is he doing well?”
“Well enough! Here is his daughter Rachel, coming with the sheep.”
“But it is the middle of the day. It is not time to bring the livestock together. Why not water the sheep and go on grazing?”
“We can’t until all the flocks have come together. All of us then roll the stone from the top of the well. Only then can we water the sheep.”
While he was still talking with them, Rachel appeared with her father’s sheep. Jacob looked at his cousin Rachel who was with Laban’s sheep. He stepped forward and rolled the stone from on top of the well so the sheep could be watered.
Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. He told her that he was Rebecca’s son, and thus related to her father. She ran to tell her father.
When Laban heard the news that Jacob had arrived, he ran to greet him. He embraced and kissed him, and then brought him home. Jacob told Laban all that had happened. “Yes, you are indeed my own flesh and blood.” Laban said.
Jacob remained with him for a month. Laban then said to Jacob, “Just because you are a close relative of mine, doesn’t mean you have to work for free, name your price.”
Laban had two daughters. The older one was Leah, and the younger was Rachel. Leah had lovely eyes, while Rachel was shapely and beautiful.
Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel. “I will work for you for seven years for Rachel your daughter.”
“Better I should give her to you than any other man.” Laban replied. “You can stay with me.”
Jacob worked seven years for Rachel. But he loved her so much it seemed no more than a few days. Finally Jacob said to Laban, “Time is up. Give me my bride and let me marry her.”
Laban invited all the local people and made the wedding a feast. In the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob.
In the morning Jacob discovered that it was Leah. He said to Laban, “How could you do this to me? Didn’t I work for you for Rachel? Why did you cheat me?”
“In our country it is something that is not done!” Laban replied. “We always marry the oldest first. Wait a week for the celebration to end and I will give you Rachel – in return you will work for me seven years.”
A week later he married Rachel. HaShem saw that Leah was unloved and Rachel was, so HaShem gave Leah children and Rachel none.
Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben. “HaShem has seen my troubles,” She said “Now my husband will love me.”
She became pregnant again and had a son. “HaShem has heard that I was unloved,” she said “and HaShem also gave me this son.” She named him Simeon (Shim’on).
She became pregnant again and had a son. “Now my husband will become attached to me,” she said “because I have given him three sons.” Jacob named him Levi.
Rachel was sad that she had no children and jealous of her sister and said to Jacob, “Give me children! If not, let me die!”
Jacob became angry at her, “Shall I take HaShem’s place?” he said, “It is HaShem’s will that you have no children.”
Rachel said “Take my handmaid Bilhah and let her have a child for me. That way I can have a son.”
Bilhah became pregnant and had a son. Rachel said “HaShem has judged (Dan) me and has heard my prayer. HaShem has given me a son!” She named the child Dan.
Rachel’s handmaid had a second son. Rachel said “I have been twisted around with my sister through all of HaShem’s ways (Naphtuley), but I have finally won!” She named the child Naphtali.
Leah realized that she was no longer having children and gave her handmaid Zilpah so that she could have more children. Leah’s handmaid bore Jacob a son. “Good fortune (gad) has come” She named the child Gad.
Leah’s handmaid had a second son. “It is my happiness (asher),” said Leah. “Young girls will consider me happy.” She named the child Asher.
Reuben took a walk during the wheat harvest and he found mandrakes in the field. He brought them to his mother Leah.
Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
“Isn’t it enough that you took away my husband?” retorted Leah. “Now you even want to take away my son’s mandrakes?”
When Jacob came home from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You will come with me tonight. I have paid for you with my son’s mandrakes.” He slept with her that night.
HaShem heard Leah’s prayer, and she gave birth to Jacob’s fifth son. Leah said, “HaShem has given me my reward (sakhar) because I have given my handmaid to my husband.” She named the child Issachar.
Leah had his sixth son. “HaShem has given me a wonderful gift (zeved).” said Leah. “Now let my husband make his permanent home (zevul) with me.” She named the child Zebulun (Zevulun). She then had a daughter and named her Dinah.
HaShem gave special consideration to Rachel and heard her prayer. She bore a son. “HaShem has gathered away (asaph) my humiliation.” She named him Joseph (Yoseph) saying, ” May HaShem grant me another (yoseph) son to me.”
After Rachel had given birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban. “Let me leave. I would like to go home to my own land. Let me have my wives and children, since I earned them working for you, and I will go. You are aware of the service that I have given you.”
“Haven’t I earned your friendship?” replied Laban. “I made use of divination and have learned that it is because of you the HaShem has blessed me. Just name your price and I will give it to you.”
“You know full well how I worked for you,” replied Jacob., “and how your livestock fared with me. You had very little before I came, but since it has increased and become very substantial. HaShem blessed you with my coming. But when will I do something to build my own estate?”
“What shall I give you?”
“Do not give me anything. Just do one thing for me. I will come back and tend your sheep, giving them the best care. I will go through all of your flocks with you today. Remove every land that is spotted or streaked, every sheep that has dark markings. Also remove every goat that is marked like that. That is the way you will pay me. In the future, this will be a sign of my honesty. I will let you inspect all that I have taken as my pay. Any goat that is not spotted or streaked, or any sheep without dark markings, that is in my possession can be considered stolen.”
“Agreed.” said Laban. “May your words only come true!”
That day he and Laban separated the flocks.
Jacob took fresh wands of storax, almond and plate. He peeled white stripes in them by uncovering the white layer under the wands’ bark.
He set up the wands near the watering troughs where the animals came to drink. It was when they drank that they usually mated. The animals that mated in the presence of the wands bore young that were ringed, spotted and streaked.
Jacob segregated the young animals. He bread his own flocks separately.
Whenever the stronger animals mated, Jacob placed the wands before them, but when the sheep were feeble he did not. The feeble ones thus went to Laban, while Jacob got the strong ones.
In this way he became wealthy. He had many sheep and goats, as well as slaves, camels and donkeys.
Jacob began to hear Laban’s sons saying “Jacob has taken everything belonging to our father. He has become rich by taking our father’s property.” When Jacob saw Laban in person, Laban did not act as he had before.
HaShem said to Jacob, “Go back to your birthplace in the land of your fathers. I will be with you.”
Jacob sent word and summoned Rachel and Leah to the field where his flock was. “I saw your father’s face,” he said, “He is not acting the same with me as he used to. But HaShem is with me.
You know full well that I have served your father with all of my strength. Your father swindled me and changed his mind about my pay at least ten times, but HaShem would not let him harm me. If he said ‘ Your pay will be the spotted ones’, then all the animals gave birth to spotted young. If he said ‘Ringed ones will be your wage’ then all animals dropped would be ringed ones. HaShem eroded your father’s livestock and gave it to me
During the breeding season, I suddenly had a vision. I saw the bucks mating with the sheep were ringed, spotted and flecked ones.
An angel called to me in HaShem’s name, “Jacob!’ – and I replied ‘Yes”. He said, ‘raise your eyes, and your will see the bucks mating are spotted, ringed and flecked. Let this be a sign that I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am HaShem, Lord of Beth El, where you anointed a pillar and made an oath to me. Now set out and leave this land. Return to the land were you were born.”
Rachel and Leah both spoke up. “Do we still have a portion and an inheritance in our father’s estate? He treats us like strangers. He sold us and spent the money. All the wealth HaShem has taken from our father actually belongs to our children. Now whatever HaShem has said to you you must do it.”
Jacob began the journey, placing his children and wives on the camels. He lead the way with his livestock, he took all of his possessions including everything he had brought from Padan Aram. He was heading to see his father in the land of Canaan.
Meanwhile, Laban was away, shearing his sheep. Rachel stole her fathers’ idols.
Jacob decided to go behind the back of Laban, and did not tell him he was leaving.
On the third day, Laban was told that Jacob had left. He took his kinsman and followed his trail for seven days, catching up to him in the Gilead mountains.
HaShem appeared to Laban in a dream and said, “Be very careful not to say anything good or bad to Jacob.”
Laban said to Jacob, “How could you do this? You went behind my back and lead my daughters away like prisoners of war! Why did you have to leave so secretly? You went behind my back and told me nothing. Why I would have sent you off with a celebration and song with drum and lyre. You didn’t even let me kiss my grandsons and daughters goodbye. What you did was foolish. I have it in my power to do you great harm. But HaShem spoke to me last night and said, ‘Be careful not to say anything to good or bad to Jacob.’ I realize you left because you missed your parents’ home. But why did you have to steal my gods?”
Jacob said, “I left this way because I was afraid. I thought you might take your daughters away from me by force. If you find your idols here with anyone, let them not live! let all of our close relatives here be witness. See if anything here belongs to you and take it back.” Jacob did not realize that Rachel had taken the idols.
Leban went through the tents and found nothing.
Jacob was angry with Laban. “What is my crime?” he asked, “What terrible thing did I do that you chase me like this? You inspected all of my things — what did you find that belonged to you? Place it right here in front of all our relatives and let them determine what is right.
Twenty years I worked for you! All that time, your sheep and goats never lost their young. Not once did I ever take a ram from your flocks as food. I never brought you an animal that had been attacked — I took the blame myself. You made me make it good whether it was carried off by day or night.
By day I was consumed by the scorching heat, by night by the frost when sleep was snatched from my eyes. Twenty years now I have worked in your estate — fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for some of your flocks. You changed my wages ten times!
If HaShem had not been with me, you would have sent me away empty-handed. But HaShem saw my plight and the work of my hands. Last night he rendered his judgment.”
Laban interrupted Jacob. “The daughters are my daughters. The sons are my sons. The flocks are my flocks. All that you see is mine. But my daughters … what can I do to them today? Or to the children that they have? Let’s make a treaty – you and I. Let there be tangible evidence of it between you and I.”
Jacob took a bolder and raised it as a pillar. “Gather stones” he said to his relatives and they took stones and made a large mound. They ate on top of the mound.
Laban called it Witness Mound (Yegar Sahdutha), but Jacob called it Gal’ed.
“This mound shall be a witness between you and I today.” said Laban. “That is why it is named Gal’ed. Let the pillar be called Watchpost (Mitzpah). Let it be said that HaShem will keep watch between you and I when we are away from each other’s sight. If you degrade my daughters, or marry other women in addition to them, there may be no one with us, but you must realize that HaShem is the witness between us.
Here is the mound and here is the pillar that I have set up between us. The mound and the pillar will be witnesses. I am not to go beyond the mound with bad intentions and your are not to go beyond the mound and pillar. May HaShem be our judge on this.”
Jacob swore by the dread of his father Isaac. He then butchered an animal on the hill and invited all his relatives to break bread. They had a meal and spent the night on the hill.
Laban got up early the next morning and kissed his grandsons and daughters goodbye. He then blessed them and returned home.
Jacob also continued on his journey. He encountered angels of HaShem. When he saw them he said, “This is HaShem’s Camp.” He named the place Twin Camps (Machanaim).
Next Week’s Parsha : VaYishlach Genesis 32:4 – 36:43
Next Week’s Haftara: Obadiah 1.1-21 (Optional substitution: Hosea 11.7-12.12)