I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary, followed by a Dvar Torah;
“ Parsha in a Nutshell “
Jacob leaves his hometown of Bersheva and journeys to Charan. On the way, he stops at a place and sleeps there, dreaming of a ladder connecting heaven and earth, with angels climbing and descending on it; G‑d appears and promises that the land upon which he lies will be given to his descendants. In the morning, Jacob raises the stone on which he laid his head as an altar and pledging that it will be made the house of G‑d.
In Charan, Jacob stays with and works for his uncle Laban, tending Laban’s sheep. Laban agrees to give him his younger daughter, Rachel—whom Jacob loves—in marriage, in return for seven years’ of labor. But on the wedding night, Laban gives him his elder daughter, Leah, instead—a deception Jacob discovers only in the morning. Jacob marries Rachel, too, a week later, after agreeing to work another seven years for Laban.
Leah gives birth to six sons—Reuben, Simeon,Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun—and a daughter, Dinah, while Rachel remains barren. Rachel gives Jacob her handmaid, Bilhah, as a wife to bear children in her stead, and two more sons, Dan and Naphtali, are born. Leah does the same with her handmaid, Zilpah, who gives birth to Gad and Asher. Finally, Rachel’s prayers are answered and she gives birth to Joseph.
Jacob has now been in Charan for fourteen years. After six more years, Jacob leaves Charan in stealth, fearing that Laban would prevent him from leaving with the family and property for which he labored. Laban pursues Jacob, but is warned by G‑d in a dream not to harm him. Laban and Jacob make a treaty on Mount Gal-Ed, and Jacob proceeds to the Holy Land, where he is met by an angel.
” Dvar Torah “
What is it that made Jacob–not Abraham or Isaac–the true father of the Jewish nation? We are called “Kehilat Yaakov”, the “congregation of Jacob”, “Benei Yisrael”, the “Children Of Israel”. Jacob/Israel is the man whose name we bear. Yet Jacob did not begin the Jewish journey; Abraham did. Jacob faced no trials like Abraham, nor was he binded on the altar like Isaac, to sacrifice his life. Abraham introduced monotheism to the world and was a symbol of kindness. Isaac too was a man of G-d and followed in his father’s footsteps. Jacob was not what Noah was: righteous, perfect in his generations, one who walked with G-d. It was Jacob who deceived his father in order to steal his brother’s blessing. Yet, it was Jacob who fathered the twelve tribes of Israel, and not Abraham or Isaac. And it was Jacob that all his children stayed within the faith, unlike Abraham or Isaac. So why aren’t we called “Benei Avraham” or “Kehilat Yitzchak”?! Where did Jacob succeed when Abraham and Isaac failed? What special characteristics did he have that Hashem chose him to be the father of “Benei Israel”?
Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, gives an interesting answer. He says that the answer lies in this week’s Parsha and the next. He says that Jacob’s greatest visions of G-d came to him, when he was fleeing from one danger to the next. First, in this week’s Parsha when he was escaping from Esau, he stopped and rested for the night with only stones to lie on, and had a dream. In his dream, Hashem appeared to him and said, “Behold, I’m with you; I will guard you wherever you go, and I will return you to the land”. In next week’s Parsha, fleeing from Laban and terrified of the likelihood of meeting Esau again, he wrestles alone at night with a stranger who was an angel of G-d. Then the man said your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with G-d and have overcome”.
Rabbi Sacks explains that this is precisely the great strength of Jacob. Jacob is the man who has his deepest spiritual experiences alone, at night, in the face of danger and far from home. He is the man who meets G-d when he least expects to, when his mind is on other things, when he is in a state of fear and possibly on the brink of despair. Jacob is the man who in the middle of the journey, discovers that “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And this is precisely the reason why he became the father of the Jewish nation — he is the man who finds G-d in desperate times, when others have failed!
Abraham gave Jews the courage to challenge idol-worshiping. Isaac gave them the capacity for self-sacrifice. Moses taught them to be passionate fighters for justice. But Jacob gave them the knowledge that precisely when they feel most alone, God is still with them, giving them the courage for hope and the strength to dream. We learn from Jacob that the Shechina, the Divine presence, is always with us even in a strange land. G-d never abandons us!
Yes my friends, we can find G-d not only in holy places but also in the midst of a journey, in a foreign land, alone at night. The most profound lesson that we can learn from Jacob is the knowledge that we are not alone. God is holding us by the hand, sheltering us, lifting us when we fall, forgiving us when we fail, healing the wounds in our soul through the power of His love. G-d never loses faith in us and never lets go of us.
There are times that Israel is at war, when the whole world seems to be against Israel, when realistically, Israel has no chance to survive. Israel is left all alone! It’s precisely then, when we see the hand of G-d and how miraculously He fights our wars. In 1991, in Operation Desert Storm, Iraq’s government decided to throw 1000s of missiles on Israel, and miraculously not even one missile hit the civilians. It was exactly at the time of danger when we found G-d…….
What the rest of the world do at the time of war is to rely on their military capabilities…… we the Children of Israel, on the other hand, rely utterly on G-d……..
Shabbat Shalom & Regards;