A Few Thoughts from Vayetzei

This week’s parashah, Vayetzei (he went out) – Genesis 28:10-32:3* provides an overview of Jacob’s life from the time he went out from Beer-sheba to journey to Haran and his mother’s brother’s family in order to find a wife so as not to intermarry with the local Canaanite community. The first evening, it’s stated that “He happened upon a certain place and spent the night there” (Gen. 28:11). Traditionally, the place (Ha Makom) he spent the night was Mt. Moriah, the future site of the first and second Temples, a tradition based upon passages like “Abraham named that place, ADONAI Yireh,—as it is said today, “On the mountain, ADONAI will provide” (Gen 22:14) and “Come, let us go up to the mountain of ADONAI, to the House of the God of Jacob…” (Isaiah 2:3).

Although following the wishes of his father Isaac, it seems that the real prompting of his journey was solidified on the mountaintop as he dreamt. 

He dreamed: All of a sudden, there was a stairway set up on the earth and its top reaching to the heavens—and behold, angels of God going up and down on it! Surprisingly, ADONAI was standing on top of it, and He said, “I am ADONAI, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your seed. Your seed will be as the dust of the land, and you will burst forth to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed—and in your seed. Behold, I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I promised you.” (Gen 28:12-15)

Actually, I believe that one could say that Jacob’s twenty-year sojourn in Haran with his uncle Laban, was bracketed by dreams – the first on Mt. Moriah, and the second at the end of his stay when HaShem called to him once again.

Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, “Jacob,” and I said, “Hineni.” He said, “Lift up your eyes and see that all the males going up to the flocks are striped, spotted and speckled. For I have seen everything Laban has done to you. I am the God of Beth-El where you anointed a memorial stone, where you made a vow to Me. Get up now and leave this land, and return to the land of your relatives.” (Gen. 31:11-13)

Remember, Jacob had left home, virtually penniless. Instead of arriving at Laban’s house with gifts and gold to obtain his wife, he had to work and, in the process, gained two wives, two concubines, eleven sons, and at least one daughter. At the time of the second dream, he had acquired much wealth, in possessions and in livestock. 

Between the two dreams, the narrative does not mention HaShem’s personal interaction with Jacob. There is no record of Jacob going to HaShem to seek direction on how he should live and thrive while in Laban’s household, or how he should deal with Laban and his trickery. It would appear that Jacob simply trusted HaShem’s promise, “Behold, I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I promised you” (Gen 28:15). Jacob did what he knew to do, what he needed to do, and trusted that if there needed to be a course correction, HaShem would tell him about it. Until then he would continue following and working out the dream that was guiding his course. Later the compiler of Mishlei would write, “Commit whatever you do to ADONAI, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3) which possibly prompted Sha’ul to write, “I am sure of this very thing—that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 1:6).

I am not suggesting that Jacob did not seek out HaShem’s guidance from time to time, we just do not have any record of him doing so. I am also not suggesting that Jacob did not make a mistake or two along the way. What I am suggesting is that consciously or unconsciously, Jacob was depending on the promise of HaShem to take care of him as he journeyed through his life and then eventually return him to his father’s house. I am convinced that he fully understood the guarantee that HaShem would one day speak through the prophet Jeremiah,

“For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,” declares ADONAI, “plans for shalom and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11)

It took Jacob twenty-plus years to realize the fulfillment of the dream he experienced on Mt. Moriah. In context, the plans for shalom, a future filled with hope that HaShem assured Jeremiah was seventy years in the making. There may be some reading this week’s Thoughts that have been holding onto a dream or promise from HaShem for so long that you may have begun to doubt whether the promise will actually be fulfilled or that you even received the promise, to begin with. Consider these words of Peter as he closes the second letter to his community.

The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some consider slowness. Rather, He is being patient toward you—not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Along with Peter’s words of assurance, remember these words from the prophet Habakkuk, when doubts begin to assail your heart and mind.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time. It hastens to the end and will not fail. If it should be slow in coming, wait for it, For it will surely come—it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3)

We have the assurance that what HaShem has promised will come to pass if we hold on to his promise and trust in his word.

Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!

* Scripture readings are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

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