"and he went out"
This week our par’sha continues the story of the life of Ya’akov ben Yits’chaq. The par’sha begins in B’reshith 28.10 as he went out from Be’ersheva for Charan, which gives us the title of the par’sha, V’yetse - and he went out. The par’sha spans nearly twenty-two years and concludes in B’reshith 32.2 as Ya’akov set up camp in a place he named Ma’cha’na’yim, the camp of Elohim, as he prepared to meet his brother.
Keep in mind as we study this week’s par’sha the different levels of understanding Scripture. While there is the plain, simple meaning of the text, there are also deeper meanings that help establish the way we approach and live our lives. For instance, throughout Scripture there are numerous references to House of Ya’akov. Some examples include:
B’reshith 46.27: And the sons of Yosĕph who were born to him in Mitsrayim were two beings. All the beings of the house of Ya‛aqoḇ who went to Mitsrayim were seventy.
Sh’mot 19.3: And Mosheh went up to Elohim, and יהוה called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you are to say to the house of Ya‛aqoḇ, and declare to the children of Yisra’ĕl:
T’hillim 114.1: When Yisra’ĕl went out of Mitsrayim, The house of Ya‛aqoḇ from a people of strange language,
Then there is Yeshayahu 14.1 where we learn, Because יהוה has compassion on Ya‛aqoḇ, and shall again choose Yisra’ĕl, a and give them rest in their own land. And the strangers (gerim) shall join them, and they shall cling to the house of Ya‛aqoḇ.
These are a few of the references to the House of Ya’akov in Scripture. But what does the fact that we, as His people, are not referred to as the House of Avraham teach us? Especially given what we know of Ya’akov’s life? What about Ya’akov merited that the people of Y’H’V’H would be called the House of Ya’akov, or the House of Yisrael?
His story doesn't exactly inspire confidence in him as a patriarch. As the par’sha begins, Ya’akov is fleeing from his brother’s threat to kill him. His mother had sent him away to escape Esau’s wrath, but it appears the family may have attempted to paint his leaving in a better light. Instead of leaving for a few days until his brother’s wrath subsided, Ya’akov sent him to Paddan Aram and Rivkah’s people to find a wife.
As he left the land of his inheritance and camped for the night, he had an unexpected visit from Y’H’V’H. That night Y'H'V'H established the promise He had given Avraham with Ya’akov: Y’H’V’H would give the land he was lying on to him and his seed and all the clans of the earth would be blessed through his seed. (Which explains the passage in Yeshayahu 14.1 where gerim would join themselves to the house of Ya’akov.)
Y’H’V’H also gave Ya’akov a few other promises:
He was going with Ya’akov and would guard him wherever He lead him
He would bring him back into this land
He was not going to leave him until He had done all that He had spoken to Ya’akov.
In return, Ya’akov made a vow to Y’H’V’H when he awoke and recognized the significance of the place he was camped. He said, When I have returned to my father’s house in peace and Y’H’V’H has been my Elohim, then this stone which I have set as a standing column shall be Elohim’s house, and of all that You give me, I shall certainly give a tenth to You.28.22 This last part suggests Ya’akov suspected he would be out of the land more than just the few days his mother had mentioned.
Ya’akov moved on and finally arrived in Charan, the land of his mother’s people. There he encountered Rachel for the first time. He became so enamored with her that a month later he asked his uncle Laban for her hand in marriage - and he was willing to pay for the honor of marrying her. He offered to work for Laban for seven years if Laban would allow him to marry Rachel once he had fulfilled his oath.
His offer, however, raises a question. Remember what had happened that brought Ya'akov to Paddan Aeam. He had first purchased the birthright from Esau and then had later deceived his father into giving him the blessing reserved for the first born as well. While many attempt to justify Ya’akov’s behavior, it is clear in Torah that Ya’akov knew he was deceiving his father. In B’reshith 27.12 he even admitted as much. What if my father touches me? Then I shall be like a deceiver in his eyes, and shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing. His words were prophetic, which Ya’akov would come to realize over the next two decades of his life.
In the exchange Ya'akov had had with his father that followed, he had lied to Yitz’chaq at least three times (vs. 19,20,&24). And yet, Y’H’V’H meet with him as he camped in Luz that night and promised He would be with him, guard him and bring him back into the land so that He could fulfill His promise to Avraham - his seed would inherit the land. All of this in spite of the shortcomings Ya’akov had already demonstrated in his life. And keep in mind that Y’H’V’H is the One Who knows the end from the beginningYeshayahu 48.10, which means He gave Ya’akov these promises knowing what he would do in the future as well.
So now Ya’akov, the man destined to become the patriarch of his family, found himself in an unfamiliar land with people he knew very little about. His mother had sent him to her brother for a fews days to escape Esau's wrath and yet here was Ya’akov entering into a covenant that would keep him away from his home and family for at least seven years. Had marrying Rachel become more important to him that returning to the land as soon as possible? Of course, it is possible Ya’akov knew more than is revealed in Torah, but from what we are told, it certainly appears that marrying her took precedence over everything else in his life. If so, he would not be the first man - or woman - to put his desires ahead of Y’H’V’H’s desires for them.
The seven years seemed like only a few days to Ya’akov and finally the big day came: he was finally allowed to marry Rachel. Except the next morning he learned that he had been the one who had been deceived this time. Remember what he had told Rachel - if it was discovered he was deceiving his father it would bring a curse upon him instead of the blessing?
Not to be deterred, Ya’akov immediately entered into another seven year covenant with Laban and a few days later he married Rachel. So he, Leah, Rachel and their two maidservants settled down as a family. Over the next seven years eleven of Ya’akov’s twelve sons and one daughter were born to him, although these years were marked by the tension between the sisters.
At the end of his fourteen years of servitude to Laban, Ya’akov approached his father-in-law (times two?) and asked for his wives and children so he could return to his own place and his own land.30.25-26 Laban, however, was not inclined to let him go. For the past fourteen years Laban had witnessed how much he had been blessed because Ya’akov was living in the land with him. His flocks and herds had flourished and now he had grandsons and granddaughters as well.
Realizing how blessed he had been Laban made an offer that seemed a little out of character for him. If Ya’akov would agree to stay he could name his own wages - giving Ya’akov what today we would call a blank check. In considering his offer Ya’akov asked himself how he was going to provide for his own house30.30 - this in spite of the great inheritance that was waiting on him back in Kena’an. Was providing for his family a legitimate concern or was Ya’akov still unsure about returning to face his brother and/or his responsibilities? Once again, we aren’t given insight into what Ya’akov was thinking at the time. Whatever the case, at the end of the day Ya’akov agreed to another covenant with Laban, but this time without any mention of how long the covenant would be.
Over the next six years Ya’akov’s herds continued to multiply while Laban’s herds began to decline. At one point Ya’akov overheard Laban’s sons complaining that Ya’akov had taken all that was their fathers, and from what belonged to their father Ya’akov had made his wealth.31.1 As he realized he was no longer living in favor with Laban (whose wealth was declining), Y’H’V’H again appeared to Ya’akov and instructed him to return to the land of his fathers and his relatives and reminded Ya’akov that He was still with him.31.2-3
As he discussed the matter with Rachel and Leah, he explained to them how Elohim had blessed him and that now the Messenger of Elohim had instructed him to return to the land of his fathers. We also learn during his conversation with his wives that Laban had broken their covenant by deceiving him and changing his wages ten times31.7 (which Ya’akov put up with.) Rachel and Leah told him to do as Elohim had commanded, so he packed up his family, possessions and flocks and set out for Kena’an - all without telling his father-in-law.
In the meantime, while Laban was away shearing his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household idols, though we are not told why. When Laban was told that Ya’akov had fled, he took his brothers with him and pursued Ya’akov for seven days. During this time Elohim appeared to Laban in a dream and warned him about doing any harm to Ya’akov, even verbally.
When he overtook Ya’akov, he was angry that Ya’akov had deceived him by taking his daughters and children away without telling him. He told Ya’akov that the only thing protecting him was Elohim’s warning. He understood Ya’akov had left because he greatly longed for his father’s house, but then he asked why Ya’akov had stolen his mighty ones.
Ya’akov explained the he had left without telling Laban because he was afraid that Laban would not allow him to take his wives and children with him. It seems Ya’akov may have forgotten Elohim’s promise to guard him or he may have been worried that it might not be Elohim’s will for him to take his wives and children with him. Again, what we do know is that he was afraid that in obeying Elohim he ran the risk of losing his family - at least in his mind.
As for as the idols that had been taken from his house, Ya’akov told Laban to search his camp and with whomever you find your mighty ones, do not let him live.31.32 Of course, he didn’t know at the time that his beloved Rachel had taken her father’s idols. Rachel cleverly concealed the idols so that Laban didn’t find them, but it is interesting that Rachel died shortly after this as they were coming into the land.
When Laban couldn’t produce the idols that had been stolen from his house, Ya’akov finally stood up to him. When he finished, they entered into another covenant together.
If Ya’akov afflicted his daughters or took other wives, Elohim would be a witness between them. (insinuating that there would be repercussions for Ya’akov if he did.)
Neither would pass beyond the heap of stones to do harm to the other.
When the covenant sealed, Ya’akov returned to Kena’an where he was met by the Messengers of Elohim, which he named Ma’cha’na’yim.
But this isn’t a study to scrutinize Ya’akov’s shortcomings - or our own. We don’t review Ya’akov’s life so we can justify our own shortcomings and stay the way we are. Y’H’V’H fulfilled His promise to Ya’akov - He didn’t leave him until He had done what He had spoken to him. In fact, He didn’t leave him until the morning Ya’akov faced his brother - not as Ya’akov, but as Yisrael.
Reviewing Ya’akov’s life should never be an excuse for remaining as we are and doing less than Elohim expects of us. His life should be an encouragement for us to do more for Elohim that we think we are capable of doing.
This par’sha is about overcoming our fears and trusting Elohim so He can complete the good work He has begun in us. Ya’akov endured and suffered a lot in learning this lesson and that’s one of the reasons we are called the House of Ya’akov. We are the House of Ya’akov - not because of how great and strong we are, but because He can take our weaknesses and achieve His purposes when we overcome our fears and trust Him. When all is said and done, the House of Ya’akov is a really great family to be a part of.
21 November 2015