Vayetze – “And He Went Out”

Shabbat Shalom! This week’s parasha is Vayetze, which means “And He Went Out” and covers chapters Genesis 28:10 – 32:2. 

We start this parasha with Jacob on his travels from Beersheba headed towards Haran, where his family decided to spend the night. While sleeping, God reached out to Jacob in a dream. 

Jacob then makes a vow, promising if God takes care of his material needs, he will tithe a tenth to the Lord. Jacob built a pillar and anointed it with oil and named the place Bethel, meaning the House of God. 

In chapter 29, Jacob meets Rachel and is awestruck by her beauty, it was love at first sight. Jacob then asks his uncle Laban to marry Rachel. An agreement is reached that if Jacob works for Laban for seven years, then he will be allowed to marry Rachel. However, Laban had other plans. When the seven years are finished, a feast is thrown for the marriage. Laban deceives Jacob and marries him to Leah, his eldest daughter instead. After Jacob confronts Laban for tricking him, Laban says if Jacob works for another seven years, he can marry Rachel. Jacob agrees and finally can be with Rachel.

However, we read in chapter 29 that Leah was hated, but the Lord loved her and gave her children before Rachel. Leah hoped that Jacob would love her after bearing him four children, but that was not the case. Their children’s names are Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.

I am calling chapter 30, “the battle of the brides”. Rachel becomes envious of Leah because she has no children. Rachel argues with Jacob, blaming him for not giving her any children saying, “Give me children, or I shall die!”. Jacob gets mad and says, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” This is clearly not the way we are supposed to have disagreements in our relationships. This is the Bible showing us that these are real and flawed people, with real emotions. 

Since Rachel cannot conceive, she tells Jacob to have sex with her servant Bilhah. Bilhah then gives birth to Dan and Naphtali. Since these children come from Rachel’s servant they are credited to Rachel. Leah will not let this battle end with a “tie” but cannot seem to have more children. So borrowing from Rachel’s playbook she gave Jacob her servant Zilpah. Zilpah gave birth to Gad and Asher. Then Leah gave birth to Issachar, Zebulun, and a daughter named Dinah. Rachel then finally has a child of her own bearing Joseph. Through this “battle” we see the terrible effects it has on Jacob’s family. 

This is a jealousy we will see passed onto their children. In relationships, we can only love one person. When Jacob tries to have more than one wife, he ends up only loving Rachel and Leah is then hated. God has made us to be with one other person, joining them in one flesh.

The second half of chapter 30 is a battle of wits and deception between Laban and Jacob. Jacob wants to leave Laban’s house with his family, but Laban wants God’s prosperity that follows Jacob. Laban agrees to give Jacob a part of his flock but only the speckled animals. These animals were then moved away so Jacob would not have them and Laban left Jacob for a time. However, Jacob knew the flock and began to breed the best animals to be speckled, and the weaker animals to be spotless. Eventually, Jacob had a much stronger flock than Labans.

In chapter 31, Laban and his sons do not look kindly towards Jacob. They believe Jacob has stolen everything that Laban has to offer. As a result, Jacob secretly goes out of Laban’s house and Rachel steals her father’s idols. Then Laban and his kinsmen pursue Jacob and his family. I imagine a Scooby-Doo cartoon, where they are chasing each other constantly. Laban does eventually catch up to Jacob. However, God comes to Laban the night before they meet and gives him a warning to say nothing good or bad to Jacob. Both Jacob and Laban come to an agreement and make a peace treaty with a border for their lands. There is a pillar built and a sacrifice given to the Lord, that place is named Galeed and Mizpah. 

This parasha ends on a cliffhanger with Jacob sending a message to his brother Esau after many years apart. 

What are we to take away from this Parasha? We should learn to trust in God and not deceive others because we desire what they have, it just leads to suffering. In the beginning, we find Jacob fleeing Esau because he deceived his father into giving him the blessing. Then Jacob was deceived by his uncle, tricked into working for him for 14 years for his wife. Like this parasha, we can find ourselves like Laban and Jacob deceiving one another to get the things we want and destroying a relationship. 

Or like Leah and Rachel, fighting with one another for someone else’s love and attention and hating each other.

In this parasha, everyone, like us, often has their eyes on the wrong thing. We focus on wealth, power, or romantic love as our first love instead of the Lord.  Instead of deceiving others when we are met with deception, we must not deceive back and try to one-up the other person. We are to be honest and blameless, no matter how hard that is. Honesty may not be popular with other people but we should only care about how the Lord views us. His love, His attention, far surpasses anything we will receive on earth. We are to always remember God always keeps his promises. We do not have to deceive or hurt other people to be blessed. He will watch over us, He will be with us, He will love us. We need to keep our eyes fixed on Messiah, through the love of the Cross and knowing He will meet our true needs. Jesus is the beacon of light that will guide our paths just as the Lord guided Jacob through all the situations in his life.