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Parashat Vayetze

Between Edom and Lavan

At the beginning of Parashat Vayetze, Ya'akov flees from his brother after the painful episode of the sale of the birthright and the blessing of his father Yitzhak.

It would seem that Ya'akov had a problem with colors. He fled from Edom (Heb. Red) and fell into the hands of Lavan (Heb. White). He had no other place to go. He felt like the People of Israel on the shore of the Red Sea in the desert with the Egyptians behind them and the sea in front of them.

What should he do?

One wants to kill him and the other exploits him and makes him realize that he has much to learn about cheating and exploitation. The former threatens his body and the latter threatens his spirit.

Ya'akov did not have an easy life. He lost his beloved wife prematurely. His daughter Dina was kidnapped and raped by Shechem the son of Hamor. He saw his son Reuven lie with his mistress Bilha. He suffered the disappearance of his beloved son Yosef, and thought that he had died. Ya'akov himself speaks of his difficult experiences in Parashat Vayigash when he says to Pharoah: "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been" (Genesis 47:9)

However, this upheaval that occurs in our father Ya'akov's life in our Parasha, does him good. In retrospect, we can say that between our Parasha and Parashat Vayishlach, Ya'akov undergoes the process of changing from the "Ya'akov" to the "Yisrael".

The struggle with the angel that will take place next week is only the end of the process. This process and the name change that takes place in Parashat Vayishlach, bears witness to the victory of our father Ya'akov. The name "Ya'akov" reminds us of the word "akov" (Heb. crooked) and the name "Israel" reminds us of the word "yashar" (Heb. straight, upright).

Ya'akov escapes from Cana'an "akov" (a Crooked) and a liar, after twenty years he returns to Cana'an "yashar" (straight, upright) after having tasted integrity and fairness. He has become another person and returns to Cana'an a mature man. Between the flight from Edom and the flight from Lavan, he has found himself.

There is a story that once there was a farmer who asked G-d for control of the natural forces so that his crops would succeed and G-d granted his wish. Thus, every time that the farmer wanted a light rain, there was a light rain and every time he wanted sunshine, the sun shone.

However, at harvest time it became apparent that all his work had been in vain, and his year's work a total failure.

The man approached G-d, hurt and angry and asked him about the unexpected results. Why, if he had the power to control the natural forces, did everything come out the opposite of what was expected?

G-d said to him: "You asked for the things that you wanted, but what you wanted was not necessarily what the earth needed. You wanted sun and light rain, but you never wanted a storm and it is on the contrary the storms and heavy rains that are beneficial to the earth, frightening the birds and insects and cleansing the crops from pests."

Sometimes there is nothing more beneficial in life than a storm, even if it hurts a great deal (even the purest oil undergoes a painful process of crushing) Who knows what would have happened to Ya'akov had he not experienced this upheaval. What would his life have been without the pursuit of Edom and the exploitation of Lavan?

It is possible that Ya'akov would have remained the same spoiled child in Rivka's house, while she decided everything for him. Perhaps he would have remained the same "innocent man sitting in his tent" living in the shadow of his dominant Yiddishe Mame who would protect him from every possible upset.

Who would have guessed that between Edom (red) and Lavan (white) Ya'akov would find "a rosy life" (perhaps for the only period in his life)? Precisely in this difficult period he found happiness.

And the literary expression is: he labored for seven years in order to win Rachel for his wife and the seven years were in his eyes "like a few days" (Genesis 29:20). Only a happy man can feel that seven years of hard labor are like a few days...

Sometimes the nature of a storm is such that it can also be beneficial.

Weekly Torah Portion

Old Hebrew Prayer Book
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