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November 11, 1994 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-11-11

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Congregation Beth Shalom

Jacob's 'Trials'
Are Family Matters



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■ 111

Congregation Beth Shalom

14601 West Lincoln Road • Oak Park, MI • (810) 547-7970







From our new collection I I

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4716 WOODWARD • SOUTH OF 14 MILE: • (810) 549-1221

he weekly Torah reading
begins the biography of Ja-
cob with his encounter with
God. Jacob is now in exile.
Utterly alone... no longer under
the overprotective mother, we
find him on his way from Beer-
sheba in Southern Canaan to Ha-
ran in northern Mesopotannia.
This sedrah will find Jacob com-
pletely transformed by his trou-
One night he stopped at a
nameless place to rest. He took a
rock for a pillow and unexpect-
edly during his dream he had a
theothany with God who freely
revealed himself to an amazed
The dream itself showed clear-
ly a stairway reaching up to the
sky with angels of God going up
and down on it. He dreamed that
God Himself was standing at the
head of the stairs saying to him,
"I am the Lord, the God of your
father Abraham, and the God of
Isaac. The ground on which you
are lying I will-assign to you and
your offspring."
The next morning, Jacob
memorialized the events of the
dream, giving a name to that
site, Beth El, and making a vow
to God. The vow that Jacob made
under the impact of his extraor-
dinary dream experience was in
the way of a contract. If God will
protect me on this journey, then
He shall be my God. Then Jacob
took a stone to be a witness to his
Inspired by this experience at
Beth El, the sedrah tells how Ja-
cob makes his way to Haran.
Jacob applied for a job with La-
ban and agreed to served Laban
in return for wages, being La-
ban's daughter. But Laban had
two daughters, the older one be-
ing Leah and the beautiful
Rachel the younger.
The Torah says that Leah had
"weak eyes. Rachel was shapely
and beautiful". Jacob agreed to
serve seven years in service in
lieu of the usual bride price. La-
ban agreed because marriages
between relatives were regarded
as highly desirable. But Laban
deceived Jacob, substituting Leah
as the bride for Rachel. Laban ex-
cused himself in his deception
saying that it was the local cus-
tom to have the older daughter
marry first.
Even though Jacob loved
Rachel more than Leah, it was
Leah, the lesser loved and the in-
nocent victim of her father's du-
plicity, who became the
beneficiary of God's compassion.
She was blessed with many chil-

dren. Rachel had none. Finally,
the text says that "God remem-
bered Rachel and opened her
womb. She conceived and bore
children. "
A complicated relationship be-
tween Jacob and Laban now un-
folds as Jacob decides to return
home and slip away when the op-
portunity presented itself. Jacob
lost no time in taking advantage
of Laban's absence. Rachel also
lost no time in taking with her
the household idols called "ter-
afim". Those ancient idols of pa-
gan gods were thought to be
guardians of the household.
Laban believed his household
gods would protect the food sup-
ply and assure the general well-
being of his family When Laban
found out about Jacob's flight, he
set out in hot pursuit to catch up
with his son-in-law. He had dis-
covered his terafim were gone.
Laban searches Jacob's tent for
the terafim, then Leah's tent,
then Rachel's tent.

Shabbat Vayetze:
Genesis 32:4-36:43
Hosea 11:7-12:12.

He finds nothing but didn't re-
alize that Rachel was sitting on
her camel cushion with the ter-
afim under it. Rachel could not
rise because she was sitting on
Laban's gods in a state of men-
strual impurity. Commentators
noted Rachel's actions as a con-
temptuous rejection of the idea
that Laban's cult objects would
have any religious worth.
Laban, being satisfied of Ja-
cob's innocence, agreed to a pact
of peace between him and Jacob.
Laban bade his sons and daugh-
ters and grandchildren good-bye
as Jacob went on his way. Thus
ended the Bible's dramatic en-
counter when in-laws become
out-laws. ❑

Richard C. Hertz is the rabbi emer-

ilus of Temple Beth El.

Forum Topic:
The Mormons

On Nov. 14 at 8:30 p.m., Rabbi
Sherwin Wine of the Birming-
ham Temple will discuss "The
Mormons: From Salt Lake to the
World" at the temple. A discus-
sion will follow the talk. There is
a charge.

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