weekly torah tidbits

November 17, 2018 - Kislev 9, 5779

VaYetse:  "And He Went Out"


Torah: Genesis 28:10-32:3

Haftarah: Hosea 12:13-14:10

Brit Chadashah (New Testament): John 1:19-51

Perfect Work Through Imperfect Tools, Part 2

     Last week we saw that the L-rd carries out His work and plans through tools that aren’t always reliable. In fact, as we scan the pages of the Word we’ll find the same situation to be true. The men and women of G-d in Scripture were normally strong in faith, but they blew it royally from time to time. How easy is it to look down our noses at them and condemn them for their mistakes—we forget that if we were in the same position, we would not do any better.

     Probably the man of G-d in Scripture that has the worst reputation among believers is Jacob. Poor Jacob! There is probably no other biblical character that has been slammed as badly as Jacob. In commentaries and sermons on this passage we see Esau exalted and Jacob tarred and feathered. Here's an example of this attitude: "Jacob—crooked, grasping, scheming...so mean that he took advantage of his twin brother...to filch his earthly inheritance [and] his spiritual authority...Esau the magnanimous, Esau the large-hearted."

     Is this how Scripture views Jacob? Malachi tells us (1:3) that the L-rd favored Jacob and hated Esau.Hebrews portrays Jacob as a man of faith (11:21) and Esau as a godless [“profane”] man (12:16). This is obviously not a case of favoritism on the L-rd’s part—the L-rd knows the hearts of people. He knew that Jacob, despite his weaknesses, was a man who made a commitment to follow the L-rd.

     In this Torah portion we have one of the most special visits that the L-rd made to any person in Scripture (chapter 31). Jacob sees a vision of the L-rd in his dream and in this dream the L-rd renews the covenant he made with Abraham and with Jacob. In other words, the L-rd had a covenant relationship with Jacob, not only because he was the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. Jacob had a unique and special relationship with the L-rd. As you read the Torah portion, observe all the special occasions of intimate fellowship between him and the L-rd.

     There is another episode that illustrates how the L-rd does perfect work through imperfect tools. Jacob’s relationship to Leah was not an ideal relationship—he was tricked into marrying her by his father-in-law, Laban. Scripture tells us that he disliked her and loved Rachel. Yet, the L-rd used this difficult situation to His advantage—He blessed Leah with four sons. One of those sons was Judah, (which means “the one who praises G-d”) from whom came our Messiah.

     All of us find ourselves in difficult situations, from time to time. How do we handle them—sink into gloom and depression, or trust the L-rd to turn the situation into a blessing? It’s quite a challenge...