In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Joseph Shulam: The Secret to Jacob’s Success [2021]

This portion of the Torah is one of my favorite part of the Torah. You might have the impression that I have already said the same on other portions of the Torah that they are my favorite. It is OK for a person to have more than one portion of God’s word as his favorite.

In order for us to understand why this portion is so important it is important for us to understand what is happening in this “holy” family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There is a song from the 1960’s that says, “Woe is me, there is a scandal in my family.”

I had a good family, but not a family that was post card perfect like in a Norman Rockwell painting. However, all our most revered and honored patriarchs had what I would call “scandalous families.”

Jacob’s family was no less than a super-scandalous family. I think that the Holy Spirit on purpose not only told us these stories but enhanced them with a magnifying glass.

Our Torah Portion starts with the word “Vayetze” – which if translated to plain English would translate “and now Jacob went out”. The background of Jacob’s going “out”, or running way, is of great importance.

You see Rebecca, Jacob and Esau’s mother, received a message. It was not a simple message. Because it was a message of what Esau, Jacob’s brother, said in his own heart.

How could Rebecca know what Esau said in his heart? On this bases the rabbinical tradition is that Rebecca was a prophetess that the Lord reveled to her what Esau her son said in his heart.

Esau said in his heart the following and we are privileged to have Esau’s thoughts reveled to us by the Holy Spirit through Rebecca his mother. This is what Esau said in his heart:

“So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, ‘The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’” – Genesis 27:41 [NKJV]

Rebecca, having received this news about Esau’s intention to kill his brother, is devising a scheme to send Jacob to her hometown and to the home of her brother Laban in Haran, that is in northern Syria, near the town of Aleppo.

It is a long distance for a young man alone to track this distance on foot. Even if Jacob had a donkey it would not be easy, but later on in the book of Genesis Jacob said:

“I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies.” – Genesis 32:10 [NKJV]

I presume that when Jacob says that he crossed over the Jordan River with his staff that he walked and didn’t ride a donkey.

Jacob is actually running from his brother Esau because of Esau’s murderous intent. In order to make this possible Rebecca Jacob’s mother has to invent a good excuse in order for Isaac to agree for Jacob to leave home.

The excuse is that Jacob ought not marry a girl from the local inhabitants of the land of Canaan. She, like Sarah her grand aunt, wants these immigrants from northern Syria to get married to a girl from their homeland, Syria.

This phenomenon is well known among Jews even until now. There is the old adage; “birds of a feather flock together.” So, Isaac can understand this principle because this exactly what his father did for him. He sent to Haran to find a bride for Isaac from the family.

If we read the book of Genesis we can understand why Isaac, the son of Abraham, is not married until the age of 40 years old. Even today this is a bit strange, but in the ancient world that would be 1000 times more strange.

So, what do we find that could be the cause of this strange situation? Here is the answer that I have learned from the rabbinical commentaries for Genesis!

Here is the text that explains the reason why Isaac is not married and why he doesn’t find a bride by himself, and his old father has to worry and send his old servant Eliezer all the way to Syria to the house of Laban to ask the hand of his younger sister Rebecca.

“And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing.” – Genesis 21:9 [NKJV]

“Now it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked through a window, and saw, and there was Isaac, showing endearment to Rebekah his wife.” – Genesis 26:8 [NKJV]

“But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, that she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, ‘See, he has brought in to us a Hebrew to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And it happened, when he heard that I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me, and fled and went outside.’” – Genesis 39:11-15 [NKJV]

Here and in other places in the Bible that the same word that is translated in the texts above as “scoffing”, “showing endearment”, “mocking”, “He came in to me to lie with me,” are all the same Hebrew word, “MeTzaCheK”.

The root of this word is the same word as the name of Isaac, the same as the word “laughing”, “playing”, and having sexual play. As you can see from the context of the story of Joseph and the wife of Potiphar the minister in Pharaoh’s court in Egypt.

Sarah saw Ishmael, Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian handmaid playing sexually with Isaac, who was 13 years younger. Sarah was not a harsh and evil woman to demand from Isaac to expel his son Ishmael and his mother Hagar, without a strong enough reason!

The reason was very justified. Ishmael wanted to make sure that Isaac will not be able to carry out the promises that God promised Abraham. This is the real reason that Sarah wanted to expel Hagar and Ishmael out of Abraham’s camp.

Abraham objected to sending Hagar and Ishmael out of his camp, but the Lord told Abraham:

“But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called.’” – Genesis 21:12 [NKJV]

I like the fact that the Lord said to Abraham, “whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice.” I often joke that I would definitely hear and obey my dear wife Marcia if the Lord would verbally tell me in an audible voice, “Joseph listen to your wife Marcia!”

I said that I say it as a joke, but I like this text how the Lord Himself intervened on behalf of Sarah and supported her decision to kick Hagar and Ishmael out of their camp. According to the rabbinical commentary, this is the reason why Isaac didn’t get married until he was 40 years old.

This is the reason why Isaac himself didn’t look or make an effort to build a family. Isaac was damaged by whatever Ishmael did to him in his very youth.

The love of Jacob for Rachel. That he was willing to work for Rachel a total of 21 years before he would leave Laban’s house in Syria and return to the land of promise, the land that the Lord Himself had already promised Abraham and his seed more than five times.

Jacob made the first agreement with Laban his uncle that he would work seven years for Rachel. Laban didn’t keep his part of the agreement under the excuse that in that part of the world you must marry your oldest daughter first.

Laban lied and cheated Jacob. But Jacob loved Rachel so much that he was willing to work another seven years for Laban in order to marry Rachel.

Then Laban cheated Jacob a third time and essentially didn’t give him any of the financial proceeds from his 14 years of work. So, Jacob agreed to work another seven years to produce some wealth so that he would not take his large family without some financial security to the land of Canaan.

Here is the secret of Jacob’s wealth, a wealth that he would take with him to the land of Canaan, the land promised to his grandfather Abraham, to his father Isaac, and also to himself in that vision of the ladder that stood on the ground and reached to heavens, and the angels of the Lord went up and down that ladder. On that occasion God repeated to Jacob some of the very same promises that The Lord promised to Abraham.

So, what was the secret of Jacob’s wealth that he made when working for Laban his uncle? Jacob comes to Laban his uncle and his father-in-law, and says,

“And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.’” – Genesis 30:25,26 [NKJV]

Laban, Rebecca’s brother and Jacob’s uncle, had a good thing going. Jacob worked for Laban 14 years to just take Rachel and Leah for his wife.

Laban didn’t want to let Jacob go with his daughters and with his grandchildren. But even more grave than this was the Laban didn’t want to have Jacob produce wealth for him.

But, Jacob is not a bad businessman. Remember that Jacob was a good businessman that purchased the inheritance of Esau for a bowl of soup.

So, here is the deal that Jacob makes with Laban so that he could leave with his wives and his grandchildren and with wealth so great that Jacob presented before Esau in order to save his family and return home to the land of Canaan!

In Genesis 30:28, Laban, who was a known trickster, says to Jacob, “name your price and I will pay you!” Jacob’s response is very interesting and extremely wise with divine wisdom:

“So he said, ‘What shall I give you? Name your price and I will give you!’ And Jacob said, ‘You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks: Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me.’ And Laban said, ‘Oh, that it were according to your word!’” – Genesis 30:31-34 [NKJV]

Here is Jacob’s divine wisdom and understanding of the genetics of sheep. Jacob puts his trust in the faithfulness of God’s promises and the oath that he made to the Lord after the dream of the Ladder from Heaven to Earth.

Jacob made a choice – a hard choice but a wise choice. It is better to trust the Lord to provide for me and my family than to be a recipient of charity from fellow men!

Jacob chooses to received the rare sheep and goats in Laban’s flock, “the speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs.” From these more rare animals in the flocks of Laban, Jacob was able to increase his flocks and became a wealthy man.

He gains the right to leave Laban’s house with his wives and wealth in sheep and goats, and through the blessings of the Lord Jacob is now ready to leave Syria and Laban’s household, and go back to the land promised by God Himself to his grandfather Abraham, and his father Isaac, and to himself. Here is Jacob’s secret of success:

“And He said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’” – Genesis 31:12,13 [NKJV]

The lesson from Jacob’s story is this! When people, even people who are your family, take advantage of your goodness and your kindness, the Lord sees these evil actions, and even if we have fallen into the hands of evil people, the Lord is faithful to His children to reward their good deeds, but He is also dedicated to give the evil people and the dishonest people their proper payment.

Every Shabbat we sing right in the beginning of our prayer service the prayer song that in Hebrew is called, “Yigdal.” In English the name of this prayer song is “The Increase!”

This song is attributed to Maimonides, a great medical doctor, rabbi, and commentator of many Jewish rabbinical books. These are some of the words from the “Yigdal” of Maimonides songs:

“God repays each righteous person for his actions, and punishes the wicked in proportion to their wickedness.”

I confess that in my lifetime and during the 57 years of ministry mostly in Israel, I have seen these words from the Yigdal prayer in reality. We must not only think of learning “theology” and “religious” rules and regulations from God’s word.

The main thing that we ought to learn from God’s word is to understand the Lord Himself and the way that He relates to us as His children, and How He works among us, His children. But we also ought to learn how we, as God’s children live and work and serve the Creator of the Universe.

The last point from this reading of the Shabbat song that God rewards the righteous according to their righteousness, and punishes the wicked according to their wickedness. God is always faithful to keep His promises for both the righteous and the wicked.

The story of the patriarchs is a real school for good people who make mistakes and God’s grace expiates the mistakes and sins of the righteous. We also see in the stories of the patriarchs the rules and instructions of how we ought to live our lives and act so that we would be in the favor of God’s grace and goodness.

I pray that I and you too will read the word of God to learn about how to live and do good and be a blessing for the people around us, and for our families, children, and grandchildren. The Torah is a book for the education of our souls.

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching –Vayetze – Part 1 [2021]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.

Shalom. My name is Joseph Shulam. And together with Brad TV we are doing these series of the weekly portions of the Law of Moses, of the Torah throughout the whole year that we have arrived now to chapter 28 of Genesis verse 10, a very fascinating and very romantic and interesting reading from the law of Moses.

And the first word of this Parasha in the Hebrew is vayetze. Vayetze means and he departed, and he went, and he went out. And he went away. He got out. But the word “now Jacob went,” in the English translation is very interesting. What does it mean now he went? What happened that made it that now he has to leave his homeland, his father, his mother, his friends, his location and go away all by himself?

Well, this is what happened, Rebecca, in the previous portion, previous chapter, hears. From where did she hear? What did she hear? She hears what Esau said in his heart. Esau said in his heart, when my father dies, I will kill my brother Jacob for robbing me of my inheritance. For his deviousness. I’m reading into the text a little bit about this deviousness and robbing him of his inheritance.

Jacob Robbed Esau of His Inheritance

But Esau got so filled with anger over his brother, Jacob, his younger brother, Jacob, younger by minutes, not by days. That he decided in his heart to kill Jacob, also because he robbed him of Isaac’s blessing, as we saw in the last Torah portion. Rebecca, the mother, engineered it so that Jacob would put fur on his hands, on his smooth lady-like hands and have hands like Esau, furry hands. Esau was an outdoors man and Jacob was a man sitting in his tent. He was a scholar. He was a philosopher. He was one who contemplated the universe, while Esau went hunting.

Rebecca Learns of Esau’s Intentions

So Rebecca engineered this. Esau got full of anger and decided to kill his brother, but he decided in his heart. But the Hebrew text says “and it was revealed.” It was revealed to Rebecca. Who revealed to Rebecca what Esau said in his own heart? The only one that could know what Esau said or what you say, what I say in our own heart is God himself, the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit reveals it to Rebecca, which makes Rebecca a prophetess.

Rebecca Considered to be a Prophetess by the Rabbis Just Like the Matriarchs

And that’s how the rabbis see Rebecca. She’s like Sarah, and like later on, the mothers of the nation, Leah and Rachel. They are considered prophetess. They hear from the Lord. So she heard from the Lord what Esau said in his own heart, and she invents a scheme for Isaac to agree to send Jacob to Haran, to their home origin town, Haran, Aleppo, or near, very near to Aleppo in Syria today.

So what was the scheme that Rebecca invents? I don’t want Jacob and our children to marry the local girls. Look, this phenomenon is not new. Immigrants, even immigrants to the United States have done that for hundreds of years. When the Jews from Eastern Europe immigrated and came through Ellis Island to New York, they said the same thing about their children. We don’t want our boys to marry Gentile girls, American girls. We want them to marry our own kind.

This is the same phenomenon already in the Torah. There’s nothing new about this phenomenon. But when Rebecca hears that Esau has a plan that when Isaac dies, he’s going to kill Jacob, she wants to have an excuse that Isaac would agree to send Jacob away to Haran, to her brother, Laban. Of course, Jacob must have agreed. Why? Because that’s what happened to him. His father sent Eliezer to Haran, to Nahor, to bring him a bride from their hometown, from where they were raised.

And that’s where Rebecca comes from. So Isaac couldn’t very well say I don’t agree, because that’s how he got married. They brought him a bride from Syria. They brought him two brides, two sisters, Leah and Rachel for Isaac to a… No, I’m sorry. I mixed up a little bit. They brought him Rebecca, not Leah and Rachel.

Jacob Runs Away on Foot

Leah and Rachel came with Jacob from Haran, from Laban’s house to the land that God promised Abraham and his seed forever. So now Jacob is running because his mother and he are afraid that Esau, his brother, will actually fulfill his desire and kill his brother as soon as Isaac dies, but he’s running alone. On foot. How do I know that he ran on foot and he didn’t take a donkey with him? Because Jacob actually says that, he actually says that in Genesis chapter 32 verse 10, it says, “I crossed the Jordan with my staff. Not on a donkey, not on a horse, with my staff, in other words on foot. And so he’s running away on foot, leaving Be’er Sheva.

Jacob Sleeps Outdoors

And he, in our portion of the Torah, he walks until night falls and the sun sets. And he looks for a place to sleep. And the only place you could sleep is outdoors. And he finds a rock as a pillow, and he puts the rock under his head, and he falls asleep in the field outdoors. And then he sees a dream. The dream that he sees, a ladder, a very long, tall ladder that reaches up to the heavens and angels of God are ascending and descending on it.

Jacob Has a Dream

Now this ascending and descending on it is a very interesting text. Usually if you have a ladder, people come down the ladder and then go up. Specially, if they’re angelic beings, heavenly beings, heavenly beings come from up, down. In this ladder, it was the opposite situation. They were ascending, going up first, and then coming down. The rabbis make a big deal out of this.

And the answer, the short answer to this, that these were ministering angels. They were angels that already were sent by God to accompany a saint, a chosen person, somebody who is destined to greatness. So God had already, to protect Jacob on his journey, has already sent angels to accompany him. He didn’t know that until he saw the angels going up the ladder and other angels coming down the ladder.

Angels are a fascinating subject altogether. And we’re going to have to talk about angels on another occasion. But I do want to get into this very important reading of the Torah, and very important elements in it that is for our edification, for our inspiration, and for our wisdom. So here it is.

Essence of Torah Reading

God sends a dream to Jacob, he sent dreams to Abraham before that. And in this dream, there is a ladder and angels of God go up and down. And in chapter 28, verse 13, we read “and behold, the Lord stood above it “and said, ‘I am Lord God of Abraham, your father ‘and the God of Isaac, ‘the land on which you lie.’I will give it to you and to your descendants.’” He is leaving the country. He’s running away from his brother and all of a sudden God comes and stands over him. Anytime that the phrase to stand over somebody, what does it mean in Hebrew? It means I’m here to serve you. As a waiter stands in a fancy restaurant over you and looks at your table and looks at your action.

And the minute you just raise your eyes in a good restaurant and just look at the waiter, the waiter immediately comes and says, “Can I help you?” “What can I do for you? ”Do you need anything? So you miss this in the translation, but if you follow the Hebrew text, lamod aal means to stand over, it means- I’m here to serve you. God comes to Jacob in the dream and says, “Jacob, you’re running away.” “You’re afraid.” “You feel the danger,” “but I’m here.” “I’m here for you.” “I’m here to serve you.”

God Renews His Covenant With Israel

And not only am I here to serve you, you are leaving the land that I promised Abraham and his seed forever. But you should know, although you’re leaving the land, you’re going abroad to another country, hey, this land that I promised your forefathers, Abraham and Isaac, this land I will give to you.

Not only to you, Jacob, but all your descendants. Look, we are here now. My parents came from Bulgaria. I was a year old child in 1947 when they came. I was born in 1946. And most of the people that we have here in the land of Israel are immigrants. They came from somewhere else. We have brothers and sisters in the faith that came from Siberia. Just yesterday I talked to some of them. Came from Siberia.

And we have brothers and sisters that came from Brazil and Chile in our congregation. And we have brothers and sisters that came from the United States, and brothers and sisters who came from Ukraine, and brothers and sisters who came from China, and brothers and sisters that came from Korea. Yes, Israel is a land of immigrants. The state of Israel has only existed 73 years. Not yet even 73, 72 years, soon 73 years, and is a young country. And the majority of the people who live in this land were not born in this land. They were born somewhere else.

God Promises to Return Jacob to the Land

Their parents, if they were born in Israel, then their parents were born somewhere else. Or their grandparents were born somewhere else. So God reassures Jacob in verse 13 of chapter 28, “I will return you to this land “and you and your descendants will inherit the land “that I promised to Abraham and Isaac, your fathers.” Not only that, he repeats the other promises that he made to Abraham and to Isaac. “Your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south.”

God Repeats His Covenant to Abraham

“And through your seed, all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” just the same as in Genesis, chapter 12, the promises that God gave to Abraham. And repeated in chapter 26 to Isaac. Now he’s repeating the same promises to Jacob, to Abraham’s grandson. Now, these promises that are repeated at least three times till now, they’re repeated again in the book of Genesis, are the core issue of today’s establishment of the state of Israel, in the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Moses and King David.

Yes, this is the most repeated promise in the whole Bible. The seed, the land, and the blessing for all the nations. Now the word seed here is important because we find the word seed in the parables of Jesus, like the seed of the mustard. And we think that Jesus is talking about the plant, the mustard seed, no. Jesus is talking about the seed of Abraham. He’s talking about the people, the people are called seed throughout the Bible, much more times than plants and seed of plants are called seed. Seed of Abraham, seed of Isaac, seed of Jacob, seed of Israel.

So God comes down when Jacob is at the lowest point of his life. He’s running away for his life from his own brother, alone, to a far country. We are talking about a long way, hundreds of miles from here to Haran, to Northern Syria. It’s about 250 miles from Jerusalem to the border with Lebanon and from the border of Lebanon to Aleppo is about another 250 miles. About 500 miles away.

He’s has to walk by himself in a hostile land, a land that has the Perizzites and the Jebusites, and the Hittites, and the Philistines, and the Girgashites and the Amorites, all fighting over the land and against each other. So Jacob has to survive that walk. And all of a sudden the dream ends, Jacob wakes up from his sleep. And this is his response, verse 16 of chapter 28. “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”

Hold it Mr. Jacob. Hold it Mr. Issac. Hold it Mr. Abraham. What does it mean I discovered that God is now in this place? I didn’t know that this place that has no temple, no sanctuary, no people from my own family, that know that there is one God. And all of a sudden in this desolate pagan place, God is here also.

Pagan View

This is the pagan worldview. That God is local. You have the God of the Jews, the God of the Egyptians, the God of the Amorites, the God of the Hittites, the God of Moabites, and you see this story very well in 1 Kings with the story of Naaman. Naaman gets healed from his leprosy, and what does he want to do? He wants to load carts full of oxen, no, led by oxen, to fill them with earth from the land of Israel, because now he recognizes the God of Israel and he wants to worship the God of Israel on the land of Israel.

Local God, that’s pagan. But Jacob said, wow, I realize now that my God is here also, where there is no tabernacle, there is no temple, there is no shrine, there is no altar to God, but he’s here. I was afraid because this is an awesome place. There is none other than the house of God and this is the gates of heaven. If God came to me down the ladder with angels ascending and descending and said, I will serve you. I will keep my promises that I gave to Abraham and to Isaac of the land and of the multiplication of the race of the people, and the blessing. Ah, this is an awesome place. Terrible place. Awesome in the sense of terrible, fearful. So there we are folks, Jacob is now on his way north to his uncle’s house. But before that, he sanctifies this place by taking a stone, a stela, the professional name, and anointing it with oil, and announcing that this place now is the house of God.

And before that place was called Bethel, the house of God, it was called Luz. The Canaanite name was Luz. Now Jacob names it Bethel, which means the house of God. And he makes an oath, a very interesting oath. And the oath says, essentially, if God… It’s not a condition, it’s an oath. You could translate it – if or when.

When God brings me back to this place, to this stela, to this pillar of stone that I’ve anointed, where did he get the oil to anoint? Listen, this part of the country is full of olive trees. He could have had a handful of olives and just rubbed them on the stone, you’ll get the oil. So he makes his oath that if God returns him back to the land, to this place, from his long journey, he will make this place a sanctuary, a holy place. And he goes up north, he gets to Haran, he gets to the well. The well is where you meet people. That’s like the local bar, they don’t have alcohol, but they have water.

And the shepherds and the shepherd girls especially, come to the well to water their sheep. At least in the evening they gather there before they take their sheep back to their folds. They gathered there, and here is the romantic part. It is the last part of this portion that I’m going to teach today, this portion has a lot of wealth, and I suggest you read it yourselves from chapter 28, verse 10, until chapter 32, verse nine.

It’s a very interesting portion. Now he gets there, a little bit early, to Haran and to the local well. And there were three flocks already gathered there. And there was a large stone on the mouth of the well, but in order to respect the community and all the shepherds, they waited for all the shepherds to get there and then to take the stone off so that there will be a fair use of the water. A fair sharing of the water and nobody’s going to hog the water. So he’s there, waiting for the flocks to come and open the well. But what happens?

Jacob Meets Rachel – Love at First Sight

Here comes a beautiful girl. And beautiful eyes, and he sees her eyes and he’s impressed by her beauty. And when men see beautiful girls, their instinct is, ah, I’ve got to show this girl who I am. He doesn’t know who she is, but he’s got to show her who he is. So what does he do? He goes, and that large stone that it took several men to move out of the mouth of the well, whoa, Mr. Jacob is going to show off. He removes that stone by himself.

Women can motivate you dear brothers to do things that you never dreamt that you were able to do. And he sees this girl, but before that, he talks to the men and he says to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” And the man answered him, “Yes, we know him.” And Jacob says, “Is he well?” They say, “Yes, he’s well. Even his daughter, Rachel, coming with the sheep.” So Jacob now meets his first relative, but his first relative is this beautiful woman coming with the sheep to water them.

And he sees that the well is blocked with that stone. He sees that the well is blocked with that stone. And he gathers all of his strength, and without permission takes over the field and moves that stone so that Rachel can water her flocks together with the other shepherds. And then Jacob, when he sees Rachel, and she’s already been pointed out by the other shepherds, she is the daughter of Laban, the daughter of his uncle, his mother’s brother.

The Eyes Have It

What does he do? Jacob goes and kisses this supposedly strange girl who is his relative. And he lifts up his voice and starts crying. Hey, nothing will move a girl’s heart more than a crying man who is crying over her. Hallelujah. Jacob is not only Jacob that sits by the tent, but he is a romantic. And he falls in instant love with Rachel, the daughter of his uncle. His cousin. And I’m going to do a second session of the continuation of this portion of the Torah and continue because it’s very important what happens in the rest of the text of this Torah portion. So I’m going to end with this wonderful romantic scene, Jacob tired from walking about 500 miles from here to Haran, falls in instant love with his first cousin, Rachel, and all he saw was her eyes. Instant love, and he goes and kisses her. Hallelujah, for romance in the Bible. Amen.

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching –Vayetze – Part 2 [2021]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.

Shalom. My name is Joseph Shulam, and we are doing together with Brad TV, the Torah portions every week. Sometimes the Torah portions are so important and so long that I have to do a second edition to the first broadcast on Brad TV. So, the last edition was Jacob has arrived in Haran. He went to the well. At the well he meets his first relative for the first time, a beautiful girl named ”Rāḥēl”; Rachel in English.

Jacob Falls for Rachel

He is so impressed by that girl. And he wants so much to impress the girl and the other shepherds, and he moves that heavy stone by himself off the mouth of the well, so that Rachel can be first to water her flock, the flock of Laban, her father. And she takes Jacob, after watering her flock, to Laban, to the house of Laban. Jacob’s uncle, the brother of his mother, Rebecca. And Laban welcomes Jacob and said: “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing?”

What’s happening here? Jacob, of course, arrives at the house of Laban, his uncle, and he needs a job, and Laban needs workers, workers that he could take advantage of. And Jacob says: “You’re my relative. You work for me”. And you know, “even though you’re my relative, I’m gonna pay you something. You shouldn’t be working for me for nothing. And tell me, what kind of pay do you expect? How much money do you expect from me?” Jacob is not thinking of money. He’s thinking of Laban’s daughter, Rachel.

But Laban says: “No, I have two daughters. Two daughters. My older daughter is Leah, and my younger daughter is Rachel “Rāḥēl.” And in the text, the Holy Spirit tells us now what’s the problem, right at the onset of this relationship between Laban and his nephew, Jacob. He says: “Leah.” Jacob is not paying attention. “Leah’s eyes are soft, delicate, but Rachel’s eyes are beautiful, beautiful in form and appearance.”

And Jacob loves Rachel. He doesn’t love Leah; he loves Rachel. And he says to Laban, he answers Laban’s question: “What kind of wages, what kind of salary do you want?” And he says: “I will work for you seven years for Rachel, your younger daughter.” Laban answers Jacob like this, (chapter 29,verse 19): “It is better that I give her to you then that I should give her to another man. Stay with me. “In other words: “come and work.” So, Jacob served 7 years for Rachel. Here is the romantic Jacob. “And they seemed only like a few days for him, for the love he had for her.”

For Rachel. Hey. He worked 7 years. I don’t know what kind of salary he got, but it wasn’t much money. How do I know it wasn’t much money? From the end of the story. And he was waiting 7 years, every day, one more day, counting the days in which he will be able to marry Rachel, Laban’s younger daughter. And when the 7 years are up, he goes to Laban, his uncle, and says:

Jacob Is Ready to Marry Rachel

“Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go into her.” In other words, I may go marry her, have sex with her. That’s a part of the marriage process in the Bible. There are 3 things that make a marriage: a purchase, that’s why we give a golden ring, or a diamond ring, or some kind of, something worth more than a dollar. And then a contract, a marriage contract. A ‘Prenuptial Agreement’ as they say in the United States. And then the third, the consummation of the marriage; sex with your wife for the first time. At least in ancient days, that was the case.

And Laban gathers together all the men of the place and makes a big feast. And the evening comes and he takes Leah, his daughter, and brings her to Jacob. And he went into her. Jacob is so mesmerized, so tired, so excited, that he didn’t pay attention of who are you going to go to bed with. It turns out that he gets Leah instead of Rachel. This is why in every Jewish wedding today, the bride comes veiled like in every wedding, in all the ancient world, but before he enters under the canopy to get married, and before the Rabbi says one word in the marriage, he walks up to the bride and looks under her veil to make sure that he’s getting Rachel and not Leah; that the bride wasn’t switched.

Till this day, this custom exists at every Jewish wedding. Interesting. Laban cheated Jacob. Now, the fact is folks, I’m gonna be honest with you. It’s in our Israeli DNA not to cheat, but also not to be cheated, but to have a fair deal, to make a profit. I worked, I invested, I had agreed, I have a contract, verbal or not verbal, and I want to get my goods. Israelis and Jews generally have this attitude. I am worth something and I am worth what we agreed upon, and I want you to keep your word and your promise to what I agreed with you.

Jacob Works Seven More Years for Rachel

So, Jacob is so much in love that he’s willing to work another seven years to get Rachel, the girl that he loves. And again, like he said in the beginning about the seven, “it was just like yesterday.” After he works another seven years to get Rachel, the one that he loved first, he says the same thing. Fourteen years passed and he worked for meager wages for Laban, his father-in-law, his uncle. And he says: “Oh, it was just like yesterday.” Even about the Fourteen years. Very romantic person. In-love person.

And we can learn, from this the man for sure, we can learn so much from Jacob of this idea, of what it means to love. It means to serve for your wife, before the marriage, in this case. And there’s, if you have a Ketubah, a written wedding agreement , what the New Testament calls “a writing of divorcement”; a contract. What you would owe her, your wife, if you divorce, you have this kind of pre-nuptial agreement. Then you could say what Jacob said: “It was just like yesterday.”

Love transcends time. It was just like yesterday. So, Jacob gets his two sisters, his wives, for each wife he gets from Laban, the father, a servant, a maid. For Rāḥēl he gets Bilhah, and for Leah he gets Zilpah. And now he has a household with 2 wives and 2 handmaids to serve his wives. And, verse 31 of chapter 29: “The Lord saw that Leah was unloved. He opened up her womb, but Leah was barren.” No. Leah was not barren. God opened up her womb, the text says. Rachel was the barren one. The one that Jacob loved the most.

Rachel is Barren

He opened, to compensate for the lack of love, God opened Leah’s womb, and later Rachel was barren, couldn’t have children. So, Leah conceived and bore a son. And he called, she called her first son Reuben. And we have the entire story in our portion about all the sons of Leah. And then again, finally, Leah has all these boys.

How many girls she had, we don’t know, but she probably had some. We know she had some because later on, we find out about what happened, when Jacob returns to the land and he has a daughter called Dinah, and she gets raped by Hamor, the prince of Shechem, the city of Shechem in English, Nablus in the Greek, Greco-Roman name, Neopolis. Like Naples in Arabic is pronounced “Nablus.”

And it was a city dedicated by Herod to Caesar. So, Leah has son after son, after son, after son. Ten sons! And poor old Rachel, nothing. Until finally, the Lord opens up her womb. And first she complained to Jacob that she has no children, no sons, no children. And Jacob cries to God: “Give me children, or else I die.” She says to Jacob: “Give me children or else I die”. And Jacob’s anger was aroused against Rachel. And he said: “Am I in the place of God who held from you, the fruit of your womb?” So she says: “Here is my maid Bilhah. Go into her and she will bear a child on my knees.”

The same thing that Sarah did with Hagar is repeated, repeated here by Rachel and Jacob. And Bilhah conceived a son for Jacob. And Rachel said: “God has judged my case, and he also heard my voice and gave me a son.” So she called that son, Dan. Dan was not the son of Rachel. He was the son of Bilhah; Rachel’s handmaid. But in the end, to make the long story short, God opens Rachel’s womb and she has 2 boys; Joseph and Benjamin. And the Book of Genesis will continue dealing with Joseph and Benjamin.

And, we are now dealing with a large family; 2 wives, 2 handmaids, and 12 children at the end of this Parasha. And we are going to move into the next Parashah that will start with chapter 32. And it will be the beginning of the relationship between the brothers and Joseph, the eleven brothers and Joseph. A whole new chapter, of the development of our patriarchal families that carry on the gene of the Messiah, the gene of salvation for all the nations of the world. May God bless all of you, and continue watching Brad TV, and my analysis of the Torah portions week after week, till the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, and finish the cycle of 54 different readings of the Torah. May God bless all of you. Amen.

Joseph Shulam: If All Is Well, Why Am I Like This? [2020]

Parashat Vayetze, Genesis 28:10 – 32:3, this text is the Torah reading for this Shabbat. The reading from the prophets is from the prophet Hosea 12:13 – 14:10. The reading from the New Testament is from John 1:41-51.

The readings this Shabbat are some of the more exciting texts in the book of Genesis and maybe in the whole five Books of Moses. You have here in these texts the makings of a major Hollywood movie that has intrigue, deception, love, exploitation, a journey of destiny, and the presence of the hand of God, acting behind the scenes, as Deus Ex Machina.

In order to understand the story we have to go back to last week’s portion of the Torah reading. Rebecca the mother of Esau and Jacob, right from the birth of these two men, has to deal with the most existential and modern question. At the very birth of these two men, Rebecca asks the following question: In the New King James Version the text is like this:

“But the children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If all is well, why am I like this?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord.” – Genesis 25:22 [NKJV]

In the JPS, the Jewish Publication Society translation of Genesis, the text reads like this:

“And the children struggled together within her; and she said: ‘If it be so, wherefore do I live?’ And she went to inquire of the Lord.” – Genesis 25:22 [JPS]

The question was understood by the Jewish Publication Society translators, but it was not understood in the early 17th century by the Christian translators of the King James Version. This question of Rebecca reveals to us two things.

First, her life with Isaac received meaning only at the birth of her two sons, Esau and Jacob.

Her very existence was deeply affected by the birth of these two sons, knowing that even before they saw light outside of Rebecca’s womb, they were already struggling with each other.

And second, The struggle between these two babies in their mother’s womb and Jacob’s holding on to the foot, to his brother Esau’s heel, during the birth process, was an indication that something was happening between these two babies that was of deep existential consequence. For this reason Rebecca, in my opinion was seeking the divinely ordained destiny of her only two children.

Her question is:

“If it be so, wherefore do I live?”

Which ought to be spelled out in the following way:

“If these, my only children, have started to fight with each other, already in my womb, what will be their future, and my future, living with these two?”

Will my whole life be spent trying to referee between these two and in the end one will kill the other and our family’s future and the promises that God gave to Abraham and to Isaac, will not they be totally ruined?

This existential question of Rebecca is, in my opinion, the reason that she acted the way she did until, according to my opinion, she saw that the pre-birth ordained destiny of Jacob would be played out to the end.

When Rebecca received a divine revelation following Jacob’s receiving his father’s blessing that Esau was planning to murder Jacob after Isaac’s death, she took the right and righteous steps to save her son from the murderous intents of his brother Esau.

So, she helped Jacob to deceive Isaac and to receive Isaac’s blessing, and helped convince Isaac that their son Jacob needed to leave the country and to go to the north, to Haran, to her brother Laban.

Isaac would have understood this because his father Abraham had also sent Eliezer his servant up north to Haran, to find a bride for him. So, it would have made sense to him to send Jacob up north.

How did Rebecca know that Esau had decided in his heart to kill his brother Jacob? The answer that Jewish tradition gives is simple, Rebecca was a prophetess. She received revelation.

Esau didn’t share the decision that he decided in his heart. He didn’t share with Rebecca and say to his mother, “As soon as my father dies I will kill the little weasel Jacob.”

He decided in his heart, and the texts says:

“So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, ‘The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’” – Genesis 21:41 [NKJV]

How did Rebecca know what Esau’s plan was? The next verse gives us the answer:

“And the words of Esau her older sons were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, ‘Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you.’” – Genesis 27:42 [NKJV]

Who could report to Rebecca what Esau had said to himself in his heart? Only the Holy Spirit that knows what we have in our hearts could have heard the sound of Esau’s decision in his heart and reported to Rebecca that Esau was planning to kill Jacob after his father Isaac’s death. So, it is clear to me, like it is recorded in the Rabbinical tradition, that Rebecca was a prophetess.

Now we can see that Rebecca was not an unfair and manipulative woman that was partial to her son Jacob. She had good reasons for her behavior with Isaac, and with Jacob. She knew from the birth of these two boys, Esau and Jacob, that there was unfairness and an unfair competition between them from her womb.

Esau’s physical strength dominated in the birth and then there is his lack of appreciation for his position as the first born son of Isaac, and for his own inheritance. He showed a lack of interest for and dedication to, the family tradition and for his position in the family, and even for Isaac their father, and disdain for the promises of God to Abraham and to Isaac their father. So Rebecca decided to help God’s plan come together, and I love it when God’s plans are fulfilled!

There is another major biblical principle that comes into play in this narrative. The principle of “mida k’neged mida” – by the measure that you measure you will be measured.

Jacob took advantage of Esau’s weakness and eventually Laban takes advantage of Jacob’s weakness. By the end of the story Jacob will have paid in full for usurping Esau’s inheritance. He pays in cash. This we will learn from next Shabbat’s Torah reading.

Joseph Shulam: Jacob’s Departure and God’s Service to Him [2019]

The reading this next Shabbat is one of my favorite portions of the Torah. It starts with Jacob’s dream, and continues with one of the most romantic stories in the Bible; Jacob falling in love with Rachel near the well in Haran. This parasha is named “Vayetze” (“and he left” or “he went out”). The reading starts in Genesis 28:10 and ends in Genesis 32:3.

Rebecca received information that her son Esau has made up his mind in his heart to kill his brother Jacob after his father Isaac dies. Esau has murderous intent, but still has respect for his father Isaac. He does not want to cause sorrow and grief to his old father.

Netivyah | Parashat Vayetze | Isaac blessing Jacob. Govert Flinck (1615–1660)
Isaac blessing Jacob. Govert Flinck (1615–1660)

You could learn something from this story. Even murderous criminals have some humanity and respect and love for people whom they revere.

Rebecca speedily shares with Isaac that she does not want her son to take a wife from the local Canaanite women. She organizes Jacob to leave quickly from Beersheba and go to her brother Laban in Haran, in Northern Syria. Jacob quickly packs his bag and leaves for Haran alone.

Now all of God’s promises to Abraham and to Isaac are in the balance. Jacob is alone on a long journey out of the land of Canaan, that was given to Abraham his grandfather, and his future is insecure.

He arrives in Bethel (“the house of God”). Actually, the name of the place was Luz before Jacob renames it Bethel:

“And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously.” – Genesis 28:19 [NKJV]

What is interesting is that when Jacob arrives there, and is tired and wants to sleep, it is written in Genesis 28:11 that he arrived at “the place”.

Well, poor Jacob’s whole life is disrupted now. His future is not secure. He is away from home and alone.

In his sleep, Jacob sees a very tall ladder, and there are angels ascending and descending. You would think that, on a ladder from Heaven, the angels ought to be descending first and then ascending. However, the importance of the story is that the angels are taking Jacob’s situation from the Earth up to Heaven. They are pleading for Jacob’s plight, and there is a response:

“And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: ‘I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.’” – Genesis 28:13–15 [NKJV]

God Himself has come to serve Jacob. The phrase, “the Lord stood above it” (could also be read “above him”) means, “I am here to serve you.”

Here is a good example of the very same phrase in the Hebrew:

“So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground…” – Genesis 18:2 [NKJV]

The three men were “standing by him” – they came to serve Abraham and Sarah.

Another example is from Genesis 45:1,

“Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, ‘Make everyone go out from me!’ So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers.” – Genesis 45:1 [NKJV]

The phrase “all those who stood by him” is referring to his servants.

The Lord Himself comes down to serve Jacob, to reassure him of his future, and affirm that the promises that were given to his grandfather Abraham were still in force. This is in spite of the fact that his present circumstance does not look so good.

Angels went up the ladder, and the Lord Himself came to serve and encourage Jacob in this critical moment of his life. This is a moment in which all of the future of God’s plan of salvation is in the balance. Jacob’s security, his home, his brother who wants to kill him – Jacob needs reassurance in all these matters.

This is the meaning of this ladder from Heaven down to Earth. I say “down to Earth” as a double entendre, because in this story a young man has left home, not of his own choice, but because of the bad circumstance in his family. This young man, unmarried, no job, far from home, needed this reassurance of the Lord’s promises.

This is a critical moment in Jacob’s life. He could easily be discouraged and become like the prodigal son. In the next 21 years of his life he will be deceived, lied to, used, and abused. God knew what was facing Jacob, and now He is meeting him on the way to encourage and give him strength to keep on going.

For me, the most important part of this interesting, mystical, and strange story, is the effect that it has on Jacob’s personality and life. This man, who is described as a nerdy young man,

“So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents.” – Genesis 25:27 [NKJV]

I identify with Jacob, leaving his home, alone, facing the world for what it really is, and rising above his fears and insecurities.

The next scene is that Jacob arrives in Haran, he is full of self-confidence and has the “brass” to alone pick up the heavy stone covering the water well in Haran, in order to impress the beautiful young shepherd girl that is bringing the flock of her father to drink from the well. Jacob is no longer the “mild man, dwelling in tents.”

It is because of this revelation of God assuring him of his future and the fulfillment of the promises. In fact, even immediately after the dream, Jacob negotiates with God, a kind of “let’s make a deal”.

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.’” – Genesis 28:20–22 [NKJV]

Jacob is no longer naïve. That same business mind that purchased the birthright from his brother Esau is still there. Now he is making a vow with God, “If God will be with me, and keep me in His way, and sustain me, and bring me back to my father’s house…”

This is not doing business with God, this is a vow that means, “when God does these things He promised me, I will surely give a tenth of all I have to God, and this anointed stone is the marker, the memorial, of this vow that I am making with myself.”

You see, dear brothers and sisters, why I love this story. I was 16 years old when I had to leave my home in Jerusalem, leave my father and mother, and spend a few nights sleeping in the abandoned British military barracks of Camp Allenby in Jerusalem. I also prayed to God the following prayer: “If you give me a chance and if I survive, I promise to serve You, God of Israel, and Yeshua, Your Son and our Savior, till the last day of my life.”

This is the reason that identify with this parasha, even to the detail of my marriage. All I can say is, thank You Lord for your faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. Thank you Lord for keeping Your promises to our forefathers, and to us as individuals, and to Your nation Israel.

The most important thing that I must repeat is, that if you make a promise to God, or a vow, you must keep it at all cost. The only excuse for not keeping your vows and promises to God are “force majeure” things that God has done to keep you from keeping your vows.

However, when you can keep them, you must keep them, if you want God to honor His promises to you as an individual, or His promises in general to all His children in the scriptures. This is a reason why Yeshua was teaching in the Gospels that we should not make vows, but Paul made a vow and kept it even, if it was costly.

He said that he would go to Jerusalem at all costs, even if it meant that he would die. He made the vow in Acts 18, and kept it in Acts 20. God used even the hardships that Paul faced for His glory and the glory of His Kingdom.

Joseph Shulam: How to Deal With Brotherly Conflict [2018]

The Torah reading this Shabbat is Vayetze, from Genesis 28:1 – 32:2. This part of the book of Genesis is actually the story of Jacob, after he runs away from the murderous intentions of his brother Esau.

This is the second story of brothers in conflict, hate, and murderous intentions. The first case was with Cain, who killed his brother Abel out of envy and religious competition. In Jacob and Esau’s case, the two brothers actually started to compete in the womb of their mother Rebecca:

“But the children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If all is well, why am I like this?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her: ‘Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.’” – Genesis 25:22,23 [NKJV]

This conflict between these two brothers is lasting for more than 3500 years, and it is not over yet. It is wishful thinking that it will be over soon.

In the Lord’s economy all things are possible, and we pray daily, and more than one time daily, for the Lord to bring peace between the descendants of these two twin brothers. However, if you believe in the prophets of Israel, you must realize that this battle of the titans is going to last until the return of the Messiah, who will vindicate Jacob and his descendants.

Esau had murderous intents against his brother Jacob. This is the very reason that Jacob has to run away from his brother, and leave the land of promise for Northern Syria. Esau has some good characteristics, and this becomes evident in next week’s reading of the Torah.

Esau is sentimental, and when he meets his brother Jacob and sees that the Lord has blessed him and that he is not hostile toward him, Esau too hugs his brother and kisses him, and in a magnanimous way seems to forgive his brother Jacob.

However, not for long did this reconciliation last – the sons of Esau carried their father’s grievance for many generations. What can we learn from this story of Vayetze?

  1. Don’t take advantage of your fellowman’s weakness! You might get a good business deal for a moment but pay for it for the rest of your life.
  2. Good advertisement works, but if the intent of the seller is to deceive and cheat, it backfires in the long run.
  3. It is always better to make peace, but for peace you have to be willing to pay a high price. The price is worth it to make peace, but you can’t make peace with someone who intends to kill you until the murderous intent is eliminated.
  4. Always be ready to confess and apologize for wrongdoing, even to your enemy.
  5. Never trust your enemy, even if there is a process of negotiation.
  6. Always keep an ace in the hole – like Jacob did when he went to encounter Esau his brother.
  7. In marriage, always make sure that the woman under the veil is Rachael and not Leah. At times it has happened that before marriage she is Rachel and after marriage she turns into Leah, in that case make as many children as you can to keep Leah busy at home. (Please take this as Joseph’s morbid sense of humor. Marcia was Rachel, and is still after 50 years of marriage, my Rachel.)

Joseph Shulam: Jacob’s Dream [2016]

The reading of the Torah on this Shabbat is Vayetze – Genesis 28:1-31:3. The reading starts with Jacob running north to Laban, his uncle, because his mother Rebecca warned him that Esau his brother is looking to kill him after the death of Isaac his father.

On the run, all alone by his lonesome, Jacob reaches Bethel (that in former times was called “Luz”). He is tired, and uses a rock for his pillow and falls asleep. In a dream, Jacob sees a ladder reaching from the Earth to Heaven, and the Angels of God are going up and coming down on it.

The first thing that Jewish commentary tradition does is look at the immediate context. Dreams are an outcropping of a person’s reality and needs. They also have a prophetic angle.

So, Jacob needs to be encouraged and his future is up in the air, and so he needs to know that, although he is leaving the Land of Promise, God is still with him and is going to stand by him and continue to protect and bless and keep His promises which he gave to Abraham and Isaac his ancestry.

This is the essential meaning of the dream. The angels of God are mobile, and they are going up from the Earth and coming down from Heaven to serve God’s children, and in fact all of humanity.

Note that the text presents Jacob as escaping the land of Canaan with almost nothing. He has to walk (travel) by himself nearly 1000 miles to Haran, which is right on the northern border of Syria, right next to the border with Turkey.

The vision of this dream is like an assurance that, although his circumstance is not good right now, God is going to continue serving Jacob. Does Jacob realize that he sinned against his brother Esau when he took advantage of his fatigue and hunger and allowed Jacob his brother to buy the birthright, the inheritance, for a bowl of red soup (maybe Borsht, with red beets and cabbage)?

I believe that both Jacob and Rebecca understood that the deed was not so clean, and when Jacob returns to the land of Canaan he was ready to pay Esau his brother a whole lot of money, sheep, goats, gold and silver, camels, and donkeys, in order to pacify his brother Esau.

However, the most significant part of chapter 28 of Genesis is not the dream itself, but the action and result of that dream. Jacob realizes that he must do something for God and he makes a deal. If God will take care of his needs on this trip to Haran, upon his return to the Land of Promise, Canaan, he will build in this place a house of God.

To seal this promise Jacob anoints a stone and makes a stella (a memorial) to commemorate the event and the promise. Here is a very short rendition of this teaching:

  1. We receive from God! The normal thing is when you ask for something and you receive it – you have to show your gratitude by reciprocal action.
  2. God has and still does, in my opinion, reveal Himself in dreams and visions! The idea that some Protestants inherited from the Catholic Church that the Holy Spirit and God’s revelation is imprisoned between the two covers of the Book (the Bible) is not found in the Scriptures, and in fact is not a valid idea. God has always been the same and He has always given individuals dreams and visions, and the text that Peter quotes from the prophet Joel states this unequivocally. Let us not add or subtract from God’s revelation, and not judge those who claim to have seen a dream or heard a word from God. We can judge the dream and interpret it, and we must evaluate those who claim to be prophets and see if their word is standing in the standards of God’s Word and truth. But, God is God and He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is always faithful to His Word and His promises will all be fulfilled in reality.

Yehuda Bachana: We Are All Made of the Same Stuff [2017]

Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

In the book of Genesis, Jacob is depicted as being a person of profound character. During his lifetime, he changed his disposition and seemingly matured. He went from being the Jacob that harmed other people, to the one who was given the name Israel. Even more so, Jacob continued to develop from a religious and spiritual aspect. Let’s take a look at some of the previously mentioned patriarchs of the book of Genesis and do a quick comparison amongst them.

We encounter Abraham at age 75, when he leaves his country, people, and father’s household. Indeed, he encountered many trials along the way, but they all pointed to a depth of faith that he already possessed. Likewise, the changing of his name from Abram to Abraham was meant to expand his purpose as the father of many nations.

We do not know many details about Isaac from an emotional or personal perspective. Last week we read Parashat Toldot – the account of Isaac the son of Abraham. This Torah portion was meant to discuss the story of Isaac, but instead we quickly move on from his story and focus on Jacob, his birth, his purchase of the birthright, his stealing of the blessing, and his escape to Harran.

What Does Jacob Represent?

Of these three patriarchs, our focus remains solely on Jacob.

From the Torah portions, we learn of the tumultuous relationship he had with his brother Esau, with his parents, with Laban,as well as with his wives and sons.

Furthermore, we also discover the changing of his name from Jacob to Israel and the significance behind it. The question that preoccupied many Torah commentators was why God specifically chose Jacob to fulfill his promise through. This question arose because Jacob’s name was associated with so many scandals. In fact, neither Jacob nor his sons (the heads of the tribes of Israel) had a moment of rest or peace during their lifetimes. Jacob’s family was the type of family that no one would ever want due to its immense dysfunctionality.

His family life was brimming with quarrels, jealousy, hatred,the selling into slavery of Joseph by his brothers, the bitter rivalry between the wives, inequality, and even the mass murder of the inhabitants of Shechem by his very own sons.

There are those who explain that the three patriarchs are the pillars on which the people of Israel are built. Abraham represents the great believer who was willing to sacrifice everything – even his son of promise, Isaac. As we’ve discussed before, the symbol of uncompromising faith is illustrated with Abraham.

Isaac symbolizes the son of promise; he was passive and went along with events that he did not initiate. We also tend to follow suit in this way. We flow into the course of life, we are born, and on the eighth day we enter the Jewish life cycle without anyone asking us, we live the promise that was given to us and to our predecessors.

What does Jacob represent? He is the embodiment of our national character – trouble. We are a people, who throughout history, have lived in instability. As a nation, we have gone through wars, went out and returned from exile, and escaped from those who sought to hurt us.

We can easily relate to Jacob’s story because like many of us, he went through many trials and hardships in one aspect or another. Our father Jacob was cheated several times by numerous people. His own brother desired to kill him. In addition, he had a complicated and difficult relationship with his children. Yet despite these trials, Jacob always sought after peace. I believe that this is a profound quality for us to emulate. In amongst the hardships that we all endure, similar to Jacob’s, at the end of the day, we too ought to seek peace and quiet.

How God Speaks Using Dreams

Going back to this week’s Torah portion, it begins with a dream known as “Jacob’s Ladder,” which is one of the notable subjects from this section.

When God uses a dream to convey a message, there are typically two main ways in which He communicates. Sometimes He speaks in the dream, as He did with Laban and with the King of Gerar. Other times, God shows a particular image in a dream, as He did with Pharaoh and Joseph.

One of the most famous dreams in the New Testament is the one that Peter had on a roof in Jaffa, found in Acts 10. Simon Peter was hungry for bread, and while food was being prepared, he fell asleep and dreamt of food. In the dream, a sheet fell from the sky containing all kinds of unclean animals in it. Suddenly, he heard a command from heaven, “Kill and eat!” Peter’s initial answer was, “No way! I’ve never eaten anything unkosher!”

This dream appeared three additional times after that. Today, there are those who interpret this dream as permission to eat anything. As if the biblical kosher laws do not apply to us any longer and that God had made everything clean. However, if we look at these verses carefully, we can see that food is used simply as a metaphor. In this particular lesson, God taught the first believers as well as to us, the importance of receiving Gentiles into our communities and accepting every person equally.

Peter arose from his dream in a daze. He attempted to sort out what it was that he had seen and what God was trying to tell him. The Lord made His message clearer to Peter when he sent him messengers from Cornelius and commanded him to accompany them back to his home.

Peter understood what God had tried to convey, as can be seen in the following verse:

He said to them:“You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.“ – Acts 10:28 [NIV]

This often misinterpreted dream about food was not meant to be taken as an authorization for the first believers to eat all unclean things. Rather, the dream’s purpose was to teach them to receive and welcome every individual, whether Jewish or not, because we are all created in God’s image.

After Peter arrived at Cornelius’ house, he testified and taught about Yeshua the Messiah. After he finished, the Holy Spirit came and filled the inhabitants of the house and Peter baptized them.

But what happened after that? The story does not end here. When Peter returned to Jerusalem, the believers there complained about him, saying, “We heard that you go to the homes of Gentiles and eat bread there. Why?”

Peter replied, “Wait!” (This appears in Acts 11, from verse 1 onwards.) He went on to explain, “I had a dream and God commanded me not to call unclean what He made clean – then I woke up and God commanded me to go to Cornelius’ house. There I preached the gospel, they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and I baptized them.”

I decided to repeat this story only because the New Testament also tells it twice. This is in order to emphasize the importance of accepting others and that faith is for every person. God is not my God alone and He is not only the God of the people of Israel. God created the world and every man in His perfect image. Man was created as a clean being. I personally prefer not to dwell on the question of original sin and the idea that we were created as sinners. In my opinion, it is not true. God created all of us in His image and in His purity. What we do with our life is another matter.

As human beings, we tend to make a separation between ourselves and others. We put up walls and partitions to keep ourselves safe. But as it is written in Ephesians 2:14, Yeshua broke down the barriers that separated and divided us. The Almighty God is our Lord and Yeshua is the Messiah and King over us all, together as one.

In Conclusion

We discussed the three patriarchs as pillars of our Jewish world, Abraham representing faith, Isaac as the son of the promise and the continuation of the path, and Jacob as a symbol of the instability that we are sometimes met with as well as our yearning for peace and tranquility.

In closing, we are left with the idea that God created us all as equals and that we are all made from the same materials.

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