07 Vayetze

וַיֵּצֵא יַעֲקֹב מִבְּאֵר שָׁבַע וַיֵּלֶךְ חָרָנָה׃

Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran.





Brit Chadasha

December 3, 2022

“And he went out”





07 vayetze

Parashat Vayetzei brings us to a climactic moment of a 20-year conflict between Jacob and Laban. So he worked seven more years and finally married Rachel. More hiding and trickery ensued, until finally Jacob decided it was time to leave this toxic dynamic and he snuck away with his family. But Laban caught up to them and he playes as he was hurt that Jacob had left without giving him a chance to say goodbye to his children and grandchildren; Jacob was resentful for the years of hard labor, lies, and harsh treatment.

God’s way with Jacob was different from His way as Abraham or of Isaac. For Jacob, God is about drama and tragedy; we do not see Him intervening in all that happened to Jacob, and on the surface level of Scripture He left Jacob to cope almost entirely on his own. God revealed Himself to Jacob five times, at long intervals, and in each revelation, He made him promises, but He did not actually do anything to save him from his troubles. So, Jacob flees to his mother’s brother’s family. The Torah delights us with the way Uncle Laban serves Jacob his just deserts when he repeatedly changes Jacob’s wages as a shepherd. In a coup of measure-for-measure punishment, Laban deceptively marries Jacob to weak-eyed Leah in place of her younger sister: the beloved, beautiful Rachel.

The Parasha begins with Jacob’s profound, life-changing encounter with God: his dream of the ladder; his vision of God promising that his descendants will multiply and be blessed; and his vow that “if God remains with me…the Lord shall be my God” (Gen. 28:20-21).

But our Parasha includes another profound, life-changing moment of connecting to God—a less famous one—experienced by Leah. After giving birth to three sons and naming each of them in accordance with aspects of her life experience, Leah gives birth again and says hapa’am odeh et Adonai (Gen. 29:35)—this time I will praise/thank/ Adonai—and names her son Judah (Yehudah, from odeh which means God is to be Praise).