“Parsha and Purpose” – Vayetze 5782 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Completing our Portraits: Making Jacob’s Dream Our Reality”

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Parshat Vayetze (Genesis 28:10-32:3) 

“Completing our Portraits: Making Jacob’s Dream Our Reality

The dream of Jacob: Angels ascending and descending a ladder connecting the heaven to Earth (Genesis 28:12). The Talmud tells us: what was happening here? The Talmud explains that angels were ascending and gazing at the image of Jacob above; his image that is engraved on the throne of glory, the throne of God, and descending and gazing at his image below. (Chullin 91b)

Ya’akov, Jacob, the patriarch who develops the monotheistic family into a community, has a spiritual presence, both in the heavens – his image is engraved on the throne of God – and simultaneously has a physical presence in this world. That’s the dream!

Angels ascending and descending, comparing Jacob’s image, both physical and spiritual in the holy and in the everyday. The message is that this dream is humanity’s reality. We have the power and the potential in each of us.

That’s not something that angels have. We have the ability to live in both the physical and spiritual realm simultaneously.

Angels go up and down on a ladder; we live in both worlds together. It’s an opportunity for us to bring the physical and spiritual world together to bring into the spiritual realm, the physical and the physical into the spiritual realm.

This dream, the dream of our patriarch, Jacob, of Yisrael, is a question to each and every one of us. Do our physical and spiritual portraits match as Jacobs did? And if they don’t, what can we do to make sure that our spiritual likeness and our physical likeness match in both worlds?

How do we make sure that they resemble each other?

You know, sometimes people attack us, and that can bother us. We start to reevaluate our lives. But that doesn’t count, because we are God’s children.

And the question that we really need to ask ourselves, as partners of God: do our physical and spiritual portraits match?

That’s what should challenge us. Nothing else.

And if our physical and spiritual portraits don’t match, how do we change our image?

How do we make sure that they begin to resemble each other?

The Talmud continues: when they saw that humankind could live in both worlds, the angels subsequently became jealous of Jacob. They wanted to endanger his life; and immediately Jacob received divine protection.

As the verse states, “And behold, the Lord stood over him.” (Genesis 28:13)

Rav Shimon ben Lakish says, If the Torah didn’t tell us this – that God protected humankind – it would be forbidden for us to say it. But it is like a father who fans his son to keep him cool, to keep him comfortable. (Chullin 91b)

That’s the relationship that we have with God. You see, we are God’s partners. We are here to finish what God began.

And therefore, the dream, or our reality is, that we live in two worlds, like Jacob, a physical and a spiritual.

We can’t waste our energy on what other people say about us or feel about us. Our primary concern and goal has to be: is our heavenly likeness and physical likeness an extension of each other? And if they’re not, how do we make sure that Jacob’s dream becomes our reality?

Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Vayetze (Genesis 28:10-32:3) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am …

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The Mandrakes and the Horoscope Rabbi Chaim Navon is a Ra’M (senior rabbinical teacher) at Midreshet Lindenbaum What was the first fertility treatment ever in Jewish history?  Well, it was probably the Mandrake plant, or duda’im, to use the Biblical term.  The Torah describes the tense atmosphere that prevailed between Leah and Rachel because of …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Vayetze 5781
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Unity without Uniformity: Merging Many Stones into One”

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“Unity without Uniformity: Merging Many Stones into One”

The book of Bereishiet is known as the book of Yetzira, the Book of Creation.

It begins with a focus on the physical creation of the world, and then continues with the creation of the Jewish people.

Avraham and Yitzchak both have a singular child that represents their Judaeo-legacy and contribution – moving to Yaakov, Rachel Leah, Bilah and Zilpah who gives birth to the family that becomes the Jewish people.  

A cursory reading of Bereishiet will find that disagreement, dissenting opinions between family members is part of our DNA emerging from this Sefer Yitzira. Ramban on Exodus, introduction

Before we lament this, we should remember that this is a genetic feature, an opportunity, not a flaw – as seen in this week’s portion.

Parshat Vayetze begins with a seminal moment in Yaakov’s life which has far-reaching implications: Genesis 28:11

“וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם וַיָּלֶן שָׁם כִּי בָא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ”

“As darkness approaches Yaakov spent the night in the place

“וַיִּקַּח מֵאַבְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם”

“And he gathered from the stones of the place”

“וַיָּשֶׂם מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו”

“And he put the stone under his head”

“וַיִּשְׁכַּ֖ב בַּמָּק֥וֹם הַהֽוּא”

“And he lay down in that place.”

Rashi asks: Yaakov gathered many stones, but rested his head upon just one. How did this happen?

Quoting the Gemara in Chulin, Rashi explains that the stones were quarrelling. One said – upon me let this righteous man rest his head – and the other said – upon me let him rest. Whereupon God made them all into one stone.  Chullin 91b

What does this mean?

According to Rav Yehuda Amital, ztz”l, the stones represent the 12 tribes of the Jewish people.

It is significant that this merging of distinct stones into one occurs specifically in relation to Yaakov, highlighting his unique role amongst the Avot.

In contrast to Avraham and Yitzchak, each of whom have a particular individual focus: Avraham personifying chessed – loving-kindness – and Yitzchak exemplifying gevurah – inner spiritual strength…

….Yaakov, as the father of the twelve tribes, is the personification of tiferet – splendor – the result of the merging of various strengths together symbolizing the power  of healthy diversity in the patriarch who establishes  Jewish people.

In gathering those stones, Yaakov learns the lesson that his mission is to recognize that each of his children, each of the tribes each of the stones, has its own strengths, beauty and color. 

And his task is to maintain those unique individual qualities even while fusing them together as a whole.

What an important message for us in a world in which people are busy admiring JUST their own stone and its own unique color!

Looking ONLY at our own perspective, our own paradigm of Judaism. Thinking that our way is the only way.

The individuals who say, “upon me let this righteous man rest his head.” 

But if we are to realize the dream of Yaakov, we must address the opportunity of bringing all of Yaakov’s children together in harmony.

We must strive to embrace our differences and come together in such a way that allows us to rest our collective head on one, unified stone.

May we work tirelessly and ceaselessly to bring that vision to reality. 

Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom: Vayetze (Genesis 28:10 – 32:3) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had placed under his head, and set it up as a monument, and poured oil on the top of it.” [Gen. 28:18] Our Biblical portion, Vayetze, tells …

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Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Vayetze (Genesis 28:10-32:3)  By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –  “And Jacob kissed Rachel, and he lifted up his voice and he wept” (Gen 29:11) The Bible presents two models for finding one’s life partner: the Isaac-Rebekah arranged marriage model, and the romantic Jacob-Rachel model. In both instances, there must be “love” (ahava): …

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