Sedra of the week: Vayeitzei

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Sedra of the week: Vayeitzei

Rabbi Alex Chapper looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

Rabbi Alex Chapper

Everyone has dreams, some more memorable than others. One of the most famous dreams is recorded in the Torah – Jacob sees a ladder reaching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it.

I am sure Freud would have enjoyed analysing it, and the commentators offer many explanations of it, but let us focus on Jacob’s reaction on awaking from his sleep.

As if he has made a remarkable personal discovery, he says: “God was in this place but I did not know it.” What did Jacob suddenly realise that triggered him to make this statement?

To appreciate it, we need to view the Sedra as one long account of the difficulties he encounters. He has to escape from his brother Esau; working for Laban, he is tricked into marrying Leah and Rachel; he and his family are pursued by his father-in-law, who accuses them of theft.

Jacob could have been forgiven for thinking that God, who had protected Abraham and Isaac, had abandoned him. It is only after his dream that he understands that, even in the depths of despair, God is with him – not only then, but at all times. In all circumstances, God’s providence, although not clearly apparent, is constantly at work.

Jacob, as we all do, struggles with this concept, but concludes that spirituality is not some ‘way out’ theory, God is not an abstract, at best to be dreamed of in heaven but not to be found on Earth, never to be encountered in our lives. God’s trace is in everything we experience.

So in times of national or personal difficulty, upset or uncertainty, Jacob’s legacy is the knowledge that, even if it is not immediately evident, God’s guiding hand is constantly at work, His help is always nearby and we are not alone.

υ Alex Chapper is Senior Rabbi at Borehamwood & Elstree Synagogue

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