Sedra of the week: Vayetze

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Sedra of the week: Vayetze

Rabbi Garry Wayland looks ahead to the forthcoming portion of Torah

Jacob is on the run for his life from his brother Esau – fleeing to find refuge in the house of his uncle – and has one of the most famous and transformative dreams in the Torah: Jacob’s ladder, the proverbial ‘stairway to Heaven’. 

God shows Jacob he is not alone, but escorted by angels and promises the Land of Israel will be his inheritance, with his descendants being as numerous as the ‘dust of the earth’. 

Jacob is utterly overwhelmed by the experience: ‘How awesome is this place! God is indeed here and I did not know!’ 

What started off as a lonely, dangerous trek is suddenly transformed. The next morning, his fears about the road ahead seem to melt away: ‘Jacob lifted his legs…’ 

Rashi explains this unusual phrase as meaning that when he found out he was promised an inheritance in the land of Israel, as well as guaranteed protection from harm, ‘his heart lifted his legs, and became lighter to walk’. 

Similarly, the Netziv explains that Jacob was ‘walking on an open path, with no obstacles in his way.’ 

That is, despite the arduous and perhaps dangerous path ahead, Jacob now viewed the journey differently: he had a new-found vision and confidence, and so was less troubled by the uncertainties of the road. Every step was energising rather than draining. 

Of course, not all of us are privy to such revelations as we may flee from danger and set out on an uncertain path. Nevertheless, as spiritual heirs to Jacob, our paths are not really new: the context may differ, but the content of the challenges – uncertainty, lack of confidence in our capabilities, trust in those around us – is ultimately the same. 

Just as those who came before us – starting with Jacob on his lonely path – heard the Divine echoes from their footsteps so, too, we can find the strength and inspiration to ‘lift our legs’ and the hearts of those around us.

  •  Rabbi Garry Wayland is a teacher and educator for US Living and Learning

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