Goooooooood evening everyone and welcome to this week’s Better Know a Parsha!
This week we’ll be visiting Vayeitzei and we’ll meet the fightin’ Sister Wives! Literally!
For those who don’t remember, we pick up this week as Jacob has fled from his brother Esau who wants to kill him for stealing his blessing from Isaac.
On his way to Padan Aram, where his Uncle Laban lives, Jacob stops to have a bit of a snooze.
While he’s sleeping, Jacob has one heck of a dream. He sees a ladder reaching all the way up to heaven with angels climbing and descending between him and the land upstairs.
Then God appears and repeats a bunch of the promises he made to Abraham and Isaac.
He told Jacob he would inherit the land he was sleeping on, that his offspring would be numerous and that he will not forsake him.
Jacob wakes up and is like
He blesses the spot and pours oil on a rock so he can make sure he remembers where it is when he comes back through.
Side note: the oil on the rock thing really works. We did it in 5th grade when we learned about this Parsha, shoutout to Morah Leeora and the HDS crew!!
Jacob arrives and sees Laban’s daughter Rachel and… well…
So he promises Laban he’ll work for him for seven years to earn his daughter’s hand. Laban agrees and Jacob goes to work.
After the seven years go by Jacob is all “let’s get this thing on,” so Laban arranges a big wedding fest.
However, he switches his daughters, and gives Jacob the older—but less desirable—Leah instead!
This is why we now have a ceremony as part of the Jewish wedding ceremony where the groom lifts the veil to make sure his bride is the right one before the ceremony starts.
So Jacob offers to work for seven more years to marry Rachel as well. Laban agrees and Jacob marries the younger sister a week later instead of waiting seven years.
Leah gave birth to four children but Rachel was baby-less.
To make matters worse, both women also gave their hand maidens to Jacob as concubines and they each popped out two kids but Rachel still had nothin’ goin’ on down there.
One day, Leah’s oldest son Reuben (like the sandwich) was picking flowers in the field. Rachel liked them and asked if she could have them. Leah told her she would exchange the flowers for “sleeping with Jacob” privileges.
Rachel agrees, and Leah promptly has two more sons and a daughter (we’ll hear more about her down the line).
And then finally Rachel has a son! You might have heard of him!
At this point Jacob wants to leave but Laban tells him to name any wages he wants and he’ll pay it.
Jacob asks that he be allowed to keep all the striped sheep he raises. Laban agrees.
Here’s where things get a little weird. Jacob strips the bark off some sticks so they’re striped and puts them in front of the sheep while their mating. All of the sheep and goats that are born are then striped.
So Jacob becomes real rich and dips out while Laban is off on a trip. For some reason, Rachel also takes one of Laban’s idols with her.
Laban gets mad and chases after them. God comes to him in a dream and warns him not to hurt Jacob or his family.
So when they finally meet up Laban’s all “I’m just so mad I didn’t get to wish you goodbye!”
Jacob and Laban make nice and build a big stone monument to commemorate how great they both are.
Jacob and his family head back to Canaan where we’ll catch up with them next week on As the Torah Turns.
Shalom y’all and welcome to this week’s edition of Better Know a Parsha!
First of all, would like to apologies for the tardiness of this week’s episode. Last week was crazy hectic at work (Wrote a large two-part story on mental health funding in Southeast Michigan if you’d like to check it out) and then weekend travel to visit my sister prevented me from finishing up. Anyway, on to the Parsha!
This week we’re reading Toldot: The fightin’ story of brotherly “love”!
Shoutout to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, which happens to be my roommate’s hometown and tends to show about as much brotherly love as our main characters in this parsha.
But I digress. This week is another action-packed affair, so let’s get going.
The parsha opens with Rebecca having trouble conceiving (never heard that one before, right?) but she and Isaac pray really hard.
And lo and behold, after 20 years she becomes pregnant.
But Rebecca’s pregnancy was no joy ride (not that I’m implying any pregnancy is a joy ride, but her’s was especially rough).
God tells Rebecca that the reason she’s in so much pain is that she has two children—who will become two nations—struggling insider her.
Shortly thereafter, Rebecca gives birth to twin boys. The first to come out is a hairy ginger named Esau (Eisav in Hebrew).
To be fair though, Esau was not your typical ginger. This was a man’s man. He was a hunter, he chased women, he was none to bright, probably the closest thing the Bible gives us to this guy:
The second-born son comes out clutching Esau’s heel! The kid wouldn’t let go.
Because he was holding the heel (in Hebrew ah-kev) his parents named him Jacob (Hebrew name: Yaakov). Jacob was much more of a quiet type than his brother. He preferred reading and studying rather than going out and hunting.
So one day Esau comes back from the fields and is famished.
Jacob is chillin’ and cookin’ some stew, so he tells Esau he’ll give him some, if Esau gives him his birthright as the firstborn.
Esau accepts and eats the stew and probably forgets the whole thing ever happened
Now we find out there’s another famine in Canaan so Isaac sets off for Egypt with his fam (wait, this sounds familiar). He doesn’t quite make it there because got tells him to chill in a place called Gerar. Then Isaac pulls an Abraham and tells everyone Rebecca is his sister.
As you might guess, people want to sleep with Rebecca, this time the king intervenes, and of course instead of getting mad gives Isaac lots of gifts.
Isaac becomes extremely wealthy, the crops grow well for him, and he starts re-digging some of his dad’s wells.
Eventually, the locals become envious and ask him to leave, which he does rather graciously.
At this point we learn Esau has taken a couple of wives for himself that his parents are not thrilled about because they were pretty into the idol worship.
Now this is where things get good. Isaac tells Esau he wants to bless him, but first he should go to the field and hunt for some game for him to eat.
So Esau goes off to do as his father asked.
Rebecca had overheard the conversation and told Jacob to pull a fast one on his old man—who was practically blind at this point—by dressing in Esau’s clothes in order to steal his older brother’s blessing.
Jacob gets the clothes while Rebecca prepares some meat. She also took hairy goatskin and put it on Jacob’s arms and neck so he’d feel more “rough” like his older brother.
Jacob comes to his father who is at first a little dubious that he was able to hunt and prepare the meat so quickly, but Jacob assures him that God helped him out. Isaac feels the goat skins over his hands and says that the “voice is the voice of Jacob but the hands are the hands of Esau.”
Isaac checks with Jacob one more time to make sure he’s really Esau.
So Isaac eats the food and then blesses Jacob with all his might. He asks God to give him the dew of the heavens and the fatness of the earth. He tells Jacob that nations shall serve him and kingdoms bow before him.
“You shall be a master over your brothers and your mother’s sons shall bow down to you. Those who fuse you shall be cursed and those who bless you shall be blessed.”
Jacob thanks his dad very much for the blessing and gets out of there because he knows Esau will be coming back soon.
When Esau returns, he cooks his dad his meal and brings it to him. Isaac realizes he gave the blessing to the wrong son and is very upset, but tells Esau there isn’t much he can do about it. He already told Jacob that he’d be a master over his brothers.
So he gives Esau a much less cool blessing, telling him he will live by the sword. Esau is righteously angry with Jacob.
Neither Isaac nor Rebecca want to see any fratricide, so they send Jacob away to find a wife back in Padan Aram—where Abraham, Sarah and Rebecca were all born. Jacob took their advice and went off on his way.
And here the parsha ends. It’s a lot of narrative! Stay tuned next week for the next edition of As the Torah Turns.
Happy mid-week learning!
Welcome to this week’s episode of Better Know a Parsha.
This week we’re visiting Chayei Sarah: The end of the road for both Sarah and Abraham.
Chayei Sarah literally means “The Life of Sarah,” but the parsha opens with the death of Sarah.
Thankfully Sarah had lived a good long life, seduced a couple of kings, given birth to Isaac (forefather #2) and died at the ripe old age of 127.
So once Sarah has died Abraham turns his attention to where he will bury his wife. He does not have a family burial ground (remember, he came to this land with nothing) so he sets out to find a spot.
He settles upon the Machpela cave near Hebron.
Now there’s a little bargaining. Abraham says he wants to pay for the land, the owner wants to give it away. It’s the reverse of what you see my dad doing in the Shuk.
So Abraham gets the land, buries Sarah and then turns his attention to finding a wife for Isaac. He turns to his servant and has him testify that he will go back to Abraham’s homeland and find him a suitable wife.
Here’s the funny thing though, we learn here what “testify” actually means. Basically, we’re talking swearing on something, and if you think about what the route word for “TESTIfy” is… Let’s just say that’s where the servant had to place his hand while swearing the oath.
So the servant goes off to Abraham’s homeland and prays while he’s on his way that God will show him a “heavenly sign” to confirm his choice of women for Isaac.
Lo and behold the first young lady he meets when he arrives at the local watering hole offers to not only draw water for him but for his camels as well.
Turns out, not only is Rebecca great, but she’s also Abraham’s grand niece! Which at this point they didn’t really know about the possible genetic diseases that come from marrying relatives so that was a bonus!
So the servant gives Rebecca some gifts to take home to show her family so she’d know he means business and the two head back to her place.
The servant tells the family a very truncated version of Abraham’s story since he left and they all agree that it’s clearly divine will that Rebecca will marry Isaac. The servant explains that he’s gotta get back on the road cause Abraham ain’t getting any younger so he and Rebecca set off back for Canaan.
When they reach the area where Abraham was staying, they come upon Isaac who had gone out to pray in the field. The rabbis take the inspiration for personal prayer and meditation from Isaac and his solitary prayer.
So Isaac and Rebecca are happy, Abraham goes off and gets hitched again at quite an advanced age to a woman named Keturah (Yay Kibbuts Keturah!) and has a few more kids.
However, at the end of the Parsha he too dies—at the age of 175—and is buried in Hebron.
This is another place the Torah bumps into modern day issues. Hebron is deep inside the West Bank and is a spot holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians because our common ancestors are buried there. Unfortunately, the city—known in Arabic as A-Khalil—has become a flashpoint for violence. It was the scene of a 1929 pogrom that killed more than 60 Jews and a rampage by Baruch Goldstein in 1994 that killed 29 Muslims in a mosque.
The really sadly ironic thing here is that Isaac and Ishmael actually came together to bury Abraham after he died, it’s the last recorded meeting of the two brothers. We can only hope that their descendants can figure out a way to share the area in peace.
And on. I wish everyone a Shabbat Shalom, a shabbat of peace!