Shabbat Vayeytzey

Friday, November 24th - Candles @ 4:12pm
November 25th - Havdalah @ 5:06pm

Jacob runs away from Canaan back to Haran where his mother’s family lives. There he falls in love with his cousin Rahel and marries her (after being tricked into marrying Leah first). Between the two wives and two concubines, he father’s eleven sons as he works for Lavan his father in law for twenty-one years. His relationship with his father in law is fraught and eventually he takes his wives and children and flees back towards Canaan.

Lavan pursues them and in addition to recriminating over why Jacob left in secret, he asks for his teraphim, idols, household gods back. Jacob has no idea that Rahel had stolen them. Why did she steal them? Was it because they were all brought up in a house where they worshipped idols? Didn’t Jacob have a say in their upbringing? One Midrash suggests she only stole them to prevent her father worshipping them. Which sounds a little weak because Lavan could easily have found or made new ones.

Later on when Jacob arrives in Canaan he commands his sons to “get rid of the alien gods they have” (35:2). Where did they get those gods from? From Haran or from Shehem in Canaan itself which they had sacked? From the case of Rahel it seems obvious that both in Haran and even in Canaan, the alien culture had affected them all. And now Jacob had to work extra hard to protect his family from these influences.

In a way this is the challenge that faces us all. Wherever we live nowadays, in Israel or the Diaspora, there are “alien” values and influences. We are all infected one way or another and we have to try hard to limit those external values. Even so as with Jacob’s sons this doesn’t mean we can completely exclude the external. But without ensuring our homes offer a strong alternative, we cannot ensure a Jewish future.

Happy Thanksgiving!