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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Skorka

Vayetzei - The departure of Jacob

Having left Beersheba to go to Haran, Jacob arrived at a certain place when night fell, so he took shelter among some rocks and slept. He dreamed of a ladder connecting the heavens and the earth. This is the first time that Jacob experiences a spiritual elevation and feels the presence of God in a very special way.

We find a parallel here between what the Torah tells us about Abraham and this event for his grandson. When the first patriarch asks God about his future, the Almighty takes him out of his tent and makes him look at the sky (15: 5), then casts a deep sleep over him (15:12) in which both confirm a pact.

Exegetes analyse the meaning of the emphasis on Jacob’s departure in this passage together with God's action to get Abraham to depart from his tent. Beyond the many observations about this comparison, the text most basically teaches us that in order to enter into a dialogue with God one must be leave the place where one is. All the everyday routines and problems that consume everyone must be set aside. Moses went up to Mount Sinai to enter into a dialogue with God for the first time (Exodus 3). Elijah found God´s presence in the desert (1 Kings 19).

The people departed from their normal routines to go up to the Temple of Jerusalem in order to present themselves before God (Exodus 23: 17; 34: 23-24; Deuteronomy 16: 16), in order to praise him and to pay homage to him. But the deepest encounters with God, such as those of Abraham, Jacob, and the prophets, happened when they left their narrow reality to contemplate the infinity of existence. It did not depend on a physical place but on a spiritual one, in which generally one finds oneself alone with one's consciousness.

It is in that loneliness that Jacob understood his mission in life and accepted the challenge. That is why he became “Israel,” the one who wrestles with God.

Shabbat Shalom!


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