Saturday 28th November 2020 12th Kislev 5781
PARASHAT VAYETZEI - “And he went out” by Herschel
Genesis 28:10 - 32:3; Hosea 12:13 – 14:10; John 1:41-51
10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran.
11 When he reached a certain place (hamakom), he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.
12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
13 There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.
14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.
15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the LORD is in this place and I was not aware of it."
17 He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven."
The focus now shifts from Isaac to the life of the next Patriarch, Ya’akov and we are introduced to the particularities of his journey that would shape his faith and trust in HaShem. We read in Gen 29:10 that ‘Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran’.
What does this teach us?
Beersheva is the place of seven wells i.e. the place of HaShem’s abundant presence and provision, the place where we encounter G-d. A number of important encounters took place here.
It was at beersheva that G-d appeared to Hagar (Gen 21:17), to Isaac (Gen 26:23-33), and to Jacob (Gen 46:1-5). It is the place where we can draw nearer to HaShem and experience His Presence.
Charan on the other hand is the city where Abraham and his father, Terah, lived. Like the inhabitants of Ur of the Chaldees, Haran's inhabitants worshiped the moon-god. Charan therefore, is the place of idolatry, of materialism and of worldly struggles.
The sages teach that the story of Jacob's journey from Beersheva to Charan is the story of every soul's descent to the physical world.
According to the sages, the soul departs from the utopia symbolized by Beersheva and journeys to Charan, a journey that is essential for all who wish to serve G-d’s purposes in their generation. As counterintuitive as it might initially appear, this is the necessary journey for each and every one who wishes to serve the Lord!
So, what clue might shed some light on this apparent conundrum? It’s quite straightforward actually. It was at Charan that the nation of Israel was born. Eleven of the 12 sons of Jacob who were to become the nation of Israel were born in Charan. The elect people of Israel were not conceived and born in the oasis of Beersheva. They were conceived and born in the midst of deceit and conniving, as typified by the wicked Laban.
Had Jacob remained in the Holy Land, his life would have had little significance today. He would not have left behind a legacy that would have a profound impact upon the entire world! In order to create this legacy, Jacob had to depart from the place of abundance and engage in and overcome the challenges of life in this fallen world and this truth must impact upon our theology and our lives.
Too often, I have heard believers speak disparagingly about the world as if it were the epitome of evil and wickedness, and only when we escape from its rottenness, can we experience G-d’s love and provision. Nothing could be further from the truth! HaShem created the world and after each day of creation, He said ‘tov’, it is good! We need to understand that the world was created perfect and G-d’s plan for the redemption of mankind includes the restoration of that state of perfection that was lost in Eden. And so, the great theologian, Rav Sha’ul (Paul), could say in Rom 8:18-22
19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
In the purposes of G-d, for an extended season, the world has been under the sway of the prince of the air. But, in G-d’s timing, his reign will end and perfection will be restored. This is the promise of scripture!
I recall that when I took my late father back to Lithuania in 2001, his country of birth, we stood by the trenches where the demonized Nazis had butchered our people.
We stood and wept and said kaddish. We were robbed of the combined wisdom of generations of Torah scholars and sages who can never be replaced. And, I was so angry. Furious would be a better choice to describe how I felt during that journey! And then I remembered the Gospel account of the Gadarene demoniac.
28 When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way.
29 And they cried out, saying, " What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?"
Notice that it is a definite participle. THE TIME! There is a time already established in the heavenlies when the adversary too will face the Throne of judgment and be cast down for 1000 years. What comforted me in that moment is that judgement belongs to our G-d and that neither the adversary nor the demons will be spared that judgment. And so, while the adversary has sway in the world at this time, it is not forever!
The fact that Jacob could birth the people of Israel in Charan symbolic of the world, tells us that we too can promote and fulfil G-d’s purposes in our lives by engaging with a reality that is opposed to the knowledge of G-d.
14 "You are the light of the world . A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it
on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your
good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
We are instructed to let the light of Messiah in us become visible in the world – in Charan. Our good deeds must be done in Charan, in the midst of the business of life! This is our high calling. To become a dwelling place for G-d by His Spirit in this world. The sages teach that only as a physical being, invested within a physical body and inhabiting a physical environment, can it fulfil the purpose of its creation, which is to build "a dwelling for G-d in the physical world."
This teaches us that when we set our gaze upon the Lord even in the midst of the most trying of circumstances, that which appears barren can become an oasis in the providence of G-d.
G-d is in control and He can potentially turn any seemingly barren event into a time of fruitfulness.
May our good deeds blaze forth and enlighten a barren realty, I pray beshem Yeshua!