Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Vayetzei - 5777

Dear friends,

In this week's Parasha we see Jacob obeying his parents' request by leaving Beer Sheba, the land of Israel, and heading towards Haran, Mesopotamia. Rebecca wants him to leave to avoid being killed by his brother Esau, and Isaac wants him to go to Haran in order to find a wife from Rebecca's family. Jacob leaves Beer Sheba, we will learn later, with no possessions except for his walking staff. He leaves behind all the blessings that Isaac had bestowed on him, which promised abundance of wealth, a large family and the land of Israel, to embark on a twenty-year journey to the unknown.

It would seem that since the blessings of his birthright came to him in a deceitful way, he now had to prove that he truly deserved those blessings, and that he is the son who would carry and live by the teachings of Abraham.

In the years to come, he will become the object of deceit in many situations. He will work very hard for seven years for the privilege of marrying Rachel, the girl he loves; but Laban, his father-in-law, will substitute Leah, the older sister, and he must now work another seven years to get Rachel. His wages will be reduced time and again and when he finally succeeds in acquiring material possessions for his family, his neighbors will envy him and chase him away. There will be strife in his household between the rival sisters and their respective children, etc. etc.

Our sages find in Jacob's story, whose name will be changed to Israel, many similarities to the Jewish experience in the Diaspora and to its struggle to find a peaceful home.

The first story that is told about Jacob's departure from Beer Sheba is the well-known dream he has when he falls asleep in an open field. He sees a ladder anchored on earth but its top reaching all the way to heaven. He sees angels of G-d ascending and descending this ladder. In the morning, he realizes the sanctity of this place as being the gate to heaven. He erects a marker and calls this place 'Bet El', the House of G-d, and promises to return to this place to promote the worship of the One G-d.

There are many messages that one can derive from Jacob’s life and twenty-year journey. I would like to share with you one important message.

In Jacob's dream, he sees angels ascending and descending the ladder. Most people think that angels are some heavenly beings, out of this world. If that is so, then why does it say that the angels were 'ascending' and 'descending'? Should it not be the other way, first descending and then ascending? This is in line with Jewish interpretation of angels. Angels are created in this world by humans' actions. The Talmud teaches that when you do a Mitzvah, a good deed, you create one good angel, a guardian angel. On the other hand, when a person does an Aveirah, a sin, a bad thing, he/she creates a prosecuting angel, a bad angel.

During our stay in this world, our goal is to create as many guardian angels as we can. They don't come easily. Life is a struggle and we will all experience some angels who will leave us and others who will come to help us. The main thing is to keep trying and be surrounded by as many guardian angels as possible.

Have you created some guardian angels today?

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram