Parashat Vayeitzei (Genesis 28:10- 32:3)
28:11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
Comment: This verse is where the Jewish tradition derives that Jacob established the evening prayer.
“lighted upon”: In modern English I would translate it as “came across”. The Hebrew word is ויפגע, which may be related to prayer.
(Reference: Rashi’s commentary on this verse https://www.sefaria.org/Rashi_on_Genesis.28.11?lang=bi.)
28:21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
Comment: Jacob made a vow. Two possible reasons are:
- he wished to return to his father’s house in peace, but he was worried about his brother’s hatred;
- He wished his upcoming trip would go well, but he was worried about the uncertainties in the foreign land.
“then shall the LRD be my Gd”: How could this be appropriate, to use one’s relationship to Gd, which is so important, to “win over” his personal wishes in a vow? It is possible that Jacob did not have much firsthand experience with Gd until now, after he left his dad and experienced the supernatural dream. In other words, it is possible that the LRD was his dad’s Gd, but not yet his own Gd (in a very personal way).
Related to this, I have a recent story about a brother’s vow. He agreed to get baptized, if Gd would let his tenure evaluation be approved by May 1, 2002, which was an earlier-than-usual date in the academic year. He later felt that it might be inappropriate to use his baptism to “win over” his wish, and he got baptized before he got tenured. However, Gd still let him pass the tenure evaluation early, and this brother received a fax about the approval by April 30, 2002. A detailed account of this story in both Chinese and English is found here:
29:35 And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.
Comment: “Now will I praise the L-RD…therefore she called his name Judah”: Judah’s name has a very good meaning, and it seems to be related to praising the LRD. See, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judah_(son_of_Jacob)
In fact this verse may be the first time in the Bible that talks about praising the LRD.
30:25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country.
Comment: “Send me away”: Jacob was asking for leave, since he had just finished serving Laban for 2*7=14 years for marrying Laban’s two daughters.
Jacob was 91 years old at this time when Joseph was born. This is because he would go to Egypt at age 130 (Genesis 47:9), after Egypt had experienced 7 years of abundance and 2 years of famine (Genesis 45:6), after Joseph became the prime minister of Egypt at age 30 (Genesis 41:46,47,54). So there was 130-2-7-30=91 years of age difference between Jacob and Joseph.
These imply that Jacob started to serve Laban at age 77 (=91-14). Unlike his twin brother Esau who married Canaanite women at age 40 (Genesis 26:34), Jacob remained single until 77 before he left the land of Canaan to look for a wife, so as not to marry a Canaanite woman. (I have overheard this comment from a Christian sermon by Pastor Lin, that my wife was listening to.)
30:27 And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake.
Comment: “tarry”: Laban invited Jacob to stay. Torah described later how Jacob stayed and started to serve Laban for the cattle.
“blessed me for thy sake”: Laban recognized that he was blessed for Jacob’s sake. Jacob’s descendants also bring blessings to their hosts. For example, the success of America during and after the World War II may be related to the immigration of Jews from Europe, where they were persecuted.
31:55 And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.
Comment: “Laban rose up, and kissed his sons ( בניו)… ”: The Torah seems to regard one’s grandsons born from his daughter as his own sons. See also Rashi’s comment on Deuteronomy 7:4 https://www.sefaria.org/Rashi_on_Deuteronomy.7.4?lang=bi
32:2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
Comment: Mahanaim in Hebrew means two camps. “-aim” is the Hebrew suffix for “a pair of”, e.g., yadaim means two hands, oznaim means two ears, naalaim means two shoes. Here, the pair of camps may refer to two camps of angels, according to the context. However, it may also be taught that one of the two camps is Jacob’s camp, since people who serve Gd are like angels of Gd, both are trying to carry out Gd’s commands. (A related article: https://superiorword.org/genesis-32-1-8/)