Commentary on Parashat VaYetze – Genesis 28:1-31:3


The reading of the Torah on this Shabbat is VaYetze – Genesis 28:1-31:3. The reading starts with Jacob running north to the Laban his uncle because his mother Rebecca warned him that Esau his brother is looking to kill him after the death of Isaac his father. On the run, all alone by his lonesome, Jacob reaches Beth-EL (that in former times was called “Luz”) he is tired and uses a rock for his pillow and falls to sleep.

In a dream Jacob sees a ladder reaching from the Earth to the Heaven and the Angels of God are going up and coming down. The first thing that Jewish commentary tradition does is look at the immediate context. Dreams are an outcropping of a person’s reality and needs. They also have a prophetic angle. So, Jacob needs to be encouraged and his future is up in the air and so he needs to know that although he is leaving the Land of Promise. God is still with him and is going to stand by him and continue to protect and bless and keep HIS promises which he gave to Abraham and Isaac his ancestry. This is the essential meaning of the dream. The angels of God are mobile and they are going up from the Earth and coming down from heaven to serve God’s Children and in fact all of humanity.

Note that the text presents Jacob as escaping the land of Canaan with almost nothing. He has to walk (travel) by himself near 1000 miles to Haran, which is right in the northern boarder of Syria, right next to the boarder with Turkey. The vision of this dream is like an assurance that although his circumstance is not good right now, God is going to continue serving Jacob. Does Jacob realize that he sinned against his brother Esua when he took advantage of his fatigue and hunger and sold allowed Jacob his brother to buy the birthright, the inheritance, for a bowl of red soup, may be Borsht, with red beets and cabbage! I believe that both Jacob and Rebecca understood that the deed was not so clean, and when Jacob return to the land of Canaan he was ready to pay Esua his brother a whole lot of money, sheep, goats, gold and silver, camels, donkeys, in order to pacify his brother Esua.

However, the most significant part of chapter 28 of Genesis is not the dream itself, but the action and result of that dream. Jacob realizes that he must do something for God and he makes a deal, if God will take care of his needs on this trip to Haran, upon his return to the Land of Promise, Canaan, he will build in this place a house of God. To seal this promise Jacob anoints a stone and makes a stella (a memorial) to commemorate the event and the promise. Here is a very short rendition of this teaching.

1. We receive from God! The normal thing is when you ask for something and you receive it – you have to show your gratitude by reciprocal action.

2. God has and still does, in my opinion, reveal HIMSELF in dreams and visions! The idea that some protestants inherited from the Catholic Church that the Holy Spirit and God’s revelation is imprisoned between the two covers of the Book (The Bible) is not found in the Scriptures and in fact is not a valid idea. God has always been the same and He has always given individuals dreams and visions and the text that Peter quotes from the prophet Joel stats this unequivocally. Let us not add or subtract from God’s revelation, and not judge those who claim to have seen a dream or heard a word from God. We can judge the dream and interpret it, and we must evaluate those who claim to be prophets and see if their WORD is standing in the standards of God’s Word and truth. But, God is God and HE is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is always faithful to His Word and His promises will all be fulfilled in reality.

This article originally appeared as a part of The Jerusalem Prayer List by Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry, December 7, 2016, and reposted with permission.