“With whom you will find your gods, he will not be.” (Bereshis/Genesis 31:32). Incensed at being accused of theft, Jacob renders a death sentence on the culprit, if indeed there is one. Could he even imagine the result?
The parsha for this Sabbath is Vayeitzei. In it, Jacob flees to Laban’s house and has an encounter with G-d on his way. Then Jacob meets Rachel, agrees to work seven years so he can marry her, unwittingly ends up marrying Leah, and agrees to work another seven years so he can marry Rachel.
Next, Jacob and his wives have eleven sons, the progenitors of the most of the Tribes of Israel, and one daughter. Jacob and Laban make a new work contract, but eventually the discord between them becomes so great Jacob flees with his household. The parsha ends with the curious incident of Laban’s gods.
My first question is for all of the husbands: How many of you would work 14 years to earn the right to marry your wife? I’m taking names of the ones of you who say no!
Vayeitzei reinforces the lesson that words have power. In Bereshis we learn that G-d brought the world into existence with words. Later G-d parades the animals in front of Adam who names each one. Through the conferring of a name, a word, Adam identifies the essence of each animal. In these two examples, we see the creative power of words.
Laban chased down Jacob and accuses him of stealing his gods, idols that Laban and the members of his household worshiped. Not knowing that his beloved Rachel was hiding them in her belongings in the hope that her father would give them up, Jacob declared: “Eem asher teemtzah es-elohecha lo yeeyeh,” which means, “with whom you will find your gods, he will not be.” A harsh sentence but one that shows how certain Jacob was that no one in his house had taken them, how incensed he was to be accused, and how deeply he abhorred theft.
Unfortunately, though with good intentions, Rachel is guilty. We learn in Parshas Vayishlach that Rachel dies after giving birth to Benjamin in fulfillment of Jacob’s condemnation.
Just as your words have the power to create, they have the power to destroy.
Question – How do you guard what you say?
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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.