Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Vayetzei - 5773

My friends,

The portion of Vayetzei is the life story of our Father Jacob. He leaves Beer Sheva and heads to Haran, fleeing from his brother Esau who is out to kill him. The excuse given for his departure is that he is leaving home and going to his mother's birth place to find a girl to marry.

Jacob's life story is very similar to the story of our people in general, and the story of each one of us as we go through life. Jacob is alone, fleeing his birth place, worried about the future, and he is so tired that even without a sleeping bag, and with just a pile of stones upon which to rest his head, he is able to fall asleep and has this wonderful dream. He sees a ladder, standing on the ground but reaching out all the way to heaven. And angels are ascending and descending on this ladder, and G-d is standing over him and promises to protect him and be with him on this journey. Earth and Heaven represent our physical needs for our body to survive, and the spiritual needs of our Neshamah. There is a strong link between the two and how they work together.

As we go through life, we are challenged in countless ways, but we are reminded that G-d is with us and to have faith in His protection. Each experience helps us climb the spiritual ladder a little higher. But, the ascending and descending remind us that we must remain connected to this world, to the community in which we live. We bring spirituality to the world when we share our blessings with those who are less fortunate.

In this Parasha, we also find for the first time in the Bible the word, 'Thank you'. Leah named her fourth child Yehudah (Judah) saying, "This time I thank G-d (Todah) for giving me four sons." When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and took our people into exile they gave us the name Judeo, Jews, from the word Judeah, because the majority of the Israelites living in central Israel were from the tribe of Judah (Yehudah) and that's why we are called Yehudim. How appropriate, that this weekend when we all celebrate Thanksgiving, we are reminded that our very name "Yehudim", "Jews", stands for "thanks". It is a beautiful trait to always show gratitude to G-d and to offer thanks to G-d and to all those who help us as we go through life in this world.

Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Thanksgiving to all.