Parasha VaYetzei begins with Jacob leaving his parents’ home both to find a wife and to escape the wrath of his brother Esau. In leaving his home, Jacob has an encounter with G-d in a dream. He dreams of a ladder that stretches from the earth to heaven and angles are climbing up and down the ladder.
׃ (Genesis 28:13)
In the above verse, it reads “God was standing over him and said: I am G-d, G-d of Abraham your father and the G-d of Isaac. The land on which you are lying will be given to you and to you children.”
There is an interesting construct here. Although Isaac was Jacob’s father, the verse intimates more of a relationship with Abraham, his grandfather, than Isaac, his father. In many ways, in fact, Jacob’s life and actions mirrored those of Abraham. In his book Amittah Shel Torah, Rabbi Yitzhak Twersky (Gila’s father for those not in the know) beautifully expounds on this in his commentary on the Torah Portion. He writes:
In general, the direction of Yaacov’s life seems to mirror the life of Avraham more than the life of his father Yitzhak. …Yitzhak’s role is to maintain the tradition of his father…By contrast, Yaakov is creative and innovative like his grandfather. He is responsible for laying the foundation of the Jewish people no less than Avraham. (Amittah Shel Torah p 127-128)
Many things differ between Isaac and Jacob. Isaac never left his homeland for any significant time, whereas Jacob leaves for over 20 years. Isaac’s wife was chosen for him, while Jacob actively chooses his wives. The riches Isaac had were predominantly the inheritance from Abraham, while Jacob earned his own riches, much like his grandfather. Both Abraham (who was originally Avram) and Jacob (who was renamed Yisrael) were given new names by G-d, but not Isaac. The description of Isaac’s life in the Torah was generally that of a passive individual, but both Abraham and Jacob appeared to be men of action.
There is one major area that appears to differ between Jacob and Abraham. After G-d appears to Jacob in the dream, Jacob awakens and says:
׃ ־ ־ ׃ (Genesis 28: 16, 17)
“Indeed there is G-d in this place and I did not know it!” And he was awestruck and said: How awesome is this place, it is nothing if not the House of G-d and the Gates of Heaven!”
Here is a departure from the thinking of Abraham. Abraham, father of monotheism, was inspired and his prophesy began when he was in Haran, not in Canaan or the Land of Israel. He conceptualized a single G-d in heaven, Master of the Universe, and clearly proclaimed that He was not tied to any geographic area or any inanimate object. In contrast, Jacob appears surprised, but pleased to learn that during his sojourn to the home of his mother’s family he would be able to maintain his connection with G-d, and that this connection was not limited to his homeland. This begs the question: why did G-d wait till Jacob left his parent’s home to convey this message? Why could he not have had this prophecy earlier, before the journey.
The Akedat Yitzhak, the 15th century Spanish Talmudist and commentator on the Torah suggests that the revelation of G-d to Jacob was purposefully done to broaden his spiritual horizon. By saying that he did not know or realize G-d was in the place where he slept, Jacob was admitting to feeling the connection between G-d and man was not a personal one; perhaps it was bound to the holiness of Israel or more particularly, the place that his father and his grandfather lived. G-d wanted him to know that his relationship with mankind had no limits or territorial restrictions. Moreover, Jacob was taught the concept about Hashgahat Pratit, personal Providence, which means that the relationship between individuals and G-d both transcends boundaries and is constant.
There is a statement that one only knows the success of an individual from seeing their grandchildren. In this time of remembering Molly, known as Nanny or Granny depending on who you were, it is clear that she was successful. Molly’s major strengths were her commitment to family, her thoughtfulness and her generosity. Like Abraham influencing Jacob, these traits are seen in all of Molly’s offspring. It is amazing to think that the influence of a grandparent can be so far reaching, but, in truth, it is a very special relationship that exists between grandchildren and their grandparents. May we always be true to the values and generosity that Molly taught us; this will keep her memory and her teachings alive in us forever.
May her Memory be a blessing; תהא נשמתה לברכה