Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #7: Vayetze (He went out) B’resheit (Genesis) 28:10-32:3
Haftarah: Hoshea (Hosea) 11:7-12:12
B’rit Chadashah: Yochanan (John) 1:34-51
Today we will focus on some deeper concepts beyond the literal readings in Chapter 29:25-30 with a B’rit Chadashah explanation of Jacob’s ladder to follow, providing us with a greater understanding of the spiritual lessons to be learned and integrated into our lives.
We set the stage with Ya’akov waking to find that his father-in-law tricked him by sending in the older daughter (Leah), to spend the night with him instead of the younger (Rachel) who Jacob loved. Ya’akov inquires how Lavan could do such a thing and Lavan’s answer is that it is the custom for the firstborn daughter to be given in marriage first. Verse 27 reads: “Finish the marriage week of this one, and we’ll give you the other one also in exchange for the work you will do for me during another seven years.” This passage informs us that the marriage week is 7 years. This begs the question of whether the Rapture will occur at the beginning of the Tribulation, at which time those who are raptured will spend 7 years at the wedding feast with Yahshua while the 7-year Tribulation progresses. There is much controversy about how and when the Rapture and the Tribulation will occur and when the marriage supper (week) will begin. This requires a separate teaching beyond the scope of our parashah. The information about the marriage week is provided for your consideration and hopefully spiritual provocation to the point that you will research this subject.
All the matriarchs in the Torah were barren until G-d intervened and made them fertile. This was to demonstrate G-d’s sovereignty over creation. Note that in verse 31 of chapter 29; “Adonai saw that Leah was unloved, so he made her fertile, while Rachel remained childless.” We do not know how long Leah was barren, but we know that she was unable to have children until G-d intervened based on the scripture. Leah states “It is because Adonai has seen how humiliated I have been, but now my husband will love me.” Therefore, we know she was initially unable to have children until Adonai intervened. The firstborn was named Re’uven (see a son!). This name was the first on the priestly breastplate. This is important because the entire life of Yahshua is found by translating the names of the 12 Tribes in the order in which they appear on the breastplate! Leah’s second son was Shim’on (hearing). This is like the word “Sh’mah,” both of which are derived from the same root. Recall this word is used to mean obey also, giving the Sh’ma a greater depth of meaning. Not only are we to hear the words of Torah, but we are to obey them. The third son was named Levi (joining) and the fourth Y’hudah (praise). Then she stopped having children for a time. It is interesting that she had 4 children, then experienced a space of time before having the other 3. There is a similar space between the designated times of G-d. We celebrate Pesach, the feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of First Fruits, and Shavu’ot, 4 holy days, all of which are close together. Then there is a long space before we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, the last 3 mandated festivals. It is no coincidence that Leah had 7 children and there are 7 designated times of Adonai or that there was a length of time between Leah’s first 4 children, the last 3, and the space between the designated times of G-d. Leah conceived again and bore Ya’akov Yissakhar (hire, reward), Z’vulun (living together), and finally a daughter named Dinah (controversy over rights). Gad and Asher were borne from Zilpah who was Leah’s slave girl although Leah named and raised them. We can easily speculate the significance of Dinah’s name. One thought is that her name refers to the current controversy over the Temple Mount and the rights associated with Jerusalem, and the identity of the son of promise. In Dinah’s life, we learn that she was visiting with the locals and was raped but later loved by a Hivi (Gen. 34:1-4). Although Sh’khem, the son of Hamor the Hivi loved Dinah, he was not an Israelite. According to the Table of Nations (Genesis 10), the Hivites are one of the descendants of Canaan, son of Ham (Chron. 1:13-15). According to traditional Hebrew sources, the name “Hivite” is related to the Aramaic word “Khiv’va” (HVVA), meaning “snake”, and related to the word ‘awwiah in Galilee, meaning serpent, since they sniffed the ground like snakes looking for fertile land. He took her and lay with her and violated her: Sh’khem’s soul was strongly attracted to Dinah and he even spoke kindly to her. Yet we cannot say he loved her, because he violated her. It was a soulish love Sh’khem had for Dinah, not a spiritual love. He loved her for what she could be and give to him, not for what he could be and give to her. His heart is shown in the words, “Get this girl for me; I want her to be my wife.” There is no verbalized desire to accept the G-d of Israel and His commands. He was willing to be circumcised only as an outward removal of the ceremonial obstacle to marriage. It was a soulish get me kind of love. So, there was more to this story than what we read on the “surface.” G-d mandated that there was to be no intermarriage with the Goyim (nations) unless the individual agreed to follow the laws of G-d. Furthermore, when we translate the name Sh’khem to gain more understanding of this situation, we learn that it means ridge or saddle of a mountain; back shoulder. Could this refer to his position as an underling (ridge) of his father(mountain), or perhaps a reference to the geographic location of the same name which is an apt description of Sh’khem’s location in the narrow valley between Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal approximately 65 km North of Jerusalem. It was strategically located, controlling major North-South and East-West roads, but lacked natural defenses and for that reason required heavy fortification. In addition to Jacob’s Well (400m to the South East) it is thought that the city derived its water supply via a conduit from a cave in Mt. Gerizim, while the fertile plain of ‘Askar provided the city with food. Perhaps Sh’khem was dependent on his father as was the city dependent on other areas for food, water, and protection.
The 12 tribes were all named by their respective mothers but with G-d behind them; ordaining them from the beginning of time. Jacob seems to have played no role whatever in the selection of their names. The common principle employed by the matriarchs in the selection process is also strikingly obvious. All the names selected describe the status of the romantic relationship between Jacob and the naming mother. The story of the selection of names incidentally reveals that Jacob’s wives were engaged in ceaseless rivalry over their husband’s affections. They were so obsessed with winning the battle for the dominant spot in his romantic consciousness, that their children were valued primarily as means of advancement in this war for affection. We must be careful not to judge them for this rivalry. After all, they were two sisters with the same husband. The marriage of one man to sisters and other relatives is outlined in Leviticus 18. However, marriage among the patriarchs was sanctioned by G-d to establish the biological Jewish line. Therefore, none of these individuals or their children suffered the consequences of incest, the command against which was established later. G-d is in control. Knowing Leah and Rachel would name these children based on human, animal soulish behaviors, He orchestrated the naming according to a higher purpose; to convey the life and meaning of Messiah Yahshua’s life and purpose to anyone demonstrates the initiative to seek, ask, and knock on the door of G-d’s Torah for the answers to the questions of life.
One might ask the question of how Jacob could have relations with Leah and not know she was not Rachel? The Sages maintain that this marriage was G-d’s plan and so it occurred unimpeded. On Jacob’s wedding night they say, that he recognized that Leah was destined to be his wife and did not deny her. Rachel is said to have been Jacob’s wife for this world and that Leah was intended for the higher, spiritual world. Indeed, it was Leah who gave birth to Levi who represented the priesthood and Y’hudah, the latter from whose loins would come the Lion of Y’hudah; the Messiah; Yahshua. Leah was buried with Jacob in the Cave of Machpelah and Rachel died while giving birth to Benyamin (son of the right hand) was buried “on the way to Efrat (Bet-Lechem). This narrative supports the idea that Rachel represents the human nature towards earthly beauty and desirability while Leah who is specifically described as having “weak eyes” (Gen.29:16) was chosen by G-d to a higher plane. The Chumash translates the statement as Leah having “tender” eyes, because she wept constantly in prayer that she would not have to marry Esau. The thought process was that sine Rivkah had two sons and Laban had two daughters, that the elder daughter would be married to the elder son, while the younger daughter was destined to marry the younger son (Rashi). Thanks to G-d, He transcends all of mans plans and orchestrated the events of this world according to His perfect will which is still in the process of being fulfilled.
Haftarah: (Hoshea 12:13)
Hoshea uses the constant obstacles that Yaakov faces as a starting point for admonishing the Jewish people, who had already begun to forget G-d. They had taken on idol worship and believed that that their own ability was responsible for their wealth and power, just as people in modern society believes today. We must learn and remember that all power and success comes from G-d at His choosing. This was demonstrated through G-d’s intervention on behalf of the matriarchs that made them fertile and G-d’s choice to bless the less physically beautiful of the two sisters to bear two of the most prominent tribal head in history: Levi and Y’hudah. Moreover, G-d used the human battle for affection between Leah and Rachel to identify and describe the life and purpose of the Messiah’s life and the history of Israel. Yaakov recognized this fact throughout his life as should we with every breath we take.
B’rit Chadashah: Yochanan (John) 1:43-51
Let’s begin with the relevant section in our parashah from which we will compare the B’rit Chadashah. Genesis 28:10 and beyond reads “Ya’akov went out from Be’er Sheva and traveled toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed the night there, because the sun had set. He took a stone from the place, put it under his head and lay down there to sleep. He dreamt that there before him was a ladder resting on the ground with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of Adonai were going up and down on it. Then suddenly Adonai was standing there next to him; and he said, ‘I am Adonai, the G-d of Avraham your [grand] father and the G-d of Yitz’chak. The land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants…’”
If we now fast forward to John 1 49-51; “Natan’el said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of G-d! You are the King of Isra’el! Yahshua answered him, ‘you believe all this just because I told you I saw you under a fig tree? You will see greater things than that!’ Then he said to him, ‘Yes indeed! I tell you that you will see heaven opened and the angels of G-d going up and coming down on the Son of Man!’”
As we compare these passages we see right away that Yahshua identified himself as the ladder upon which the angels of G-d are ascending and descending. This makes perfect sense as we compare the ladder to Yahshua. First, we know that Yahshua is the conduit between heaven and earth; man, and G-d. We cannot get to G-d (who is also Yahshua) without going through him. He is the Way- and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6) Rungs on the ladder go horizontally representing our relationship to man and the two side supports extend vertically representing our relationship to G-d. We must ascend the ladder one rung at a time as we learn to nullify ourselves. The Kabbalistic interpretation expands this view to include the purpose of ascending the ladder is to gain a higher perspective, a view from above, or “outside the physical water globe” of our perceived reality. The purpose of descent is to fulfill our purpose in creation. That is, to glorify G-d. When we ascend the ladder of creation, we begin to let go a little more of our “water globe existence” and get a glimpse outside the borders of our finite world. The higher we ascend in our relationship to G-d, the sharper our perspective on earthly spheres when we descend once more. Note that we ascend and descend, just as the angles, and just as the Israelites did on their journey. G-d did not allow them to remain on the mountain top forever. They had to descend and return to the “world”, but were commanded to remain set-apart from it at the same time. We are to do the same. In addition to our love and obedience to G-d’s Torah, prayer helps us to ascend and descend. On a Kabbalistic level, the aim of prayer is to attach the soul to its source, and to refine and elevate the crass nature of our animalistic drives and passions. These goals exist in tandem. Through elevation and attachment-ascent- we may refine our characters through a deeper understanding of the purpose of creation that was explained to Avraham and others. Hence, the Kabbalists write that the knowledge of this chain of creation is a great mitzvah, in that it brings man to “know G-d,” and stand in awe of Him. Of course, we have no earthly notion of G-d as he is; neither can we know the mind of G-d. The phrase in the B’rit Chadashah that many use to argue the contrary do not understand the meaning of that sentence. According to Matthew Henry’s commentary with which I partially agree, 1 Cor. 2:10-26 has the following meaning: I made corrections consistent with the Messianic understanding of Greek and Hebrew meanings of the scriptures.
G-d reveals true wisdom to us by His Spirit. Here is support of the Divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, 2Pe 1:21. In proof of the Divinity of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) as part of the complex unity of the G-dhead, Yahshua provided the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) to guide us, teach and walk along beside of us. As part of the complex unity of the G-dhead, the guidance of the Ruach (Holy Spirit) will never conflict with YHVH/Yahshua aspects of the Echad (Oneness) of G-d. No one can know the things of G-d, but through the Holy Spirit, who makes known Divine mysteries to his people and provides nurturing and guidance. The apostles were not guided by worldly principles. They had the revelation of these things from Yahshua first, then the Spirit of God when Yahshua was resurrected. These things they declared in plain, simple language, taught by the Holy Spirit and Yahshua, totally different from the affected oratory or enticing words of man’s wisdom. The natural man, the wise man of the world, receives not the things of the Spirit of G-d. The pride of carnal reasoning is as much opposed to spirituality, as the basest sensuality. The sanctified mind discerns the real beauties of holiness, but the power of discerning and judging about common and natural things is not lost. But the carnal man is a stranger to the principles, and pleasures, and actions of a spiritual life. The spiritual man only, is the person to whom G-d gives the knowledge of his will through His Torah and the Ruach. The apostles were enabled by His Spirit to make known his will to the nations; first to the lost sheep of Israel, and later to the Goyim (nations). In G-d’s Torah, we can learn to understand the G-dly paradigm, that is, what G-d expects from us in our relationship to Him and to our fellow man. This is sometimes referred to as “the mind of Messiah.” It is not as some argue, that we can know what G-d is thinking or how He thinks. But we can obtain knowledge and wisdom from above if we ask in heartfelt humility.
But we can learn of His attributes taught in Kabbalah. This phrase implies that we come to the realization of G-d’s sovereignty and our responsibility to serve Him wherever He places us. The Zohar makes a point of telling us that there is a constant struggle between the soul and the physical shell in which it is placed. G-d specifically “tears” our body apart now and then to build the soul. He applies pressures we too often perceive as adversity rather than blessing used to build our characters and our souls; guiding us to a higher rung on the ladder both horizontally in our behavior toward man, and vertically in our behavior toward G-d. We ascend and descend the ladder daily. Our bodies are created from earth and our soul is the breath of life. We fight the earthly aspect of our lives as “Esau”, and strive for a closer relationship to G-d as “Jacob”. The angels and the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) assist us at G-d’s pleasure. At times, we are spiritually uplifted and detached from the mundane, and at others immersed in the materialistic quagmire. How can we continue to move forward and upward toward G-d? The answer lies in prayer, study, and practice. We pray for understanding in what we read. We are given the knowledge we need at the right time according to G-d’s timetable. We remain diligent in our studies and incorporate what we learn into our being internally and externally through our behavior. As we continue to grow in G-d’s Torah, our relationship becomes richer and begins to take precedence over the earthly draws of our humanity. In essence, as we ascend the spiritual ladder, we descend in our expression of pride and arrogance. We decrease so Yahshua can increase in us, just as John the Baptist said and understood. John’s statement describes our journey up the ladder perfectly. As we serve Yahshua by emulating Him before men (the horizontal rungs on the ladder representing our linear relationship to earthly creation), we ascend upward toward our goal of being saved and living with YHVH/Yahshua forever.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart