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Archive for the ‘Weekly Parsha’ Category

Parasha Vayetze – Daily Care or Grand Designs?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on November 20, 2007

Torah Portion: Genesis 28:10 – 32:3 Haftarah for Ashkenazim: Hosea 12:13 – 14:10 Haftarah for Sephardim: Hosea 11:7 – 12:12

Ya’akov… Last year I would have written about how horrible Ya’akov is as a character – a cheat, a fraud, a sorcerer, liar, coward, thief a great manipulator in general and someone who uses G-d for his own ends. I would have been right. But describing him as an honorable sceptic, an agnostic, and a true believer would be just as right. Ya’akov in his basic make-up is extremely human.

“If G-d does this… I will acknowledge…” Bereshit 28:20-21

Ya’akov starts his adult life with a session of bargaining with G-d.

He is running for his life – from his enraged brother whom he, just few days earlier, has cheated out of his birth-right (enthusiastically assisted by his mother) – towards the homelands of his mother, uncle and grandfather. On the way there, according to the Sages, (Sanhedrin 95b) he is surprised by an early sunset and decides to go to sleep. Dream. Ladder. Angels. G-d making a speech. Grand Designs and Spiritual Experiences.

“Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it!” Shaken, he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.” Bereshit 28:16-17

Interestingly enough, Ya’akov’s exclamation isn’t specific about WHAT G-d he is speaking of. He is clearly aware that “G-d” is present there. This, however doesn’t convince him. To Ya’akov grand visions, dreams and spiritual incidents are not sufficient “proof” or reasons to accept G-d’s presence in one’s life. A far more prosaic G-d is what he will put his trust in. A G-d who keeps him fed, clothed and safe is what Ya’akov is looking for. He knows that spiritual experiences cannot do that. Although he acknowledges that G-d can be and is present in visions, dreams and grand spiritual events, what he will trust in is not visions, dreams and spiritual incidents, but a G-d who will take care of him on a daily basis.

“If God remains with me, if He protects me on this journey that I am making, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safe to my father’s house — the Lord shall be my God.” Bereshit 28:20-21

Here’s the bargaining point, the matter which is more important to Ya’akov than the dream he just had – daily divine action as opposed to occasional divine revelation. He accepts the latter, but is seeking the former.

This point ask a question of us. Ya’akov, in all his complex humanity, asks US which is more important to us: Daily Divine action or Occasional Divine Revelation? What do we seek? Signs and Symbols or the Fatherly love and care expressed through having our daily needs met?

If we look closely at the story of Ya’akov we see that he gets his grand designs and spiritual experiences as a side dish to a main course of daily care. In fact when he finally accepts the G-d of his fathers as his own, he is not only fed, clothed and safe – he is fat, rich beyond belief and living safely in the midst of his large family.

A funny thing about Ya’akov is that while G-d is running on idle in the background, just making sure that events follow the plan approximately, Ya’akov is very much the maker of his own fate. He gets what he wants and needs through his own hard work, ingenuity and humility, backed by an unspecified trust that his bargain with G-d will pay off in the end. He doesn’t get fat, rich and safe by sitting on his backside waiting for grand visions, signs. He gets there through hard work and trusting a G-d he is not at all sure is his.

He puts in the legwork and lets G-d do His bit – the daily care.



Posted in Bereshit 28:10 - 32:3, Parasha Vayetze, Torah, Weekly Parasha, Weekly Parsha | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Parasha Bereshit – What’s bothering Kayin?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 3, 2007


Parasha: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8 Haftarah:Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10 – Sefardim reads: Isaiah 42:5 – 42:21

Focal Point: Bereshit 4:1-5, 10-16 – What’s Bothering Kayin

“And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: ‘I have gotten a man with the help of HaShem.’And again she bore his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto HaShem. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And HaShem had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell….[…]And He said: ‘What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground. And now cursed art thou from the ground, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. Then thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth.’ And Cain said unto the L-RD: ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the land; and from Thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth; and it will come to pass, that whosoever findeth me will slay me.’ And the L-RD said unto him: ‘Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the L-RD set a sign for Cain, lest any finding him should smite him. And Cain went out from the presence of the L-RD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. “

It’s pretty understandable, Kayin’s anger and depression. Who wouldn’t be angry and depressed if one’s best effort at showing appreciation and gratitude, was spurned? Kayin’s problem isn’t with G-d or with Hevel. Kayin’s problem is that instead of taking responsible for his own feelings and turn to G-s with a simple question: “Why, what’s wrong?” he looks down and inward, at his own anger, depression, feelings of rejection and fear of inadequacy, away from G-d. Because he feels rejected and inadequate, he feels lonely – to alleviate that loneliness he seeks out his brother. But instead of alleviating his pain, the sight of Hevel flips Kayin’s mind, and Hevel becomes the reason why he feels rejected by G-d. It’s more than he can bear and in his anger and fear, he murders his brother. Was Kayin’s anger and fear wrong? Or his offering? No. But the way he dealt with the situation was. Kayin went first – offering to G-d the best he had from his crop. Then Hevel did the same – only with a twist – to me the ‘he also’ implies that Hevel offered grain, fruit and such, just as Kayin, but then Hevel added to the offering of grain and fruit some of the “firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof”. Seeing Hevel’s offering, so much more abundant than his own, Kayin is suddenly struck by fear that G-d won’t accept his offering – this is the “but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect” – it’s all in Kayin’s mind!

To G-d Kayin’s offering was fine, just as fine as his brother’s, which to me is implied in the events that follow the murder. When Kayin realizes what he has done, he exiles himself from G-d “Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the land; and from Thy face shall I be hid”. There was never any need for that, G-d never said that – He said that Kayin would be exiled from farming the earth, not from G-d’s presence. On the contrary, when Kayin adds to his punishment that he will be outlawed and that every man will be against him, G-d says ‘Not so, I will make sure that no one kills you for this!’ So in the eyes of G-d Kayin’s offering was ok, Kayin was OK. But to Kayin it wasn’t good enough. What he had to offer wasn’t good enough compared to Hevel’s offering, and the price Kayin paid for his low self-esteem was even more fear, the loss of his brother and the self-inflicted loss of his G-d.

Poor Kayin! Fearful and shame-ridden, he turns away from the only source that could have saved him and his brother – G-d – Had he turned towards G-d with his feelings of shame, fear, inadequacy, envy, anger and rejection, he would have found a G-d ready to say: ‘Not so, you are my child just as much as Hevel’.

The other side of the Story is that of Hevel – and the lesson of not shaming a fellow in public. By adding to his offering what was not inherently his to offer (the fruit of the earth) he shows off, and creates the implication that what he offers G-d is better than that of Kayin. The price he pays is steep, but on the other hand they say that shame is the killer of the soul – something that becomes quite clear through the re-actions of Kayin.

Did Hevel draw death upon himself? No, but he wasn’t an innocent victim either – his need to show-off, to be better, to best his brother, became his own downfall.

So where does this leave us?

From Kayin we learn that it’s better to look outward and upward when we feel downcast and doubtful, than inward and downward, we risk missing the loving and caring words and help from our Father and those friends around us. We are never so bad off that G-d doesn’t want us, that is just our stinking thinking that speaks. We are so much better of sharing with others what is on our minds than holding it in.

From Hevel we learn that showing off and besting others at their expense is just another expression of pride that goes before downfall. We also learn that using others to shine causes them shame, and shame is the #1 soul killer, and we might just end up in deep shit as a result. If we share our good fortune, try and make others part of our success, we will in the end be richer than before.


This article, including artworks and photos in this Blog is Copyright © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain – unless otherwise specified.

Posted in Parasha Bereshit, Torah, Weekly Parsha | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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