Parsha Veyetze: Darkness before Dawn

Jeffrey Levine
5 min readNov 23, 2023

In this blog, we start by highlighting the key events in Parsha Vayetze. The Parsha is about Yaakov, who faces many challenges.

  1. Jacob’s Departure:
  • Fleeing from his brother Esau, Jacob leaves his home and journeys to Haran.
  1. Encounter with the Stone:
  • Jacob has a dream of a ladder reaching heaven with angels ascending and descending. This dream is accompanied by God’s promise to protect and bless Jacob.
  1. Arrival in Haran:
  • Jacob arrives in Haran and encounters Rachel at a well. He agrees to work for her father, Laban, for seven years to marry her.
  1. Deception and Marriage:
  • Laban deceives Jacob by giving him Leah instead of Rachel after the seven years. Jacob agrees to work another seven years to marry Rachel.
  1. Family Dynamics:
  • The narrative explores the complexities of Jacob’s relationships with Leah, Rachel, and their maidservants, Bilhah and Zilpah, as they bear him children.
  1. Jacob’s Prosperity:
  • Despite Laban’s attempts to deceive him, Jacob prospers in terms of wealth, particularly in acquiring a large flock of sheep and goats.
  1. Divine Encounters:
  • Jacob experiences various divine encounters, including wrestling with an angel, which results in a change of his name to Israel.
  1. Return to Canaan:
  • Jacob decides to return to Canaan with his family, facing challenges and conflicts with Laban along the way.
  1. Encounter with Esau:
  • As Jacob approaches his homeland, he prepares to meet his estranged brother Esau..
  1. Naming of Beth El:
  • Jacob revisits the place where he had the dream of the ladder and renames it Bethel, signifying a sacred space.
  1. Deaths and Births:
  • The Parsha records the deaths of Rachel and Isaac, as well as the births of additional children, including Benjamin.
  1. Covenant Renewal:
  • God reaffirms the covenant with Jacob, emphasizing the promise of land, descendants, and blessings.

These events collectively contribute to the overarching narrative of Jacob’s journey, personal growth, and the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Darkness before Dawn — A Personal Journey

This week took an unexpected turn as I found myself grappling with an illness that left me incapacitated, a departure from my usual routine. On Shabbat, I was confined by a sickness that sapped my energy and deprived me of my usual vigor. I even ventured out briefly to Mincha, only to be met with shivers and a sudden retreat indoors due to the strange ailment that had taken hold.

The experience was disconcerting. I lost my sense of taste, my zest for positivity dwindled, and I found myself enveloped in a cloud of dark thoughts. Yet, as with all illnesses, there came a moment of reprieve. Today, I awoke feeling considerably better, relishing the simple joy of savoring my morning coffee. Rest assured, it isn’t the dreaded Corona, but rather an unfamiliar ailment, a reminder of these unconventional times.

In my recovery, I reflected on the broader context of our world today. Our current global landscape mirrors the uncertainty of my own ailment. However, just as I’ve experienced a glimmer of healing, I am hopeful that tomorrow holds promise for a collective recovery. The world, like an individual on the mend, faces its trials, yet it is also capable of rejuvenation and growth.

Medicine, despite its advancements, often confronts limitations. Similarly, our world, despite technological strides, grapples with moral complexities and the prevalence of darkness. Yet, in acknowledging this darkness, we find echoes in the wisdom of Holocaust survivors like Rabbi Ezriel Tauber z”l, See :https://hamodia.com/2019/05/01/rabbi-ezriel-tauber-zl particularly in his work, “Darkness Before Dawn.” Through his perspective as a Holocaust survivor, Tauber illuminates the enduring narrative of the Jewish people — foreseen suffering, exile, and a history intricately woven through prophecies and scriptures.

In exploring these profound themes, Tauber reflections on the long exile and enduring hardships faced by the Jewish community echo through history. The dream of Jacob’s ladder, depicting angels ascending and descending, encapsulates the journey of a people destined for both tribulations and resilience.

Here is an extract that he refers to this week’s Parsha.

Yaakov’s Request

A similar process occurred with our forefather Yaakov. Yaakov dreamed of a ladder which stood on the ground and reached into heaven. Angels went up and down the ladder. In its analysis of this episode, the Midrash teaches some of the most fundamental lessons of Jewish history. First, it tells us that the angels ascending and descending the ladder were the representatives of the nations who were to oppress Israel in the future exiles.

Yaakov saw the representative of Bavel rising 70 steps and then falling; and then he saw the representative of Madai-Pras rising 52 steps and falling; and then the representative of Yavan rising 180 steps and falling; and, finally, he saw the representative of Edom-Rome continue upward beyond sight. (The steps symbolized the number of years each of the nations would keep the Jews in exile. The continually evolving¹⁸ exile of Edom, the only one which did not have a countable number, has already lasted almost 2,000 years.)

Next, the Midrash relates a verbal exchange between Hashem and Yaakov.

When Yaakov saw the dream [of the angels, which represented future exiles and suffering for his descendants] he became very frightened. “Is it possible that this angel of Edom-Rome will never fall down?” he asked.

Hashem told him, “Do not fear, My servant Yaakov. Even if he will come and sit next to Me, from there I will throw him down.” This is the thought behind the verse of the prophet Ovadiah (1:4): ‘If you [Edom] will rise like an eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there Hashem will throw you down.’

Hashem then told Yaakov to climb the ladder like the others. He became afraid. “They rose and eventually fell, perhaps my end will be like theirs,” he said.

Hashem told him, “Do not fear. If you come up, you will never fall.”

However, Yaakov doubted the guarantee, the Midrash says, and did not go up. Hashem said, “If you would have believed Me and gone up, you would never have fallen down. However, since you doubted My promise and chose not to go up, your children will be oppressed beneath the four exiling nations.”

When Yaakov heard that, he became very afraid: “Will my children suffer forever?” he asked.

“No. I am going to help you from afar” — i.e. even if you will be scattered to the most faraway land, from there will I gather you.

We learn from this Midrash that once Yaakov heard that his children would have to go through only a limited period of suffering, he had no complaints or regrets. He was at peace with the decision not to accept the invitation to go up the ladder.”

As I delve deeper into Tauber insights, I’m reminded of the resilience ingrained in the human spirit throughout the long challenges of Jewish history. The narrative of enduring challenges, falling, and rising again, resonates universally, transcending time and circumstance.

In closing, let us take solace in the knowledge that even amid darkness, the dawn eventually breaks. Just as I’ve found healing, let us collectively strive for a brighter tomorrow, rising from the shadows into a world rejuvenated and healed.

Thank you for joining me on this reflective journey.

Warm regards,

Jeffrey Levine

--

--

Jeffrey Levine

Jeffrey Levine provides CFO, Director, ESG Advisory Services through www.persofi.com and is a promoter of ideas and trends where Innovation meets ESG