Jacob’s Ladder (painting circa 1800 by William Blake)

In this Shabbat’s weekly Torah portion Vayeitzei Genesis 28:10 – 32:3, Jacob leaves his hometown of Beersheba and journeys to Charan. On the way, he encounters “the place” and sleeps there, dreaming of a ladder connecting heaven and earth, with angels climbing and descending on it; G‑d appears and promises that the land upon which he lies will be given to his descendants. In the morning, Jacob raises the stone on which he laid his head as an altar and monument, pledging that it will be made the house of God.

In Haran, Jacob stays with and works for his uncle Laban, tending Laban’s sheep. Laban agrees to give him his younger daughter, Rachel—whom Jacob loves—in marriage, in return for seven years’ labor. But on the wedding night, Laban gives him his elder daughter, Leah, instead—a deception Jacob discovers only in the morning. Jacob marries Rachel, too, a week later, after agreeing to work another seven years for Laban.

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In this week’s Haftara Prophets reading Hosea 11:7-12:14, mentions Jacob’s flight from home to the “field of Aram,” an episode that is recounted in this week’s Torah reading.

The haftorah begins with the prophet Hosea’s rebuke of the Jewish people for forsaking God. Nevertheless, Hosea assures the people that God will not abandon them: “How can I give you, Ephraim, and deliver you [to the hands of the nations]? . . . I will not act with My fierce anger; I will not return to destroy Ephraim.”

Happy studying!

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