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On the themes of righteousness, the pursuit of spiritual completeness, and the contrast between the transient and the eternal. * Psalms in English followed by a liturgical explanation inspired by the teachings of Malbim.

by Rabbi Boruch Merkur

Fortunate is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers.

But his delight is in the Torah of the Lord, and in His Torah he meditates day and night.

He shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked; they are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore, the wicked will not stand in judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Fortunate is one who seeks not the counsel of the vacuous, nor stands in the shadow of fleeting desires, nor sits in the company of idleness and scorn. In the heart of such a person, wisdom takes root, and in the spirit, a yearning for the eternal flame emerges. The seeker finds delight in the Torah of the Lord, a joy not born of fleeting gains or earthly laurels, but in the pursuit of truth, the essence of the Divine.

The wisdom of the Lord is like a tree of life, planted by streams of unending grace, bearing fruit in its due season, a testament of lasting faith. Like a steadfast and enduring tree is the righteous soul, rooted not in the transient soil of this world, but reaching upwards towards the celestial light. In the Torah, they find sustenance, a constant guide. Their leaves never wither, their purpose never falters. They are like trees planted by water, drawing from the eternal spring of divine wisdom. Their deeds, ripe with sincerity and love, are offerings to the world, reflections of the soul’s true calling. In every season, their spirit yields the fruits of compassion, and their leaves offer shelter of knowledge and understanding.

For the righteous, the temporal is a guardian of the spiritual, a vessel for the journey towards ultimate fulfillment. Their path is illuminated by the light of the Torah, a beacon guiding through the wilderness of existence. Yet, the way of the wicked is like chaff, drifting aimlessly, severed from the grain of truth. In the assembly of the righteous, they find no footing, for their path leads not to the sanctum of the Divine.

The Lord, in His boundless wisdom, knows the heart of each. To those who walk in righteousness, He is eternally near, their path intertwined with His unchanging truth. But the way of the wicked, devoid of real substance, fades into oblivion, like shadows at dawn. Thus, we aspire to walk in the light of righteousness, to seek the wisdom that endures beyond the ages, to be like the tree, flourishing by divine waters, bearing fruit that sustains, nurtures, and heals.

May our hearts be rooted in the teachings of the Torah, and our lives a testament to the eternal wisdom it imparts. For in its words, we find the path to true fulfillment, a journey towards the everlasting embrace of the Divine.

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With integrated commentary of Rashi

by Rabbi Boruch Merkur

וַיֹּאמַ֑ר נָקְבָ֧ה שְׂכָֽרְךָ֛ עָלַ֖י וְאֶתֵּֽנָה:

Then he said, "Specify your wages for me, and I will give [them]."

This verse captures a significant moment in the ongoing negotiations between Jacob and Laban. Laban's statement, "נקבה שכרך עלי ואתנה" (Specify your wages for me, and I will give [them]), is a direct invitation for Jacob to define the terms of his compensation for his labor. The term "נקבה", as interpreted in the Targum, means to specify or make clear. This suggests that Laban is offering Jacob the opportunity to set the terms of his own wages, which indicates a shift in their relationship dynamics.

This offer from Laban can be seen as an acknowledgment of Jacob's value and contribution to the prosperity of Laban's holdings. By allowing Jacob to set his wages, Laban is recognizing Jacob's skill and the blessing that his presence has brought. However, given the context of their previous interactions, this could also be viewed with caution, as Laban's motives and honesty have previously been questionable.

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו אַתָּ֣ה יָדַ֔עְתָּ אֵ֖ת אֲשֶׁ֣ר עֲבַדְתִּ֑יךָ וְאֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־הָיָ֥ה מִקְנְךָ֖ אִתִּֽי:

And he said to him, "You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock was with me.

In this verse, Jacob addresses Laban, emphasizing the extent of his dedication and the results of his labor. The statement "אתה ידעת את אשר עבדתיך" (You know how I have worked for you) suggests that Jacob is reminding Laban of his hard work and commitment. This is not just a claim of diligence, but a call for Laban to acknowledge the truth of the situation — that Jacob's service has been significant and beneficial.

Furthermore, the phrase "ואת אשר-היה מקנך אתי" (and how your livestock was with me) points to the success and prosperity that Laban's livestock experienced under Jacob's care. Jacob is highlighting the fact that under his management, Laban's livestock not only grew but thrived, implying that his stewardship brought about this prosperity.

Jacob's words reflect his desire for Laban to recognize the value of his contribution and possibly to counter any claims of unfaithfulness or lack of effort. This appeal to Laban's knowledge and observation serves to justify Jacob's position in any negotiations about his future and his rewards. It underscores the theme of fairness and recognition of effort that permeates Jacob's interactions with Laban.

כִּ֡י מְעַט֩ אֲשֶׁר־הָיָ֨ה לְךָ֤ לְפָנַי֙ וַיִּפְרֹ֣ץ לָרֹ֔ב וַיְבָ֧רֶךְ יְהֹוָ֛ה אֹֽתְךָ֖ לְרַגְלִ֑י וְעַתָּ֗ה מָתַ֛י אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֥ה גַם־אָֽנֹכִ֖י לְבֵיתִֽי:

For the little that you had before me has increased in multitude, and the Lord blessed you upon my arrival; but now, when will I, too, provide [something] for my household?"

In this verse, Jacob highlights the transformative impact of his presence and efforts on Laban's possessions. The phrase "מעט אשר-היה לך לפני ויפרץ לרב" (For the little that you had before me has increased in multitude) emphasizes the significant increase in Laban's wealth since Jacob's arrival. This statement is not just a claim of contribution but a testament to the blessings that have ensued due to Jacob's hard work and God's favor.

The part "ויברך יהוה אותך לרגלי" (and the Lord blessed you upon my arrival) further underlines the divine role in this prosperity. The term "לרגלי" (upon my arrival) suggests that it was specifically with Jacob's arrival and efforts that these blessings were realized, highlighting a direct correlation between Jacob's presence and the divine blessings bestowed upon Laban's household.

Jacob then shifts the focus to his own family's needs with "ועתה מתי אעשה גם-אנכי לביתי" (but now, when will I, too, provide [something] for my household?). This rhetorical question reflects his growing concern for securing the welfare of his own family. He acknowledges that while he has significantly contributed to Laban's prosperity, it is now time to focus on his own household's needs.

This verse, therefore, is a pivotal moment in the narrative, where Jacob expresses his desire to shift his priorities towards the well-being and future of his own family, indicating a move towards independence and self-sufficiency. It underscores the theme of familial responsibility and the need to balance one's duties to others with the needs of one's own household.

וַיֹּ֖אמֶר מָ֣ה אֶתֶּן־לָ֑ךְ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יַֽעֲקֹב֙ לֹֽא־תִתֶּן־לִ֣י מְא֔וּמָה אִם־תַּֽעֲשֶׂה־לִּי֙ הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֔ה אָשׁ֛וּבָה אֶרְעֶ֥ה צֹֽאנְךָ֖ אֶשְׁמֹֽר:

And he said, "What shall I give you?" And Jacob said, "You shall give me nothing; if you do this thing for me, I will return, I will pasture your flocks, [and] I will watch [them].

In this verse, Laban asks Jacob what compensation he desires, to which Jacob responds in a way that reflects his integrity and faith. Jacob's reply, "לא-תתן-לי מאומה אם-תעשה-לי הדבר הזה" (You shall give me nothing; if you do this thing for me), indicates that he is not interested in immediate material gain or conventional payment. Instead, Jacob proposes a different arrangement, which is not specified in this verse but is clarified in the subsequent verses.

Jacob's willingness to continue working without direct payment demonstrates his trust in God's provision and his long-term vision. He is more interested in a fair and just arrangement that would benefit him in the future rather than seeking immediate gratification or wealth. This approach shows Jacob's foresight, wisdom, and reliance on divine guidance in his dealings.

This verse also highlights the evolving relationship between Jacob and Laban. Jacob, now more confident and assertive, negotiates terms that are more in his favor, reflecting his growing independence and strength as an individual. This interaction sets the stage for the next phase of Jacob's journey, where he starts to lay the foundations for his own prosperity and the future of his family.

אֶֽעֱבֹ֨ר בְּכָל־צֹֽאנְךָ֜ הַיּ֗וֹם הָסֵ֨ר מִשָּׁ֜ם כָּל־שֶׂ֣ה | נָקֹ֣ד וְטָל֗וּא וְכָל־שֶׂה־חוּם֙ בַּכְּשָׂבִ֔ים וְטָל֥וּא וְנָקֹ֖ד בָּֽעִזִּ֑ים וְהָיָ֖ה שְׂכָרִֽי:

I will pass throughout all your flocks today, removing from there every speckled and spotted kid, and every brown lamb among the sheep, and [every] spotted and speckled [one from] among the goats, and this shall be my wages.

In this verse, Jacob proposes a detailed and innovative method for determining his wages, showcasing his integrity and shrewdness. His plan, "אעבור בכל-צאנך היום" (I will pass throughout all your flocks today), involves a thorough examination and separation of certain types of animals from Laban's flocks as his compensation.

Jacob specifies the animals that will constitute his wages: "כל-שה נקד וטלוא" (every speckled and spotted kid), "כל-שה-חום בכשבים" (every brown lamb among the sheep), and "טלוא ונקד בעזים" (spotted and speckled among the goats). These criteria for selecting animals are quite specific, focusing on distinct and less common patterns in the flock, which likely represented a smaller portion of the total livestock.

The terms "נקד" (speckled) and "טלוא" (spotted) are used to describe animals with particular coat patterns, indicating a fair and transparent method for wage calculation. The use of "חום" (brown) for the sheep further distinguishes the animals he will take as payment.

This arrangement is a strategic move by Jacob to ensure his compensation is based on visible and verifiable characteristics of the animals, reducing the possibility of dispute or deception. It reflects his desire for a fair and honest agreement with Laban, balancing his own interests with a method that is transparent and justifiable. This verse sets the stage for the next phase of Jacob's journey, where he begins to build his own wealth in a manner that aligns with his values of fairness and integrity.

וְעָֽנְתָה־בִּ֤י צִדְקָתִי֙ בְּי֣וֹם מָחָ֔ר כִּֽי־תָב֥וֹא עַל־שְׂכָרִ֖י לְפָנֶ֑יךָ כֹּ֣ל אֲשֶׁר־אֵינֶ֩נּוּ֩ נָקֹ֨ד וְטָל֜וּא בָּֽעִזִּ֗ים וְחוּם֙ בַּכְּשָׂבִ֔ים גָּנ֥וּב ה֖וּא אִתִּֽי:

And my righteousness will testify for me at a future date for it will come upon my wages before you. Whatever is not speckled or spotted among the goats or brown among the sheep [shall be counted as] stolen with me."

This verse reveals Jacob's deep commitment to honesty and accountability in his agreement with Laban. When Jacob says, "וְעָנְתָה-בִּי צִדְקָתִי בְּיוֹם מָחָר" (And my righteousness will testify for me at a future date), he is essentially stating that his integrity will stand as proof of his honesty in the future. He is confident that his actions will be justified and validated by his adherence to their agreement.

Jacob's plan for his wages is based on the unique characteristics of the livestock - speckled, spotted, and brown animals. By saying "כִּי-תָבוֹא עַל-שְׂכָרִי לְפָנֶיךָ" (for it will come upon my wages before you), he is setting a clear and transparent standard for what constitutes his earnings. This approach not only ensures fairness but also prevents any potential disputes about which animals are rightfully his.

The final part of the verse, "כֹּל אֲשֶׁר-אֵינֶנּוּ נָקֹד וְטָלוּא בָּעִזִּים וְחוּם בַּכְּשָׂבִים גָּנוּב הוּא אִתִּי" (Whatever is not speckled or spotted among the goats or brown among the sheep [shall be counted as] stolen with me), highlights his commitment to this standard. He declares that any animal in his possession that does not meet these criteria should be considered stolen, demonstrating his dedication to honesty and his willingness to be held accountable for his actions.

Jacob's statement is a powerful testament to his integrity and sets a high moral standard for his dealings with Laban. His approach not only ensures a fair and transparent agreement but also reflects his trust in divine providence and his commitment to ethical conduct.

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר לָבָ֖ן הֵ֑ן ל֖וּ יְהִ֥י כִדְבָרֶֽךָ:

And Laban said, "Very well! If only it would be as you say!"

Laban's response, "וַיֹּאמֶר לָבָן הֵן" (And Laban said, "Very well!"), is an expression of agreement, albeit perhaps with a hint of skepticism or surprise at Jacob's proposal. The term "הֵן" (Very well) indicates his acceptance of the terms proposed by Jacob.

The phrase "לוּ יְהִי כִדְבָרֶךָ" (If only it would be as you say) further underscores Laban's acceptance but also reveals a tone of incredulity or even a wishful thinking on his part. It's as if Laban is saying, "How great it would be if things turned out as you are proposing!" This could imply that Laban doubted the likelihood of Jacob's plan succeeding or perhaps he thought it was too good a deal for him, suspecting Jacob might not be able to achieve what he promised.

This verse sets the stage for the unfolding events in the narrative, highlighting the dynamics of negotiation and agreement between Jacob and Laban. Laban's response, while outwardly agreeable, may also hint at his calculating nature, seeing an opportunity to benefit from Jacob's proposal.

וַיָּ֣סַר בַּיּוֹם֩ הַה֨וּא אֶת־הַתְּיָשִׁ֜ים הָֽעֲקֻדִּ֣ים וְהַטְּלֻאִ֗ים וְאֵ֤ת כָּל־הָֽעִזִּים֙ הַנְּקֻדּ֣וֹת וְהַטְּלֻאֹ֔ת כֹּ֤ל אֲשֶׁר־לָבָן֙ בּ֔וֹ וְכָל־ח֖וּם בַּכְּשָׂבִ֑ים וַיִּתֵּ֖ן בְּיַד־בָּנָֽיו:

And on that day, he removed the ringed and the spotted male goats, all the speckled and spotted female goats, every one with white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and placed them in the hands of his sons.

Laban, on that very day, strategically selected and separated certain animals from his flocks. The criteria for this selection were based on their distinct markings - the ringed and spotted among the male goats, and the speckled, spotted, and any with white patches among the female goats. Additionally, all the brown sheep were also segregated.

The phrase "וַיָּסַר" (he removed) indicates Laban's deliberate action to segregate these animals, implying a calculated decision rather than a random act. This separation of the animals with specific characteristics was evidently a response to the agreement with Jacob about his wages, as Jacob had asked for only the animals with these particular markings as his payment.

Laban's next action, "וַיִּתֵּן בְּיַד-בָּנָיו" (and placed them in the hands of his sons), suggests that he entrusted these animals to his sons, possibly to keep them separate from those flocks that Jacob would be tending. This action indicates a level of mistrust or caution on Laban's part, possibly to ensure that these animals did not mix with others and complicate the agreement with Jacob.

This verse thus sets the stage for the subsequent narrative, highlighting the cunning and shrewd nature of Laban in his dealings with Jacob. It also foreshadows the potential for conflict and the complexities of their agreement regarding Jacob's compensation.

וַיָּ֗שֶׂם דֶּ֚רֶךְ שְׁל֣שֶׁת יָמִ֔ים בֵּינ֖וֹ וּבֵ֣ין יַֽעֲקֹ֑ב וְיַֽעֲקֹ֗ב רֹעֶ֛ה אֶת־צֹ֥אן לָבָ֖ן הַנּֽוֹתָרֹֽת:

And he set a distance of three days' journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob tended the remaining animals of Laban.

Laban strategically created a significant physical separation between himself and Jacob. The distance of three days' journey served as a buffer zone, ensuring that their respective flocks would remain distinct and prevent any intermingling. This decision by Laban reflects his careful, possibly distrustful, approach to his agreement with Jacob. The distance would allow for easier identification and separation of the flocks, crucial for the agreement concerning Jacob's wages.

The mention of "וְיַֽעֲקֹב רֹעֶה אֶת־צֹ֥אן לָבָ֖ן הַנּֽוֹתָרֹֽת" (and Jacob tended the remaining animals of Laban) indicates that Jacob was responsible for caring for what was left of Laban's flocks. The term "הַנּוֹתָרוֹת" (the remaining) suggests that these animals were possibly the less desirable ones, perhaps weaker or less fertile, which Laban deemed less important. This assignment to Jacob not only reflects Laban's calculating nature but also sets the stage for the subsequent developments in Jacob's wealth and prosperity. Despite being given the less favorable part of the flock, Jacob's skill and divine blessing would enable him to thrive and succeed.

וַיִּקַּח־ל֣וֹ יַֽעֲקֹ֗ב מַקַּ֥ל לִבְנֶ֛ה לַ֖ח וְל֣וּז וְעַרְמ֑וֹן וַיְפַצֵּ֤ל בָּהֵן֙ פְּצָל֣וֹת לְבָנ֔וֹת מַחְשׂף֙ הַלָּבָ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־הַמַּקְלֽוֹת:

And Jacob took for himself moist rods of trembling poplar, hazelnut, and chestnut, and he peeled white streaks on them, exposing the white beneath on the rods.

Jacob's action of taking "מַקַּל לִבְנֶה לַח" (moist rods of trembling poplar), along with hazelnut and chestnut rods, and peeling them to reveal white streaks, is a strategic move in his breeding technique. The term "לִבְנֶה" (trembling poplar) refers to a tree known for its white color and trembling leaves, signifying purity and delicacy. The rods being "לַח" (moist) suggests that they were freshly cut and therefore more effective in influencing the visual environment of the animals.

The inclusion of "וְל֣וּז וְעַרְמ֑וֹן" (hazelnut and chestnut) adds diversity to the materials used, possibly impacting the animals' perception. The act of peeling these rods to create "פְּצָלוֹת לְבָנוֹת" (white streaks) was likely done to influence the appearance of the offspring. The contrasting colors and patterns on the rods, set in the animals' environment during mating, were believed to affect the coat patterns of the offspring according to ancient breeding beliefs.

This meticulous and innovative approach by Jacob, utilizing natural elements to influence the breeding of the flocks, reflects his ingenuity and understanding of his environment. It's a testament to his resourcefulness in maximizing the potential of the resources at his disposal, even under challenging conditions set by Laban.

וַיַּצֵּ֗ג אֶת־הַמַּקְלוֹת֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר פִּצֵּ֔ל בָּֽרְהָטִ֖ים בְּשִֽׁקֲת֣וֹת הַמָּ֑יִם אֲשֶׁר֩ תָּבֹ֨אןָ הַצֹּ֤אן לִשְׁתּוֹת֙ לְנֹ֣כַח הַצֹּ֔אן וַיֵּחַ֖מְנָה בְּבֹאָ֥ן לִשְׁתּֽוֹת:

Jacob positioned the peeled rods in the troughs at the water gutters, where the flocks came to drink, facing the animals, and they would become heated when they came to drink.

Jacob's strategy in this verse is intriguing. The term "בָּֽרְהָטִ֖ים" implies that he placed the rods in the running water channels, where they were highly visible to the animals. This placement was deliberate, ensuring that the flocks would see the streaked rods at a critical time - when they came to drink and mate. The idea here is that the visual impact of the rods would influence the animals' breeding, leading to offspring with similar streaked patterns.

The use of the word "וַיֵּחַ֖מְנָה" suggests that the animals were stimulated or heated by the sight of the rods. This reflects a belief that visual stimuli could influence animal behavior and characteristics, a concept not unfamiliar in ancient breeding practices. The rods, with their contrasting white streaks against the darker wood, were likely to create a striking visual effect, potentially influencing the patterns of the offspring.

Jacob's actions demonstrate a blend of observation, experimentation, and application of traditional beliefs. He manipulates his environment in a subtle yet impactful way, using natural elements to achieve a desired outcome in his flock. This approach underscores his resourcefulness and ingenuity in a situation where direct control over breeding was not possible.

וַיֶּֽחֱמ֥וּ הַצֹּ֖אן אֶל־הַמַּקְל֑וֹת וַתֵּלַ֣דְןָ הַצֹּ֔אן עֲקֻדִּ֥ים נְקֻדִּ֖ים וּטְלֻאִֽים:

The flocks came into heat by the rods, and they bore offspring that were ringed, speckled, and spotted.

The verse describes a fascinating phenomenon where the flocks, influenced by the visual stimulus of the rods, produced offspring with distinct patterns - ringed, speckled, and spotted. The term "אֶל־הַמַּקְלוֹת", referring to the rods, implies that the visual encounter with these rods played a key role in this process.

The word "עֲקֻדִּים" indicates offspring with unique markings around their joints, specifically their forelegs and hind legs. This term suggests a pattern that was unusual and distinct, likely contributing to the differentiation of Jacob's flock from Laban's.

The appearance of these ringed, speckled, and spotted animals was a direct result of Jacob's innovative strategy. By placing peeled rods in the troughs, he created an environment that visually stimulated the flocks during their mating, leading to the birth of uniquely marked animals. This outcome showcases Jacob's understanding of his flocks and his ability to manipulate their breeding in a natural yet intentional way.

ְהַכְּשָׂבִים֘ הִפְרִ֣יד יַֽעֲקֹב֒ וַ֠יִּתֵּ֠ן פְּנֵ֨י הַצֹּ֧אן אֶל־עָקֹ֛ד וְכָל־ח֖וּם בְּצֹ֣אן לָבָ֑ן וַיָּ֨שֶׁת ל֤וֹ עֲדָרִים֙ לְבַדּ֔וֹ וְלֹ֥א שָׁתָ֖ם עַל־צֹ֥אן לָבָֽן:

Jacob separated the sheep, setting the ringed ones and every brown one from Laban's flock apart. He created independent flocks and did not mix them with Laban's animals.

This verse illustrates Jacob's strategy in animal husbandry, focusing on the separation and specialization of his flocks. By dividing the sheep with specific characteristics—ringed or brown—from Laban's flock, Jacob ensured a distinct and separate breeding program. The "פְּנֵי הַצֹּאן אֶל־עָקֹ֛ד", or directing the faces of the animals towards the ringed ones, implies that Jacob was attentive to the visual aspects influencing breeding, much like his use of the rods in the previous verses.

Jacob's method of creating his own flocks "לְבַדּוֹ" (by himself) and not mixing them with Laban's animals demonstrates a keen understanding of genetic traits and selective breeding. This independent management allowed for controlled breeding, leading to the growth of his own distinct and potentially more robust flock. This verse shows Jacob's skill and innovation in pastoral practices, contributing significantly to his growing wealth and independence.

וְהָיָ֗ה בְּכָל־יַחֵם֘ הַצֹּ֣אן הַֽמְקֻשָּׁרוֹת֒ וְשָׂ֨ם יַֽעֲקֹ֧ב אֶת־הַמַּקְל֛וֹת לְעֵינֵ֥י הַצֹּ֖אן בָּֽרְהָטִ֑ים לְיַחֲמֵ֖נָּה בַּמַּקְלֽוֹת:

Jacob would place the rods in the troughs for the animals 'bearing their first' to bring them into heat by the rods.

This verse describes a crucial aspect of Jacob's method for influencing the breeding of his flocks. The Hebrew term "הַמְקֻשָּׁרוֹת" (ha'mequsharot) is interpreted by Rashi as referring to animals that were 'bearing their first.' However, Rashi notes that this interpretation does not have direct evidence in the Scripture. He draws a parallel with the term "conspirators" (בַּקּוֹשְׁרִים) from II Samuel, suggesting these animals were somehow 'binding together' to hasten conception.

This method of placing peeled rods in the animals' line of sight during watering aimed to stimulate the animals into heat and influence the characteristics of their offspring. This practice, based on the belief that visual stimuli at the time of conception could affect the traits of the offspring, demonstrates Jacob's experimental approach to animal husbandry. It reflects his strategic thinking and ingenuity in managing and expanding his flocks under the challenging circumstances of his servitude to Laban.

וּבְהַֽעֲטִ֥יף הַצֹּ֖אן לֹ֣א יָשִׂ֑ים וְהָיָ֤ה הָֽעֲטֻפִים֙ לְלָבָ֔ן וְהַקְּשֻׁרִ֖ים לְיַֽעֲקֹֽב:

Jacob did not place the rods for the animals that delayed breeding, so the ones that delayed were Laban's, and those that bore their first became Jacob's.

This verse highlights Jacob's selective breeding strategy. The term "הַעֲטִיף" (ha'atif) is understood by Rashi as meaning delay, as translated by the Targum. Another interpretation by Menachem links it to the idea of wrapping or covering, suggesting these animals enwrapped themselves in their wool, showing a reluctance to breed. Jacob's method depended on the animals' natural breeding cycle. He placed the rods only for the animals actively coming into heat, influencing the characteristics of the offspring. Those that delayed or showed no interest in breeding were left out of this process, thus remaining Laban's. This selective method ensured that the stronger, more actively breeding animals, which produced offspring under the influence of the rods, became Jacob's, aligning with his agreement with Laban. This distinction was a shrewd approach, maximizing the genetic strength and diversity of Jacob's own flocks.

וַיִּפְרֹ֥ץ הָאִ֖ישׁ מְאֹ֣ד מְאֹ֑ד וַֽיְהִי־לוֹ֙ צֹ֣אן רַבּ֔וֹת וּשְׁפָחוֹת֙ וַֽעֲבָדִ֔ים וּגְמַלִּ֖ים וַֽחֲמֹרִֽים:

And the man became exceedingly wealthy, and he had prolific animals, and maidservants and manservants, and camels and donkeys.

The phrase "ויפרוץ האיש מאד מאד" (And the man became exceedingly wealthy) illustrates the immense prosperity achieved by Jacob. His wealth was not just in the quantity but also in the quality of his possessions, as indicated by "צאן רבות" (prolific animals). These animals were uniquely fruitful, multiplying more than usual, a sign of divine favor and blessing.

Regarding "ושפחות ועבדים" (maidservants and manservants), this prosperity extended beyond livestock to human resources. Jacob was able to sell his exceptionally abundant and valuable animals at high prices, enabling him to acquire numerous servants. This acquisition of servants further signifies his elevated status and wealth.

The mention of "גמלים וחמורים" (camels and donkeys) underlines the comprehensive nature of Jacob's wealth. Camels, valuable for long-distance trade and transportation, and donkeys, essential for local transport and agricultural work, represent the full spectrum of Jacob's prosperous and expansive holdings. This verse, therefore, encapsulates Jacob's journey from a fledgling shepherd to a figure of significant wealth and influence, blessed in both his flocks and in his wider possessions.

וַיִּשְׁמַ֗ע אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֤י בְנֵֽי־לָבָן֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר לָקַ֣ח יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב אֵ֖ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר לְאָבִ֑ינוּ וּמֵֽאֲשֶׁ֣ר לְאָבִ֔ינוּ עָשָׂ֕ה אֵ֥ת כָּל־הַכָּבֹ֖ד הַזֶּֽה:

And he heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, "Jacob has taken all that belonged to our father, and from what belonged to our father, he has amassed this entire fortune."

This verse captures the growing tension and envy among Laban's sons towards Jacob. The phrase "וישמע את-דברי בני-לבן" (And he heard the words of Laban's sons) indicates that Jacob became aware of their murmuring and accusations. They accused him of taking everything that belonged to their father, Laban, suggesting a sense of betrayal or injustice.

The word "עשה" (he has amassed) is key here. It's not just about acquiring or taking possession, but also about creating or making something. This mirrors the concept in I Samuel 14:48, "ויעש חיל ויך את עמלק" (And he gathered an army, and he smote Amalek). It implies that Jacob's wealth wasn't just acquired passively but was actively created or produced by him, suggesting skill, effort, and perhaps divine blessing in his endeavors.

The envy of Laban's sons stems from seeing the substantial wealth ("כל-הכבוד הזה" - this entire fortune) that Jacob accumulated, which they perceive as having been taken from their father. This sentiment sets the stage for the ensuing dynamics between Jacob and Laban's family, highlighting the complexities of family, wealth, and perception of fairness and rights within these relationships.

וַיַּ֥רְא יַֽעֲקֹ֖ב אֶת־פְּנֵ֣י לָבָ֑ן וְהִנֵּ֥ה אֵינֶ֛נּוּ עִמּ֖וֹ כִּתְמ֥וֹל שִׁלְשֽׁוֹם:

And Jacob saw Laban's countenance, that he was not disposed toward him as [he had been] yesterday and the day before.

This verse illustrates a pivotal shift in the relationship between Jacob and Laban. The phrase "וירא יעקב את-פני לבן" (And Jacob saw Laban's countenance) indicates Jacob's acute awareness and observation of Laban's demeanor, a vital survival skill in his uncertain and often hostile environment.

The key to understanding this shift lies in "והנה איננו עמו כתמול שלשום" (he was not disposed toward him as [he had been] yesterday and the day before). This suggests a stark change in Laban's attitude, moving from a previously favorable or neutral stance to one of apparent hostility or coldness. This change in Laban's demeanor towards Jacob is not merely about personal feelings; it reflects the broader context of their changing power dynamics, economic interests, and family relationships.

The verse, therefore, captures a moment of realization for Jacob, where he becomes keenly aware of the evolving dynamics in his relationship with Laban. This awareness likely influenced his subsequent decisions and actions, as he navigated the complexities of his situation, balancing personal safety, family obligations, and his long-term goals.

ַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב שׁ֛וּב אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ אֲבוֹתֶ֖יךָ וּלְמֽוֹלַדְתֶּ֑ךָ וְאֶֽהְיֶ֖ה עִמָּֽךְ:

And the Lord said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your forefathers and to your birthplace, and I will be with you."

This verse conveys a significant turning point in Jacob's journey, marked by divine guidance. The directive "שוב אל-ארץ אבותיך" (Return to the land of your forefathers) is not just a physical return to his ancestral land, but also a spiritual call to reconnect with his heritage and the promises made to his ancestors.

The phrase "ואהיה עמך" (and I will be with you) carries profound assurance. It implies that God's presence and support will accompany Jacob, but with a condition. This presence is contingent upon Jacob's separation from "הטמא" (the unclean one), referring to his current entanglements with Laban. This illustrates a spiritual principle: proximity to impurity can impede the divine presence.

The message here is dual: a physical journey back to his roots and a spiritual journey towards purification and alignment with his divine purpose. It underscores the notion that divine guidance and presence are intimately tied to one's environment and spiritual state. This verse, therefore, is not just about geographical relocation, but a call for spiritual realignment and commitment to the covenantal path of his forefathers.

וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב וַיִּקְרָ֖א לְרָחֵ֣ל וּלְלֵאָ֑ה הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה אֶל־צֹאנֽוֹ:

So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flocks.

In this verse, Jacob's actions reflect the careful balancing of family dynamics. The ordering in "ויקרא לרחל וללאה" (and called Rachel and Leah) is significant. Rachel is mentioned first, then Leah, which emphasizes Rachel's primary status in Jacob's life and household. This prioritization is rooted in the fact that Jacob's original and primary intention for serving Laban was to marry Rachel.

This hierarchy is subtly acknowledged even by Leah’s own children, as evidenced in the later text where Boaz and his tribunal from the tribe of Judah, while blessing Ruth, say, "like Rachel and like Leah, both of whom built..." (Ruth 4:11). In this blessing, Rachel is placed before Leah, echoing the sentiment of Jacob's time.

Jacob's decision to call his wives to the field, away from the household, is also telling. It suggests a need for privacy and discretion, possibly to discuss matters of significant importance away from the prying eyes and ears of Laban and his household. This meeting in the field, away from the usual domestic setting, signifies a moment of critical decision-making and family consultation, with Rachel and Leah as key participants in the unfolding events.

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָהֶ֗ן רֹאֶ֤ה אָֽנֹכִי֙ אֶת־פְּנֵ֣י אֲבִיכֶ֔ן כִּֽי־אֵינֶ֥נּוּ אֵלַ֖י כִּתְמֹ֣ל שִׁלְשֹׁ֑ם וֵֽאלֹהֵ֣י אָבִ֔י הָיָ֖ה עִמָּדִֽי:

And he said to them, "I see your father's countenance, that he is not disposed toward me [as he was] yesterday and the day before, but the God of my father was with me.

In this verse, Jacob communicates his observations and concerns to Rachel and Leah, emphasizing the shift in their father Laban's attitude towards him. The phrase "ראה אנכי את-פני אביכן" (I see your father's countenance) reflects Jacob's ability to discern the subtle changes in Laban's demeanor, which had turned from favorable to unfriendly.

Jacob contrasts Laban's changed attitude with the divine support he has received: "ואלהי אבי היה עמדי" (but the God of my father was with me). This statement highlights a significant aspect of Jacob's journey and struggles. Despite the adversities and challenges posed by Laban, Jacob acknowledges the constant and protective presence of God in his life, a presence inherited from his father, Isaac. This divine support is implied to be a guiding and steadying force amidst the uncertainties and potential hostilities in his relationship with Laban.

This verse, therefore, serves as a testament to Jacob's reliance on divine guidance and protection, even as he faces growing tension and distrust in his relationship with Laban. It also sets the stage for the unfolding narrative, where Jacob's faith and trust in God play a crucial role in navigating the complexities of his situation.

וְאַתֵּ֖נָה יְדַעְתֶּ֑ן כִּ֚י בְּכָל־כֹּחִ֔י עָבַ֖דְתִּי אֶת־אֲבִיכֶֽן:

And you know that with all my might I served your father.

This verse conveys Jacob's earnest plea to Rachel and Leah, emphasizing his integrity and commitment during his time with their father, Laban. The phrase "וְאַתֵּנָה יְדַעְתֶּן" (And you know) is a direct appeal to their shared knowledge and experiences, highlighting that they are fully aware of the efforts he has put into his work.

בְּכָל־כֹּחִי עָבַדְתִּי אֶת־אֲבִיכֶן (with all my might I served your father) underscores Jacob's dedication and hard work. He is not merely stating that he worked for Laban; he emphasizes that he did so with his utmost effort and strength, implying a level of commitment and diligence that goes beyond mere duty.

This assertion by Jacob is crucial in the context of the narrative. It serves to remind Rachel and Leah of his loyalty and the sacrifices he has made. This not only establishes his credibility and sincerity but also lays the groundwork for the upcoming decisions and actions they will need to take as a family. It’s a statement that underlines the ethical and moral standards Jacob adhered to, despite the challenging circumstances he faced while working for Laban.

וַֽאֲבִיכֶן֙ הֵ֣תֶל בִּ֔י וְהֶֽחֱלִ֥ף אֶת־מַשְׂכֻּרְתִּ֖י עֲשֶׂ֣רֶת מֹנִ֑ים וְלֹֽא־נְתָנ֣וֹ אֱלֹהִ֔ים לְהָרַ֖ע עִמָּדִֽי:

But your father mocked me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not permit him to harm me.

This verse delves into the struggles Jacob faced under Laban's deceitful practices. The term "התל בי" (mocked me) underscores Laban's duplicity towards Jacob, treating him with disrespect and trickery. This is further elucidated in the phrase "והחלף את-משכרתי עשרת מונים" (changed my wages ten times), where "מונים" signifies a base number, typically ten. This implies that Laban altered the terms of their agreement not just ten times, but potentially up to a hundred times, as each "change" could encompass multiple instances.

Despite Laban's repeated attempts to exploit and manipulate Jacob, the latter part of the verse, "ולא-נתנו אלהים להרע עמדי" (but God did not permit him to harm me), reveals a significant aspect of Jacob's experience. It highlights the divine protection that safeguarded him from Laban's malevolent intentions. This protective intervention prevented Laban from causing Jacob substantial harm, despite the numerous occasions on which he altered their agreement to his own advantage.

Thus, the verse not only portrays Jacob's resilience and steadfastness in the face of adversity and deception but also emphasizes the role of divine providence in guiding and protecting him throughout his challenging journey with Laban.

אִם־כֹּ֣ה יֹאמַ֗ר נְקֻדִּים֙ יִֽהְיֶ֣ה שְׂכָרֶ֔ךָ וְיָֽלְד֥וּ כָל־הַצֹּ֖אן נְקֻדִּ֑ים וְאִם־כֹּ֣ה יֹאמַ֗ר עֲקֻדִּים֙ יִֽהְיֶ֣ה שְׂכָרֶ֔ךָ וְיָֽלְד֥וּ כָל־הַצֹּ֖אן עֲקֻדִּֽים:

If he would say thus, 'Speckled ones shall be your wages,' all the animals would bear speckled ones, and if he would say thus, 'Ringed ones shall be your wages,' all the animals would bear ringed ones.

In this verse, Jacob details the manipulative tactics of Laban regarding the terms of their agreement. Laban's statements, "נקודים יהיה שכרך" (Speckled ones shall be your wages) and "עקודים יהיה שכרך" (Ringed ones shall be your wages), illustrate his attempts to control the outcome of their agreement by frequently changing the conditions of Jacob's wages.

Jacob points out the miraculous nature of the flocks' births in response to Laban's shifting terms. Whenever Laban designated a particular type of offspring (speckled or ringed) as Jacob's wages, the animals would predominantly produce offspring of that exact type. This phenomenon indicates a divine intervention and blessing in Jacob's favor, counteracting Laban's attempts to limit his prosperity.

This verse emphasizes not only Laban's deceitful nature but also the providential care that Jacob received, which ensured his success despite Laban's efforts. It highlights the theme of divine justice and protection, where God's intervention ensures that righteousness and fairness prevail over deceit and manipulation.

וַיַּצֵּ֧ל אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶת־מִקְנֵ֥ה אֲבִיכֶ֖ם וַיִּתֶּן־לִֽי:

Thus, God separated your father's livestock and gave it to me.

This verse highlights the culmination of God's intervention in the complex relationship between Jacob and Laban. The phrase "ויצל אלהים את-מקנה אביכם" (Thus, God separated your father's livestock) signifies a divine act of separation, indicating that God actively intervened to distinguish between the flocks belonging to Laban and those that would be Jacob's.

The following part, "ויתן-לי" (and gave it to me), is crucial. It underscores that the prosperous outcome Jacob experienced was not merely a result of chance or his own efforts, but rather a direct result of divine providence. God's role in granting Jacob his portion of the livestock is a clear indication of divine favor and justice.

This verse thereby serves to reinforce the theme of divine involvement and justice in the story of Jacob. It highlights that despite Laban's attempts to deceive and manipulate, it was ultimately God's will that prevailed, ensuring that Jacob received his rightful share. This divine intervention is a testament to the covenantal relationship between God and Jacob, where divine guidance and protection play pivotal roles.

יַיְהִ֗י בְּעֵת֙ יַחֵ֣ם הַצֹּ֔אן וָֽאֶשָּׂ֥א עֵינַ֛י וָאֵ֖רֶא בַּֽחֲל֑וֹם וְהִנֵּ֤ה הָֽעֲתֻּדִים֙ הָֽעֹלִ֣ים עַל־הַצֹּ֔אן עֲקֻדִּ֥ים נְקֻדִּ֖ים וּבְרֻדִּֽים:

And it came to pass at the time the animals came into heat, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the he-goats that mounted the animals were ringed, speckled, and striped.

This verse encapsulates a pivotal moment where divine intervention is vividly portrayed. "ואשא עיני וארא בחלום" (I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream) indicates that Jacob's experience was not just a natural occurrence, but a divinely guided vision, revealing to him God's active role in his life and endeavors.

The specific details of the dream, "העתודים העלים על-הצאן עקודים נקודים וברודים" (the he-goats that mounted the animals were ringed, speckled, and striped), signify the miraculous nature of the breeding. Despite Laban's efforts to manipulate the breeding to his advantage by separating these marked animals, the angels were intervening. They were moving these particular animals from Laban's flock to Jacob's, ensuring that the offspring bore the desired markings, thereby increasing Jacob's share.

The term "וברודים" (striped) is particularly noteworthy. As explained in the commentary, it describes the unique pattern of stripes on the animals, adding to the miraculous aspect of their breeding. This pattern was so distinctive that it seemed to defy natural explanation, further emphasizing the divine influence in these events.

This verse, therefore, highlights a critical aspect of Jacob's narrative, where God's providence and intervention are unmistakably evident. It underscores the idea that despite human scheming and manipulation, divine will ultimately prevails, guiding and protecting those who are faithful.

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֵלַ֜י מַלְאַ֧ךְ הָֽאֱלֹהִ֛ים בַּֽחֲל֖וֹם יַֽעֲקֹ֑ב וָֽאֹמַ֖ר הִנֵּֽנִי:

And an angel of God said to me in a dream, 'Jacob!' And I said, 'Here I am.'

This verse conveys a deeply spiritual moment for Jacob, marking direct communication with the divine. The phrase "ויאמר אלי מלאך האלהים בחלום" (And an angel of God said to me in a dream) signifies the transcendent nature of the message Jacob receives. It’s not an ordinary dream but a divine revelation conveyed through an angel, a messenger of God.

The angel’s call, "יעקב" (Jacob), and Jacob's immediate response, "הנני" (Here I am), depict a moment of profound attentiveness and readiness to receive God’s message. "הנני" is more than just a physical acknowledgment; it's a statement of complete presence and willingness to heed the divine will.

This verse, thus, not only highlights a pivotal moment of divine guidance in Jacob's life but also illustrates his unwavering devotion and responsiveness to God's call. The interaction reflects a deep, personal relationship with the divine, where Jacob is attuned to and receptive of God's guidance, ready to act according to it. This receptivity to divine communication plays a crucial role in shaping the course of Jacob's journey and destiny.

וַיֹּ֗אמֶר שָׂא־נָ֨א עֵינֶ֤יךָ וּרְאֵה֙ כָּל־הָֽעֲתֻּדִים֙ הָֽעֹלִ֣ים עַל־הַצֹּ֔אן עֲקֻדִּ֥ים נְקֻדִּ֖ים וּבְרֻדִּ֑ים כִּ֣י רָאִ֔יתִי אֵ֛ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר לָבָ֖ן עֹ֥שֶׂה לָּֽךְ:

And he said, 'Now lift your eyes and see [that] all the he goats mounting the animals are ringed, speckled, and striped, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you.

This verse continues the divine revelation to Jacob, with the angel instructing him to observe the flocks. "שא-נא עיניך וראה" (Now lift your eyes and see) is a directive to Jacob to witness the miraculous manifestation of his flocks, where the he-goats mounting the animals bore the specific markings - "עקודים נקודים וברודים" (ringed, speckled, and striped). This visual proof is a testament to the divine intervention in Jacob's favor, ensuring his prosperity against Laban's schemes.

The angel's statement, "כי ראיתי את כל-אשר לבן עשה לך" (for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you), emphasizes God's awareness of Laban's deceitful actions towards Jacob. It indicates that God is not just a passive observer but actively involved in ensuring justice and fairness in Jacob's life.

This verse thus reinforces the theme of divine protection and guidance. It highlights that despite human injustice and manipulation, divine oversight and intervention work to restore balance and ensure that righteousness prevails. This divine assurance serves as a powerful reminder of the covenantal relationship between Jacob and God, where divine providence plays a crucial role in guiding and protecting the faithful.

אָֽנֹכִ֤י הָאֵל֙ בֵּֽית־אֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֨ר מָשַׁ֤חְתָּ שָּׁם֙ מַצֵּבָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר נָדַ֥רְתָּ לִּ֛י שָׁ֖ם נֶ֑דֶר עַתָּ֗ה ק֥וּם צֵא֙ מִן־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֔את וְשׁ֖וּב אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ מֽוֹלַדְתֶּֽךָ:

I am the God of Beth-el, where you anointed a monument, where you pronounced to Me a vow. Now, arise, go forth from this land and return to the land of your birth.'

In this verse, God identifies Himself as "האל בית-אל" (the God of Beth-el), directly linking to a significant moment in Jacob's past. This reference to Beth-el, where Jacob anointed a monument and made a vow, is not just a reminder of a place but a recall of a sacred commitment and a divine encounter. The anointing of the monument, "משחת שם מצבה" (where you anointed a monument), symbolizes Jacob's recognition of the place as sacred, akin to anointing a king or an altar, indicating reverence and acknowledgment of God's presence.

Furthermore, God reminds Jacob of his vow, "אשר נדרת לי" (where you pronounced to Me a vow), implying an expectation of fulfillment. This vow, made at a time of personal transition and uncertainty, reflects Jacob's deep faith and commitment to God. It's a reminder of the reciprocal relationship between God and Jacob, where Jacob's acknowledgment of God's blessings comes with a promise of loyalty and worship.

The directive, "עתה קום צא מן-הארץ הזאת ושוב אל-ארץ מולדתך" (Now, arise, go forth from this land and return to the land of your birth), signifies a call for action. It's not merely a physical return to his homeland but a spiritual journey back to his roots and the fulfillment of his vow. This command underscores the continuing divine guidance in Jacob's life, steering him towards his destiny and the fulfillment of the promises made to him and his ancestors.

וַתַּ֤עַן רָחֵל֨ וְלֵאָ֔ה וַתֹּאמַ֖רְנָה ל֑וֹ הַע֥וֹד לָ֛נוּ חֵ֥לֶק וְנַֽחֲלָ֖ה בְּבֵ֥ית אָבִֽינוּ:

And Rachel and Leah replied and said to him, "Do we still have a share or an inheritance in our father's house?

In this verse, Rachel and Leah's response to Jacob's account of his divine vision and direction is deeply significant. Their question, "העוד לנו חלק ונחלה בבית אבינו" (Do we still have a share or an inheritance in our father's house?), reflects a profound sense of disconnection and disenfranchisement from their familial home. This rhetorical question implies that they feel they no longer have a stake or expectation of inheritance from their father, Laban.

Their query suggests an awareness that their father's actions and decisions have effectively excluded them from the family inheritance, typically reserved for male heirs. This sense of exclusion strengthens their resolve and willingness to leave with Jacob, supporting his divine directive to return to his homeland.

The sisters' united front in this decision highlights their solidarity with Jacob, acknowledging the unjust treatment they all have experienced at the hands of Laban. Their statement is not just a rhetorical question but a declaration of their readiness to break away from their past and embark on a new journey with Jacob, aligning with the divine plan for their family's future.

הֲל֧וֹא נָכְרִיּ֛וֹת נֶחְשַׁ֥בְנוּ ל֖וֹ כִּ֣י מְכָרָ֑נוּ וַיֹּ֥אכַל גַּם־אָכ֖וֹל אֶת־כַּסְפֵּֽנוּ:

Are we not considered by him as strangers, for he sold us and also consumed our money?

This verse conveys Rachel and Leah's profound sense of alienation and betrayal by their father, Laban. Their rhetorical question, "הלוא נכריות נחשבנו לו" (Are we not considered by him as strangers), underscores their feeling of being treated as outsiders rather than daughters. This sentiment is intensified by the fact that Laban sold them to Jacob in exchange for years of labor, rather than giving them a dowry, which was the customary practice.

Their statement, "כי מכרנו ויאכל גם-אכול את-כספנו" (for he sold us and also consumed our money), further illustrates their plight. Laban not only used them as a bargaining chip in his dealings with Jacob, but he also squandered the wages that rightfully belonged to them. This action essentially deprived them of their inheritance and financial security.

Rachel and Leah's words here reveal the depth of their disillusionment and justify their decision to leave with Jacob. They acknowledge that they have no future or inheritance in their father's house, as he has exploited and disregarded their well-being. This realization cements their solidarity with Jacob, aligning themselves with his destiny and the divine plan that guides him.

כִּ֣י כָל־הָעֹ֗שֶׁר אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִצִּ֤יל אֱלֹהִים֙ מֵֽאָבִ֔ינוּ לָ֥נוּ ה֖וּא וּלְבָנֵ֑ינוּ וְעַתָּ֗ה כֹּל֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָמַ֧ר אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֵלֶ֖יךָ עֲשֵֽׂה:

But all the wealth that God separated from our father is ours and our children's. So now, all that God said to you, do."

In this verse, Rachel and Leah express a clear understanding and acceptance of the divine intervention in their family's fortunes. The phrase "כל-העשר אשר הציל אלהים מאבינו" (all the wealth that God separated from our father) indicates their recognition that the wealth they now possess is not due to their father Laban's actions, but because of what God has providentially separated or rescued from him for their benefit.

The use of the word "הציל" (separated) here is significant. It's typically used to denote a rescue or deliverance, suggesting that God actively intervened to protect and allocate this wealth to Jacob, Rachel, Leah, and their children, thereby ensuring justice and rectifying Laban's deceitful actions.

Their acknowledgment that this wealth belongs not only to them but also to their children ("לנו הוא ולבנינו") emphasizes the long-term impact of God's intervention, securing the family's future prosperity.

Finally, their statement "כל אשר אמר אלהים אליך, עשה" (So now, all that God said to you, do) shows their complete support for Jacob's decision to leave Laban and return to his homeland. This is not just a personal decision for Jacob but a family consensus, acknowledging and submitting to God's will for their lives. It highlights their faith in God's guidance and their willingness to follow the path He has laid out for them.

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On the fourth reading of Vayeitzei with integrated commentary of Rashi

by Rabbi Boruch Merkur

In the heart of the wheat harvest, a time of toil and reaping, young Reuben ventured into the fields. Amidst the golden waves of wheat, his eyes caught sight of something unusual, a small plant, often overlooked and deemed insignificant. This was the dudaim, known in Arabic as jasmine, an herb with delicate flowers, a symbol of ownerless simplicity.

Reuben, embodying the integrity and virtues of his lineage, chose to pick these dudaim. He could have easily extended his hand towards the wheat or barley, the bounties of the harvest, yet he refrained, demonstrating a profound respect for property and ownership, even amidst abundance. He understood that true value often lies not in what is most coveted, but in what is most overlooked.

With a sense of innocent pride, Reuben presented the dudaim to his mother, Leah. But soon, these simple flowers became the center of a new tension. Rachel, observing this tender exchange, approached Leah. "Please, give me some of your son's dudaim," she implored, seeking a share in what she perceived as a token of good fortune or perhaps a catalyst for her own desires to be fulfilled.

The dudaim, seemingly insignificant, became a subtle symbol of the ongoing complexities and yearnings within this family. They highlighted a contrast in values and perceptions, between appreciating the simple, ownerless things in life and coveting what others possess. This moment, set against the backdrop of the wheat harvest, reflects deeper themes of desire, ownership, and the human inclination to find significance in the smallest of nature's offerings.


The tension between Leah and Rachel escalated over the simple dudaim, a symbol of much more than mere plants. Leah, wearied by the rivalry, confronted Rachel with a mixture of dismay and hurt. "Isn't it enough that you've taken my husband? Now, you also wish to claim my son's dudaim?" she exclaimed, her voice a blend of sorrow and exasperation.

Rachel, realizing the depth of Leah's feelings, offered a compromise, albeit one that would come with its own implications. "Alright," she conceded, "Jacob shall spend tonight with you in exchange for your son's dudaim." This exchange, seemingly trivial on the surface, held deeper consequences. By trading something as sacred as time with their husband for a handful of plants, the gravity of their choices was laid bare. This moment, though seemingly about resolving a simple conflict, was a reflection of the complex interplay of emotions, desires, and the pursuit of love and recognition within the family.

In this exchange, the narrative subtly points out the profound implications of seemingly small actions and decisions. Rachel's willingness to trade her time with Jacob, though meant as a solution, would later be seen in a different light, underscoring the idea that even the most personal choices can ripple out, affecting one's destiny in ways unforeseen.


As the sun dipped below the horizon, painting the sky in hues of orange and purple, Jacob returned wearily from the fields. In the fading light, Leah, with a blend of determination and apprehension, stepped forward to meet him. "Tonight, you will come to me," she said, her voice tinged with a mixture of boldness and vulnerability. "I have claimed this time with you, giving Rachel the dudaim from my son in exchange."

Jacob, understanding the transaction that had been made, acquiesced. That night, under the canopy of stars, Leah and Jacob came together, not just in physical union but in a moment orchestrated by destiny. Unseen and unfelt, the Divine hand guided this encounter, ensuring that from this union would come Issachar.

In the quiet of the night, as Leah and Jacob lay together, the complex web of family dynamics, desires, and divine plans interwove to create a new chapter in their lineage, a testament to the mysterious ways in which destinies are shaped and intertwined.


The air was still, as if holding its breath, when the news spread across the household of Jacob. Leah, her eyes reflecting a mix of hope and fulfillment, had once again conceived. In the quiet sanctity of her heart, her prayers and yearnings had risen like incense, seeking to be part of the divine plan to increase the number of tribes.

God, in His infinite wisdom, heard Leah's silent pleas. Her desire to contribute to the burgeoning legacy of Israel was not just a personal longing but a chord in the symphony of a larger destiny. As she bore Jacob a fifth son, it was not just the cry of a newborn that echoed in their tent, but the resonant affirmation of a prayer answered, a testament to Leah's unwavering faith and her role in shaping the narrative of a people chosen to forge a covenant with the Divine.

In those moments, as Leah held her new son, the complexities of rivalry and longing seemed to dissolve into a profound realization. Each child was not just a part of her story but a living, breathing piece of a much grander tapestry being woven through time and generations.


In the quiet corners of Leah's heart, a sense of divine acknowledgement blossomed. She had traversed a path laden with complex emotions and choices, each step a delicate dance between personal longing and larger destinies. Her decision to give Zilpah, her maidservant, to Jacob had not been taken lightly, but with a heart seeking fulfillment in ways beyond her own understanding.

Leah’s voice trembled slightly with a mix of gratitude and awe as she declared, "God has given me my reward." It was a moment of profound realization, a recognition that her actions, driven by a deep-seated desire to be a part of the unfolding story of Israel, had been seen and acknowledged by the Divine.

As she held her newborn son, a living testament to her faith and resilience, Leah named him Issachar. In that name was etched a story of sacrifice and reward, a tale not just of a woman in the tapestry of a great lineage, but of the intricate workings of divine providence. Issachar was not just the fruit of a union, but a symbol of a deeper covenant, a reminder that in the grand design of life, every act of giving and love finds its echo in the halls of heaven.


The cycle of life continued its relentless and mysterious dance in the household of Jacob. Leah, once again embraced by the warmth of new life within, journeyed through the months with a quiet, reflective grace. There was something different about this time, a sense of deepening understanding and acceptance that played softly across her features.

When the time came, Leah gave birth to her sixth son, a moment marked not just by the cries of a newborn but by a profound sense of fulfillment. This child, her sixth gift to the legacy of Jacob, was a testament to her resilience, a living symbol of her enduring presence in the tapestry of their family's story.

As she cradled her baby, Leah's thoughts wandered over the path she had walked – a path marked by hope, struggle, and a quiet, steadfast faith. This son was more than just a continuation of a lineage; he was a reminder of Leah's own journey, of the strength and courage she had found within herself, and of the mysterious ways of providence that had guided her steps.

In naming her son, Leah captured all these sentiments, weaving them into a name that would carry forth her story and her spirit. This child, born of her perseverance and faith, would forever bear a name that echoed Leah's own journey, a journey of hope, resilience, and the quiet strength of a woman whose love and faith had helped shape the destiny of a nation.


As the seasons turned, bringing with them the rhythm of time and tide, Leah found herself once again cradling the miracle of new life in her arms. With the birth of her sixth son, a wellspring of gratitude and reflection filled her heart. She looked upon this child, her latest blessing, and in her mind, a name formed—a name that was both a declaration of thanksgiving and a hope for the future.

Zebulun, she whispered, gently tracing the contours of her baby's face. The name, resonant with meaning, was her way of acknowledging the gracious gift she had received from God—a gift not just of another son, but of a sense of belonging, of being valued and cherished.

Leah's thoughts drifted to her husband, Jacob, and the complex tapestry of their life together. With Zebulun's birth, Leah felt a shifting of the scales, a balancing of her place within the family. "This time," she mused with a mixture of hope and yearning, "my husband will live with me." In her heart, Leah yearned for more than just the physical presence of Jacob; she sought a deeper connection, a sense of partnership and unity that had often felt just beyond reach.

Zebulun, then, was not just another son; he was a symbol of Leah's enduring hope for a future where she was more than just a mother of many, but also a beloved partner in the intricate dance of family life. His name, spoken softly in the quiet moments she shared with him, was a testament to Leah's unwavering faith and her quiet, steadfast love—a love that had weathered storms and blossomed in the most unexpected of places.


As the wheel of time turned, bringing with it the natural cycles of life, Leah once again felt the stirring of new life within her. This time, however, her experience was tinged with a depth of introspection and a profound sense of responsibility towards her sister, Rachel. When Leah realized she was expecting again, her heart was filled with complex emotions.

It was then that she named her daughter Dinah, a name that resonated with the weight of judgment and choice. Our Sages tell a tale of Leah's inner turmoil and her capacity for empathy. She understood that if this child in her womb were another son, her sister Rachel would be even further distanced in the familial hierarchy, akin to one of the handmaids rather than a wife in equal standing. This thought weighed heavily on Leah's heart.

In a moment of profound self-reflection and compassion, Leah turned her hopes heavenward, praying fervently. Her prayer was not for personal gain or favor, but for balance and kindness towards her sister. It was a prayer that transcended personal desire, seeking instead to preserve the dignity and standing of Rachel within their shared family.

The Sages whispered that through the power of Leah's heartfelt prayer, the child was transformed. The baby, initially destined to be a boy, was born as a girl—Dinah. This act of transformation was more than mere physical change; it was a symbol of Leah's deep love and respect for the bonds of sisterhood, a testament to the lengths she would go to maintain harmony and fairness in her family.

Dinah's birth was a moment of quiet triumph, a testament to the power of prayer and the strength of a woman's love and compassion. Her name would forever echo the depth of Leah's character, her capacity for judgment, and her profound sense of responsibility towards her family.


In the unfolding narrative of lives interwoven with divine intention, a poignant chapter began as God turned His attention to Rachel. It was a time of profound transformation, where Rachel's long-held prayers and silent aches were finally met with a celestial response.

God remembered Rachel – not merely recalling her existence, but deeply acknowledging the sacrifices and pain she endured. The narrative of Rachel is rich with layers of sacrifice and silent strength. Our Sages recount how Rachel, in a selfless act of love, handed over the secret signs to her sister Leah, to save her from embarrassment on what was supposed to be Rachel's wedding night. This act of profound kindness was not forgotten.

Moreover, Rachel bore a silent struggle, one that twisted her heart in fear and uncertainty. She dreaded the possibility of being cast into the lot of Esau, Jacob's twin brother, known for his moral ambiguity and contrasting path. This fear was not unfounded, as even the wicked Esau had entertained thoughts of claiming Rachel when he heard of her childlessness. The poets of old captured this turmoil in their verses, painting a vivid picture of Rachel's concealed dread and the looming shadow of Esau.

But in this moment of divine remembrance, the tides turned for Rachel. God, in His infinite compassion, hearkened to her. It was a listening that went beyond mere auditory perception – it was an understanding, an empathetic resonance with the depth of her yearnings. And in that act of divine listening, her womb, which had remained closed, was now opened. It was as if the gates of hope that had long been shut were now flung open, allowing the light of possibility to flood in.

Rachel's story, thus, is not just a tale of a woman longing for a child. It is a narrative of resilience, of silent sacrifices, and of a faith so steadfast that it moved the heavens. It is a testament to the power of patience, of enduring love, and of a belief in the goodness of the future, even when the present is clouded with uncertainty and fear. The opening of Rachel's womb was more than a biological change – it was a symbol of new beginnings, of dreams realized, and of promises kept.


In the heart of the narrative, a moment of profound transformation unfolded for Rachel. She, who had longed for a child, finally felt the stirrings of life within her. With the birth of her son, a deep-seated burden, a reproach that had shadowed her days, was lifted. She named her son Joseph, a name reflecting her relief and gratitude, for God had removed her disgrace and shame.

Rachel's journey to motherhood was marked by a poignant sense of vindication. In her world, barrenness was more than a personal struggle; it was a public stigma, a source of shame that whispered of unfulfilled potential and unmet destiny. This burden was not just about the absence of children; it was laden with cultural and societal implications, casting a long shadow over her sense of self and her place in her family and community.

The narrative deepens as we understand the broader implications of Rachel's childlessness. There were whispered speculations that she might end up in the hands of Esau, Jacob's morally ambiguous brother. Such a fate was feared and deeply undesirable, adding to the layers of Rachel's distress.

The Aggadah, the rich tapestry of Jewish narrative tradition, adds another dimension to Rachel's experience. It speaks of the human tendency to deflect blame and how, in the absence of children, a woman like Rachel had no one to share the burden of everyday mishaps and misdeeds. The birth of Joseph not only brought joy and a sense of personal fulfillment but also offered a subtle shift in the dynamics of daily life.

Thus, the birth of Joseph was not merely an addition to Jacob's growing family; it was a turning point in Rachel's story, a moment of personal redemption and societal acceptance. The narrative of Rachel and Joseph, intertwined, speaks to the complexities of human desire, societal norms, and the deep-seated need for belonging and acceptance. It is a story of waiting, of hope against hope, and of ultimate fulfillment, resonating through the ages with its timeless emotional depth.


As Rachel cradled her newborn, Joseph, in her arms, her heart swelled with a mix of joy and yearning. She named him Joseph, a name laden with hope and anticipation. In her whispered words, "May the Lord grant me yet another son," there lay a deep-seated desire, a longing for further fulfillment. Rachel's prayer was more than a wish for another child; it was a reflection of her awareness of a grander design.

Rachel's insight, steeped in prophecy, revealed to her that Jacob was destined to father twelve tribes. In this context, her prayer for another son was not merely a personal plea but a hope to contribute further to the legacy of her husband and to the emerging destiny of a nation. Her words were an echo of her understanding of her role in this unfolding history.

This moment was a blend of personal joy and a larger, almost cosmic significance. Rachel's joy in birthing Joseph was intertwined with her awareness of the role she played in the larger narrative of her people. In naming him Joseph, she encapsulated both her personal gratitude and her hope for the future.

Her prayer for another son was a testament to her faith and her connection to the divine plan. It was a humble recognition of her part in a story much larger than herself, a story that would shape the destiny of a people. Rachel's story, interwoven with the fabric of her family and her people, speaks to the profound connections between personal longing, divine will, and the unfolding of history.


When Rachel brought forth Joseph into the world, a significant shift occurred in Jacob's heart. The birth of Joseph, more than just the joy of a new son, was a turning point in Jacob's life. It symbolized something greater in the unfolding story of his family and their future.

Rashi highlights this moment as pivotal — Joseph's arrival marks the birth of Esau's adversary. The scriptures foretell, "And the house of Jacob shall be fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau shall become stubble." This prophecy paints a vivid picture of the dynamic between these families. Fire, when fueled by a flame, has the power to consume even from a distance. Joseph's birth ignited a new hope and strength in Jacob, empowering him with a renewed trust in the Divine.

As Joseph entered the world, Jacob's trust in God solidified. He saw in Joseph not just a son, but a symbol of God's ongoing commitment to his lineage. This renewed trust stirred in Jacob a deep longing to return to his own land and his place — a return to Canaan.

Jacob's request to Laban, "Send me away, and I will go to my place and to my land," was not just a practical desire for relocation. It was a call from his heart, spurred by the arrival of Joseph, to return to the land of his fathers, to the promises God had made him. In Joseph, Jacob saw the continuation of a promise, a living testament to God's faithfulness.

The birth of Joseph was a catalyst for change. It was a moment that transcended the joy of a new child; it became a marker of God's enduring presence and a signal for Jacob to step into the next chapter of his journey.


As Joseph's presence brought a renewed sense of purpose to Jacob, he turned to Laban with a firm but respectful request. His words, "Give [me] my wives and my children for whom I worked for you, and I will go," were not just a simple plea for release. They were a declaration of his rights, a reminder of the long years of service he had rendered for the very family he now wished to take with him.

Rashi illuminates this moment, emphasizing Jacob's desire not to flee in secrecy or haste but to leave with Laban's consent. His insistence on "Give [me] my wives and my children" reflects a deeper principle. It wasn't just about claiming his family; it was about asserting the legitimacy of his actions and the sincerity of his intentions. Jacob sought to depart with honor and dignity, ensuring that his leaving was sanctioned, recognized by Laban.

This moment is a testament to Jacob's character. Despite years of labor under often deceitful conditions, he chose to leave the right way, with transparency and integrity. He appealed to Laban's sense of fairness, reminding him, "for you know my work, which I have worked for you." This wasn't merely a reminder of a contractual obligation; it was a call to acknowledge the dedication and honesty with which Jacob had served.

Jacob's request to Laban is more than just a practical arrangement; it's a moral stance. He stands before Laban not as a subordinate pleading for release, but as a man of principle, asserting his rightful claims. In doing so, Jacob sets a powerful example of how to navigate life's complexities and challenges with integrity and honor.


Laban, with his words, "If only I have now found favor in your eyes! I have divined, and the Lord has blessed me for your sake," revealed a depth of self-interest masked in gratitude and superstition. He wasn't just acknowledging Jacob's contribution to his prosperity; he was clinging to the source of his fortune.

Rashi sheds light on this by pointing out Laban's reliance on divination. Laban, a diviner by practice, confessed to Jacob that his own occult practices had shown him how Jacob's presence had been the catalyst for his blessings. Laban had witnessed a tangible shift in his fortunes from the time Jacob arrived — he who had no sons when Jacob came, now had sons, as evidenced by the later mention of "Laban's sons."

This moment is rich in its portrayal of Laban’s character. His admission of divination not only reveals his engagement in practices frowned upon in Jewish tradition but also his awareness of the tangible benefits Jacob’s presence brought him. It’s an acknowledgment wrapped in personal gain — a realization that his newfound wealth and family expansion were not mere coincidences but directly linked to Jacob.

Laban's statement, therefore, is a mix of cunning and acknowledgement. On one hand, it shows his keenness to keep Jacob, the harbinger of prosperity, by his side. On the other, it's an indirect compliment to Jacob, albeit one born out of self-serving motives. In the narrative of their complex relationship, this moment stands out as a testament to the impact of Jacob's integrity and hard work, so much so that even Laban, with all his guile, could not deny it.

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of uncanny relevance to our time.

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