Torah Fax

Friday, December 9, 2005 - 8 Kislev, 5766
Torah Reading: Vayetze (Genesis 28:10 - 32:3)
Candle Lighting Time:  4:10 PM
Shabbat Ends: 5:14 PM

Let's Make A Deal?


This week's parsha describes Jacob's journey to his uncle Laban where he intended to start a family that ultimately became the nucleus of the Jewish nation. Since this journey was part of the very conception of the Jewish nation, it stands to reason that even minor details in this episode are full of meaning. Certainly, major aspects of the narrative can also serve as lessons for future generations.


Before Jacob reaches his destination, he falls asleep and has an incredible vision, where G‑d blesses him and tells him that He will give him and his children the land he was resting upon. Furthermore, G‑d promises him that his children will be as the dust of the earth and that G‑d would be with him and return him to his homeland after his stay with Laban.


In short G‑d blesses him with security and prosperity.


When Jacob awakens, he is so inspired by this vision that he makes the following pledge: "If G‑d will be with me, and He will guard me on this route upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and garments to wear, and I return in peace to my father's house, and G‑d will be my G‑d, then this stone, which I have placed as a monument, will be a house of G‑d, and I will definitely separate tithes to You from everything that You give me."


Isn't it incredible that Jacob has pledged to tithe his resources on the condition that G‑d keeps His promise?! Did that mean that Jacob harbored some doubt whether G‑d would keep His promise? Isn't this statement a sign of a rather weak expression of faith and trust in G‑d, unbecoming of the Patriarchs, the very exemplars of faith?

And second, did Jacob suggest that if G‑d would not make good on His promise that he, Jacob, would not tithe his earnings? Isn't the giving of charity something we do regardless of what G‑d does for us?


Commentators answer that Jacob's request was actually expressed in the latter part of his statement. And what appears to be a conditional pledge is actually part of his request.


To explain, Jacob had no doubt that G‑d would keep His promise to bless him with all the material goods. But Jacob was doubtful about his own response and reaction to G‑d's bountiful blessings.


Jacob feared that the more G‑d would bless him, the more self centered he might become. He was concerned that the material goods he would accumulate would result in less spiritual sensitivity and awareness of G‑d.


In effect, Jacob was not asking G‑d to keep His promise. Nor was Jacob making a conditional pledge to tithe his earnings. Jacob was asking G‑d for a guarantee that the abundance of material blessings in his life will in no way undermine his intimate relationship with G‑d.


Thus he added the words "and G‑d will be my G‑d"-with the emphasis on the word "my"-after he repeated G‑d's blessings. This indicated that Jacob was not concerned that he would lose the closeness and intimacy that he enjoyed previously.


Jacob then continues to ask that he would remain so motivated to serve G‑d that the monument that he had placed should eventually be converted into a house for G‑d. Jacob wanted to have G‑d's assurance that he would utilize his possessions to build houses for G‑d rather than monuments to his own achievements.


But Jacob doesn't stop there. He asks G‑d to preserve his devotion to Him by stating that everything that G‑d gave him would be tithed. He wanted to be assured that he would never forget that everything he possessed was a gift from G‑d by sharing his bounty with others.


Jacob was not making any conditional donations. Rather, he was asking for G‑d to guarantee that his prosperity should not corrupt him in any way. And, moreover, he was asking that his good fortune should become a vehicle to turn monuments into houses of G‑d and wealth into channels for giving to others.


When Maimonides describes the blessings to be enjoyed in the Messianic Age, he states that the "delicacies will be as abundant as the dust of the earth." Some wonder why Maimonides would accentuate the explosion of material goods in the Messianic Age? Shouldn't the emphasis be on the spiritual?


However, Maimonides' approach is that in spite of the proliferation of material blessings beyond anything we can imagine, the Messianic Age will be one in which all of those  material blessings will become "houses for G‑d" and vehicles to help others.


Moshiach Matters
"...A great shofar will be sounded, and those who are lost in Assyria shall come, as well as those who are cast away in Egypt, and they shall bow down to G‑d" (Isaiah 27:13). "Those in Assyria" alludes to those who are foundering in worldy pleasures. For Ashur, Hebrew for Assyria, is related to the word pleasure. "Those... in Egypt" alludes to those whose heads and hearts are not open to the knowledge of G‑d because of the pressures and constraints of exile. For Mitzrayim, "Egypt," is related to meitzarim, meaning "constraints." In future time, people will be raised up out of both of these situations and will come to bow down to G‑d. (Likutei Torah)
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