Divrei Torah

Kith with Pith


Parshat Vayetze:
Kith with Pith

When Jacob awoke from his dream, he felt G-d Standing on top of his head. G-d Said to him, “I Am the G-d of your father Abraham and Isaac.” Curious statement. Why didn’t G-d Say, “I Am the G-d of Isaac, your father, and Abraham, your grandfather?”

Commentary suggests that as long as Isaac was alive, G-d would not identify Isaac with that appellation. I would like to propose another answer. Abraham embodies the virtue of chesed, and Yitzchak its polar opposite, gevurah. Jacob is their synthesizer with the quality of tiferet, beauty. I suppose the Almighty wanted Jacob to emphasize Abraham’s quality of chesed within his lonely sojourn to create himself. Jacob intends to pursue a wife who is replete of chesed. And as he finds Rachel, their souls are likeminded. He had left his home with gevurah, using chicanery to find his just blessing. He had to get the birthright from Esau and the blessing from Isaac. Now he was set to develop his true form through chesed with the influence of Rachel.

The rabbis tell us to marry our opposite, our mirroring-image. We all exist on a spectrum between chesed and gevurah, from kindness and compassion to self-containment, discipline, and justified self-reliance. Each of us must find our particular balance and re-balance between these two poles. This becomes our beautiful self before G-d. A spouse who is an ezer kenegdo, a helpmeet, attunes to the other’s needs even before they are formed in the mind.

Abraham transitions from gevurah to chesed when G-d said to him “lech l’cha.” Until he was 75, he had Sarai as partner; she brought him closer to apprehending the quality of compassion. The letters in her very name (yud, shin, resh) form the words yashar, to be straight with G-d, and shir, to sing with G-d. Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak used the same three letters to form his nom de plume, Rashi. These are also the first three letters of Yisrael, Jacob’s G-d-given name: the one who struggles with his knowledge of G-d.

Metaphorically, G-d Stands on Yaakov’s head to replace the burden of Esau’s weight upon his head. And G-d Affirms the spiritual climb of Jacob even as he flees horizontally, traversing the land as a refugee. He is in fact climbing to his beshert, as we all do, as pedestrian as it may appear to others. Jacob will create the family of Yisrael outside and inside the land.


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