- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On November 24, 2017
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we enter Shabbat.
We have arrived to the turning point in the life of Jacob. Last week, we witnessed his early years marked by birthright and blessing acquisition obtained by unsavory means. He negotiated the birthright away from his brother Esau over a bowl of stew. He received blessing from his ailing father, Isaac, under the guise of pretending to be Esau. This week, Jacob must learn about his own ability to bring blessing.
At the end of the portion last week, Rebecca urged Jacob to escape his brother’s wrath by traveling back to the land of her family. As the passage opens up this week, Jacob stopped for the night and dreamt of a ladder ascending to the heavens with angels going up and down on it. God also appeared and provided important information to Jacob.
Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All the families of the earth shall bless them selves by you. (Genesis 28: 14)
Notice that God’s description of what will happen does not convey that Jacob will bless others. To the contrary, others will bless themselves because of him. Jacob may have received the blessing by stealing it from his brother. Now, he will come to learn that his actions have impact for blessings on others. His behavior will matter greatly to those around him. He must see beyond himself.
The Talmud pointed out that since he will spread out in all directions, there are no boundaries for what might be possible. (Shabbat 118b). The medieval commentator, David Kimchi tethered this idea to Torah, in that one who lives a life based on Torah and the acknowledgement of the Divine “deserves that the world exists on his [or her] account.”
We are descendants of Jacob. The words of the text are directed to us as well. The world can exist on our account. How might others bless themselves by us? What difference might we make? We learn that each of us can be an influencer by our very actions. We need not underestimate the impact we might have. When others bless themselves by us, it is because of our behavior that blessings flow. The opposite is true as well. We can just as easily be negative influencers.
Our tradition teaches mitzvah goreret mitzvah. Literally, mitzvahs make more mitzvahs. Our actions have an effect and impact that makes it possible for more goodness to occur. Studying from and living a life inspired by the teachings of the Torah have more power than we might even imagine.
Jacob started out by running away but now he can start anew by running toward a life that prospers goodness and righteous living.
We gather at 6 p.m. for Qabbalat Shabbat. Live stream HERE. Torah Study begins tomorrow at 9 a.m. with a short service and an engaging Torah study.
Connect with me directly and confidentially HERE with your thoughts and reflections.