[JOI Word of Torah] Big Tent Judaism: Vayetze
Kerry M. Olitzky
KOlitzky at joi.org
Tue Nov 28 22:01:32 GMT 2006
"Big Tent Judaism" Word of Torah
December 2/Kislev 11, 5767
Jacob's dream of the ascending angels on the ladder opens him up to the
potential for sacredness in his experiences with Rachel, Leah, and Laban.
The dream teaches Jacob (and us) that all of our actions, although grounded
in this earth, have the potential to reach heavenward. Things may not always
be what they seem, for Gd's presence emerges when and where we least expect
Jacob meets Rachel for the first time and is love-smitten. He doesn't expect
it, but he is now open to love or anything else that comes his way: "And
Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. . . . Jacob served
seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the
love he had for her. (Gen. 29: 11, 20) This is the way love works-no matter
the background of those who are swept away by it. And Jacob's interrupted
relationship with Rachel-interrupted by Laban and a wedding with Leah-is
sustained because of that love. While it might sound hackneyed to suggest
that "love conquers all," the story teaches us that individuals are prepared
to climb over incredible barriers because of it. The relationships endure
despite the various challenges that they confront.
While we might look askance at Jacob's willingness to work an additional
seven years for Laban in order to marry Rachel, it is not unusual for folks
to "date" for a long period of time before marriage. For Jacob and Rachel,
they had many barriers to overcome in their relationship: working for Laban
for 14 years, the marriage to Leah, and Rachel's infertility. In interfaith
couples, we see a similar "interrupted relationship" frequently. Couples
often come together and then separate at various times as they try to
resolve potential conflicts (like how to raise the children) before they
make a long-term commitment to one another.
The rabbis of the midrash claim that Gd has been making marriages since
resting from the work of creation (Genesis Rabbah 68:4). Early in the Jacob
story, we are able to clearly see the Divine presence at work. Perhaps it is
the recognition of this presence-Jacob's faith in Gd-that motivates him to
wait for Rachel. But where is Gd in the context of an interfaith
relationship? If Gd is making marriages, are these marriages limited? If Gd
is indeed love (that is what Rabbi David Sperling believes that the
four-letter tetragrammaton really spells), then Gd has to be the force that
brings people together irrespective of their religious backgrounds. And if
Gd is that love, then perhaps love indeed can conquer all.
Dr. Kerry M. Olitzky
Jewish Outreach Institute
1270 Broadway, Suite 609
New York, NY 10001
<http://www.joi.org/> www.JOI.org <http://www.joi.org/>
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You are welcome to use these ideas in your own work and writings as long as
you would be so kind as to credit Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and the Jewish
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