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Vayetzei

Jacob is a man on the run, forced to flee from his parents home after he took the blessing intended for Esau. Whether or not the deception was justified, this was a turning-point in his life, and changed not only where Jacob could live, but who he became. In his early life Jacob had been an innocent, dwelling in tents, but now falsehood began to crowd into his life.

    When Jacob met Rachel and wanted to marry her, he became suspicious that Laban, her father, would seek to trick him and foist her elder sister Leah on him instead. That is why Jacob specified Rachel both by name and by birth order. Yet that was not enough. Laban did substitute Leah for Rachel, leading to a great deal of unhappiness and pain.

    Living with Laban for many years, Jacob was forced to engage in tricks, arranging for more speckled sheep and goats to be born, because they were his agreed payment from Laban. Finally, Jacob and his family left Laban’s home surreptitiously. When Laban caught up with them he demanded to know why Jacob had stolen his gods.

    Jacob denied the crime and was so confident that he said whoever had taken the gods would die. Tragically, Rachel had indeed stolen the gods and died young as a result of Jacob’s words. The Torah seems to be suggesting that by this point Jacob could not always tell the truth even when he wanted to, and with terrible consequences.

    Even when we believe what we are doing is justified, that the ends justify the means, and even when they really are justified, our actions still have results, most profoundly for our own souls. Sometimes we will be successful, and other times we will fail, but there will always be a price. We have to decide whether the rewards are worth the impact on ourselves and our families.

    Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton