Parashat Vayetze

Jacob flees to his uncle Laban's household and lives there for several years, marrying Laban's daughters, Leah and Rachel, and building a large family.

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They agreed upon an arrangement where Laban’s animals were divided. God tells Jacob in a dream that it is time for him to return to his homeland.

While Laban is away from the house, Rachel steals her father’s idols and Jacob leaves without saying good-bye. When Laban heard that Jacob had fled, he came after them. But God came to Laban in a dream saying, “Do not speak to Jacob either good or bad."

Stolen Idols

The next day, Laban said to Jacob, "What have you done? You have robbed my heart, taking my daughters like prisoners of war. Why did you flee in secret? I would have sent you away with joy and songs. It is within my power to hurt you, but your God told me not to. I can see you wanted to go home, but why did you steal my gods?"

"I left secretly because I was afraid you might take your daughters from me by force. But with whomever you find your idol gods, he shall not remain alive." Now, Jacob did not know that it was Rachel who had taken the idols. Rachel had them underneath her on the cushion of the camel, so when Laban searched, he could not find them.

Now this made Jacob angry. He said, "What is my crime and what my sin that you pursued me? For twenty years, I have worked for you, serving fourteen years for your two daughters, six years for your flock and you changed my pay ten times. Had it not been for my God, you would now have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my misery and proved it in your dream last night."

Laban answered, "Now, all that is here is mine. Let us make a covenant, between us. If you should cause my daughters to suffer or if you take wives besides my daughters, God is our witness." And they took stones and raised it high as memorial stones and then had a feast.

The next day, Laban rose early and blessed them and returned home. Jacob went upon his way and angels of God met him. Jacob then called this place, Mahanayim, "a camp of God."

Questions For Discussion

1. Do you believe that God determines who shall conceive children and who shall be barren? Why or why not?

2. After deceiving his father, Isaac, Jacob then becomes deceived by his mother’s brother, Laban, with his marriage. Do you believe people get what they give? If so, does it always work as clearly as with Jacob? Can you give an example of it happening in your life?

3. Why do you think Rachel stole the idols? Have you ever stolen anything? If so, why did you steal?

4. The mothers in the story are very specific with the naming of their children, with each name having meaning. What does your name mean?

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Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.