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I Jacob “Va tenir un somni: hi havia una escala apuntalada a terra i la punta tocava al cel; àngels de Déu hi pujaven i baixaven. L’Etern es trobava dret davant seu, i li deia: «Jo sóc l’Etern, el Déu del teu pare Abraham i d’Isaac. La terra on jeus, te la donaré a tu i a la teva posteritat.” (Gen 28, 12-13=

 

el famós somni de Jacob és una mena de trenca closques. El terme sulam, normalment traduït com escala, només apareix un cop a la Bíblia. Per això té sentit que ens preguntem sobre la natura d’aquest lligam entre cel i terra i sobre quin és el seu significat per a Jacob en aquest punt del seu viatge.

 

Els comentaris clàssica consideren el somni de Jacob com una garantia de protecció. Jacob es troba en un moment de particular aïllament i de por perquè està fugit del seu adversari, el seu germà Esaú, i s’està dirigint cap a un altre adversari, el seu oncle Lavan. En aquest moment de vulnerabilitat, la visió li assegura que no està sol i que els àngels estan amb ell.

 

Al costat d’aquells que interpreten el somni com un comentari a la situació personal en què es troba Jacob, també hi ha aquells que veuen un missatge molt més profund. El Midraix Tanhuma (un recull d’interpretacions bíbliques del segle IV) veu en el somni un comentari sobre el destí no només de Jacob, sinó de tots els pobles i imperis.

 

hi havia una escala … àngels de Déu hi pujaven i baixaven.” Els àngels representen les nacions que Déu va mostrar al nostre pare Jacob. L’àngel de Babilònia puja 70 esglaons i davallà. El de Mèdia va pujar-ne 50 i va caure. El de Grècia, 100 i també va caure. Edom (Roma) va pujar i ningú no sap quant! En aquell moment Jacob va tenir por i va dir: “Es que aquest imperi no caurà mai?” El Sant, beneït sigui, va dir: “No tinguis por, Jacob,….”

 

Per a l’autor d’aquesta interpretació, el somni prefigura l’ascens i caiguda dels imperis opressors, i el sulam no és altra cosa que la escala de la història del món. Escrit en un moment en què varis imperis havien arribat al poder i havien caigut, mentre que l’imperi romà encara era poderós, el midraix veu en el somni la promesa que fins i tot aquest imperi seguirà el mateix camí que tots els altres imperis que l’han precedit, i que la promesa de Déu serà acomplida.

 

En conclusió, de què es tracta? D’una promesa a l’home Jacob, en un moment determinat de la seva vida? O d’una promesa al patriarca Jacob, símbol de tota la seva descendència, per tal que ressoni durant generacions?

 

L’ambigüitat del text pot suggerir-nos que la veritat es troba entremig d’aquestes dues interpretacions. Quan Jacob veu l’escala, el text diu “L’Etern es trobava dret alav.” Aquest terme hebreu significa literalment “damunt d’ell,” sense que quedi molt clar si es tracta de Jacob o de l’escala (també gènere masculí en hebreu). Hi ha una diferència de significat entre un cas o l’altre. Si ho interpretem com “sobre Jacob” o “davant de Jacob,” suggereix que Déu vetlla per Jacob, donant-li una garantia persona de protecció, però si ho interpretem com “Damunt de l’escala,” el text ens suggereix que Déu vigila l’escala de la història, és a dir, la pujada i la caiguda còsmica de la història.

 

 

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Parashat Vayetzei opens with Jacob running for his life. Having just stolenEsau’s birthright and procured his father Isaac’s blessing, Jacob is fearful thatEsau is seeking revenge. Panting for breath, thirsty, hungry, exhausted, andabsolutely terrified, Jacob’s journey brings him to an area in the wilderness.In this trying moment of fear and solitude, Jacob is comforted by God’spresence. As Jacob rests his head on a rock and settles down to sleep withthe harsh gravel of the earth digging into his skin, he dreams of a ladderstretching from the ground to the heavens. Angels are going up and down onthis ladder and God is standing over him. God says to Jacob, “Behold I amwith you, and will keep you in all places where you go…I will not leaveyou…” (Genesis 28:15). In this trying moment, all alone in the wilderness,Jacob discovers that God is watching over him. Eleventh century rabbiniccommentator Rashi suggests that when God says, “I am with you,” Godrecognises that Jacob is afraid (Rashi on Genesis 28:15). God knows thatJacob requires a comforting presence in order to help him through this difficulttime.Jacob’s predicament resonates with many of us. We face moments in our livesin which we are unable to see where we are going. When we are afraid, andwe find ourselves lost in the darkness of the wilderness, it is often difficult forus to sense God’s presence. Although we try to find comfort from God, Godalso becomes the recipient of our anger. Although we cry out to God indistress, we also yell, scream, and curse. And even as we attempt to cleave toGod when we need God most, we also dismiss God, and blame God for ourloss and our suffering. Yet according to the Babylonian Talmud, suchbehaviour is both expected and acceptable. Tractate Baba Batra teaches us,“A man is not held responsible for what he says in the hour of hisdistress” (Baba Batra 16b). Venting is healthy because it enables us toexpress our grief and anxiety, along with all of our emotions, rather thancontaining them inside of us.When we find ourselves lost amidst the darkness of the wilderness, let usexpress what words we must, recognising that God is present and God mayserve as a receptacle for all the emotions we feel (however strongly we mayfeel them). For just as the sun sets, so too is the sun destined to rise again.As we awaken to a new day, filled with light and promise, may we be capableof looking at moments of our lives and recognise, like Jacob, “Surely God wasin this place, and perhaps I did not know it (Genesis 28:16).

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Toledot

This week in our parasha, we continue the story of Isaac. Isaac is a figurein the Torah about whom we know little and when we hear about him oftenit is in quite derogatory terms. He is seen as weak, traumatised by theevents of a few weeks ago when he was taken to a mountain to besacrificed by his father. But I think Isaac was perhaps the strongest andmost wise of all the patriarchs, he recognised what was truly important andhe lived his life by those values. Unlike his father he was not a visionary, hedid not build a nation, forge a new destiny. Instead he remained in one areaof land and whenever he was confronted or placed in a position of conflict,he did not fight, instead he walked away. He knew that he could find whathe was looking for elsewhere and that it was not worth the battle and lossesthat would ensue. Isaac was able to be grateful for what he had, content tolive his life surrounded by his wife and sons. We read about Isaac andRebecca that they loved one another. They spent time together, forgingtheir relationship, strengthening what they had. They nurtured their sons,enjoyed the blessings that they brought to their lives. Isaac knew thatmaterial possessions and wealth were not what would bring him happiness,rather it was the people around him and appreciating the good in his lifethat brought him joy and contentment. When Isaac went to re-dig hisfather’s wells and was confronted with adversaries, threatening him, he didnot stand and fight, instead he walked away, cognizant of the fact that hecould find what he was looking for elsewhere, there would be other wells,the material was not what was important.

This Shabbat I encourage us all to honour Isaac and Rebecca by trying to live as they did; seeing the beauty in the everyday, living each moment tothe fullest and being content with what we have.

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