Parshat Vayeitzei Summary

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Parshat Vayeitzei is the 7th parsha in Sefer Bereshit (also known as Genesis).

This parsha is verses Genesis 28:10 – 32:3, or a total of 148 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

Aliyah 1: Genesis 28:10 – 28:22, 13 verses

Parshat Toldot ends with Jacob leaving his parent’s home to live with Laban, his mother’s brother.

We now get some of the details of Jacob’s journey to Charan.

He stops for the night at Mount Moriah. God appears to him in a dream.

Jacob sees a ladder standing between the earth and heaven. Angels are going up and down on the ladder.

God promises him several things:

  • Jacob and his descendants will inherit the land
  • His offspring will be numerous
  • Everyone on earth will bless themselves by Jacob and his offspring
  • God will be with Jacob and guard him
  • God will bring him back to the land of Canaan

In return Jacob makes a vow to serve God and give Him a tenth of all of his possessions.

Jacob did not ask for wealth, he only requested what he needed to survive: food and clothing.

Jacob's Ladder

Aliyah 2: Genesis 29:1 – 29:17, 17 verses

Jacob arrives near Charan and spots a well with flocks waiting nearby.

After a brief conversation with the shepherds, Rachel the daughter of Laban arrives with her father’s flock.

Jacob waters Rachel’s flock and tells her that he is Rebecca’s son.

Jacob stays in Laban’s house for a month. After a month, Laban asks Jacob what should be his wages for the work he would do for Laban.

The Torah now informs us that Laban has two daughters: Leah and her younger sister Rachel.

Aliyah 3: Genesis 29:18 – 30:13, 31 verses

Jacob offers to work for Laban for 7 years and in return he will be permitted to marry Rachel.

Laban agrees.

At the end of 7 years Laban arranges a wedding feast. However, he deceives Jacob. Jacob ends up marrying Leah and consummating the marriage with her.

Jacob protests to Laban that he has been deceived. Laban permits Jacob to marry Rachel a week later. However, he also obligates Jacob to work for him for another 7 years.

Laban gives to each of his daughters a maidservant. To Leah he gives Zilpah and to Rachel he gives Bilhah.

Jacob loves Rachel more than he loves Leah.

God sees that Leah is “hated” and, therefore, He grants her children before Rachel.

Leah begins having children shortly after her marriage to Jacob. She gives birth to these 4 sons:

  • Reuben / Reuvain
  • Simeon / Shimon
  • Levi
  • Judah / Yehuda

Rachel is jealous of Leah and also wants to have children. She pleads with Jacob for children, but he rebuffs her. He tells her that it is God who is keeping her from having children.

Rachel decides to let Jacob marry her maidservant, Bilhah. Jacob has relations with Bilhah and she gives birth to 2 sons:

  • Dan
  • Naphtali

Leah realizes that she is no longer having children. Therefore, she lets Jacob marry her maidservant, Zilpah. Zilpah gives birth to 2 sons:

  • Gad
  • Asher

At this point in the narrative, Jacob has 8 sons, but none of them with Rachel.

Aliyah 4: Genesis 30:14 – 30:27, 14 verses

Reuben, the oldest son of Leah, finds some “dudaim.” The Hebrew word “dudaim” is often translated as mandrakes, a plant that is believed to assist with fertility.

Rachel asks her sister Leah if she can have some of the mandrakes. Leah trades some mandrakes for having Jacob sleep with her that night.

Leah once again conceives and bears children. She gives birth to 2 sons and 1 daughter:

  • Issachar
  • Zebulun
  • Dinah (daughter)

Leah has now given birth to 6 sons and Jacob has a total of 10 sons.

It is at this time that God permits Rachel to have children. She conceives and gives birth to Jacob’s 11th son: Joseph.

Jacob speaks to Laban and asks permission to return to his father’s home. He wants to take his entire family: 4 wives, 11 sons, and 1 daughter.

Laban flatters Jacob and asks him to stay.

Aliyah 5: Genesis 30:28 – 31:16, 32 verses

Jacob and Laban negotiate the terms and conditions under which Jacob will continue to work for Laban.

Basically, Jacob and Laban separate Laban’s herds of sheep and goats into two separate herds. All of them with unusual coloring were kept by Laban.

Jacob will be responsible to herd all of the solid white and black ones.

Jacob’s pay will be the unusual colored sheep and goats born to the herd that he is is responsible for.

Jacob was permitted by God to use a system of colored rods to stimulate his herd to give birth to many sheep and goats with unusual colors.

As time goes by, Jacob becomes wealthy and uses his wealth to purchase animals and servants.

Jacob began to notice that things were changing in his relationships. Laban’s sons started implying that Jacob was stealing from their father. Laban wasn’t treating Jacob as nicely as he had in the past.

God spoke to Jacob telling him to return home and promising that He would be with him.

Jacob takes his wives Rachel and Leah out to a field. He relates to them everything that is happening.

He also reveals to them that in a dream God had shown him how to influence the color pattern of the sheep and goats.

NOTE: In verses Bereshit 31:10 – 13, Jacob tells his wives what God told him in a dream.

However, a careful reading of the verses reveals that Jacob is talking about 2 different dreams.

Verses 10 – 12 are about a dream shortly after the birth of Joseph when Jacob agreed to continue working for Laban.

Verse 13 is about the message just heard from God to return to his home. This dream occurred about 6 years after the first dream.

Rachel and Leah urge Jacob to obey God’s commandment to leave.

Aliyah 6: Genesis 31:17 – 31:42, 26 verses

Jacob gathers together all of his family and belongings and leaves Laban’s house.

Rachel steals her father’s teraphim, a type of idol.

Laban hears that Jacob has fled and he chases after him. At the end of 7 days he catches up with Jacob and his family.

God warns Laban not to speak with Jacob “either good or bad.”

Laban confronts Jacob and accuses him of deception and treating his family like prisoners. He assures Jacob that he would have had a party to celebrate Jacob’s decision to return to his father’s home.

As a last accusation, he accuses Jacob of stealing his gods.

Jacob explains that he didn’t trust Laban to allow him to leave. He invites Laban to search for the teraphim and pronounces a curse on whoever has them.

Laban searches but does not find the teraphim. Rachel had hidden them in a pack in her tent and was sitting on them.

After the search, Jacob explodes in anger at his father-in-law. Jacob recounts his honesty during the 20 years he worked for Laban. He also reminds Laban that his flocks grew because of Jacob’s dedication as a shepherd.

Aliyah 7: Genesis 31:43 – 32:3, 15 verses

After Jacob’s reproach, Laban claims that he did not intend to harm anyone.

Laban suggests that they make a covenant. They gather stones and pile them together in a mound. They then name the place Galeid which means The Mound is a Witness.

Laban demands that Jacob not mistreat his wives nor marry any other women. They agree to not pass this place with evil intentions against the other one.

The next morning Laban kisses his daughters and grandchildren. He then returns to his home.

Jacob continues his journey to the land of Canaan. He is met by two groups of angels. Therefore he names that place Machanaim or Two Camps.

Haftarah Summary

The Haftarah is from sefer Hosea, one of the 12 Prophets (Trei Assar in Hebrew).

Sefardic tradition: Hosea 11:7 – 12:12. Some continue the reading to 13:6.

Ashkenazic tradition: Hosea 12:13 – 14:10.

The haftarah mentions Jacob in Padan Aram and his relationship with God.

Further Reading

I’ve written more about the relationship between the sisters Rachel and Leah.

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