Tidbits of Torah

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Shabbat Parashat VaYetze

November 23, 2017- 5 Kislev 5778

Dear Friends,

I take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving! I’ve always loved Thanksgiving, as a special time with family and friends, without the stress associated with choosing gifts; without a specific time schedule; and without the need for an exact prescribed menu (as long as there is cranberry sauce…) We do what works and, we enjoy concentrating on the things that make us grateful!

In this week’s Torah portion of Vayetze, Jacob dreams of a ladder planted firmly on the earth with its rungs reaching all the way up into the heavens. Angels are ascending and descending on the ladder. Jacob sees God atop the ladder, and hears God promise to guard him on his journey out of the Land of Israel and back again. And, he hears God promise to make his descendants: “as the dust of the earth, spreading out to the west and to the est, to the north and to the south. All the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants.” (Genesis 28:14)

Upon waking up, Jacob vowed: “If God remains with me, if He protects me on this journey…and if I return safe…[then] the Lord shall be my God…and all that You give me, I will set aside a tithe for You.” (Genesis 28:20-22)

Each one of the “if” clauses in Jacob’s vow expresses a hope for the future. His vow to set aside a tithe represents his understanding that a person has to contribute to the process which brings the world closer and closer to the realization of our hopes and dreams for the future.

The wisdom of this torah teaching about Jacob reminds me that Thanksgiving does not only have to be about feeling gratitude for what we already have. Thanksgiving can be about feeling gratitude for the possibilities for blessing, for protection, for inspiration, and that lie ahead. Thanksgiving can be for our prayers for enhanced tikkun olam (making the world a better place). The holiday can serve as a reminder that we have hopes for the future and that we vow to contribute to making our world a better place, one day at a time.

Following Jacob’s lead, Thanksgiving reminds us that keeping our goals in mind goes hand in hand with expressing gratitude for the blessings we have already been granted.

Enjoy Thanksgiving and I look forward to seeing you at Friday night and Shabbat services this weekend as well!

Happy Thanksgiving and Shabbat Shalom!