Shabbat Parashat Vayetse Shifting Landscapes December 2, 2022 – 9 Kislev 5783

Dear Friends,

Transitions are notoriously unsettling, whether they are personal or communal.  They often involve “losses” of some kind before we “regain” our equilibrium and sense of self.

In our Torah Portion, Vayetse, Jacob is in personal transition.  Jacob’s transition was shocking, as many of our transitions may be.

Leaaving his familiar and familial setting, Jacob sets out on a new journey.  It is in that very moment of transition, that we see, reflected in the Parsha, Jacob’s soul wrestling with both the uncertainty of his future and with the state of his personal spirituality.

Vayetse is not only a new Torah Portion, it is also a new chapter in Jacob’s life.  And right then, at the outset, Jacob is confronted with the reality that he had somehow lost the sense of God’s presence in his life along the way.

How else might we understand Jacob’s waking up from his dream and saying essentially: “Wow!  I had no idea this place was holy.  And, I didn’t realize that God was here [too…]!

As we move through the various transitions in our lives, personally or communally, whether it is a congregation searching for a new location or for a new Rabbi, or an individual growing up and becoming “independent”, or moving to a new location, beginning a new job, receiving news of an unwelcome diagnosis for ourselves or for someone close to us, or retiring (as I am preparing to do in the coming months), we may find that physical transition is often accompanied by spiritual transition.

The good news is that our Torah portion shows us that Jacob overcame his “losses” and that he thrived.  Jacob “regained” both his equilibrium and his sense of self, albeit, different from his former self.  And, in the process, Jacob grew in understanding and in wisdom.  He went from strength to strength through the shifting landscapes of life.  That’s the good news.

May we be blessed, as Jacob was blessed, to go from strength to strength as we transition from stage to stage throughout our lives.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror