Yakov flees from Esav; leaving his parents home & going to Charan to stay with his uncle Lavan. He stops at Har Zion, the future site of the Bet HaMikdash; there he dreams of a ladder extending from Heaven to Earth, with angels going up &
down. G-d promises Yakov that his descendants will inherit this Land.
Yakov meets Lavan’s daughter Rachel & immediately falls in love with her. He agrees to work for Lavan for 7 years in order to marry Rachel, but at the wedding, Lavan switches Leah for Rachel. Yakov then agrees to work 7 more years for Rachel & marries her one week later. Rachel remains barren while Leah gives birth to 6 sons & a daughter. Bilha & Zilpa, the maids of Rachel & Leah, each have 2 sons with Yakov. Finally, Rachel gives birth to a son, Yosef.
Yakov becomes very wealthy during his 20-year tenure with Lavan, amassing huge flocks, despite Lavan’s many efforts to swindle him. Yakov & his wives decide to flee Lavan, who pursues them in search of his stolen idols, upset that they left
so abruptly. Rachel hides the stolen idols from her father (she will ultimately die in childbirth as a result, when Yakov condemns whoever stole the idols). Yakov & Lavan argue, but then sign a peace treaty & part ways.
Haftora is Hoshea 12.
DVAR TORAH: PERSPECTIVE PLEASE, PEOPLE
RABBI STEWART WEISS
As we have said so many times before, the (Hebrew) name of something – a person, an object, a concept – conveys its essence. The Hebrew word “Shem,” or name – is found in the center of “Neshama,” the soul, indicating that the “soul” of everything is embodied in Its name. Our Sedra is chock-full of names, as all the children of Yakov are given their names. But most fascinating of all is the name “Yosef.”
“Yosef” actually has two meanings and, strangely enough, they have opposite connotations! Rachel names him “Yosef” and says “Hashem will end my disgrace – asaf Elokim et cherpati”). Here, “Yosef” connects to “asaf,” to end, as in the word “sof.” But then, Rachel calls him “Yosef,” with the wish that G-d will continue to bless her by adding another child to her family (“Yosef Hashem li ben acher”). Here, Yosef’s name is connected to “hosafa,” an addition. So the name embodies both ending, and continuing!
On the first definition of Yosef, Rashi quotes a very strange Midrash concerning Rachel’s statement that “this name will end my disgrace.” Says Rashi. “As long as a woman has no child, she has no one else to blame for her faults. But when she has a child, she indeed has someone to blame. ‘Who broke this vase? Your son! Who ate thosefigs that you like? Your daughter!”
Wow! That seems like quite a condemnation of women, making them appear to be so shallow and timid that they have to blame others for the mistakes they make – and their own child, yet!
But Rav Lau explained what’s going on here. When a husband comes home and sees something amiss – a broken vase, or his favorite food eaten, and he starts to get angry and shout, the wise wife holds up her child and says, “Get a grip on yourself; wake up and smell the makeup! I gave you a son, and you’re stressing out over an old vase?! I gave you a daughter, and you’re complaining about a cookie?! Seriously?!”
We are showered by Hashem with so much good, with so many blessings in this world – even in the age of Corona. So put in all in perspective, people, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
ASK THE RABBI: WHO WERE BILHA AND ZILPA?
While Leah and Rachel were the children of Lavan’s primary wife, Bilha and Zilpa were born to Lavan’s second, or “inferior” wife (some say she was his concubine or maidservant), which makes Bilha and Zilpa half-sisters to Rachel and Leah. But this “second-class” status explains why Bilha and Zilpa are not counted as Imahot, or Matriarchs, like Rachel and Leah. Lavan gifted Bilha and Zilpa to Rachel and Leah, respectively, before they married. “Bilha” means, “to become alarmed;” as people were stunned by her beauty. “Zilpa” means “to flow,” because when Zilpah was told, as a young girl, that she was destined to
join Leah in her marriage to Esau, tears would flow down her face. Bilha and Zilpa served as surrogates for Rachel and Leah, giving birth to Dan, Naftali, Gad and Asher. After Rachel’s death in childbirth at an early age, Bilha raised Yosef and Binyamin as her own. That may be a reason why the name “Bilha” is sometimes given to Jewish children, while “Zilpa” is rarely known.