This week's lesson is from Genesis 28:10 through 32:3. It opens with the account of the well-known dram of Jacob in which he saw angels ascending and descending in and out of heaven. It is interesting to note that first the angels ascended from the earth. What are angels, after all, but created beings, sent to minister to G-d's beloved ones.
Isn't it interesting to learn of the time that Jacob spent in the Presence of the L-rd and what little impact it had on him. 28:13-15 tells us, "The L-rd was standing there beside him, saying, "I am the L-rd, the G-d of your father Abraham and the G-d of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land that you are now sleeping on. Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
The initial response that Jacob gave was admirable as verses 16 & 127 record, "When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it." He was afraid and said, "What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of G-d. This is the gate of heaven." But then, it is as if his doubting heart rises up and declares in verses 20- 22, "If G-d will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safely to my father's house, then the Lord will be my G-d. This stone that I have set up as a marker will be G-d's house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me." IF G-d does what He has promised, THEN, Jacob promises to worship the Most Holy One!
I fear that too often we are too much like Jacob. We go to church and we sing His praises. We pray and we ask Him to meet all of our needs and IF He does so in a spectacular way, we continue to worship Him. How many have left the Church because they have been wounded by someone in its ranks? How often have we just failed to pay our tithe because the answer to some prayer has been delayed?
There is an interesting aside here also. A pillow is a rather intimate thing; I know I travel with mine because I sleep best with my own pillow. But Jacobs pillow was a stone; a part of the land. Perhaps the lesson for us not to miss is G-d's desire for us all to have an intimate relationship with the land from which Jacob's pillow was taken, the land of Israel!!
The remainder of this portion deals with the dealings between Jacob and Laban and his marriage to Laban's daughters. I will not belabor the point so often taught about Laban's deception and about how G-d gave favor to Jacob to gain his rightful wife and about how, in answer to the prayers of a righteous man, Rachel conceived and gave him a son who would become Joseph of whom we will study at later time. No, let's look only at the account found in chapter 31, beginning in verse 19 through the remainder of the chapter and of the portion for this week. It is the account of Rachel stealing her father's idols and hiding them when Laban pursued them and searched for them. The Rabbis teach us that she did this to prevent her father from worshipping that which is not true. Alleging that she stole with good intentions. Can one break the commandments of G-d in order to pursue righteousness? That is a question that is too often answered too quickly. But, in the course of this search, Jacob, unaware of any wrong-doing by his favorite wife, makes a vow and pronounces a curse upon his beloved. In verse 32, we read "But as for your household gods, let the person who has taken them die! If you find anything that belongs to you, I swear before all these relatives of ours, I will give it back without question." But Jacob didn't know that Rachel had taken them." Again, the teachings of the Rabbis is worth noting, as they say that this curse is the cause of Rachel's early death, for even a curse spoken unaware by even a righteous man does not fall to the ground without taking its toll.
How often are we guilty of such a word as this? Our tongues are such powerful instruments, as the word of G-d tell us over and over. Here are but a few examples:
Psalms 39:1: "I said to myself, "I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will curb my tongue when the ungodly are around me."
Proverbs 15:4: Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
Proverbs 18:21:"Those who love to talk will experience the consequences, for the tongue can kill or nourish life.
But, it does not have to be so. Philippians 2:11 declares: "and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is L-rd, to the glory of G-d the Father." Yes, one day, all we will be able to do is to either curse the One who was sent to save us or praise Him. Choose you this day whom you will serve. How will you spend eternity? Eternity begins NOW.