Vayetze, Vayeitzei, or Vayetzei (וַיֵּצֵא — Hebrew for “and he left,” the first word in the parshah) is the seventh weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. It constitutes Genesis 28:10–32:3. Jews in the Diaspora read it the seventh Sabbath after Simchat Torah, generally in November or December.

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Jacob's Dream (painting by Michael Willmann)


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Jacob’s Ladder (painting by William Blake)

A ladder to heaven

When Jacob left Beersheba for Haran, he stopped at a place for the night, using a stone for a pillow. (Genesis 28:10–11) He dreamed that he saw a ladder to heaven on which God’s angels ascended and descended. (Genesis 28:12) And God stood beside him and promised to give him and his numerous descendants the land on which he lay, said that through his descendants all the earth would be blessed, and promised to stay with him wherever he went and bring him back to the land. (Genesis 28:13–15) Jacob awoke afraid, remarked that surely the place was the house of God, the gate of heaven, and called the place Bethel (although the Canaanites had called the city Luz). (Genesis 28:16–19) Jacob took the stone from under his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on it. (Genesis 28:18) And Jacob vowed that if God would stay with him, give him bread and clothing, and return him to his father's house in peace, then God would be his god, the stone pillar would be God's house, and he would give God a tenth of what he received. (Genesis 28:20–22)

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Jacob and Rachel (painting by Palma il Vecchio)

Rachel at the well

Jacob came to an eastern land where he saw a well with a great stone rolled upon it and three flocks of sheep lying by it. (Genesis 29:1–3) Jacob asked the men where they were from, and they said Haran. (Genesis 29:4) Jacob asked them if they knew Laban, and they said that they did. (Genesis 29:5) Jacob asked if Laban was well, and they said that it was, and that his daughter Rachel was coming with his sheep. (Genesis 29:6) Jacob told the men to water and feed the sheep, but they replied that they could not do so until all the flocks had arrived. (Genesis 29:7–8) When Jacob saw Rachel arrive with her father's sheep, he rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered Laban’s sheep. (Genesis 29:9–10) Jacob kissed Rachel, wept, and told her that he was her kinsman, and she ran and told her father. (Genesis 29:11–12)

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Jacob Tells Laban that He Will Work for Rachel (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Die Bibel in Bildern)

Jacob and Laban

When Laban heard of Jacob’s arrival, he ran to meet him, embraced and kissed him, and brought him to his house. (Genesis 29:13) Jacob told Laban all that had happened, and Laban welcomed Jacob as family. (Genesis 29:13–14) After Jacob had lived with Laban for a month, Laban asked Jacob what wages he wanted for his work. (Genesis 29:14–15) Laban had two daughters: The elder, Leah, had weak eyes, while the younger, Rachel, was beautiful. (Genesis 29:16–17) Jacob loved Rachel, and offered to serve Laban seven years for Rachel’s hand, and Laban agreed. (Genesis 29:18–19) Jacob served the years, but his love for Rachel made them seem like just a few days. (Genesis 29:20) Jacob asked Laban for his wife, and Laban made a feast and invited all the men of the place. (Genesis 29:21–22) In the evening, Laban brought Leah to Jacob, and Jacob slept with her. (Genesis 29:23) Laban gave Leah Zilpah to be her handmaid. (Genesis 29:24) In the morning, Jacob discovered that it was Leah, and he complained to Laban that he had served for Rachel. (Genesis 29:25) Laban replied that in that place, they did not give the younger before the firstborn, but if Jacob fulfilled Leah’s week, he would give Jacob both daughters in exchange for another seven years of service. (Genesis 29:26–27) Jacob did so, and Laban gave him Rachel to wife, and gave Rachel Bilhah to be her handmaid. (Genesis 29:28–29)

Jacob’s children

Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, so God allowed Leah to conceive, but Rachel was barren. (Genesis 29:30–31) Leah bore a son, and called him Reuben, saying that God had looked upon her affliction. (Genesis 29:32) She bore a second son, and called him Simeon, saying that God had heard that she was hated. (Genesis 29:33) She bore a third son, and called him Levi, saying that this time her husband would be joined to her. (Genesis 29:34) She bore a fourth son, and called him Judah, saying that this time, she would praise God. (Genesis 29:35)

Rachel envied her sister, and demanded that Jacob give her children, but Jacob grew angry and asked her whether he was in God's stead, who had withheld children from her. (Genesis 30:1–2) Rachel told Jacob to sleep with her maid Bilhah, so that Bilhah might bear children upon Rachel’s knees who might be credited to Rachel, and he did. (Genesis 30:3–4) Bilhah bore Jacob a son, and Rachel called him Dan, saying that God had judged her and also heard her voice. (Genesis 30:5–6) And Bilhah bore Jacob a second son, and Rachel called him Naphtali, saying that she had wrestled with her sister and prevailed. (Genesis 30:7–8)


mandrake roots (illustration from a 7th century manuscript of Pedanius Dioscorides De Materia Medica)

When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she gave Jacob her maid Zilpah to wife. (Genesis 30:9) Zilpah bore Jacob a son, and Leah called him Gad, saying that fortune had come. (Genesis 30:10–11) And Zilpah bore Jacob a second son, and Leah called him Asher, saying that she was happy, for the daughters would call her happy. (Genesis 30:12–13)

Reuben found some mandrakes and brought them to Leah. (Genesis 30:14) Rachel asked Leah for the mandrakes, and when Leah resisted, Rachel agreed that Jacob would sleep with Leah that night in exchange for the mandrakes. (Genesis 30:15) When Jacob came home that evening, Leah told him that he had to sleep with her because she had hired him with the mandrakes, and he did. (Genesis 30:16) God heeded Leah and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son, and called him Issachar, saying that God had given her a reward. (Genesis 30:17–18) Leah bore Jacob a sixth son and called him Zebulun, saying that God had endowed her with a good dowry. (Genesis 30:19–20) And afterwards Leah bore a daughter, and called her nam Dinah. (Genesis 30:21)

God heeded Rachel and she conceived and bore a son and called him Joseph, invoking God to add another son. (Genesis 30:22–24)

The speckled and spotted sheep

Then Jacob asked Laban to allow him, his wives, and his children to return to his own country. (Genesis 30:25–26) Laban conceded that God had blessed him for Jacob’s sake, and asked Jacob to name how much he wanted to stay. (Genesis 30:27–28) Jacob recounted how he had served Laban and how Laban had benefited, and asked when he could provide for his own family. (Genesis 30:29–30) Laban pressed him again, so Jacob offered to keep Laban’s flock in exchange for the speckled, spotted, and dark sheep and goats, and thus Laban could clearly tell Jacob’s flock from his. (Genesis 30:31–33) Laban agreed, but that day he removed the speckled and spotted goats and dark sheep from his flock and gave them to his sons and put three day’s distance between Jacob and himself. (Genesis 30:34–36)

Jacob peeled white streaks in fresh rods of poplar, almond, and plane trees and set the rods where the flocks would see them when they mated, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted young. (Genesis 30:37–39) Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the stronger sheep, but not before the feeble, so the feebler sheep became Laban's and the stronger Jacob's. (Genesis 30:41–42) Jacob’s flocks and wealth thus increased. (Genesis 30:43)

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Jacob’s Flight (illustration by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld)

Jacob’s departure

Jacob heard that Laban's sons thought that he had become wealthy at Laban’s expense, and Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him as before. (Genesis 31:1–2) God told Jacob to return to the land of his fathers, and that God would be with him. (Genesis 31:3) Jacob called Rachel and Leah to the field and told them that Laban had changed his opinion of Jacob, but Jacob had served Laban wholeheartedly and God had remained with Jacob. (Genesis 31:4–6) Jacob noted that Laban had mocked him and changed his wages ten times, but God would not allow him to harm Jacob, but had rewarded Jacob, giving Laban’s animals to Jacob. (Genesis 31:7–9) Jacob said that in a dream God told him to return to the land of his birth. (Genesis 31:11–13) Rachel and Leah answered that they no longer had any portion in Laban’s house and all the riches that God had taken from Laban were theirs and their children's, so Jacob should do whatever God had told him to do. (Genesis 31:14–16)

So Jacob set his sons and his wives on camels and headed out toward Isaac and Canaan with all the animals and wealth that he had collected in Padan-aram. (Genesis 31:17–18) Jacob tricked Laban by fleeing secretly while Laban was out shearing his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s idols. (Genesis 31:19–20) On the third day, Laban heard that Jacob had fled and he and his kin pursued after Jacob seven days, overtaking him in the mountain of Gilead. (Genesis 31:22–23) God came to Laban in a dream and told him not to speak to Jacob either good or bad. (Genesis 31:24) But when Laban caught up with Jacob, he asked Jacob what he meant by carrying away his daughters secretly, like captives, without letting him kiss his daughters and grandchildren goodbye. (Genesis 31:25–28) Laban said that while he had the power to harm Jacob, God had told him the previous night not to speak to Jacob either good or bad, and now Laban wanted to know why Jacob had stolen his gods. (Genesis 31:29–30) Jacob answered that he fled secretly out of fear that Laban might take his daughters by force, and not knowing Rachel stole the gods, he told Laban that whoever had his gods would die. (Genesis 31:31–32) Laban searched Jacob's tent, Leah's tent, and the two maid-servants’ tent, finding nothing, and then he entered Rachel's tent. (Genesis 31:33) Rachel had hidden the idols in the camel’s saddle and sat upon them, apologizing to her father for not rising, as she was having her period. (Genesis 31:34–35) Laban searched and felt about the tent, but did not find the idols. (Genesis 31:34–35) Angered, Jacob questioned Laban what he had done to deserve this hot pursuit and this searching. (Genesis 31:36–37) Jacob protested that he had worked for Laban for 20 years, through drought and frost, bearing the loss of animals torn by predators, and not eating Laban’s rams, only to have his wages changed 10 times. (Genesis 31:38–41) Had not the God of Isaac been on Jacob’s side, surely Laban would have sent Jacob away empty, Jacob said, and God had seen his affliction and awarded him what he deserved. (Genesis 31:42) Laban answered Jacob that they were his daughters, his children, and his flocks, but asked what he could do about it now. (Genesis 31:43)

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The Heap of Witnesses (illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible)

Instead, Laban proposed that they make a covenant, and Jacob set up a stone pillar and with his kin heaped stones, and they ate a meal by the heap. (Genesis 31:44–46) Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. (Genesis 31:47) Laban called the heap as a witness between him and Jacob, and invoked God to watch, when they were apart, if Jacob would afflict Laban’s daughters and take other wives. (Genesis 31:48–50) And Laban designated the heap and the pillar as a boundary between him and Jacob; Laban would not pass over it to Jacob, and Jacob would not pass over it to Laban, to do harm. (Genesis 31:51–52) Laban invoked the God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of Terah, and Jacob swore by the Fear of Isaac and offered a sacrifice. (Genesis 31:53–54)

Early in the morning, Laban kissed his sons and his daughters, blessed them, and departed for his home. (Genesis 32:1) And when Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him, and Jacob told them that this was God's camp, and he called the place Mahanaim. (Genesis 32:2–3)

In inner-biblical interpretation

Genesis chapter 29

Jacob’s meeting of Rachel at the well in Genesis 29:1–12 is the Torah’s second of several meetings at watering holes that lead to marriage. Also of the same type scene are Abraham’s servant’s meeting (on behalf of Isaac) of Rebekah at the well in Genesis 24:11–27 and Moses’ meeting of Zipporah at the well in Exodus 2:15–21.

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Jacob’s Dream (painting by Jusepe de Ribera)

In classical rabbinic interpretation

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Jacob’s Dream (watercolor by James Tissot)

Genesis chapter 28

Once in the meat market of Emmaus, Rabbi Akiba asked Rabban Gamaliel and Rabbi Joshua about the words of Genesis 32:32, “And the sun rose on him,” inquiring whether the sun rose on only him and not on everyone. Rabbi Isaac said that it meant that the sun which had set early for his sake now rose early for him. Rabbi Isaac noted that Genesis 28:10 reports that Jacob left Beersheba in the south of the Land of Israel and went toward Haran north of the Land, and Genesis 28:11 reports that “he lighted upon the place” identified (in Genesis 28:10–22) as Bethel in the center of the Land. Rabbi Isaac explained that when he reached Haran, he asked himself how he could have passed through the place where his fathers had prayed and not have prayed there too. So Rabbi Isaac deduced that he immediately resolved to turn back, and as soon he did, the earth contracted and he immediately “lighted upon the place.” After he prayed, he sought to return to Haran, but God chose to give this righteous man a night’s rest and immediately (as Genesis 28:11 reports) “the sun was set.” (Babylonian Talmud Chullin 91b.)

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Jacob’s Dream (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Die Bibel in Bildern)

The Gemara noted that Genesis 28:11 reports that “he took of the stones of the place” (in the plural), but Genesis 28:18 reports that “he took the stone” (in the singular). Rabbi Isaac deduced that all the stones gathered themselves together into the same place so as to be the stone upon which this righteous man would rest his head, and as a Tanna taught in a Baraita, all the stones merged into one. (Babylonian Talmud Chullin 91b.)

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi (according to the Jerusalem Talmud) or a Baraita in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yose the son of Rabbi Chanina (according to the Babylonian Talmud) said that the three daily prayers derived from the Patriarchs, and cited Genesis 28:11 for the proposition that Jews derived the evening prayer from Jacob, arguing that within the meaning of Genesis 28:11, “came upon” (vayifga) meant “pray,” just as a similar word (yifge’u) did in Jeremiah 27:18 (according to the Jerusalem Talmud) or another similar word (tifga) did in Jeremiah 7:16 (according to the Babylonian Talmud). (Jerusalem Talmud Berakhot 43a; Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 26b.)

Interpreting Jacob’s dream of a ladder in Genesis 28:12, a Tanna taught that the width of the ladder was 8,000 parasangs (perhaps 24,000 miles). The Tanna noted that Genesis 28:12 reports “the angels of God ascending and descending on it,” and thus deduced from the plural that at least two angels were ascending and two descending, and when they came to the same place on the ladder, there were four angels abreast. And Daniel 10:6 reports of an angel that “His body was like the Tarshish,” and by tradition the sea of Tarshish is 2,000 parasangs long. (Babylonian Talmud Chullin 91b.)

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Jacob at Bethel (illustration from a Bible card published 1900 by the Providence Lithograph Company)

A Tanna taught that the angels ascended to look at the sight of Jacob above and descended to look at the sight below, and they wished to hurt him, and thus immediately (as Genesis 28:13 reports) “the Lord stood beside him.” Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish said that were it not expressly stated in the Scripture, we would not dare to say it, but God is made to appear like a man who fans his son to protect him from the heat. (Babylonian Talmud Chullin 91b.)

The Gemara asked what the significance was of God’s promise in Genesis 28:13 to give Jacob “the land on which you lie,” which would have been about 6 feet of land. Rabbi Isaac deduced that God rolled up the whole Land of Israel and put it under Jacob, thus indicating that his descendants would easily conquer it. (Babylonian Talmud Chullin 91b.)

The Tosefta deduced from Genesis 28:21 that Jacob spoke as if God was not Jacob’s God when Jacob was not in the land of Canaan. (Tosefta Avodah Zarah 4:5.)

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Jacob’s Vision and God’s Promise (illustration from a Bible card published 1906 by the Providence Lithograph Company)

Rabbi Jacob bar Idi pointed out a contradiction between God’s promise to protect Jacob in Genesis 28:15 and Jacob’s fear in Genesis 32:8; Rabbi Jacob explained that Jacob feared that some sin might cause him to lose the protection of God's promise. (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 4a, Sanhedrin 98b.)

Rabbi Ilai taught that the Sages ordained at Usha that if a man wishes to give charity liberally, he should not spend more than a fifth of his wealth. Rav Nahman (or some say Rav Aha bar Jacob) cited Genesis 28:22 as proof for the proposition, as in the words “And of all that You shall give me, I will surely give a tenth to You,” repetition of the verb “to give a tenth” or “tithe” implies two tenths or one fifth. The Gemara did the math and questioned whether the second tenth would not be less than the first tenth, as it would be taken from the nine-tenths that remained after the first tenth had been given away and thereby represented only 1/10 x 9/10 = 9/100 of the original capital. Rav Ashi replied that the words “I will . . . give a tenth of it” in Genesis 28:22 implied that he would make the second like the first. (Babylonian Talmud Ketubot 50a.)

Rabbi Berekiah and Rabbi Ahi taught in the name of Rabbi Samuel bar Nahmani that Jacob would not have told God, “of all that You shall give me, I will surely give a tenth to You,” in Genesis 28:22 unless God had already offered Jacob, “Ask what I shall give you,” as God offered Solomon in 1 Kings 3:5. Rabbi Jonathan taught that God invited three people to ask what God could give them: Solomon in 1 Kings 3:5, Ahaz in Isaiah 7:11,, and the Messiah in Psalm 2:8. Rabbi Berekiah and Rabbi Ahi in the name of Rabbi Samuel bar Nahmani cited two more: Abraham in Genesis 15:2 and Jacob in Genesis 28:22, teaching that neither Patriarch would have asked God unless God had first offered to give them what they asked. (Genesis Rabbah 44:8.)

Genesis chapter 29

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Jacob Meets Rachel at the Well (painting by William Dyce)

The Gemara cited the words “And it came to pass” (וַיְהִי, wa-yehi) in Genesis 29:10 as an exception to the general rule taught by Rabbi Levi, or some say Rabbi Jonathan, in a tradition handed down from the Men of the Great Assembly, that wherever the Bible employs the term “and it was” or “and it came to pass” (וַיְהִי, wa-yehi), it indicates misfortune, as one can read wa-yehi as wai, hi, “woe, sorrow.” Thus the words, “And it came to pass when man began to multiply,” in Genesis 6:1, are followed by the words, “God Saw that the wickedness of man was great,” in Genesis 6:5. And the Gemara also cited the instances of Genesis 11:2 followed by Genesis 11:4; Genesis 14:1 followed by Genesis 14:2; Joshua 5:13 followed by the rest of Joshua 5:13; Joshua 6:27 followed by Joshua 7:1; 1 Samuel 1:1 followed by 1 Samuel 1:5; 1 Samuel 8:1 followed by 1 Samuel 8:3; 1 Samuel 18:14 close after 1 Samuel 18:9; 2 Samuel 7:1 followed by 1 Kings 8:19; Ruth 1:1 followed by the rest of Ruth 1:1; and Esther 1:1 followed by Haman. But the Gemara also cited as counterexamples the words, “And there was evening and there was morning one day,” in Genesis 1:5, as well as Genesis 29:10, and 1 Kings 6:1. So Rav Ashi replied that wa-yehi sometimes presages misfortune, and sometimes it does not, but the expression “and it came to pass in the days of” always presages misfortune. And for that proposition, the Gemara cited Genesis 14:1, Isaiah 7:1 Jeremiah 1:3, Ruth 1:1, and Esther 1:1. (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 10b.)

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Jacob and Rachel at the Well (illustration by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld)

The Gemara read Genesis 7:8 to employ the euphemistic expression “not clean,” instead of the brief, but disparaging expression “unclean,” so as not to speak disparagingly of unclean animals. The Gemara reasoned that it was thus likely that Scripture would use euphemisms when speaking of the faults of righteous people, as with the words, “And the eyes of Leah were weak,” in Genesis 29:17. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 123a.)

Rabbi Eleazar interpreted the words “He withdraws not his eyes from the righteous” in Job 36:7 to teach that God rewards righteousness, even generations later. The Gemara taught that in reward for Rachel’s modesty as shown in her dealings with Jacob, God rewarded her with King Saul as a descendant. The Gemara taught that Jacob asked Rachel, “Will you marry me?” She replied, “Yes, but my father is a trickster, and he will outwit you.” Jacob replied, “I am his brother in trickery.” She said to him, “Is it permitted to the righteous to indulge in trickery?” He replied, “Yes, with the pure you show yourself pure, and with the crooked you show yourself subtle.” (2 Samuel 22:27) He asked her, “What is his trickery?” She replied: “I have a sister older than I am, and he will not let me marry before her.” So Jacob gave her certain tokens through which he could identify her. When night came, she said to herself, “Now my sister will be put to shame,” so she gave Leah the tokens. Thus when Genesis 29:25 reports, “And it came to pass in the morning that, behold, it was Leah,” we are not to infer that up until then she had not been Leah, but rather that on account of the tokens that Rachel had given Leah, Jacob did not know until then that it was Leah. Therefore God rewarded Rachel with having Saul among her descendants. (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 13a–b, Bava Batra 123a.)

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Rachel and Leah (illustration by Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

Rabbi Helbo quoted Rabbi Jonathan to teach that the firstborn should have come from Rachel, as Genesis 37:2 says, “These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph,” but Leah prayed for mercy before Rachel did. On account of Rachel’s modesty, however, God restored the rights of the firstborn to Rachel’s son Joseph from Leah’s son Reuben. To teach what caused Leah to anticipate Rachel with her prayer for mercy, Rav taught that Leah’s eyes were sore (as Genesis 29:17 reports) from her crying about what she heard at the crossroads. There she heard people saying: “Rebecca has two sons, and Laban has two daughters; the elder daughter should marry the elder son, and the younger daughter should marry the younger son.” Leah inquired about the elder son, and the people said that he was a wicked man, a highway robber. And Leah asked about the younger son, and the people said that he was “a quiet man dwelling in tents.” (Genesis 25:27) So she cried about her fate until her eyelashes fell out. This accounts for the words of Genesis 29:31, “And the Lord saw that Leah was hated, and He opened her womb,” which mean not that Leah was actually hated, but rather that God saw that Esau’s conduct was hateful to Leah, so he rewarded her prayer for mercy by opening her womb first. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 123a.)

The seven days of Jacob’s wedding feast in Genesis 29:27–28 are reflected in the Sages’ ruling that if a groom developed symptoms of skin disease (tzaraat), they granted him a delay of inspection to the end of the seven days of his marriage feast. (Babylonian Talmud Moed Katan 7b.)

Rabbi Johanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai that Genesis 29:35 showed that from the day that God created the world, no man praised God until Leah did upon the birth of Judah. (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 7b.)

Genesis chapter 30

Rabbi Samuel bar Nahmani citing Rabbi Johanan taught that a woman who solicits her husband to have marital relations will bear children who have understanding. In support of that proposition, the Gemara noted that Genesis 30:16 reports that Leah told Jacob, “You must come to me, for I have hired you,” leading to the conception and birth of Issachar, and 1 Chronicles 12:33 reports that “of the children of Issachar [were] men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” (Babylonian Talmud Eruvin 100b, Nedarim 20b.)

Rabbi Johanan taught that the words “and he lay with her that night” in Genesis 30:16, in which the word hu appears in an unusual locution, indicate that God assisted in causing Issachar’s conception. Rabbi Johanan found in the words “Issachar is a large-boned donkey” in Genesis 49:14 an indication that Jacob’s donkey detoured to Leah’s tent, helping to cause Issachar’s birth. (Babylonian Talmud Niddah 31a.)

Rebbi (or some say Rabbi Judah ben Pazi) said in the name of the academy of Yannai that Dinah was originally conceived as a boy, but when Rachel prayed for another son in Genesis 30:24, God transformed Dinah’s fetus into a girl, and that is why the description of Dinah’s birth in Genesis 30:21 uses the word “afterward,” showing that this happened after Rachel prayed. (Jerusalem Talmud Berakhot 92a.) And Rab taught that the word “afterward” in Genesis 30:21 signified that Leah bore Dinah “after” she passed judgment on herself, reasoning that twelve tribes were destined to issue from Jacob and six had already issued from her and four from the handmaids, and if the child of the current pregnancy were to be a boy, then Rachel would not have as many sons as one of the handmaids. Thereupon the child was turned into a girl, and Dinah was born. (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 60a.)

A Baraita taught that on Rosh Hashanah God remembered each of Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah and decreed that they would bear children. Rabbi Eliezer found support for the Baraita from the parallel use of the word “remember” in Genesis 30:22, which says about Rachel, “And God remembered Rachel,” and in Leviticus 23:24, which calls Rosh Hashanah “a remembrance of the blast of the trumpet.” (Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashanah 11a.)

Rabbi Johanan taught that God holds three keys that God does not entrust to any messenger: the key of rain, the key of childbirth, and the key of the revival of the dead. The Gemara cited Genesis 30:22 to support the proposition that God holds the key of childbirth, as the verse says, “And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.” (Babylonian Talmud Taanit 2a–b.) And the Gemara noted that Scripture uses the verb “bear” with regard to both childbirth, in Genesis 30:23, “she conceived, and bore a son,” and rain, in Isaiah 55:10, “the rain comes down and the snow from heaven, and returns not there, but waters the earth, and makes it bear and bud.” (Babylonian Talmud Taanit 8b.) Rabbi Akiba read the words “God . . . opened her womb” in Genesis 30:22 to support the proposition that just as there is key to a house, there is a key to a woman’s fertility. (Babylonian Talmud Bekhorot 45a.)

Rabbi Judah ben Pazi said in the name of the academy of Rabbi Yannai that Rachel showed that she was a prophetess when in Genesis 30:24 she prophesied that she would bear another son, and by using the singular “son” she foretold that Jacob would have just one more son. (Jerusalem Talmud Berakhot 92a.)

The Tosefta deduced from Genesis 30:30 that before Jacob arrived, Laban’s house had not received a blessing, and deduced from Genesis 30:27 that it was because of Jacob’s arrival that Laban was blessed thereafter. (Tosefta Sotah 10:7.)

Genesis chapter 31

Figures Jacob Laban Make Covenant

Laban and Jacob Make a Covenant Together (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

It was taught in a Baraita that Rabbi Akiva said that one of three things that he liked about the Medes was that when they held counsel, they did so only in the field. Rav Adda bar Ahabah said that Genesis 31:4, where Jacob called Rachel and Leah to the field, could be cited in support of the practice. (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 8b.)

Ciro Ferri - The Reconciliation of Jacob and Laban

The Reconciliation of Jacob and Laban (painting by Ciro Ferri)

The Rabbis taught that God appears to non-Jews only in dreams, as God appeared to Laban the “in a dream of the night” in Genesis 31:24, God appeared to Abimelech “in a dream of the night” in Genesis 20:3, and God appeared to Balaam “at night” in Numbers 22:20. The Rabbis taught that God thus appeared more openly to the prophets of Israel than to those of other nations. The Rabbis compared God’s action to those of a king who has both a wife and a concubine; to his wife he goes openly, but to his concubine he goes stealthily. (Genesis Rabbah 52:5.) And a midrash taught that God’s appearance to Laban in Genesis 31:24 and God’s appearance to Abimelech in Genesis 20:3 were the two instances where the Pure and Holy One allowed God’s self to be associated with impure (idolatrous) people, on behalf of righteous ones. (Midrash Tanhuma Vayeitzei 12.)

Rabbi Aibu taught that when Laban’s grandchildren heard Laban ask in Genesis 31:32, “Why have you stolen my gods?” they exclaimed that they were ashamed that in his old age their grandfather could say that these idols were his gods. (Genesis Rabbah 74:8.)

A midrash taught that Rachel’s death ensued because Jacob told Laban in Genesis 31:32, “With whomever you find your gods, he shall not live.” The midrash thus taught that Jacob’s words were (in the words of Ecclesiastes 10:5) “like an error that proceeds from a ruler.” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 10:6.)

The Gemara interpreted the words, “If you shall afflict my daughters, and if you shall take wives beside my daughters,” in Genesis 31:50 to mean that Jacob forswore two kinds of affliction. The Gemara read “if you shall afflict” to mean by denying conjugal duty, and the Gemara read “if you shall take” to refer to marrying rival wives. Thus the Gemara deduced that abstention from marital intercourse is considered an affliction. (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 77a–b.)


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Hosea (painting from Siena's Duomo)

According to Maimonides and Sefer ha-Chinuch, there are no commandments in the parshah. (Maimonides. Mishneh Torah. Cairo, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, 2 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4. Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 1:87. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1991. ISBN 0-87306-179-9.)


The haftarah for the parshah is:

In the liturgy

The Passover Haggadah, in the concluding nirtzah section of the Seder, in a reference to Genesis 31:24, recounts how God frightened the Aramean Laban in the night. (Menachem Davis. The Interlinear Haggadah: The Passover Haggadah, with an Interlinear Translation, Instructions and Comments, 108. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2005. ISBN 1-57819-064-9. Joseph Tabory. JPS Commentary on the Haggadah: Historical Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, 123. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8276-0858-0.)

The doubling of the Hebrew word nikhsof to express intense longing in Genesis 31:30 also appears in the 16th Century Safed Rabbi Eliezer Azikri’s kabbalistic poem Yedid Nefesh (“Soul’s Beloved”), which many congregations chant just before the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service. (Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, 14. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2003. ISBN 0916219208.)

Many Jews recite Genesis 32:2–3 three times as part of the Tefilat HaDerech (Wayfarer’s Prayer), said on setting out on a journey. (Menachem Davis. The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for Weekdays with an Interlinear Translation, 311–12. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-57819-686-8.)

The Weekly Maqam

In the Weekly Maqam, Sephardi Jews each week base the songs of the services on the content of that week's parshah. For Parshah Vayetze, Sephardi Jews apply Maqam Ajam, the maqam that expresses happiness, commemorating the joy and happiness of the weddings of Jacob to Leah and Rachel.

Further reading

The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:


Classical rabbinic

  • Tosefta: Sotah 10:7–8; Avodah Zarah 4:5. Land of Israel, circa 300 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:877; 2:1275. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
  • Jerusalem Talmud Berakhot 43a, 92a. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vols. 1–2. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2005–2006.
  • Genesis Rabbah 68:1–74:17. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
First page of the first tractate of the Talmud (Daf Beis of Maseches Brachos)


  • Babylonian Talmud: Berakhot 4a, 7b, 8b, 26b, 42a, 60a, 62b; Shabbat 80b, 115b; Eruvin 100b; Yoma 38b, 74b, 77a; Sukkah 53a; Rosh Hashanah 11a; Taanit 2b; Megillah 9a, 10b, 13b, 17a; Moed Katan 7b, 15a, 21b; Yevamot 26b–27a, 28b, 62b, 97b, 103b; Ketubot 7b, 47b, 50a, 91b; Nedarim 20b, 64b; Nazir 23b, 50a; Bava Kamma 65b; Bava Metzia 93b; Bava Batra 123a–b; Sanhedrin 29a, 39b, 98b; Makkot 19b; Avodah Zarah 3a, 5a, 9a, 24b; Menachot 63a; Chullin 18b, 91b; Bekhorot 45a; Niddah 31a–b. Babylonia, 6th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr, Chaim Malinowitz, and Mordechai Marcus, 72 vols. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006.


  • Rashi. Commentary. Genesis 28–32. Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 1:309–57. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1995. ISBN 0-89906-026-9.
  • Judah Halevi. Kuzari. 2:14, 50, 80. Toledo, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel. Intro. by Henry Slonimsky, 91, 114, 133. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
Thomas Hobbes (portrait)


  • Zohar 1:146b–65b. Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.


Thomas Mann 1937


  • Irving Fineman. Jacob, An Autobiograhical Novel. New York: Random House, 1941.
  • Thomas Mann. Joseph and His Brothers. Translated by John E. Woods, 24–25, 37, 47, 51, 87, 103–12, 119–20, 124–25, 135, 138, 142, 173–305, 307, 313, 323, 334, 337, 384–86, 388–92, 425, 460, 474, 488, 491–93, 502–03, 511, 515, 517, 519, 524, 530, 669–70, 676–77, 690–91, 693, 715–16, 729–30, 778, 805, 814, 883, 915. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-4001-9. Originally published as Joseph und seine Brüder. Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer Verlag, 1943.
  • Charles Reznikoff. Luzzato: Padua 1727. Mid 20th Century. In Harold Bloom. American Religious Poems, 247. Library of America, 2006. ISBN 978-1-931082-74-7.
  • Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid's Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1986. ISBN 0-395-40425-8.
  • Lawrence Kushner. God Was in This Place and I, I Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning. Jewish Lights Publishing, 1993. ISBN 1879045338.
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz




External links



Old book bindings


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