Weekly Drash - Vayetze
Compliments of First Fruits of Zion
The Dispersion and Return
Vayetze - ויצא : “And he went out”
Thought for the Week:
The deeds of the forefathers are portents for the children. The Torah says in Genesis 28:10, “Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.” Did anything like this ever happen to the children of Israel? Of course it did. Twice even. Israel was twice exiled from the land of promise. Two times she went down into darkness. Once in the days of the Prophets (with the Assyrians and Babylonians playing the part of Esau) Israel was driven from her land and into Mesopotamia and captivity. It happened a second time, in the days of the disciples. Like Jacob, fleeing from the wrath of Esau, fleeing from the house of his father, leaving behind his family and the place of Abraham and Isaac, Rome forces Israel to flee her land and forsake it for centuries that stretched into millennia. This second exile has endured for almost two thousand years.
As Jacob flees from the promised land, he stops at Bethel where God gives him the dream of the ladder and confirms the covenant promises to him. Though the oracle at Bethel is essentially a repetition of the covenant promises bestowed upon Abraham and Isaac, there is an important variation on the wording in 28:14. The seed of Jacob will not only multiply to be as numerous and uncountable as the dust of the earth, it will also “spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south.” Not only will his seed inherit the land of Canaan, they will also be spread in every direction. This dispersion alludes again to the theme of exile. As Jacob descends into exile, he is warned that his seed will be spread in every direction as the result of such exile.
But this exile will eventually end in a great ingathering. The LORD promises Jacob that he will be with him in exile, He will keep him in all places he goes, and He will return him to the land of Canaan. He assures Jacob that, even in exile, He will not leave him.
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. (Genesis 28:15)
In the same way, the exile of Jacob’s seed Israel will ultimately end in a return to the land. Though it may seem that Israel has been abandoned by God through her centuries of exile and dispersion, God has never actually abandoned His people. He has kept them for Himself in all the places they have been scattered, and He will eventually recollect Jacob’s seed from the west, the east, the north and the south.
And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matthew 24:31)
The prophet Isaiah recognized the warning of exile and promise of return implicit in Genesis 28. Isaiah 43:1-6 seems to allude to Genesis 28. Addressing Jacob directly, the LORD speaks through the mouth of Isaiah and reiterates the promise to be with his seed in exile and to return them to the land.
Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, “Give them up!” and to the south, “Do not hold them back.” Bring My sons from afar And My daughters from the ends of the earth…” (Isaiah 43:5-6)
Shavuah Tov! Have a Good Week!
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