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December 4, 2016 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Vayetze

This coming week’s Torah portion is primarily about the interactions because Jacob and his rather difficult relative Laban, who offers him his daughters in marriage but cheats him (to oversimplify a bit).

After a 20-year difficult relationship, Jacob leaves Laban to return to Israel.  At the end of their relationship, Jacob builds a pile of stones (Gen. 31:46)  Laban says that this pile is a witness to their agreement that Yaakov may not mistreat Laban’s daughters (Gen. 31:48),and that the stones are a boundary (31:51).

Miller (the author of the Chumash I’m using this year, starting today) remarks that this pile “represents the boundary between the Jew (Jacob) and his non-Jewish surroundings (Laban)..  This boundary is not supposed to be a total barrier, where the Jew totally insulates himself from the world and wants nothing to do with his non-Jewish neighbors [or secular life generally].”  Obviously, Judaism needs some boundaries but not too many- too few boundaries and Judaism disappears, too many and Judaism becomes impractical.

Then Miller throws a curveball, writing that you “need to profit spiritually from each interaction with the world, by training your eye to perceive how its physical existence is being constantly renewed at every moment by God.”  Religion is an exercise in turning the secular into the sacred, and seeing how non-holy things are related to the sacred.





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