Does the title raise big question marks for you? You’re not alone. Many Christians don’t know either word. I certainly didn’t until a few years ago.
My genesis began with Exodus as I was reading the Ten Commandments one day: God said that His people are to keep the Sabbath day holy (Exodus 20). There was no way I could manipulate the fourth commandment into anything other than observing it as a unique, holy day. I could find no scriptural justification to change to any day other than Saturday. Surprise! Surprise!
I had been raised in a Christian family and lived in a “Sunday-Church” culture, but I could not deny God’s invitation to obey His Word. After much study, prayer and questioning, my wife, Janelle and I said, “Yes, Yeshua (Jesus), we will obey Your commandments to show You we love You.” (Jn 14:23)
In the course of following God’s guidance, we not only spent much time on Saturday praying, reading the Torah (first five books of the bible recorded by Moses) but also enjoying each other’s company and conversation and putting aside all work projects for the day. We began on Friday night and ended at sundown on Saturday, following the biblical pattern. Celebrating this time frame was a significant part of our honoring God’s seven days of creation – we saw the connection, and it became very meaningful.
Rather than viewing this big shift in our weekly schedule as a drudgery, a legalistic restriction of our freedom, we both found God met us in adventurous, delightful ways, and we continue to look forward to and embrace each Sabbath experience.
So, that’s how it came about that we ran into the word parsha. Let me now explain what the words Parsha Vayetze mean and as a bonus I’ll tell you of a surprise application of this knowledge!
Well, it turns out these words are transliterated Hebrew words. That is to say, rather than writing them in Hebrew, which I (and most Christians) cannot read, they give the words a phonetic English spelling. Parsha is the Hebrew word for “portion.” Vayetze would be the Hebrew word for “he went out.”
You may ask, “Portion of what?”
I would answer, “A portion of the first five books (Torah) of the Old Testament.”
You might then ask, “What portion?”
“Good question — you’re paying attention. It’s one of the fifty-two portions into which the Torah is divided,so it can be read through, weekly in a year.”
Your insatiable curiosity might then wonder who divided it? “Just like the bible itself and its divisions into chapters and verses, it was a man thing. The division is arbitrary and pretty much thematic. Although some parshat ( portions) seem to contain more than one theme. There had to be some portions so constructed to keep the division doable within the 52 weeks.”
I’ll leave our concersation and just go ahead and define the second word Vayetze. Man’s logic says that each of those 52 portions should be easily identifiable. Logic again says, “Let’s take the opening few words of each parsha and boil them down into a Hebrew word which is included within the first verse.” A neat system if you understand Hebrew, but a little confusing if you don’t. But look at it this way—when you’ve got all the transliterated names down of the 52 portions you’ll know at least 52 words of Hebrew—in case that’s a goal of yours!
Vayetze is the seventh weekly portion for the yearly cycle. It comes from Genesis 28:10, “Now Jacob went out from Beersheba….” The word vayetze is the transliterated Hebrew word for “he went out.”
Let’s now look at my primary purpose for writing this post. My wife, Janelle, and I really try to make personal application of the message in each parsha. This keeps us from just gaining knowledge for knowledge’s sake. We’ve been going over these portions now for the last several years. You would think we had surely gleaned all the application there was by now. Ha, I laugh! The depth of scripture is really unfathomable. We read the ponderings and observations of various other Torah seekers and continue to be amazed at the unlimited nuance of each portion.
What jumped out at me about this year’s reading of Vayetze came from a clue offered by one author and my own expanded revelation. This may sound prideful, but Janelle and I believe that as we seek to have our spiritual eyes opened and don’t depend so much on our thought process we will gain greater insight into the heart of Father.
Last week’s parsha dealt with Jacob’s deception of Isaac and then this week’s parsha (Gen 28:10-32:3) deals with the deception of Jacob by Laban. Although there are several other stories and themes within the few chapters of this parsha, I felt compelled to meditate on the significance of these two scenarios.
Again, I include Janelle in this examination of parsha insight as we are certainly a team and family spiritual life is a team activity. Together, we have for many years personally, individually addressed the question of generational iniquity—dispositions toward a particular sin or sin syndrome that can be traced down through the family line. This sin or at least the temptation of it does not necessarily appear in the same form in every generation, but it can be traced. Sometimes this “tracing” does not come from knowledge of family history, but from Holy Spirit revelation. Often there is no way to “prove” the generational existence, but the effect of recognizing and bringing the particular sin under the cleansing blood of Yeshua (Jesus) has had demonstrable effect on our children and grandchildren. If you’re interested in various testimonies and scriptural support, contact me for a few articles Janelle has written.
This spiritual experience of ours over the years opened my eyes to a possible truth of this week’s parsha. A review of the key players will help: Laban and Rebekah are brother and sister. Rebekah is Jacob’s mother. It is Rebekah who has the word from God that Jacob is to be the preferred son; that the older (Esau) was to serve the younger. It is Rebekah who puts Jacob up to impersonating his brother Esau in order to gain the blessing from his father Isaac—the blessing that by heredity was to have gone to Esau, but by God’s plan was to have gone to Jacob.
Hold on! Yes, it was God’s plan for Jacob to carry on the family leadership, but did it have to come about through the deception by both Rebekah and Jacob? As I continued reading, I was hoping for an answer to this question.
Now, jump ahead to chapter 29 and Jacob’s long awaited wedding day in which he anticipates making Rachel his wife. I’m sure you recall the story: Jacob worked for Laban seven years to acquire his beloved Rachel as his wife. However, on their wedding night, Rachel’s father, Laban, secretly substitutes his oldest unmarried daughter, Leah for Rachel. I call that a cruel deception!
Is this practice of deception a family trait, a family curse, a family sin? Does it have generational consequence? Let’s see.
Although Jacob winds up with Rachel by working seven more years for Laban, it is then Rachel who deceives her father, Laban, and steals the family idols (Gen 31).
Following the deception trail, we come to Reuben, Leah’s first born. He deceives his father Jacob, by seducing his father’s concubine, Bilhah (Gen 35:22). Then read about Leah’s sons Simeon and Levi and their deception of Hamor and the Hivites (Gen 34). We could also talk about Judah, Joseph’s experience and many others in this family line.
Did it all start with Terah the first mentioned progenitor of Abram (Abraham) and his brother, Nahor (Laban and Rebekah’s father)? I’m sure not. However, it was the recognition of the sister—brother relationship of Rebekah and Laban and their respective blatant deceptions that started me to question. Then the pie opened up and all the “black birds” began to fly out (if you remember the nursery rhyme).
What do we do with this bit of information? Well, first, it called for Janelle and me to inquire of the Lord again as to our own unrecognized, unrepented, unblood-washed generational iniquity (including our individual, personal updating of same). Secondly, it gave us a bigger world view of our opportunity to intercede beyond our family borders.
To summarize our understanding of the reading of this year’s parsha it was more than the deception by mother and son, even when premised on seeing God’s will accomplished. Let me summarize it this way:
You cannot change the biblical record, but you can change something that does dramatically affect you. As a child of Abraham by faith, you can identify with your Hebrew ancestors’ temptation to deceive in small and big ways. When you acknowledge your own temptation to do the same, you qualify as an authentic intercessor for those same biblical characters and the sin of deception, even though premised on God’s will, they passed down to you. You embrace a revised standard of spiritual morality.
God’s Word is truly the Living Torah. Reading each Torah portion with this connection to your Hebrew ancestors can bring changes to your own life and to that of your descendants as well. We have demonstrable evidence of this among our four children, thirteen grandchildren and even our three great grandchildren!
What can the possible outcome be of an elderly couple in Tennessee interceding for such an epic challenge? Only, God knows!
If you are a child of Abraham by faith, ask Him what He knows about your connection to the Torah and your Hebrew ancestors. Only God knows what it is, but if you ask Him, He’ll make sure each week to bless you with making the Torah come alive and help you make personal application..