Posts Tagged ‘Beersheba’

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran.”—Genesis 28:10

The Torah portion for this week, Vayetze, is from Genesis 28:10–32:3 and Hosea 12:13–14:10.

This week’s Torah portion is called Vayetze, which means ‘and he left.’ The portion could have just as easily been called Vayelech, ‘and he set out,’ and indeed later on down the line we do encounter another reading with that title. But this week’s selection isn’t about going places: It’s about knowing when to leave them.

The reading begins with Jacob leaving his hometown of Beersheba in order to escape his brother’s fury. In last week’s Torah reading, Jacob was able to attain the blessings of the firstborn by tricking his father, Isaac, leaving Esau feeling cheated, even though he had sold Jacob his birthright earlier. Jacob knew that he had to leave if he was going to survive.

Jacob ended up living with his mother’s brother, Laban, where he and Laban’s daughter, Rachel, fell in love. Laban made Jacob work seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage, and then Laban pulled a last-minute stunt and switched Leah (Rachel’s older sister) for Rachel.

Jewish tradition teaches that Jacob and Rachel had anticipated this possibility and had made up secret signs to exchange under the wedding canopy. But when Rachel realized the amount of humiliation that her sister Leah would feel if she was exposed during the wedding, she relayed the signals to Leah and the wedding went off without a hitch. After all those years of waiting, Rachel could have held her ground, but she walked away in order to spare her sister the pain. In fact, Jacob worked another seven years in order to marry his true love, Rachel.

The Torah portion ends decades after it began with Jacob trying to leave Laban’s home. Laban made his leaving difficult, but Jacob persevered. Once again, he knew it was time to leave and nothing was going to stop him.

This week’s theme is all about knowing when to walk away — physically or emotionally. So much time and energy is wasted because we stay in relationships that are hurtful, or we stay away from loved ones because we can’t let go of past hurts. It’s important to know when it’s time to move on and change directions. But leaving is hard and change can be frightening. So we stay in jobs that drain us and live in places that no longer suit us. True, the unknown is uncomfortable. But it’s even more uncomfortable to stay stooped in a space where you don’t fit and no longer belong.

This week, take the challenge of leaving something behind: a bad habit, a toxic relationship, a never-ending argument, a dead-end job, the computer, the phone – know when to walk away. While it’s important to know where you are headed in life, it’s just as important to know when it’s time to leave the place you are right now.


The news that Joseph’s brothers had arrived became known in Pharaoh‘s palace; and it pleased Pharaoh and his servants greatly. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts, go to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your families and come to me, and I will give you the best there is in the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the best that the land can give. Now you are commanded to do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father and come. Also do not pay any attention to your household goods, for the best of all there is in the land of Egypt is yours.'” And the sons of Jacob did as they were commanded.

So Joseph gave them wagons, as Pharaoh ordered, and what was needed for the journey. To each of them he gave a change of clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of clothing. To his father he sent this gift: ten asses loaded with the best products of Egypt and ten asses loaded with grain and bread and provisions for his father on the journey.

So he sent his brothers away, and, as they went, he said to them, “See that you do not quarrel on the journey!” So they went up out of Egypt and came into the land of Canaan to Jacob their father, and told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt!” Then Jacob’s heart stood still, for he could not believe them. But when they told him all that Joseph had said to them and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived, and he said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

Then Jacob set out on his journey with all that he had. He first went to Beersheba and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to him in a vision by night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” He answered, “Here am I.” God said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not fear to go down into Egypt, for there I will make of you a great nation. I myself will go down with you into Egypt; I will surely bring you back again; and Joseph shall close your dying eyes.”

When Jacob left Beersheba, his sons carried him and their little ones and their wives in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent. Jacob also sent Judah before him to Joseph, that he might show him the way to Goshen.

When they came into the land of Goshen, Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to Goshen to meet Jacob his father. When he met him, Jacob fell on his neck and wept there a long time.

Then Jacob said to Joseph, “Now let me die, for I have seen your face and know that you are still alive.” But Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s family who were in the land of Canaan have come to me. Now the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of cattle; and they have brought their flocks and cattle and all that they have.’ When Pharaoh calls you, and asks, ‘What is your business?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of cattle from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers.’ Say this that you may live in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is looked down upon by the Egyptians.”

Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh and said, “My father and my brothers with their sheep and cattle and all that they possess have come from the land of Canaan; and now they are in the province of Goshen.” And he took five of his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to them, “What is your business?” They answered, “Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers.” They also said to Pharaoh, “We have come to live in your country; because the famine is severe in the land of Canaan, and there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks. Now, therefore, we beg of you, let your servants stay in the land of Goshen.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Let them stay in the land of Goshen; and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my cattle.”

Joseph also brought in Jacob his father and presented him to Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many years have you lived?” Jacob answered, “I have lived a hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the years of my life, and they have not been as many as those that my forefathers lived on earth.” After Jacob had blessed Pharaoh, he went out from Pharaoh’s presence. So Joseph gave his father and his brothers a place to live in and a home in the land of Goshen, in the best part of the land of Egypt, as Pharaoh had commanded.

Joseph also provided food for his father and his brothers and all his father’s family according to the number of the little children. So the Israelites lived in Egypt, in the land of Goshen, and there they grew wealthy and had many children.

Jehovah remembered what he had told Sarah, and he did as he had promised. So Sarah had a son, and when the child grew up, Abraham made a great feast on the day that he was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian and of Abraham playing with her son Isaac. And she said to Abraham, “Drive out this slave girl and her son, for the son of this slave girl shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” This request was very displeasing to Abraham because the boy was his son. But Jehovah said to Abraham, “Do not be displeased because of the boy and because of your slave girl. Listen to all that Sarah says to you, for Isaac only and his children shall bear your name. But I will also make of the son of the slave girl a great nation, because he is your son.”

Then Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar; and he put the boy upon her shoulder and sent her away. So she set out and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she left the child under one of the desert shrubs and went a short distance away and sat down opposite him, for she said, “Let me not see the child die.”

While she sat there, the boy began to cry; and Jehovah heard the cry of the boy, and said, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for Jehovah has heard the cry of the boy. Rise, lift him up, and hold him fast by the hand, for I will make him a great nation.” And Jehovah opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. Then she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

And Jehovah cared for the boy; and when he grew up, he lived in the wilderness of Paran and became a bowman. And his mother secured a wife for him from Egypt.

“In the seventh year of Jehu, Joash became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother’s name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba.” — 2 Kings 12:1

A common motif in the book of 2 Kings is not simply to provide the patriarchal lineage of the king, but also to provide the matriarchal lineage. Now, in the ancient patriarchal society, providing the name of the father makes sense. It grounds the new king in a royal lineage.

However, in regard to the mother, not only do we rarely ever hear of her again, but we also don’t know much about her in the first place. For example, we never find out any details of the life of Zibiah of Beersheba; nor for that matter, do we ever get any details about any of the mothers mentioned in 2 Kings.

Why then does the book go out of its way to always tell us the name of the kings’ mothers? A simple answer is that, as a history book, one in which follows a pattern as it lists the kings of Judah and Israel, it needs to chronicle both parents. Yet, only in a few other places in the Bible do we receive name of the mother of a leader, and in each case there are extenuating circumstances. Furthermore, in the book of 2 Kings, the name of the mother usually comes in a verse different from the name of the father. It almost gives the impression that the author intended to separate the influence of the mother from the influence of the father, but again, to what point?

I think we need to realize the historical situation of the kings at that time. For the most part, as attested throughout the Bible, the king typically had many sons and many wives, and did not have the time to actually take care of his children in the way we think of parents taking care of their kids today. The mothers, then, were the true parents of these princes.

The book of 2 Kings testifies to the importance of the mother in the upbringing of these one-day kings and states that whether they were good or bad stemmed from their parenting, specifically their mothers. In today’s society, parenting is usually more of a partnership, but the lessons still need to be taught.

In this age of hyper-information, our children have more “parents” than they can handle:  TV, Internet, teachers, smart phones, celebrities, etc. So we need to remember that it ultimately rests upon us to help guide our children, whether we are their mother or father.