2003Called VaYetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3) this section refers to Jacob's leaving home, the first of this two famous dreams and his education. Like so many students, Jacob now sets out on the journey called life. Just like for so many students Jacob's first night away from home must have been frightening yet he dreamt of angles and possibilites. He quickly learned that growing up is not easy and that fear is a part of life. Jacob's journey parallels so many of the emotions felt by our students. Leaving high school and entering the world of college is somewhat akin to being born. College is a new beginning and graduation is its destination. Along the way, just as in Jacob's case, students will have many lessons to learn - not only those taught in the classroom but those that come through living with others and by being on one's own. Jacob left Be'er Sheva and began his journey to Haran. Haran, however was only the place, the real destination was maturity and adulthood. Along the way he would go from an innocent young lad to a mature young man, from weakness to strength and would learn the lessons of compasion, love, joy and fear and faith
Haran: Jacob's College
Jacob left Be'er Sheva and began his journey to Haran, and encountered a certain place. He had to spend the night there, for the sun had come in. Now he took one of the stones of the place and set it at his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamt: Here, a ladder was set up on the earth, its top reaching the heavens, and here: messengers of God were going up and down in it.
Your Torah Navigator
1. Was Haran really the final destination or merely the means to a final destination?
2. How does Jacob's encounter with a certain place parallel students' encounters on their journeys? What role does an encounter play in a journey?
Like Jacob, students are also on a sacred pilgrimage of human growth and it is a pleasure to watch that growth nurture it, guide it and at the same time stand back and allow it to occur. When Jacob awoke from his dream he had learned two things, that a ladder can ascend to Heaven only if its base if firmly established in the ground, and that if we do not seek G-d, G-d can be in a place and we will never know it.
We too must nurture dreams. G-d is present even during the most difficult periods of growth, and that while our hopes may extend to the heavens we must be wise enough to plant the basis of these hopes firmly in reality. These are essential elements of any life. College then is a journey, a journey that takes us from stage to stage, sometimes in pain and sometimes in joy.
Prepared by Rabbi Peter Tarlow, director, Texas A&M Hillel Foundation.
Additional commentaries and text studies on Parshat Vayeytze at MyJewishLearning.com.