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Vayishlach. Yaakov's Procrastination

Have you ever wanted to do something and not wanted to do it, all at the same time?

Human beings are complicated creatures. Sometimes we have conflicts between our ideals and reality, between different levels of desire. (A trivial example: I want to go to shul in the morning; I want to sleep a little longer. which will win?)

When Yaakov ran away from Esau and God promised him protection, Yaakov said

"If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey ... and return me safely to my father’s HOUSE ... then this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be a HOUSE for God, and everything You give me, I will tithe for You."(28:20-22)

He wants to be in his father's HOUSE. He wants to make a HOUSE for God.

Jacob spends 20 years with Lavan. Then he returns "home" - to the land of Israel.

Does he return to his father? We know he wants to! Lavan says:

"I know how you longed to return to your father’s HOUSE" (31:30).

But he doesn't go home!

Does he return to Beit El and make a "House for God"? No!


וְיַעֲקֹב֙ נָסַ֣ע סֻכֹּ֔תָה וַיִּ֥בֶן ל֖וֹ בָּ֑יִת ...יַעֲקֹ֨ב שָׁלֵ֜ם עִ֣יר שְׁכֶ֗ם ...וַיַּצֶּב־שָׁ֖ם מִזְבֵּ֑חַ" (33:17-20)

He builds a HOUSE - in Sukkot (how ironic) - and makes an altar in Shkhem!

He's building the wrong HOUSE; not visiting his father's HOUSE!

Furthermore, he makes a worship site in Shkhem rather than a HOUSE for God in BEIT-El!

What's irking Yaakov?

(And its really interesting that Hazal in Pesachim 86a say that Yaakov's symbol is the בית - the HOUSE. It is his keystone.)

No wonder God comes to him and says:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֔ב ק֛וּם עֲלֵ֥ה בֵֽית־אֵ֖ל וְשֶׁב־שָׁ֑ם וַעֲשֵׂה־שָׁ֣ם מִזְבֵּ֔חַ לָאֵל֙ הַנִּרְאֶ֣ה אֵלֶ֔יךָ בְּבׇ֨רְחֲךָ֔ מִפְּנֵ֖י עֵשָׂ֥ו אָחִֽיךָ׃

God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to BEIT El (HOUSE of God) and remain there; and build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” (35:1)

Rashi articulates God's irritation and quotes the Tanchuma, that God is angry with Yaakov because he has "delayed the fulfillment of his vow"! The Midrash even says that the tragedy of Dinah's rape is punishment to Yaakov! Certainly after his sons have massacred the city of Shkhem, they must move again -- southwards.

So what is going on?

It seems that Yaakov is having a hard time going back to his father. Might he be feeling guilty that he deceived him?

Yaakov is having a tough time returning to Beit-El. What could be the problem?

Of course he knows he made a vow there; he says so in 31:13!

Why is he stuck? Are the memories of his flight from Esav too painful? I don't know.

But I know that Yaakov does contradictory things: On the one hand Yaakov send to Esav to meet him and find his favor; but then he gets "cold feet" and tries to avoid Esav!

Our psychology is complicated.

Sometimes we know what we should do but its hard to bring ourselves to do it.

Sometimes we don't even know why.

We want to do something, and we don't want to do it all at the same time.

And the Midrash is suggesting that at times, the waiting incurs painful consequences and only after we experience a horrible knock, we push ourselves to do what we knew we must do all along!

Not easy!

May we live up to our own truths and responsibilities.

Because sometimes life is tough and we act in self-contradictory ways.

Shabbat Shalom!


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