The Ideal Family

Don't feel badly if your family seems dysfunctional. Jacob's family was dysfunctional too, and so were most of the biblical families.

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Vayetze

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Vayetze (ויצא | He went out)
  • Torah: Genesis 28:10-32:2
  • Haftarah: Hosea 12:12-14:10
  • Gospel: John 1:41-51

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Genesis 28:10 | Jacob's Dream at Bethel
    • Genesis 29:1 | Jacob Meets Rachel
    • Genesis 29:15 | Jacob Marries Laban's Daughters
    • Genesis 30:25 | Jacob Prospers at Laban's Expense
    • Genesis 31:1 | Jacob Flees with Family and Flocks
    • Genesis 31:22 | Laban Overtakes Jacob
    • Genesis 31:43 | Laban and Jacob Make a Covenant
  • Prophets
    • Hos 12:2 | The Long History of Rebellion
    • Hos 13:1 | Relentless Judgment on Israel
    • Hos 14:1 | A Plea for Repentance
    • Hos 14:4 | Assurance of Forgiveness

Portion Summary

The seventh reading from the book of Genesis is named Vayetze (ויצא), which means "and he went out." The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which says, "And Jacob went out from Beersheba" (Genesis 28:10 KJV). This portion tells the story of Jacob's flight from his brother Esau, his vision at Bethel, his employment with his uncle Laban and his marriage to the two sisters, Rachel and Leah. Jacob's double marriage results in a baby-bearing contest that gives him eleven sons. At the end of the portion, Jacob leaves Laban and returns to the land of Canaan, but not before Laban tries to stop him.


So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years. (Genesis 29:30)

There are few ideal families in the Bible. Jacob’s certainly wasn’t. As if it was not bad enough to have two wives, they were sisters. Being married to the same man made them bitter rivals. This made for such a dysfunctional combination that the Torah later legislates against marrying sisters (Leviticus 18:18). The sisters added to the dysfunction by offering Jacob their maidservants, Bilhah and Zilpah, as additional baby-makers in their contest to bear sons. And you thought keeping the peace with one spouse was difficult! Try having four.

Jacob’s family was far from the ideal. Yet his children were the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise. His children were, quite literally, the “children of Israel.” This teaches us that God is able to work (and chooses to work) out His purposes in less than ideal conditions. Have you ever felt like your family is an embarrassment? “If only we looked like the smiling, perfect family on the cover of the homeschool magazine,” a frustrated mother sighs.

Today, broken families and second marriages are common. Obviously this is not the ideal, but God can work with even the worst of circumstances. He is the God who brings order out of chaos and shines light into darkness.

Jacob could have become bitter and complained to God, “I wanted one wife, and now I am stuck with four! How could You do this to me?” But this less-than-ideal family situation he’d landed in was God’s way of multiplying Jacob’s seed and keeping the promises made to Abraham.

Jacob felt like he was in the wrong place and his years were being wasted. People often find themselves in jobs, careers, homes, and even family arrangements that make them feel as if they are far outside of God’s plan.

The story of Jacob teaches us that God might place us in such situations specifically to bless us and work out His purposes. Jacob teaches us to be faithful wherever we find ourselves and to keep committing ourselves to the care of God. Jacob’s term of service in Laban’s household resulted in the birth of the nation of Israel.

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Unrolling the Scroll. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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