This week’s parashah covers a lot of territory. We begin reading about Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau after his departure from the house of Laban. From there we read about him wrestling through the night with what appears to be an angel of God. Jacob then encounters Esau and things go much better than expected. Esau is cordial and Jacob doesn’t get killed, so he skirts around his brother’s territory and heads over to Succoth. But after this we read of a sad incident in which his daughter, Dinah, is seduced and defiled by a man named Shechem.
Our parashah begins by telling us, “Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran” (Genesis 28:10). Rashi makes a keen observation on this verse. He asks a question that should be obvious to us: “Why does the Torah mention Jacob’s departure from Beersheba?” If we’ve been paying attention we should remember that the Torah had just mentioned this fact a few verses prior. Verse seven says, “Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram.” Haran is located within the region of Paddan-aram. Therefore, we’ve been told twice within a few sentences that Jacob went toward Haran.
And these were the life of Sarah: one hundred years, twenty years and seven years; the years of the life of Sarah. (Genesis 23:1)
What can we learn from Sarah's death?
This week’s Torah portion begins by giving us the lifespan of Sarah. If one is not familiar with the breakdown of the Torah portions we would expect to begin reading more about the life of Sarah, since the portion is entitled Chayei Sarah, “The Life of Sarah.” But the very next words we read are, “And Sarah died.” It’s not quite what we expect of our Torah portion.
[Rabbi Tarfon] used to say: If you have studied much in the Torah much reward will be given you, for faithful is your employer who shall pay you the reward of your labor. And know that the reward for the righteous shall be in the time to come. (m.Avot 2:21)
Note: This Dust of the Master is a revised and updated version of an article from 2013.
No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins. (Mark 2:21-22)
The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:17–19)