Adrian A. Durlester

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Random Musing Before Shabbat
Vayetze 5766 - Pakhad HaShem?

I Seems there's little love lost between Yaakov and Lavan. Yaakov feel cheated and put upon, and eager to be on his own. And while we might view Lavan as a schemer, I'm willing to grant him a little slack. Lavan may have taken advantage of the fact, but he did feel that Yaakov wasn't used to playing by the rules and customs that were common the Lavan. And then Yaakov runs off with Lavan's daughters, and so he is, somewhat naturally, upset.

In the end, each agrees to a sort of separate peaceful co-existence. They put up markers to symbolize their pact of non-aggression, and Yaakov's promise to properly treat Lavan's daughters. In fact, there's probably a lesson for all parties here in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Not that this is an endorsement, but perhaps Arik Sharon has the right idea by saying "Kadima." Things were what they were, and now they will be what we make of them, so let us not dwell on what has happened and move forward. Perhaps someday, G"d willing, there will be a pillar to mark the place where Israel and the Palestinians made a pact.

But I digress (so what else is new?)

Yaakov flees with his wives and family, and Lavan pursues. Lavan catches up with them and confronts Yaakov. In Yaakov's response, he credits G"d having been with him these twenty years he served Lavan and insuring his good fortune. In naming G"d he refers to "G"d of my Father, G"d of Avraham, and The Fear of Yitzkhak." "Elohei avi, Elohei Avraham, uFakhad Yitzkhak." (Gen 31:42)

With the broad meanings that Hebrew words and syntax often carries, our sages have taught that Pakhad is both awe or fear/dread. It's another subtle reminder of the fact that even G"d can be awesome and terrible.

I was drawn to these words, Pakhad Yitzkhak, by a somewhat different path. They made me think about our relationship with G"d and vice versa. For I imagine that G"d could easily think of us at times as awesome and at other times to be feared. Sort of changes one's view of the power balance a bit. G"d did appear somewhat concerned about that tower we were building in Bavel.

That's the problem when you create something and give it free will. And then the ugly question rears its head: Can G"d, in creating something and giving it free will, create something that could ultimately defeat G"d? Just a few short decades ago, the phrase "G"d is dead" was often heard.

Now, it seems, human beings are speaking of G"d again. Sadly, however, it's often in order to justify hate, or war, or terrorism, or putting others down, or insisting that others follow your understanding of G"d or your religion. For me, these kinds of things done in the name of G"d are more likely to be what could defeat G"d in the end.

We will always be Pakhad Hashem. We must strive to make that more "awe" than "dread." We can start by making our own pacts, as individuals, as communities, as nations, and occupants of the same planet. If we can truly achieve world peace, now that would be something for G"d to be in awe about! Ken y'hi ratson. Ken y'hi ratsoneinu.

Shabbat Shalom,


©2005 by Adrian A. Durlester

Some other musings on this parasha:

Vayetze 5765-Cows and Cranberries
Vayetze 5764-Terms and Conditions
Vayetze 5763-Now and Then
Vayetze 5762-Change in Perspective
Vayetze 5760-Taking Gd's Place

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