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Vayeitzei: How To Play The Game When There Are No Rules

How do we play the game when there are no rules? What methods do we employ without sacrificing our integrity? Who is the true opponent in the game of life? As human beings we can get used to most things. However, there is one thing that challenges us most profoundly. Uncertainty. We all like to see the road ahead. We want to know what to expect in the future. It is not the challenges in our lives that make us truly afraid, but the unknown nature and timing of those challenges that unsettle us. If there was ever a man experiencing the loneliness that accompanies this state of being, it was Jacob our forefather, alone on the mountain top, as we find him at the beginning of our weekly Torah portion. As the saying goes, Jacob was “caught between a rock and a hard place”. Behind him, his family home that he had fled after a conflict with his brother over the inheritance of the family legacy. Before him lay a world dominated by the likes of his uncle Laban where cunning and deceit were the name of the game. The verse describes the scene as follows: “He came across (and prayed at) the place (Mount Mariah) and spent the night there because the sun had set (suddenly). He took some of the stones of the place and placed them around his head (for protection from wild animals), and he laid down (to sleep) in that place”. The Lubavitcher Rebbe asks, if the stones served as protection from wild animals, why did Jacob only place the stones around his head? To answer this question the Rebbe reveals the underlying significance of Jacob’s placing of the stones. As one of our patriarchs, Jacob is always teaching his descendants invaluable lessons with his every nuance. Jacob places the stones around his head to teach us that in life we need to protect our “head” from the negative and hostile forces that sow seeds of doubt and uncertainty. We can do this by strengthening our faith and trust in G-d who is ultimately the deciding factor in all man’s affairs. No human being can do anything to another, neither good nor bad, without G-d wanting it to happen. Jacob is able to spend twenty years engaging in business with a most deceitful person whilst maintaining his values, because he knows that he is connected to a force that transcends the uncertainty.

He has total trust in G-d, that in spite of all the twist and turns that his uncle Laban will throw in his path, the eventual outcome will be “the safe return to his father’s home” as promised to him by G-d in his dream. The message in our day is highly relevant. Whilst we are engulfed with persistent uncertainty coming from all directions, we the descendants of Jacob must maintain and nurture our faith and trust in G-d who has assured us of our safe return to our home.

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