Torah This Week
Welcome to Torah This Week, where you will find thoughts and reflections by CLAL
faculty and associates on the Torah portion of the week.
(Genesis 37:1 - 40:23)
When the parsha opens, "Jacob was settled in the land where his father had
sojourned" (Gen. 37: 1). Jacob, like his father before him, is living with his family
in the Land of Canaan. And, like Isaac before him, Jacob has problems with his children.
Jacob was raised in a home in which each parent favors one of the children. This
favoritism deeply damaged Jacob and Esau's relationship, eventually forcing Jacob to flee
his home. Yet Jacob is repeating the same dangerous behavior with his sons. Jacob
"loves Joseph best of all sons," and every member of the family knows it. Joseph
is conscious of his position and constantly reminds his brothers of it. His brothers in
turn are deeply resentful of Joseph's status and the dreams that indicate his future is as
bright as his present. How can Jacob be oblivious to these tensions, especially having
experienced a similar situation himself?
Jacob's behavior demonstrates how much easier it is to repeat known patterns, even
destructive ones, than to create new ones. Jacob may recognize that his parents'
favoritism adversely affected their children, but he knows no other model for
relationships. He repeats his parents' behavior with both his wives and his children, and
thus lives in a household full of resentment and jealousy. Jacob never learns; years later
we see him favoring Benjamin and still later preferring one grandson over another.
The Torah teaches us that changing one's behavior is never easy. Jacob has become
Israel, but he remains in many ways the same. Change requires more than rejecting old
ways; it requires us to actively search out new ways to behave, ways that create positive
relationships with those around us.
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