Vayetze D’var – November 2015 – A Look Back with Orly Olbum

Vayetze D’var  – November 2015

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Orly Olbum celebrates the 8 year anniversary of her Bat Mitzvah this month by reflecting back on her D’var Torah. Orly shared with us her original reflection from her Bat Mitzvah, and wrote a new one to examine how the portion relates to her life today. Thanks for sharing, Orly! Yasher Koach! 

Orly Olbum is a junior majoring in Statistics. She is from Pittsburgh, PA.

Link to Vayetze.

November 17, 2007

“This week’s torah portion is Vayetze. It’s the best portion, because G-d proves that he keeps his promises and is always with us, and it’s the worst portion because an a man cheats his very own nephew.

The good part, G-d keeping promises, happens when Jacob has his dream in the middle of the road between Be’er Shevah and his uncle’s, Lavan’s, house. In his dream, Jacob sees a ladder with angels of G-d going up and down, pausing at the bottom to watch over Jacob as he sleeps. Next to this eternal ladder is G-d, saying to Jacob, as I quote, “I am the lord, the G-d of your father Abraham and G-d of Isaac. The ground on which you are lying I will give to you and your offspring. Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread out to the east and to the west, to the north and to the south. All of the families of the world shall bless themselves by you and your descendants. Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:13-15). Jacob wakes up and calls this holy place Beth El, “house of G-d.” I have a dream, too. My dream is for us to watch over the beautiful nature that we live in, like G-d watches over us. I ski, surf, swim, and scuba dive and I want those places that I do these things in to be beautiful like the world should be.

The bad part, an uncle cheating his nephew, is towards the end of the portion. Jacob has left Be’er Shevah to go to his mother’s brother’s house, Lavan’s house, to escape his brother, Esau, who he thinks is out to kill him. Jacob meets Lavan’s daughter Rachel and falls in love with her. Lavan tells him that in order to take his daughter’s hand in marriage, he must work seven years on his land and then he can take her away. At the end of the seventh year, Jacob finds out after the marriage that he married Rachel’s older sister, Leah, instead of Rachel. Jacob works seven more years and marries Rachel. Even though Jewish law was to have the older sibling be married off first, Lavan was still unfair to Jacob.

How does this apply to my every day life? I have many answers to this question. One is that sometimes when I feel like I have no one to talk to, I can talk to G-d in my head. Jacob certainly did, and I think he did because he knew G-d was with him, as he is with us. Second, when I suspect something is wrong, I should take it into consideration. I think Jacob certainly should have.

Lastly, I think that these answers are not only answers to the question, ‘How does this portion apply to my every day life?’ but are also reasons to love this portion. Shabbat Shalom.”

November 2015

“‘Vayetze’, and he went. This portion is a very special one in the life of Jacob. He realizes how important God is, he gets married a couple times, and the tribes of Israel are born (almost). I wanted to see how this, my bat mitzvah portion, could be applied to my life today. After looking back, I found endless connections.

The first part of the portion talks about Jacob leaving home. In just two sentences, I find a connection with Jacob. Although I have now been away from home for two and a half years, the same struggle presents itself to every time I make the cycle of returning and leaving home. Leaving your home, with your parents and siblings, is no easy feat. It is something I still struggle to adjust to. In my portion, Jacob left home for a strange relative’s house and did not know what awaited him. He found a strange place to sleep, and in his dreams saw that God was always with him, watching over him in any strange place he was. I find God watching over me in this strange place in many different ways. I see him in my advisor helping me schedule classes for my major; I see him in my roommates who take care of me when I am sick; I see him in my teammates on the swim team, cheering me on during competitions; and I see him in the candles and prayer book when I visit Chabad on Friday nights for Shabbat dinner. Just like it took Jacob time and change of setting to see God, it took me until college to see the importance of appreciating those around me. There is so much value in surrounding yourself with people and places that stimulate you as a person.

The second part of the portion brings us to Jacob’s two marriages. Jacob falls in love with Lavan’s younger daughter Rachel, and promises to work 7 years on Lavan’s land for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Come the wedding, and Jacob lifts the veil to realize he has married Lavan’s eldest daughter, Leah. He pursues; 7 more years of work brings him to marry Rachel as well. I applied this to my life in the capacity of finding true love. Though my parents do not fall into this category, we Penn Staters are told so often of how many couples meet at Penn State and find happiness, and later send their kids here with the expectation of also finding their spouses here. I am not one to be looking for a husband or boyfriend; that can wait. But there are other things Penn State has helped me find that I consider true love. I found my major, and just like Jacob, I am working my butt off to achieve success in my chosen field. It was not my first choice, and I worked hard at my first choice as well, but I found a calling in Statistics and am going to work hard to do well. Jacob may not have loved Leah when he was surprise-married to her, but he did work for her hand and then kept on working for what he really wanted. Maybe I will find my future husband here, maybe I have already met him, but just like Jacob I am going to work hard for what I want no matter what surprises stand in my way.

At the end of the portion, Jacob decides he wants to return home. This hit me very hard. In small way, returning home for Thanksgiving break is something everyone is looking forward to, and seeing my family will be an amazing break from this crazy semester. In a bigger and very cliché way, sometimes you just have to remember where you came from to know where you can go. Maybe this isn’t a literal homecoming message for me from Jacob, but just a reminder that it’s okay to need my family. They are the best, most important security system I have, and even if it isn’t literally returning home, I should always remember that they are there, and I should hold that sense of ‘home’ close to my heart.”