Jacob, Immigrant

Wed, 11/26/2014 - 1:26pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

An unusual idiom appears in this week’s Torah portion, Va’Yetzei.

וַיִּשָּׂא יַֽעֲקֹב רַגְלָיו וַיֵּלֶךְ אַרְצָה בְנֵי־קֶֽדֶם

And Jacob lifted his feet and went on to the land of the Easterners (Genesis 29:1).

Torah has many examples of someone lifting his or her eyes, but it is unusual to find someone lifting his or her feet.  Rashi suggests that Jacob “lifted his feet” because he was still elated –  as in, walking on air – after his theophany, his vision of God, at the side of the road.

Another possibility, offered by Bible scholar Robert Alter, is that this idiom was used to mark the beginning of an arduous journey.

Jacob is indeed on a journey from his home to a new land.  Many in our own day make such journeys as well, traveling from their homes all around the world to this land, America.

Quite apart from politics, I know we all recognize the contributions immigrants have made, do make, and always will make to our society. 

I am happy for any action that allows immigrant families to remain together and permits immigrants to contribute to our society, economically and culturally.

When young Jacob arrived at his destination, Rachel warmly greeted him.  (They kissed, actually.)  And Jacob went on, for the next 20 years, to contribute impressively to his adopted land.

At our Thanksgiving tables, may we remember that we are a society of immigrants, a great patchwork quilt of a nation, and that our diversity ever enriches and renews us.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Rabbi Jeffrey Weill