This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Vayetzei, begins by introducing a dream in which Jacob envisioned a ladder that allowed angels to move between heaven and earth. Soon after, G-d appeared before Jacob and renewed the covenant that G-d had made with Abraham. Following G-d’s renewal of the covenant, Jacob saw Rachel, Laban’s daughter, tending sheep and wished to marry her. However, unfortunately for Jacob, his expectations were not met as Laban tricked Jacob into marrying his eldest daughter, Leah, in exchange for seven years of labor. Despite the original deal, after the seven years were up, Laban presented Jacob with a new opportunity: if Jacob worked for another seven years, he would be allowed to marry Rachel. During his first marriage with Leah, they conceived many children together. On the other hand, Rachel was unable to conceive. Finally, after years of attempting to have a child, G-d blessed Rachel with a son, who she named Joseph.
Jacob’s life story teaches us a lot about emotional fortitude and inner strength. Within the Parsha, there is a verse that says, “And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (Genesis 29, 21). This short, but meaningful statement illustrates that the secret to getting through the difficult times can be found within our deep affinity and love for our community. For the first seven years, despite the strenuous work Laban gave him, Jacob’s love for Rachel and his excitement for a family, allowed him to stay dedicated and committed to the task presented to him.
As mentioned above, Jacob’s struggles did not cease after just seven years of work. Jacob was forced to marry Leah, unless he would dedicate himself to another seven years of labor. More specifically, the verse says, “And he served with him yet another seven years” (Genesis 29, 30). Thus meaning, for another seven years, he had to continue to serve his conniving, deceitful father-in-law. This part of the story presents us with a question. How was Jacob able to dig deep and persevere once again? Perhaps, what motivated him during the second seven years was more than just his love and commitment for Rachel. Maybe Jacob realized a deeper understanding and acknowledged that his relationship with Rachel would bring about the birth of the Jewish people. As love for the Jewish people is perhaps the greatest motivation of all.
Using Jacob as a role model, how do we continue to have an emotional commitment in the face of yet another setback? How do we match that same motivation and drive we had the first time? Should we look for a new intention so that we can work just as hard the next time we want to reach our goals?
For many of us, BBYO occupies a central part of our life. We put our hearts and souls into this organization by planning incredible programming, attending meetings, and wearing our BBYO swag to school. I’m sure many of us can distinctly remember running for a BBYO leadership position. It was probably such an exciting time! You ensured you had creative platforms, powerful speeches, and spent hours picking out what outfit to wear to your election! Finally, the day came, and you were excited because you knew that this was something that you really wanted. However, I’m guessing that many of us have lost an election, because as unfortunate as it is, sometimes we fail. Failure is a part of the human experience. But Parshat Vayetzei gives us a guide for how to pick ourselves up. The most important lesson you can learn from Parshat Vayetzei is not to get too down after a loss and continue to let your passion drive you to amazing opportunities. Never give up, and let your love for your Jewish community inspire you to keep your intention and persevere.
This power that we hold as Jewish teens within a Jewish community is so strong that it enables us to endure anything. Much like Jacob's family coming together in Parshat Vayetzei, we can finally be together again in person and make long-lasting friendships that will carry us on through times of struggle.
Mountain Region Shlicha, Nora Feinberg
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
The International Life of Danny Freedman, the 33rd Grand Shaliach
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