1/ Some #Vayeitzei thoughts. First, Prof. Nahum Sarna translates the "sulam" (usually translated as "ladder") as "steps" likely of a Ziggurat, a human-made 'mountain' which in Mesopotamian culture simulated the mountains where gods lived (e.g. Olympus).
2/ Sulam cont: Here's an entry for the one at Ur, which a city identified with Abraham

This means, yes, that the "sulam" was a stairway to heaven. Hey, sometimes words have two meanings.
3/ Second: Possibly the most important, overlooked, character in the Chumash is Leah.

She's mother of half 6 of the 12 tribes, step-mother to 2 more, and the only daughter. Her children are the kings (Yehudah), priests (Levi) and scholars (Yisacchar).
4/ Leah cont.: She's buried next to Yaakov, she's the steady matriarch, truly the Mother of Israel. Yet she is comprehended purely in contrast to her tragic sister, Rachel. And maybe by her eyes (faint praise of "nice personality"). She deserves better. jwa.org/encyclopedia/a…
5/ Third: Lavan is a litmus test (a fitting analogy given his ironic 'color' name) for readers' familiarity with a charismatic, abusive, criminal personality. His words and demeanor display civility and decorum, but his actions are depraved.
6/ Lavan cont): CW: abuse

Switching the daughters is so well known that we need to pause to understand the sickening lecherous reality of a father who is involved in the sexual lives of his daughters. He handwaves his crimes with norms and "niceness" so many readers get fooled!
7/ Lavan cont): He treats people as property & that extends to his swindling of Yaakov: he ignores all personal boundaries. The Torah is explicit that Lavan is a shameless thief but his decorous language covers the depravity. Until his "gods" are stolen, then the mask drops.
8/ Lavan cont): In Gen. 31:43 he's desperate; God has threatened his life. He loses composure and says his core ideology straight out: his daughters and everything they own belongs to him.

It's deeply false. But that's the mentality of an abuser.
9/ Lavan cont): We must teach the lesson of Lavan better, to help men identify abusers in their midst and to not be fooled by their civility & excuses.

Esav is the standard foil for Yaakov but IMO Lavan is to Yaakov the way Sedom is for Avraham (same sins) and Amalek for Moshe.
10/ Fourth (CW: abuse)

Lavan's sexual abuse of his daughters - switching them for marriage - is a root cause of Yaakov's horrible domestic life. Abuse echoes through the generations. All of the fighting among the wives and sons is a result of Lavan. Blame *him*
11/ #4 cont) Many commentators are simplistic and fatalistic about Yaakov's family. He's destined to have 12 sons (it's the hallmark of peoplehood, see Gen. 17:20 & 25:16) so #Literalists think the domestic conflict was "fate".
12/ #4 cont) This fatalism part of their simplistic understanding of human events. To them, God operates the world in as stupid a way as they would if they were in charge. It's the dust of avoda-zara. Because God is not dumb! (See more in this thread)
13/ #4 cont) How's this: If Lavan didn't switch his daughters, Yaakov would have married Rachel. She'd then have Yosef as a first-born. Then die in childbirth with Binyamin. Naturally, Yaakov would then marry Leah (as was common in Jewish history, my great-grandfather did this)
14/ #4 cont) Leah would have 7 kids - or maybe a full 11 - and there'd be no infighting between sisters, no battles among the kids. Yosef is first born, Reuven would be there to help his mother raise all the kids, etc. No strife, no jealousy. Stop blaming God for Lavan's crimes.
15/ Fifth: I've banned the Midrash of Yaakov giving Rachel the signs. As I said above, the act of switching the women is so depraved that it's loathsome to suggest Yaakov would anticipate this, let alone that RACHEL WOULD GIVE THE SIGNS TO LEAH.
16/ #5 cont) Again, imagine these are events happening to real people. To say Rachel would compromise the intimate life of her future husband and her sister is preposterous and downright disgusting. Seriously, stop teaching this, stop using it as her "merit."
17/ #5 cont) This sicko Midrash is up there with Rivka being three years old. Even if *some* Midrashim are to be taken literally, not every one is and a good way to know which is which is to see which results in having heroes commit crimes, sins, and impossible actions.
18/ #5 cont) I won't dwell more on this because, again, it's so disgusting.

Rachel, Leah, and Yaakov had no idea Lavan was such a depraved abuser that he'd dare do such a thing.

Rachel's merit is from (a) her sense of rectitude as seen in Gen. 31:14-16
19/ #5 cont) (b) Rachel stealing her father's idols (which was practical, sure, but also a demonstration of her being an idol smasher, like Avraham in the Midrash). Who else of the seven demonstrates such fealty to the One God?
20/ #5 cont) (c) Finally, Rachel's merit comes from literally dying for her children. This wasn't a volitional act, but the famous sacrificial "Jewish Mother" image of dying so her children will live bestows on her the ultimate power to plead & save Israel

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