Vayetze: Bargaining with God ?

1280xParashat Vayetze tells of Jacob’s travels to Haran, his sojourn there, and his return to Canaan. It recounts Jacob’s first meeting with Rachel, his time working for Laban, living with Rachel and Leah, and the birth of all his children save Benjamin. Jacob has a dream in which he sees a ladder set upon the earth reaching up to the heavens. God appears at the top of the ladder and promises Jacob he will inherit the land of Canaan. He promises Jacob, saying: „Remember I am with you.” Jacob wakes up and offers the first recorded Jewish prayer in the Bible:
„If God remains with me; if He protects me on this journey that I am making and gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and if I return safely to my father’s house – the Eternal will be my God …“
There is something troubling about Jacob’s prayer. It sounds more like Jacob is saying ‚let’s make a deal‘ than the exalted theological language we would expect from one of our forefathers. More than that, his vow is strange because he seems to be asking for the very things that God has already promised him!
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