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Jacob and Thanksgiving

Parsha Vayetze (And He Went Out)

Genesis 28:10-32:2 | Hosea 12:13-14:9 | John 1:41-51

This week’s parsha reading takes us through the story of Jacob and the birth of the twelve tribes. Our focus this week is on the beginning of the portion.

Genesis 28:10-22

Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of

Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under

his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”

Jacob is given a dream and hears the same promise as his father and grandfather. When he awakens, he sets the stone pillow as a stone pillar and anoints it with oil. Later, this same act will be commanded by G-d for the priest to perform in the tabernacle and temple for the consecration of the furniture and altar. Jacob calls the place Bet-El, which means “house of G-d”. Jacob’s place of encountering G-d becomes the “house of G-d”.

We are entering the week of Thanksgiving in America. Our history teaches us that a group of people who desired to establish a house for G-d and His ways in a new land drove them to leave their homes and country. They were willing to risk everything they held dear. Many died taking that risk. But out of that risk a new nation was planted.

Many mistakes have been made in the process of that planting. “Building a more perfect union,” is most certainly not an exact science. We have observed great challenges and changes over the last 400 years.

However, today we can see that G-d took the seed of the pilgrims and planted a great nation for His glory. A nation where He can be worshiped freely and a nation that produces great men and women. For a season, G-d chose America as one of His houses. I am so thankful for His choice and others' obedience. Today we certainly are facing a divided nation which has removed G-d as foundation stone.

While we have made many mistakes, had many failures and possess faults, we are still a nation that has an opportunity to pursue the King of Kings and promote His kingdom. As you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, take a few moments to pray for our nation and its leaders. Pray that G-d would use His people to shine light in the darkness and bring our nation back to its original heart.

In addition, while reading about Jacob take some time to consider our nations' encounters with G-d and your own personal encounters.

1. Have you built a pillar and then called the encounter the “House of G-d”?

2. What have been the results of your encounters with G-d?

3. What are you thankful for?

4. How can you show G-d your gratefulness?

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