Parashat Vayeitzei--Genesis 28:10-31:54
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Questions for Young Children
• What was Jacob’s dream? What do you think it means?
• Do you remember your dreams? Do you think they have a message for you?
• How do you think Jacob felt when he went to sleep his first night away from his family as he was traveling to Haran?


Questions for Older Children
• When Jacob awakens from his dream, he makes a deal with God. What’s the deal (Gen. 28:20) and what do you think of this behavior? Do you ever make deals with God?

• Besides deal making there is a lot of trickery in the parasha. Laban tricks Jacob and Rachel tricks everybody at the end of the parasha by hiding her family's household gods. What does Jacob know about trickery from his own youth? Have you ever tricked your parent? Has your parent ever tricked you?


Questions for Teens and Adults

• This parasha includes dreams, magic [mandrakes], and idols [terebinths]. What does this tell you about the belief system of Jacob and his family? See the commentary on p. 182 in the Etz Hayim Humash for more information.
• What impact do you think the competitive birthing might have on Jacob’s children? Is there an “up” side to the competition?
• In your family did either husband or wife move from his or her home to the other’s hometown? Was it difficult to leave your birth family to live close to in-laws?

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Invite your family and guests to connect other foods or activities to the parasha.

Create a Shabbat centerpiece that connects to the parasha.

  • It could include a craft project or the simple removal of a ladder from a toy fire truck place on the table.
  • Decorate with pebbles to represent the stone-pillow on which Jacob slept.
  • If your children are mathematically inclined, they can count the appearance of the word even (stone) in the parasha and place the same number of stones on the table.

Replace the two hallot for Shabbat under the hallah cover with different bread. 

  • Ask your guests how they feel about the switch.
  • How do your guests think Jacob felt about Leah being switched for Rachel? (It’s probably wise to keep two real hallot in reserve).
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 As Jacob returns to Abraham’s home in Haran, he is connected to his grandfather through a dream. Angels ascend and descend a ladder. and God repeats the covenant he established with Abraham and then with Isaac. Jacob acknowledges God’s presence and promises as he journeys on that the Lord will be his God as long as God protects him and brings him home safely to Eretz Yisrael.

Like Eliezer, Jacob stops at the well when he arrives outside Haran. There he has an emotional encounter with Rachel and then is led to Laban’s home. The remainder of the story covers twenty years and chronicles Jacob's travails in Laban's household. Laban’s tricks Jacob by promising Rachel to Jacob as his wife and switches sisters on the wedding night so Jacob unwittingly marries Leah. After seven years of work for Laban, Jacob protests but agrees to work another seven years for Rachel. Then comes the competition between the sisters for children and Jacob’s love. After twenty years, two wives, two concubines, and a tent full of children, Jacob takes his leave of Laban. The farewell includes accusations, oaths, more trickery and pleading.

Find the food connection…

וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שֵׁם-הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא, בֵּית-אֵל; וְאוּלָם לוּז שֵׁם-הָעִיר, לָרִאשֹׁנָה

He named that site Beth El; but, previously, the name of the city had been Luz.

--Genesis 28:19

Luz=almond! (see also v. 30:37)

The Side Dish
Sibling rivalry returns this week but it’s between two sisters this time—Leah and Rachel. How do you feel about sibling rivalry? Is it natural? Can it be controlled? Before I had children, I thought for certain sibling rivalry was a function of parents’ behavior. Now I don't want to believe that.  Usually I cringe at the mention of sibling rivalry, but when I began to add the food connections to the parasha at our Shabbat table, I knew that I could exploit sibling rivalry and the competitive drive of my children to encourage participation. Torah l’shma (learning for its own sake) is the ideal I wish we embraced at our table, but we are still striving in that direction. Meanwhile, friendly competition spurs the discussion.

Who can be the first to spot the food connection? You may have to give some clues to help since this week the connection is not a simple one. The food connection is almonds, but the linguistics are complicated. In modern Hebrew almond is shaked, but there is an older Hebrew word, luz, that also means “almond.” It's the Hebrew word used in Genesis 28:19.  You can further foster the competition by offering a prize-- the first person to guess the food connection can select the verse, food, and recipe for next week.


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A Dash of Hebrew
In this parasha, the explanations for the names of most of Jacob’s children are given. The name of the fourth son, Judah, means to show gratitude. It’s related to the Hebrew todah (thank-you). The word yehudi (Jew) is also derived from the root todah. How is that a fitting description of the Jewish people?  

A Dash of Food History
This week’s recipe features Native American ingredients—wild rice and cranberries. Wild rice is a grass grown in Minnesota’s lakes and dates to prehistoric times. It is a traditional food of several local tribes including the Ojibway. Minnesota law mandates that the rice be harvested in the traditional Indian way from a canoe using rice beater sticks to knock the mature seeds into the canoe’s bottom. From my friend Nancy’s account, it’s hard work. You may see the oxymoronic “cultivated wild rice. “ It will work in the recipe but it's cultivated in man-made paddies and machine harvested. And, yes, there is a “made in China” version of wild rice, too. It’s indigenous to Manchuria.

Almonds are native to Eretz Yisrael and probably date to 3000-2000 BCE. Wild almonds are poisonous and it’s somewhat of a food mystery to discover how almonds were domesticated. The almond is a stone fruit (like a peach) and not a nut.

A Dash of Music + Video
One of the first Hebrew songs children learn is about Rachel at the well. It’s an echo song called El ha-Ma’ayan. You can listen to two versions on YouTube and find the lyrics on the web. (serious version) (toddler version) (lyrics in transliteration and translation)

A Dash of Halakha
What’s the first command to humans in the Torah? It’s not in this parasha but in this parasha we see Jacob fulfilling it as best he can. (Check B’reishit 1:28 for the answer). This command has implications for birth control and has spawned many Responsa among many generations of rabbis.

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Wild Rice and Craisin Pilaf with Almonds        resized wild rice
Vegan and gluten free--serves 6 to 8


  • 1 c. uncooked wild rice
  • 2-1/4 c. pareve, gluten free chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. grated orange peel
  • 1/3 c. orange juice
  • ground pepper to taste
  • 1 c. craisins
  • 1 c. slightly toasted almonds

Substitution for those who suffer from acid reflux
Use 1-2 tsp. pomegranate seeds instead of orange peel
Use 1/3 c. pomegranate juice instead of orange juice.


  1. Combine the rice and broth in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered 45 min. or until the liquid is absorbed. It could take an hour or more.
  3. Add all other ingredients except nuts and mix.
  4. Refrigerate at least 2 hrs. and bring to room temperature to serve or warm slightly.
  5. Sprinkle the almonds on top.

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