Parashat Vayetse


Before anything,

Judaism is a religion of love: 

three loves. 

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might." 

" You shall love your neighbour as yourself." 


"You shall love the stranger, for you were once strangers in a strange land." 

Not only is Judaism a religion of love. 

It was the first civilisation to place love at the centre of the moral life. 

or in Hillel's negative formulation:

Don't do to others what you would hate them to do to you. 


Judaism is also about justice

The only place in the Torah to explain why Abraham was chosen to be the founder of a new faith states, 

It is written:

" For I have chosen him so that he will instruct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just". 

So why the combination of 

justice and love? 

Why is love alone not enough?

Our Parasha contains an interesting and exciting passage of only a few words that gives us the answer. 

Let us recall the story:

Jacob, fleeing home, 

taking refuge with his uncle Laban. He falls in love with Rachel, Laban's younger daughter. 

He works for seven years so that he can marry her. 

The wedding night comes, a big deception is on him. 

When he wakes up the next morning he discovers that he has married Rachel's elder sister Leah. 

Angry, he confronts Laban. 

Laban replies that 

" It is not done in our place to marry the younger before the elder." 

He tells Jacob he can marry Rachel as well, in return for another seven year's work.

We also need to know that Leah was not hated. She was just less loved. But someone in that situation can only feel rejected. 

What has happened. 

It began with love. 

It has been about love throughout. Jacob loved Rachel. 

He loved her at first sight. 

There is no other love story quite like it in the Torah. 

Abraham and Sarah are already married by the time we first meet them. 

Isaac had his wife chosen for him by his father's servant. 

But Jacob loves. He is more emotional than the other patriarchs. 

That is the problem. Love unites but it also divides. 

It leaves the unloved, even the less-loved, feeling rejected, abandoned, forsaken, alone. 

That is why you cannot build a society, a community or even a family on love alone. 

There must be justice-as-fairness also.

If we look at the eleven times the word "love," ahavah, is mentioned in the book of Bereshit 

we make an extraordinary discovery. 

Every time love is mentioned, it generates conflict. 

Isaac loved Esau but Rebekah loved Jacob. 

Jacob loved Joseph, Rachel's firstborn, more than his other sons. 

From this came two of the most fateful sibling rivalries in Jewish history.

The first time the word love appears in the Torah, in the opening words of the trial of the binding of Isaac:

"Take now your son, your only one, the one you love ..." 

Judaism is a religion of love. 

We are here because G-D created us in love and forgiveness asking us to love and forgive others. 

Love, G-D's love, is implicit in our very being.

So many of our texts express that love: 


The Shema itself with its command of love. 

The Song of Songs, the great poem of love. 

Lecha Dodi, "Come, my Beloved,"  Yedid Nefesh, "Beloved of the soul." 

If you want to live well, love. 

If you seek to be close to G-D, love. 

If you want your home to be filled with the light of the Divine presence, love. 

Love is where God lives.

But love is not enough. You cannot build a family, let alone a society, on love alone. For that you need justice also. 

Love is partial, justice is impartial. Love is particular, justice is universal. 

Love is for this person not that person, but justice is for all. 

Much of the moral life is generated by this tension between love and justice. 

It is no accident that this is the theme of many of the narratives of Bereshit. 

Bereshit is about people and their relationships while the rest of the Torah is predominantly about society.

Justice without love is harsh. 

Love without justice is unfair, 

Let us love, but let us never forget those who feel unloved. 

They too are people. 

They too have feelings. 

They too are in the image of G-D.


Best Regards

Jean - Pierre FETTMANN