G-d Promise & Yaakov's Conditions?
1א

Values and assumptions being challenged by the narrative.

A) Our forefathers do not place conditions on their service of G-d
B) Our forefather do not doubt G-d

Questions:

1) If Yaakov does not doubt G-d, what can Yaakov be doubting?

2) What does it mean Y-H-V-H will be Elokim to me

3)What does G-d promise Yaakov in the dream? How different are Yaakov's requests from what G-d promised?

4)Which part of his statement is the condition and which part the vow?

(In English, conditional vows are typically in an “if…then…” form. Hebrew, however, does not, in such cases, have a word for then, and thus it often unclear exactly when the “then” part begins, especially in cases like ours, which present a series of statements connected by the letter vav ו. That letter can be understood either as “and” or as “then,” rendering the following complex ambiguous pronouncement)

2ב

And/Then Yaakov made a vow saying:

If God will be with me and will protect me on this path which I am traveling upon today and will provide me with food to eat and clothing to wear

and/then I will peacefully (Bshalom) return home to my father’s house


and/then the Eternal One will be for me a God

and/then this stone which I set as a monument will be a house of God

and/then from all which You will give me I will give back to You a tenth.

וַיִּדַּ֥ר יַעֲקֹ֖ב נֶ֣דֶר לֵאמֹ֑ר

אִם־יִהְיֶ֨ה אֱלֹקִ֜ים עִמָּדִ֗י וּשְׁמָרַ֙נִי֙ בַּדֶּ֤רֶךְ הַזֶּה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָנֹכִ֣י הוֹלֵ֔ךְ וְנָֽתַן־לִ֥י לֶ֛חֶם לֶאֱכֹ֖ל וּבֶ֥גֶד לִלְבֹּֽשׁ׃

וְשַׁבְתִּ֥י בְשָׁל֖וֹם אֶל־בֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑י

וְהָיָ֧ה ה' לִ֖י לֵאלֹקִֽים׃

וְהָאֶ֣בֶן הַזֹּ֗את אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֙מְתִּי֙ מַצֵּבָ֔ה יִהְיֶ֖ה בֵּ֣ית אֱלֹקִ֑ים

וְכֹל֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּתֶּן־לִ֔י עַשֵּׂ֖ר אֲעַשְּׂרֶ֥נּוּ לָֽךְ׃

3ג

Texts to look at.

Yaakov's dream and vow Bereishis 28:10-22.

Possible fulfillment of his vow 33:19-20 & 35:1-15.

Blessings of Yitzchak to Yaakov 27:28-29 & 28:3-4.

Try to track the names of G-d used.

4ד

Midrash on the Question
1) If Yaakov does not doubt G-d, what can Yaakov be doubting?

R. Aibu and R. Jonathan differed.

One said that the order of verses is not chronological, and Jacob's vow was made before God's pro­mise [in verse 15].

The other said that the order of verses is correct, and that Jacob meant:

When all the conditions are duly fulfilled, then I shall fulfill the vow I am now making.

R. Aha said: Although God had said, I am with thee (verse 15), Jacob nevertheless said, If God will be with me, showing that the righteous never feel sure of anything in this world.

[Another view:] Why did Jacob not be­lieve God's assurance, but say, If God will be with me?
Jacob thought: I have just had a dream. Some dreams·· are true, others are pot true.
Only if events transpire as promised will I know that my dream was a true one.

Gen. R. 70. 76. Zohar 1, 150b. T.S. 28, 144. 147-8.

5ה

וַיִּדַּר יַעֲקֹב נֶדֶר לֵאמֹר אִם יִהְיֶה אֱלֹקִים וְגוֹ', אָמַר רַבִּי בֶרֶכְיָה, בְּכָל מַה שֶּׁתָּבַע יַעֲקֹב מִן הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, הֱשִׁיבוֹ. אָמַר אִם יִהְיֶה אֱלֹקִים עִמָּדִי, הֱשִׁיבוֹ וְהִנֵּה אָנֹכִי עִמָּךְ. אָמַר וּשְׁמָרַנִי, הֱשִׁיבוֹ וּשְׁמַרְתִּיךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ. אָמַר וְשַׁבְתִּי בְשָׁלוֹם, הֱשִׁיבוֹ וַהֲשִׁיבֹתִיךָ. אָמַר וְנָתַן לִי לֶחֶם, וְלֹא הֱשִׁיבוֹ עַל הַפַּרְנָסָה. אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, אִם אֲנִי מַבְטִיחוֹ עַל הַלֶּחֶם, מַהוּ מְבַקֵּשׁ מִמֶּנִּי עוֹד, לְפִיכָךְ לֹא הִבְטִיחוֹ עַל הַלֶּחֶם. וְרַבָּנָן אָמְרֵי, אַף עַל הַפַּרְנָסָה הֱשִׁיבוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כִּי לֹא אֶעֱזָבְךָ. וְאֵין כִּי לֹא אֶעֱזָבְךָ אֶלָּא לֶחֶם, כְּמָה דְּאַתְּ אֲמַר: וְלֹא רָאִיתִי צַדִּיק נֶעֱזָב וְזַרְעוֹ מְבַקֶּשׁ לָחֶם (תהלים לז, כה).

R. Berechiah maintained that the Holy One, blessed be He, fulfilled all but one of Jacob’s requests.

Jacob said: If God will be with me,
and He replied: Behold, I am with thee (ibid., v. 15).

Jacob said: And will keep me,

and He responded: I will keep thee whithersoever thou goest (ibid.).

He said: So that I come back to my father’s house in peace,

and the Holy One, blessed be He, replied: And I will bring thee back (ibid.).

But when Jacob said: And will give me bread,

He did not reply.

The Holy One, blessed be He, said: If I assured him concerning bread, what else would he ask of Me? Therefore, He did not promise him bread.

The sages insisted, however, that He also replied to his plea for bread, since it is said:

I shall not forsake thee (ibid.).

The word forsake is employed in Scripture only in reference to bread, as is written: Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread (Ps. 37:25).

6ו
אם יהיה אלקים עמדי. שישמור לי הבטחתו שהבטחני שלא יגרום החטא שהצדיקים אינם מאמינים בעצמם. וי"מ משום שלא היה אלא חלום אמר אם יהיה החלום אמת ויתקיים בי החלום. וי"מ לשון שבועה כן יהיה השם עמדי ושמרני בדרך כן כאשר אשוב בשלום לבית אבי שיהיה השם לי לאלקים. והרמב"ן פי' שיש מלת אם שאינה תנאי כמו אם יהיה היובל לבני ישראל שפי' כשיהיה היובל וכמו אשר אם עשית שבדבר העתיד נופל בו לשון אם פי' כשיבא הזמן שיהיה התנאי קיים אז יתקיים המעשה:

אם יהיה אלוקים עמדי, “if G’d will be with me, etc.” He referred to G’d’s personal promise to him that He would not become a victim of the way of the righteous who are forever fearful of not possessing sufficient merit, and therefore consider any assurance to them by G’d as only conditional, i.e. אם.

Another view of this line is the reason why Yaakov prefaced this line with the word אם, “if,” is not that he conditioned his continued righteous way of life on G’d’s protection, but that seeing it was based on a dream, he could not be sure that this was a divine revelation rather than wishful thinking on his part. Divine promises experienced in a dream may be just that, a dream without substance.

Still another interpretation of this verse is that it was an oath. “Just as I am certain that G’d will be with me and that I will return safely to my father’s house, so I am certain that after that I will erect a house of G’d on this site.”

Nachmanides states that the word אם does not necessarily have to mean a conditional “if.” An example of such a different meaning of the word אם is found in Numbers 36,4 ואם יהיה היובל לבני ישראל, where it means: “and when the Jubilee year will arrive for the Children of Israel, etc.” Yaakov refers to what he will do as soon as G’d’s promise to him has been fulfilled.

7ז

Midrash on the Question
2) What does it mean Y-H-V-H will be Elokim to me

8ח
אברהם יצא ממנו ישמעאל, יצחק יצא ממנו עשו, אבל אני - לא תצא ממני פסולת כדרך שיצאו מאבותי, וכן הוא אומר (בראשית כח) וידר יעקב נדר לאמר. עלת על לב שהיה יעקב אבינו אומר אם יהיה אלקים עמדי וגו' ונתן לי לחם לאכול ובגד ללבוש ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי והיה ה' לי לאלהים? מכל מקום! מה ת"ל והיה ה' לי לאלהים? שיחול שמו עלי, שלא תצא ממני פסולת מתחלה עד סוף.

Jacob prayed to the Holy One Blessed be He and said: From Abraham there came forth Yishmael. From Isaac there came forth Esav — May no "base matter" come forth from me as it did from my fathers! And thus is it written (Bereshith 28:20) "And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, etc." Now would it occur to anyone that Jacob our father would say (Ibid.) "If G-d will be with me … and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear and I return in peace to my father's house, and (only then) He will be a G-d to me!" (Obviously,) He will be a G-d to me in any event. How, then, is "and He will be a G-d to me" to be understood? That His name repose upon me, that no "base matter" issue from me from beginning to end.

9ט
(א) אם יהיה אלקים עמדי. אִם יִשְׁמֹר לִי הַבְטָחוֹת הַלָּלוּ שֶׁהִבְטִיחַנִי לִהְיוֹת עִמָּדִי, כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר לִי וְהִנֵּה אָנֹכִי עִמָּךְ:

(1) אם יהיה אלהים עמדי IF GOD WILL BE WITH ME — if He will keep for me these promises which He has made me that He would be with me, even as He said to me (v. 15), “Behold, I am with thee” (Genesis Rabbah 70:4),

10י
(ב) ושמרני. כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר לִי וּשְׁמַרְתִּיךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ:

(2) ושמרני AND IF HE WILL KEEP ME — even as He said to me (v. 15) “And I will keep thee whithersoever thou goest”, (Genesis Rabbah 70:4)

11יא
(ג) ונתן לי לחם לאכל. כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר כִּי לֹא אֶעֱזָבְךָ, וְהַמְבַקֵּשׁ לֶחֶם הוּא קָרוּי נֶעֱזָב, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וְלֹא רָאִיתִי צַדִּיק נֶעֱזָב וְזַרְעוֹ מְבַקֶּשׁ לָחֶם (תהילים ל"ז):
(3) ונתן לי לחם לאכול AND IF HE WILL GIVE ME BREAD TO EAT — even as He said (v. 15) “For I will not forsake thee” (Genesis Rabbah 70:4), — for one who has to beg his bread is called “forsaken”, as it is said (Psalms 37:25) “I have not seen the righteous forsaken and his seed begging bread”.
12יב
(א) ושבתי. כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר לִי וַהֲשִׁבֹתִיךָ אֶל הָאֲדָמָה:

(1) ושבתי SO THAT I RETURN — even as He said (v. 15) “I will restore thee again into this land” (Genesis Rabbah 70:4),

in peace: Perfect from sin, that I will not learn from the ways of Laban.

and the Lord will be my God: that His name will rest upon me from beginning to end, that no disqualification should be found among my seed, as it is written: “[I will do] that which I have spoken concerning you.” And this promise He promised to Abraham, as it is said (17: 7):“to be a God to you and to your seed after you.” (“Your seed” [means that they should be] of pure lineage, that no disqualification should be found in him.) [from Sifrei Va-etchanan 31]

13יג

Then this stone: Heb. וְהָאֶבֶן הַזֹּאת, lit., and this stone. This“vav” of וְהָאֶבֶן is to be explained as follows: If You will do these things for me, I too will do this: “And this stone, which I have placed as a monument, etc.” As the Targum paraphrases: “I will worship upon it before the Lord.” And so he did when he returned from Padan-aram, when He said to him, (35:1): “Arise, go up to Beth-el.” What is stated there? (ibid. verse 14): “And Jacob erected a monument, etc., and he poured a libation upon it.” [from Mishnath Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 14]

14יד

If God will be with me: The language of Rashi: If He keeps these promises He promised me. And the reason for the conditional is in the case that sin not interfere.

And so they said in Bereishit Rabba (76:2) Rav Huna said in the name of Rav Acha: "Behold I am with you" and scripture writes "If God is with me"! Rather, from here [we learn] that there are no assurance to the righteous in this world.

15טו

Furthermore it would make sense to explain in a literal sense it is possible that the word IM does not indicate a doubt in the matter, rather for all futures the text says thus like "until I have done" and similarly "And IM [ here: when] the Jubilee occurs (Numbers 36:4), IM (when) the time comes that the condition is fulfilled, then the consequential action will be fulfilled, as if to say "when it comes."

16טז
והיה ה' לי לאלהים איננו תנאי כדברי רש"י אבל הוא נדר וענינו אם אשוב אל בית אבי אעבוד השם המיוחד בארץ הנבחרת במקום האבן הזאת שתהיה לי לבית אלהים ושם אוציא את המעשר ויש בענין סוד ממה שאמרו (כתובות קי) כל הדר בחוצה לארץ דומה כמי שאין לו אלוה

And God will be for me the Lord: This is not a condition as Rashi says.

Rather it is a vow and its substance is "IM [If] (When) I return to my father's house, I will serve the proper Name of G-d in the chosen land at the place of this stone, which will be for me a house of the Lord, and here I set aside he Tithe.

And there is in this matter a secret from that which they said (Ketubot 110) "whoever dwells in the land outside of Israel is like one with no G-d."

17יז

Kli Yakar: Heaven forefend that one should say that Yaakov doubted God's promise, for God had already told him, “Behold, I am with you, and will watch over you wherever you go.” Rather, what this means is that Yaakov did not ask for any bodily protection, for this had already been promised to him; instead, he now asked for protection of his soul from sin… Concerning protection from sin, [he asked] not to learn from the ways of Lavan. And not necessarily [just] Lavan, for even the Canaanites, living in the land, did not act properly, and he also had reason to fear being influenced by the ways of the Emorites. Therefore, he says, “To my father's house,” for this indicates deliverance from this danger – that he would not learn from the ways of the wicked.

18יח
אם יהיה וגו'. אם זה תתפרש על דרך מה שאמרו ז"ל (ב"ק פ"ד מ"ה) בפסוק (שמות כ"א) אם כופר, אם כסף תלוה (שם כב) שאינו ספק אלא ודאי וכאלו אמר כאשר יהיה זה וגו' (מכילתא ס"פ יתרו):

אם יהיה אלוקים עמדי, "If the Lord will be with me, etc." The word אם in this case is not to be understood as something conditional but is similar to the אם כפר יושת עליו in Exodus 21,30, or the אם in Exodus 22,24: אם כסף תלוה את עמי. In both those instances the meaning is "when," i.e. something that will definitely occur (compare Baba Kama 4,5 and Mechilta on Parshat Yitro)

19יט
עוד ירצה על זה הדרך אם תסכים מדת הדין על הדבר, והוא אומרו אם יהיה אלקים, כי לא דבר אליו אלא ממדת הרחמים דכתיב והנה ה' נצב וגו' הנה אנכי עמך ודבר ידוע כי מדת הרחמים תסכים להטיב ומדת הדין תעכב בדבר לזה אמר אם יהיה אלקים וגו':

(Alternatively) Jacob also included the attribute of Justice in his vow. So far G'd had spoken to him only in His capacity as Hashem, the attribute of Mercy. He undertook to tithe his acquisitions provided that also the attribute of Justice would prove to be with him. This is why he chose the expression אלוקים and not השם when formulating his vow.

20כ
והיה ה' לי לאלהים. ועד עתה אינו לאלהים ח"ו. ורש"י ז"ל פירש שלא ימצא פסול בזרעי, ואין אני יודע היכן רמוז דבר זה באומרו והיה וגו'. ועוד הבטחה זו תמיד היא תלויה ועומדת ואימתי יהיה קץ הגבול לעשות האבן מצבה. והנכון הוא שנתכוון לומר שיתיחד אליו שם ה' לאלהים כדרך שנתיחד על אבותיו (פסוק י"ג) אלהי אברהם אלהי יצחק גם יאמר עליו אלהי יעקב, והוא אומרו לי לאלהים פי' לי בייחוד. ודבר גדול דבר יעקב בזה, ותמצא שכן היה דכתיב (ל"ג כ') ויקרא לו אל אלהי ישראל ואחר כך שלם נדרו אשר נדר לעשות אבן הזאת:

והיה ה׳ לי לאלוקים. "Then Hashem will be my Lord." This sounds, G'd forbid, as if until now Hashem had not been Jacob's G'd. Rashi explains that Jacob meant that G'd would not find any of his children as morally unfit. I do not know where such a thought is alluded to in Jacob's words. [actually Rashi quotes a Sifri in Parshat Va-Etchanan section 31. Ed.] Besides such a promise, i.e. that his children would be morally fit, is at best a conditional promise [seeing that the matter lies within the will-power of the children, Ed.]. When would the stone then be able to serve as a monument for this encounter Jacob experienced during his dream?

The proper explanation of what Jacob said is that he was prepared to conduct himself in such a way that G'd would consent to associate His name with him even during his lifetime. He had previously done this with Abraham after the latter's death and with Isaac only after he had become blind and therefore beyond the reach of the evil urge (compare verse 13).

The words לי לאלוקים are clear evidence of Jacob's intention. This was a tremendous undertaking by Jacob. You will find in Genesis 33,20 that G'd reminded him of that undertaking and that Jacob then fulfilled this vow by erecting a monument in G'd's honour.

21כא
אַתָּה מוֹצֵא כָּל מִי שֶׁנִּתְיַסֵּם בְּעֵינָיו כְּאִלּוּ הוּא מֵת. כֵּיצַד? אָמַר רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בַּר יוֹחַאי, אֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְיַחֵד שְׁמוֹ עַל הַצַּדִּיקִים בְּחַיֵּיהֶן אֶלָּא לְאַחַר מִיתָתָן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: לִקְדֹשִׁים אֲשֶׁר בָּאָרֶץ הֵמָּה וְגוֹ' (תהלים טז, ג). אֵימָתַי הֵן קְדוֹשִׁים? כְּשֶׁהֵן קְבוּרִים בָּאָרֶץ. שֶׁכָּל זְמַן שֶׁהֵן חַיִּין, אֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְיַחֵד שְׁמוֹ עֲלֵיהֶן, כָּל כָּךְ לָמָּה שֶׁאֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַאֲמִין בָּהֶן, שֶׁלֹּא יַטְעֶה אוֹתָן הַיֵּצֶר הָרָע. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁמֵּתִים, הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְיַחֵד שְׁמוֹ עֲלֵיהֶן. וַהֲרֵי מָצִינוּ שֶׁיִּחֵד הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שְׁמוֹ עַל יִצְחָק הַצַּדִּיק בְּחַיָּיו, שֶׁכֵּן הוּא אוֹמֵר לְיַעֲקֹב, אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ וֵאלֹהֵי יִצְחָק (בראשית כח, יג). רַבִּי בְּרַכְיָה וְרַבָּנָן. רַבָּנָן אָמְרֵי, רוֹאֶה אֶת אֶפְרוֹ כְּאִלּוּ הוּא צָבוּר עַל גַּבֵּי הַמִּזְבֵּחַ. וְרַבִּי בְּרַכְיָה אָמַר, הוֹאִיל וְנִתְיַסֵּם בְּעֵינָיו, כְּאִלּוּ הוּא מֵת, לְפִי שֶׁהָיָה גָנוּז לְתוֹךְ הַבַּיִת וְיֵצֶר הָרַע פָּסַק הֵימֶנּוּ. לְכָךְ כְּתִיב: וַיְהִי כִּי זָקֵן יִצְחָק.

R. Simeon the son of Yohai said: The Holy One, blessed be He, never associates His name with righteous men during their lifetimes. He waits until they have died, as it is said: As for the holy that are in the earth, they are the excellent in whom is all My delight (Ps. 16:3).

When are men regarded as truly holy? Only after they have been buried in the earth. During their lifetimes, however, the Holy One, blessed be He, does not associate His name with theirs. And why not? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, is not certain whether or not the evil inclination within them will ultimately lead them astray. When they are dead, however, He does couple His name with theirs.

Nevertheless, we find that the Holy One, blessed be he, did couple his name with that of the righteous Isaac during his lifetime, when he said to Jacob: I am the Lord, the God of Abraham, thy father, and the God of Isaac (Gen. 28:43).

R. Berechiah and the rabbis discussed this matter. The rabbis maintained that He considered Isaac’s ashes as though they were heaped upon the altar, Even though the sacrifice of Isaac was not completed, the Akedah was proof that Isaac would never succumb to the evil inclination.

while R. Berechiah insisted that he was considered as dead because he had already lost his sight. Because of his blindness he remained secluded within his home, and the result was that the evil inclination departed from him. Hence it is written: And it came to pass that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim (Gen. 27:1).

22כב
ונתן לי לחם לאכול ובגד ללבוש. זאת שאלת הצדיקים מאת השם לא ישאלו המותרות רק הדבר ההכרחי בלבד שא"א לו לאדם שיחיה בלעדיו. ובידוע כי נטיית אדם אחר בקשת המותרות הוא גורם לו מהומות רבות, ועל כן כל איש ירא את השם ראוי לו שיהיה שמח בחלקו ושיסתפק במעט ושלא יתאוה המותרות וייטיב לבו ביראת השם, הוא שאמר שלמה המע"ה (משלי טו) טוב מעט ביראת ה' מאוצר רב ומהומה בו. והביא לזה אות ועדות ומופת הכתוב שאחריו, הוא שאמר (שם) טוב ארוחת ירק ואהבה שם משור אבוס ושנאה בו. יאמר כי ייטב לבני אדם המעט בחברה שתנעם להם יותר מן המרובה והמטעמים בחברת השונאים.
ונתן לי לחם לאכול ובגד ללבוש, “and He will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear, etc.” This is what the righteous ask of G’d. They are only allowed to pray for necessities, the definition being things which a human being cannot do without. We are all aware that man has a tendency to ask for things which he could do well without and these are the very things which are liable to cause him problems, confusion, aggravations. This is why it befits a truly G’d-fearing individual to practice the advice of our sages (Avot 4,1) that the truly wealthy person is he who enjoys the portion G’d has allotted to him. Solomon expressed the same sentiment when he said (Proverbs 15,16) “better a little with fear of the Lord, than a great treasure with trouble.” Solomon immediately provides an illustration of what he means when he said in verse 17 of the same chapter: “better a meal of vegetables where there is love, than a fattened ox where there is hate.”
23כג
ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי. יתכן לומר כל מה שהוציא יעקב מפיו בנדר זה הכל נתקיים בו. ושמרני בדרך הזה, הנה הש"י שמר אותו בדרך ההוא. והלחם הוא הנשים שלקח מלשון (שמות ב) קראן לו ויאכל לחם, וכן (בראשית לט) כי אם את הלחם אשר הוא אוכל. והבגד הוא שנתעשר בסבת צאן לבן שהבגדים מן הצמר הם. ושבתי בשלום, הוא שכתוב ויבא יעקב שלם. והיה ה' לי לאלקים הוא שכתוב ויקרא לו אל אלקי ישראל.

ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי, “and I shall return in peace to my father’s house, etc.” We notice that every detail which formed part of Yaakov’s vow and whatever he mentioned was fulfilled for him.

When he asked G’d ושמרני בדרך, “and He will watch over me on the journey,” G’d most certainly watched over him and protected him.

As to his request for לחם, bread or food, this was a reference to the women whom he married. The term לחם to describe someone’s wife is used by Joseph (Genesis 39,6) when he told the wife of his master Potiphar that the only thing in his household Potiphar had withheld from him was הלחם אשר הוא אוכל, “the bread which he eats.” Another instance where לחם, bread, is used to describe someone’s wife, is found in Exodus 2,2 where Yitro tells his daughters to invite Moses so that “he may eat bread.” He did not mean to invite him merely to eat bread but to let him marry one of his seven unmarried daughters.


As to Yaakov’s request for clothes to wear, this was part of his wealth when he had large flocks of sheep which provided him with wool.

His request to return to his father’s home safely and in good health was answered when we read in 33,18 ויבא יעקב שלם, “Yaakov arrived home safely.” As to Yaakov fulfilling his part of the bargain and making אלוקים his G’d [ to make the attribute of Justice the yardstick by which G’d would measure him; Ed.] this is referred to in the Torah in 33,20 where we read: ויקרא לו קל אלוקי ישראל, “Yaakov called G’d the G’d of Israel.”

24כד
וידר נדר, נדר הנדר על תנאי, ולא היה התנאי לפי שהיה לבו נוקפו בהבטחה שהבטיחו האל, כי ידע שהאל יקיים לו הבטחחו, אלא לא היה התנאי אלא מפחדו שמא יגרום החטא, ולא יהיה ההבטחה קיימת, ולא ישוב אל בית אביו ולא יוכל לעשות מה שנדר.
וידר, the vow Yaakov made at this point was a conditional one. The conditional nature did not mean that Yaakov doubted the promise G’d had made to him and G’d’s ability to fulfill it; rather he was afraid that just as all of G’d’s promises presume that the recipient remains worthy of them, so Yaakov was also afraid that some errors he might commit in the future, sinful conduct, would invalidate G’d promises. This is the only reason that he prefaced the vow with the words: “if G’d will be with me, etc.” He was afraid that if he would commit a sin or sins he might never see his father’s house again so that he would be unable to fulfill the vow he was about to make.
25כה
לחם לאכול, לא שאל יתרון אלא צרכו לבד כדי שיחיה, ומים לא היה צריך לשאל כי בכל מקום ימצא אדם מים לשתות בחנם:
לחם לאכול ובגד ללבוש, he did not ask G’d for anything but the bare necessities of life. He did not need to ask for water as people find enough water to drink all over on earth.
26כו
אם יהיה אלקים עמדי להסיר מעלי כל מעיק ומונע המעביר את האדם על דעתו וע''ד קונו כאז''ל ג' מעבירין את האדם על דעתו ועל דעת קונו:

אם יהיה אלוקים עמדי, to remove from me all the pressures which I am under, pressures which prevent man from giving his attention to matters which should receive his attention, i.e. to G’d and what He expects from man. What troubled Yaakov was what our sages in Eyruvin 41 described as the three problems which are liable to unbalance someone’s mind as well as his relationship to his Creator. They are: gentiles, evil spirit, and excessive poverty.ושמרני, from wicked gentiles who would force him to change his lifestyle;

"If He will give me bread to eat" so that I will not be forced to violate both my own integrity and that ordained for me by my Maker.

"and I will return in peace" from all the problems besetting man, i.e. a reference to what the Talmud had called רוח רעה.

Then Hashem will be Elokim, then G’d will be a judge, and He can examine to see if I did not fulfill my vow to the best of my ability. The letter ו at the beginning of the word והיה, [where we would perhaps have expected Yaakov to use an ordinary future tense such as יהיה, Ed.], may be in lieu of the word הנה, meaning that Yaakov would already from now on act on the assumption that G’d would provide him with the necessities he had asked for and therefore he was willing to be judged by the attribute of Justice, not relying on the attribute of Mercy.

27כז
אם יהיה אלקים עמדי (בראשית כח, כ), עיין רמב"ן שהקשה הלא כבר הבטיח לו האל ומה היה הספק ועיין שם שהביא בשם המדרש (שיר השירים רבה ב) אולי יגרום החטא. ונראה לי שראה במראה החלום והנה אנכי עמך ושמרתיך בכל אשר תלך והשיבותיך אל האדמה כי לא אעזבך עד אשר אם עשיתי את אשר דברתי לך, ולכאורה הבטחת עד אשר אם עשיתיכו', אין לו פירוש רק שהבטחת של השם יתברך היה בזה האופן כי השם יתברך מסייע לבני אדם לעבדו כי הוא המלך הטוב והמטיב הבוחר בעבודתם אהבתם ויראתם ומלמדם בדרך זו תלך ומשמרם ומצילם מכל דבר רע בטובו הגדול, אמנם בני אדם אשר יש להם כח ושכל להתפלל אזי אינו נותן להם עד שיתפללו ויבקשו מאל אכלם ושמירתם והצלתם כמאמר חכמינו ז"ל (בראשית רבה מה) מפני מה אמותינו עקרות מפני שהקדוש ברוך הוא מתאוה לתפילתן, וכמאמר חכמינו ז"ל (ברכותיז:)שמעו אלי אבירי לב הרחוקים מצדקה (ישעיה מו, יב) שכל העולם כולו ניזון מצדקה והם בזרוע. אמנם בני אדם שאין להם שכל להתפלל ולעבוד לפני השם יתברך אינו עוזבם ומשמרם בחסדו הגדול כל זמן שלא יתפללו כמאמר חכמינו ז"ל שומר פתאים ה' (תהלים קטז, ו) למשל הבן הסומך על שולחן האב, אמנם כשרואה האב שהבן יכול לפרנס את עצמו בטוב אינו סומך על שלחנו כך הצדיקים מתפרנסים בזרוע ואינם ניזונים בצדקה:

Genesis 28,20. “If G’d will be with me, etc.;” ‎Nachmanides’ comment that seeing G’d had already promised ‎Yaakov in verse 15 that He would be with him, why did Yaakov ‎question this with the word: ‎אם‎, “if?” is well known. The answer ‎given by Nachmanides is that Yaakov was afraid that G’d’s ‎promise would be invalid if he became guilty of a sin before it ‎could be carried out. (compare Bereshit Rabbah 76,2 that ‎promises made to tzaddikim concerning happenings in this ‎life are never absolute.) [If they were they would tie G’d’s ‎hands if the tzaddik were to become a rasha. ‎Ed.]
The answers given by the Midrash or quoted as such by ‎the commentators, appear to contradict the specific promise for ‎events in this life made to Yaakov in verse 15. I quote: ‎‎(translation) “Remember, I am with you; I will protect you ‎wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not ‎leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Surely, ‎after such a promise, how could Yaakov have had any doubt that ‎what G’d had promised would occur in this lifetime on earth? Part ‎of this promise implies that G’d the good, Who only does good, ‎will assist the recipient of this promise to conduct himself in a ‎manner that will ensure that G’d will feel obliged to honour His ‎promise.


However, we must remember two points. 1) The Torah had ‎reported G’d’s promise as being part of a dream,” i.e. ‎ויחלום‎. The ‎Torah did not preface the dream as a vision, i.e. ‎וירא אליו ה'‏‎; ‎Yaakov was not at all sure that what appears here as a solid ‎promise was not a figment of his imagination. 2) We have ‎discussed once before the fact that G’d wishes us to pray to Him ‎for our needs, (that is why Rivkah did not become pregnant till ‎after 20 years of marriage when both her husband and she prayed ‎for this). Seeing that Yaakov is not on record as having actively ‎asked G’d to assist him in what was a pretty desperate situation, ‎G’d, by spelling out this promise, wished to provoke Yaakov into ‎finally praying to Him for His help. (Compare also Bereshit ‎Rabbah 45, Sarah being angry at Avraham for not having ‎including her in his prayer when he said to G’d, (complainingly) ‎‎“here I walk on this earth childless.” (Genesis 15,2) G’d dispenses ‎largesse without waiting to be asked, to those of His creatures ‎whom He has not equipped with a mouth to articulate their ‎requests. Man, who has been so equipped is expected to use his ‎powers to address his Creator in prayer.‎


According to B’rachot 17 the reason why our matriarchs ‎were originally barren is summed up in Isaiah 46,12 ‎שמעו אלי אבירי ‏לב הרחוקים מצדקה‎! “Listen to Me, you who have lost heart, who ‎are far from righteousness.” According to one interpretation of ‎the above verse in the Talmud, some people are granted their ‎livelihood because they use their intelligence to ask G’d for it. ‎Others believe in their own strength, ‎זרוע‎, their ability to work for ‎a living, and secure it through this means. The people who are ‎devoid of intelligence will be provided for by G’d, as they are too ‎dim witted or physically unable look out for themselves. This is ‎the meaning of ‎שומר פתאים ה'‏‎, “the Lord looks after the fools.” ‎‎(psalms 116,6) Examples of such people are children having to eat ‎at their father’s table. When the father of such children sees that ‎they have become capable of fending for themselves, he no longer ‎supports them. The same holds true of our Father in heaven, ‎when He sees that we could fend for ourselves but prefer to have ‎Him provide for us. The righteous are supposed to support ‎themselves by using their arms, (to do work) not violence. Those ‎who possess intelligence and do not use it to appeal to their ‎Creator are not supported by G’d’s charity, ‎צדקה‎.‎

28כח
וזה כי לא אעזבך עד אשר אם עשיתי את אשר דברתי לך, כלומר אז כשאעשה מה שהבטחתי לך ותשוב לארץ ישראל אז כשתתפלל אמלא בקשתך ומשאלתך וכשלא תתפלל תעזוב שמירתך ממך אמנם בדרך קודם שתכנס לארץ ישראל ולא יהא לך שנים עשר שבטים אז אין אתה עדיין בשלימות אז אנכי עמך ושמרתיך בכל אשר תלך, ואנכי אסייע לך בצדקה אפילו שלא תתעורר עצמך בתפלה. אמנם אחר שאעשה את אשר דברתי לך, אז להתעוררות התחתון לתפלה אתה צריך. וזה כי לא אעזבך עד אשר אם עשיתי את אשר דברתי לך. ולאחר שאעשה אתה צריך התעוררות מעצמך ועל זה אמר יעקב אבינו עליו השלום אם יהיה אלקים עמדי ושמרני בדרך הזה אשר אנכי הולך ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי והיה ה' לי לאלקים, היינו שיסייע לי האל אפילו כשאהיה בתכלית השלימות ואהיה בארץ ישראל ויהיה בי כח לעבדך תסייע לי אתה בצדקה כי צדקה ממך אקוה, ואין אני סומך על מעשי ועל תפלתי. וזה אם יהיה אלקים עמדי כו' ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי והיה ה' לי לאלקים, כלומר כאשר אשוב בשלום אל בית אבי אני רוצה שה' יהיה לי לאלקים ויסייע לי מן השמים בחסדו וברחמים ובצדקה ואיני רוצה להשען על מעשי וכן דרך צדיקים שאינם רוצים להשען על מעשיהם כלל. ואפשר לזה כיון המדרש אם יהיה אלקים עמדי, מכאן שאין הבטחה לצדיקים בעולם הזה, והוא על דרך שפירש רש"י בפרשת ואתחנן, אף על פי שיש להם לצדיקים לתלות במעשיהם הטובים אין מבקשים מאת הקדוש ברוך הוא אלא מתנת חנם ומעשיהם הטובים קטן בעיניהם, כי לפי הפשוט כיון שהקדוש ברוך הוא מבטיח היאך שייך אין הבטחה לצדיקים, הלא כל דבור ודבור שיצא מפי הקדוש ברוך הוא לטובה אינו חוזר ואפילו על תנאי אינו חוזר. אפס לפי דברינו יתכן שהבטחת השם יתברך כי לא אעזבך עד אשר אם עשיתי את אשר דברתי לך, ואחר שיהיה בתכלית השלימות אזי הוא צריך להתעוררות התחתון ועל זה אין הבטחה לצדיקים כו' והבן:

‎ This is what G’d meant when He told Yaakov in his dream: ‎כי ‏לא אעזבך עד אשר עשיתי את אשר דברתי לך‎, “for I will not ‎abandon you until I have done what I have said (I would do) ‎for you.” What G’d meant was that as soon as Yaakov would ‎return to the land of Israel, he would have to fend for himself, ‎using the intelligence etc., that G’d had endowed him with. He ‎implied that at that time he would have to accompany his ‎activities with the appropriate prayers asking G’d to let his efforts ‎be crowned with success. If he were to neglect to do so, he would ‎not become the founding father of the twelve tribes making up ‎the Jewish people. Seeing that you had not reached spiritual ‎maturity until that time, I intervened overtly on your behalf ‎during the preceding years.


‎When we look at Yaakov’s situation from this angle, it is ‎neither fear nor lack of faith when Yaakov says ‎אם יהיה אלוקים ‏עמדי וגו'‏‎, “if G’d will be with me etc.” It is a declaration by Yaakov ‎that as soon as he will safely return to his homeland he is ‎prepared to do everything humanly possible, including prayer, of ‎course, to ensure his success in the task that G’d has set him. He ‎indicates by promising to tithe his income he will continue to ‎view his success as an act of charity by G’d. Although he will do ‎what is in his power, he will view success as G’d manifesting His ‎love for him.

Tzaddikim, even when earning their livelihood ‎by their own efforts, will continue to view their success as not ‎due to their own intelligence or hard work, but as a gift from G’d. ‎The matriarchs, whose success is not measured in terms of their ‎earning power, but in terms of the fruit of their wombs, therefore ‎were meant to turn to G’d in prayer in order for what other ‎women considered as their natural right, i.e. to produce children, ‎to be granted to them also.‎


Perhaps this is how we must understand Bereshit ‎Rabbah 76,2 on Genesis 45,28 according to which any ‎assurance given by G’d to tzaddikim does not refer to events ‎that would occur in this life. On Deuteronomy 3,23 Rashi ‎comments that although the righteous, if they wanted to, could ‎ascribe any success that they enjoyed in this life as due to merits ‎they had accumulated, they prefer not to do so. When they ask ‎G’d for something, they make a point as describing G’d’s granting ‎their request as a ‎מתנת חנם‎, a “free gift.” These explanations were ‎needed, as seeing that we have a tradition that G’d does not even ‎go back on a conditional promise, how could the Midrash say that ‎no promises of G’d apply in this world. The meaning of the words: ‎כי לא אעזבך עד וגו'‏‎, therefore must mean that there comes a time ‎in Yaakov’s life when he is expected to no longer have to rely on ‎G’d’s promises.‎

29כט
והיה ה' לי לאלקים כו' (בראשית כח, כא). כבר עמדו בזה המפרשים על בקשת יעקב וידר יעקב כו' אם יהיה כו', הלא הקדוש ברוך הוא הבטיח לו הכל למה הוצרך לבקשה אחר ההבטחה. ונראה בסייעתא דשמיא, דיעקב ביקש פרט אחר שלא הבטיח לו ה' ועל זה היה בקשתו. דידוע דבתחילת עבודת האדם להשם יתברך צריך סעד מה' לעזרו לעובדו באמת, אמנם אחר שכבר הוא תמים בעבודתו ממילא הוא מתחזק ואינו צריך סעד לתומכו. וזה שהבטיח ה' והנה אנכי עמך, דהיינו מיד שאתה צריך סעד והשיבותיך אל האדמה כו', ואחר שישוב לבית אביו לא הבטיחו שיהיה עמו לתומכו שאינו צריך סעד שמאליו מתחזק ובקשת יעקב היה גם אחר שישוב לבית אביו שיהיה השם יתברך בעוזרו כי לא רצה לסמוך על עצמו שמאליו יתחזק והכל מרוב ענותנותו. וזהו שפרט יעקב בבקשתו ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי והיה ה' לי לאלקים, דהיינו גם אחר שובי אל אבי והיה ה' לי, דהיינו סעד לעוזרו. וזה היה פרט חדש שלא הבטיחו ה' כי לא היה הבטחה רק עד שישוב ולא אחר שישוב והבן:
Genesis 28,21. “then Hashem (the attribute of Mercy) ‎will be my G’d,;” (may deal with me on the basis of the ‎attribute of Justice). Many commentators already have dealt ‎with this phrase and the difficulties it presents when one reads it ‎superficially. Firstly, why would Yaakov feel the need to make a ‎vow when G’d had already promised him all that he is asking. We ‎trust we are correct in answering that Yaakov here asked for a ‎detail that G’d had not included in the promise He had made to ‎him. We have mentioned already that at the beginning of a ‎‎“career” as a servant of G’d, everyone needs an assist from G’d. ‎Yaakov therefore asked for this initial assistance, so that ‎eventually he would be able to stand on his own two feet not only ‎economically but also spiritually. When he spoke about G’d being ‎with him, he meant “immediately,” not only at some time in the ‎future. He also wished for G’d’s continued assistance even after ‎he would have returned safely to his homeland and the house of ‎his father. G’d’s initial promise had been limited to the time when ‎Yaakov would return to Eretz Yisrael.‎