Parashat Vayetze

Jacob Out In The World

Jacob is a force for positive change in the midst of a frustrating material world.

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Spiritual Activism

Such understanding is a crucial foundation for any environmental work striving for real change. It was necessary for Jacob to leave the comforts of home and society in order to gestate, transform, and become. It then became necessary for him to reenter society and bring that which is holy into all that is profane. That is a labor that can only be accomplished through bringing awareness to action. Jacob is perhaps the first spiritual social activist.

Jacob teaches us that environmental action--or any social activism--is at root the recognition that our lives can manifest the world as it should be, rather than accepting what it is or appears to be. A truly "Jewish" ecology must recognize spiritual orientation, or reorientation, as the starting point for meaningful practical action. 

Following his encounter, Jacob doesn't withdraw into meditative prayer and ecstatic communion with the Divine. Alive with new purpose he "lifted his feet (Genesis 29:1)," and stepped forward to struggle with the realities of sustenance, family, social living, and justice.

Jacob arrives on the outskirts of Haran, engages the shepherds, lifts the stone from the well, recognizes and embraces Rachel, bursts into tears. He is a whirlwind of action and interaction; inflamed by the overwhelming passion to forge a life based in wholeness and truth. He is on fire with the beauty of potential, even as he understands all too well that the world is only potential. With that realization, the work of integrating what is necessary begins.

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Avi Neuman lives and learns at the Bat Ayin Yeshiva Kollel with his wife Debby and daughters Kirvayah Maayan and Anayah Ohr. Summers the family teaches in the U.S. Avi holds M.A.s in Anthropology and Folklore, is an avid gardener, writer and hand-drummer.