Vayeitzei (Gen. 28:10-32:3)/ Episode IV: A New Hope
Translation from http://www.reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study/vayeitzei/english-translation
A New Hope
During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.
Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy....
It is a bountiful time. The flock of Laban, Son of Nahor the Aramean, as seen great prosperity with no miscarriage or plague.
For twenty years, Jacob, Nephew and Son-in-Law to Laban, has toiled in his field in exchanged for no only hospitality, but the marriage of Laban's daughters to him.
Tired of their arrangements for payment being altered and made a mockery of, Jacob seeks to relieve himself of servitude to Laban...
One man’s rebel is another man’s freedom fighter. Every conflict is marred with moral qualms that the offenders will justify by any means necessary while the offender will condemn until their faces turn blue. To be wronged elicited such a visceral reaction that can absolutely not be understood by the one who did the wronging. In the course of human history, one of the most natural responses to wrongdoing, systematic or personal, has been rebellion. Whether oppressed by your government or interpersonally afflicted, the principled defiance of rebellion is an honored, revered, and even glorified tradition.
Some rebellions are small and some rebellions are large, but what all rebellions have in common is the desire to change the way things are. In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob spends twenty years living in the house of his uncle (and father-in-law) Laban. Time and again Jacob feels wronged by Laban and the way he is paid for his years of labor. Betrayed first by being given the wrong daughter for a wife and then again many years later by being denied a flock of his own to establish his own household, Jacob comes eventually to a point where he can feel wronged no longer and rebels. In his rebellion, Jacob stole from Laban’s flock and household and ran off into the night to escape his household.
This rebellion was, however, met with opposition as all rebellions are. Rachel and Leah, Jacob’s wives and the daughters of Laban, feared the repercussions of rebelling. They feared rebellion would mark the point of no return from which their relationship with their father and their father’s household would be terminated permanently. They did not necessarily act as sympathizers to Laban, but rather as objectors on the basis of convenience. They wanted to avoid rebellion to protect themselves from the repercussions. The risk did not outweigh the reward.
The Alliance to Restore the Republic, also known simply as the Rebel Alliance, took years to form between the end of the Clone Wars and the Battle of Yavin. Small groups or individuals across the Galaxy who detested the tyranny of the Galactic Empire, many of whom were active in either fighting against them directly or attempted to subvert their oppression on their own, would slowly come together to form local rebel cells. They, in turn, would have to make the terrible decision and sacrifice of leaving their home planets to form a larger, galaxy-spanning rebellion, or remaining on-world to make larger differences in their homes but more likely face the wrath the Empire could more easily bestow upon less organized and protected lone soldiers.
Just like Rachel and Leah, there were countless beings across the Galaxy that may not have agreed with the way things were, but found the risk of attempting to change anything not worth the potential reward. Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen was one of these objectors of convenience. Owen made clear his disdain for the Empire, but was firmly against Luke joining Obi-Wan in that endeavor on account of his perceived futility of rebellion and fear that Luke would fall down the same path his father Anakin had. For Owen, the life of a simple farmer in the outer reaches of the Galaxy was perfectly sufficient, and Luke was even content to concede until his aunt and uncle were murdered by the Empire. At that moment, Luke understood he had less to lose by rebelling than he had to gain.
All rebellion have in common a desire to see things changed and the catalyst of having been personally wronged or harmed. They also have in common an opposing perspective. Laban had Leah wed to Jacob before Rachel not to spite Jacob, but because in his religion it was improper for an older daughter to be wed before a younger one. When he refused Jacob a flock after having promised him one, he may well have done so not to prevent Jacob from prospering, but because he genuinely believed he was being so charitable to Jacob that Jacob should have had no reason to want to leave, and that keeping his healthy flock would not truly harm Jacob.
The Empire’s point of view at its highest leadership was rooted in evil. But the reasons so many joined the Empire were often noble. Even Anakin Skywalker himself did not turn to Palpatine and the Dark Side out of malice, but rather because he was duped into believing it would save the ones he loved to join him. Most Galactic citizens that joined the ranks of the Empire did so either because they too were led astray, led to believe they were truly a force for good against a millennia of evil Jedi rule, or because they prioritized the need for a steady job that supported their family over the moral opposition they may have held for the jobs in the Imperial military or bureaucracy that they took up.
Rebellion has a threshold that has to be exceeded before initiating. To some, a wrong is not great enough or does not affect them directly enough to warrant such drastic action as rebellion. For others, those wrongs go simply unrecognized, or provide them with such benefit that they regard it as just. If we recall the conversation from a few weeks ago on shame, we will recall that every individual views the world differently from one another. There can be no expectation that everybody agrees on what the issues are or how best to solve them.
What this does not mean, though, is not to take your beliefs and passions and turn them into actions. Should you feel genuinely and personally wronged, even if nobody else seems to feel the same way, it is your right and perhaps even your duty to speak up. Perhaps nobody else has out of fear, or a lack of understanding, and your action may just be the spark of rebellion needed to make the change you wish to see.
The Onderon Arc from The Clone Wars and The Fortification of Asgard through the theme of "Support."