In the haftarah1 for Vayeitzei, G‑d rebukes the ten northern tribes (a.k.a. Ephraim, after the tribe who ruled the other 9 northern tribes) for wavering in returning to G‑d. He rebukes them for worshipping idols, for their crooked business dealings, for claiming in arrogance that G‑d is unaware of their actions, and for being deceitful. Ultimately, G‑d won’t let them succeed in their wickedness. This is all alluding to Laban the Aramean, Jacob’s uncle (and father-in-law), who in our Parshah swindled him every which way. Yet for all Laban’s trickery and cunning, G‑d doesn’t allow him to succeed.

The haftarah speaks of Jacob’s descent to Charan and how he worked to get his wives, who are mentioned in our Parshah.

Sprinkled throughout the haftarah are the exodus from Egypt; allusions to our future redemption; and assurances that if we follow on G‑d’s path, trusting in Him and keeping the Torah and mitzvos, He will help us succeed. Similarly, in the Parshah, Jacob—with G‑d’s help—succeeds in Charan, coming out with great wealth and a beautiful family.

What lessons are hidden here for us? What are we meant to take away from the haftarah and the Parshah?

The story of Jacob going down to Charan is the story of the Jewish people going into exile (and the key to the future redemption). It is also the story of the neshamah (soul) coming into the body.

There are two types of exile. The first is an exile of plenty, where we are free and lack nothing. However, because of this abundance, we follow our desires, falling lower and lower. When this happens, our holy energy, which is meant to nourish the good and holy forces in the world, end up feeding and energizing the negative forces. This is symbolized by the Assyrian exile, in which we enjoyed relative freedom.

Then there is the exile of suffering, in which we feel stuck, unable to get out and do the simplest of things. Because of the suffering and oppression, our thoughts and abilities become constricted and obstructed. In other words we are stuck in our tzores. This is symbolized by the exile in Mitzrayim (Egypt), which means “constraints,” and where we were in servitude.

To this the haftarah says that when Moshiach comes, “He will roar like a lion… They will hurry like a bird from Egypt, and like a dove from Assyria, and I will settle them in their homes, says G‑d.”2 What is the lion’s roar? That is the sound of the shofar that G‑d will sound when Moshiach comes.3 Why does He use the metaphor of a bird and a dove? Because no matter how far they stray from their nest, these birds always find their way back home. The same is true about the Jewish people. No matter which kind of exile, or how far we stray, we will find our way back home.4

Now the haftarah says, “Like a merchant who has deceitful scales in his hand.”5 This is the neshamah, which when it was above was filled with silver and gold, which means love and awe of G‑d. But like a merchant who spends all his silver and gold just to make a profit, so is the neshamah willing to give up everything—descend to this lowly world, enter the body and do everything to affect the body—just for the gain it will attain through the mitzvahs that the body will do.

This is the meaning of the verse in Tehilim, “To me, the Torah of Your lips is better than thousands of gold and silver.”6 The Torah uttered by the lips, down in this physical world, is more valuable to the neshamah then all the love and awe it experienced while it was still in heaven.7

This is a testament to how precious and valuable even the smallest mitzvah we do is to our neshamahs, and by extension, to G‑d.

May we each get closer to G‑d through teshuvah, and may our precious mitzvahs finally tip the scales and usher in the redemption. May it happen soon.