Torah: Va’Yetze

Torah: What is the origin and meaning of the word Jew? It comes from Judah, the largest tribe during the Second Temple. Our name conveys qualities of who we are as a people. Leah, Judah’s mother, felt neglected by her husband, who was also married to her younger, more beloved sister, Rachel. Leah’s named her first three sons to fill in a lack: Reuven, now he will “look” at me; Shimon, now he will “listen” to me; and Levi, now he will “accompany” me. With this her fourth son, she proclaims, ”This time let me praise (odeh) God” (Genesis 29:35). Judah’s name conveys gratitude and wonder. He is not an instrument, but valuable in his own right. As Jews we are challenged to cultivate gratitude and wonder in our own lives and to know that we are valued and valuable. King David and through him the Messiah, the prophets proclaim, is a descendant of Judah. The possibility of healing the world will emerge from gratitude and wonder and knowing our own power to effect positive change. That is what it means to be a Jew.