Parashat VaYetze overflows with amazing images and possibilities for the Shabbat table. For Friday night, we will focus on the first episode in the parashah: Yaakov’s amazing dream of a ladder filled with ascending and descending angels. For no good reason, other than to make the ladders, we are having an Asian meal this evening. Let me explain: I’ve taken chopsticks and tied ribbon rings/rungs around them to create a ladder and then I slipped a cut-out of an angel (although probably not an image of “our” angels—an excellent point of discussion, by the way: How do we understand and envision the angels in Yaakov’s dream, the angels who escort us home on Friday nights from shul, and any other instance of angels from Jewish tradition?) as the place card. These ladder place-settings will appear at every seat. For dinner, I have steamed asparagus and carrot sticks that I will form into a ladder on a tray. As another reference to the story, we will eat steamed dumplings, which could certainly remind us of the stones that Yaakov put under his head. For dessert, the kids can make their own ladders out of licorice and pretzel rods. During the course of the meal, we plan to talk about angels (as mentioned above), tefillah (because this is when Yaakov davened tefillat aravit and instituted the evening prayer service), and images of ladders (why did Yaakov dream of a ladder reaching to the heavens? What does the ladder symbolize, etc.?).
Shabbat lunch will be a celebration of the 12 children born to Yaakov this parashah. The table will be set with baby bottles, 11 “it’s a boy” and 1 “it’s a girl” signs, pretend pacifiers, and the like. The meal itself won’t really reflect the parashah. Rather the décor and activities/discussions will. I’ve created a simple matching game in which players turn cards over to match the right child with the correct mother.
As a second topic of discussion, I think it would be meaningful for our kids to learn about how the shevatim were named and how we follow the example set forth by Leah and Rachel in giving our children names with powerful meanings. We would like to explain to our children the meanings of their names (in addition to telling them about the people for whom they are named), so they can understand the significance that their names carry on a literal, literary, and symbolic level.
Dessert for lunch will guide us in one other parashah direction. I've unearthed an old lamb-shaped cake pan that had belonged to my Savta (zichronah livrachah). I am baking a chocolate chip cake in it to represent the speckled and spotted sheep that Yaakov miraculously amassed as compensation for his work for Lavan. I love this part of the parashah because it allows us to see how Hashem rewarded Yaakov Avinu for his toils, how Yaakov uses cleverness to collect his due, and because there is an awesome allusion to it in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice when Antonio tries to describe the interest that Shylock exacts from his debtors.
One aside: Musician Yoshie Fruchter on his CD Beyond the Book explores the emotional state of Biblical personalities through musical soliloquies. His song about Leah is haunting and sad, and lends a fascinating insight into her mindset. It is well worth a listen!
Have a Shabbat shalom!
Tammie Zaks Rapps creates menu plans that reflect each week's Torah reading. Tammie feels that "Themed Shabbat meals allow us to focus on the Parashat HaShavua in an engagingand dynamic way." Check out Tammie's blog a parashahmom.blogspot.com and follow her here on ChallahCrumbs!