Had Jacob the benefit of modern Israeli ingenuity when he left Canaan for Haran, he would have instantly turned on Waze, assuring him of both the most direct and timely way to reach his destination. However, we musn’t feel too bad for Jacob since his stopover at Bethel allowed him to experience perhaps the most meaningful dream in all the Biblical narrative. Though Jacob did not have global positioning Waze he had universal conditioning ways.
After his years with his father-in-law Laban, Jacob makes his way home. Laban is furious over how Jacob secured his wealth by engaging in suspicious animal husbandry and chases after him. It is then that Jacob asserts his innocence as well as his ethics. For the twenty years he tended Laban’s flocks Jacob never took any sheep for himself (Genesis 31:38f), bore the loss of any sheep that was eaten by predators, and remained alert day and night even to the point of exhaustion. In other words, his ways were the ways of honesty, generosity, and diligence.
These ways are just as important as the GPS Waze. At a June 7, 2018 conference at Bar Ilan University, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks addressed a gathering of 900 students and staff on the theme of the contemporary task of Judaism. There he contended that of all of Israel’s technological advances Waze is his personal favorite. Rabbi Sacks described it as the invention that has done more for shalom bayyit (domestic harmony) than any other device because it has eliminated family arguments in the car about directions. More seriously, Rabbi Sacks saw in Waze a metaphor for all of Judaism. He claimed that Judaism is “the world’s satellite navigation system.” He went on to explain that it is the Jewish people who offer the voice of hope for humanity, a way of navigating between extremes.
Added to his insight is that it is the Jewish people that stands for honorable and noble living, dedication to honesty and integrity, commitment to respecting the property of others, even when it comes with personal cost. Such is the lesson of Jacob and the ways he followed.