Jacob leaves home in flight from Esau who had sworn to kill him, only to find himself in a fraught relationship with Laban, his uncle, with whom he takes refuge, after a prophetic dream of angels on a ladder from the heavens to the ground. Jacob meets and falls in love with Laban’s younger daughter Rachel, and agrees to work for seven years to earn her hand in marriage.

The wedding eventually takes place, but Jacob awakes the next morning to discover that Laban has substituted his firstborn daughter, Leah, in place of Rachel. Jacob later marries Rachel as well, but he must work another seven years for this, and even after this time there remains tension between the sisters.

Leah, unloved, is blessed with children; Rachel, loved, is not. Interwoven with this is another tension between Jacob and Laban – about flocks, wages and ownership – which eventually leads Jacob to flee again, this time homeward. The parsha is framed by these two journeys.