When the vice is tightening around us, when the world is rejecting us, when problems are arising even within our communities (conflicts and injustices), we often tend to identify ourselves with Joseph. It is good to read that there was someone who had suffered similar harms, someone who was pushed into the pit by his own brothers as we are sometimes ourselves. Our identification with Joseph is, however, often illegitimate and dangerous. In last week’s parasha teaching, we were talking about Joseph as the prefiguration of Christ. In addition, among the prefigurations of Christ, Joseph was the purest and closest to the holiness of the Messiah. Joseph was one of the most devoid of human instincts. It is better to be very vigilant when we compare ourselves to such a character, because we can easily mislead ourselves. Joseph has no sin to his credit, at least according to the biblical account. From our side, we can rarely say so. The bad news brought to his father were also commanded by the Almighty and there is no question of fault or any abuse of power in his case. Only human “goodness” and humanism in itself are at the origin of the doubts and accusations against Joseph just as in many other cases of other characters in the Bible or the Jewish people itselvef throughout history. In a world so human and egocentric that the one we are living in now, it is the spirit that is ceaselessly seeking mitigating circumstances in order to legalize sin and trample on the Commandments of the Lord who is trying to make Joseph appear as a vulgar snitch perpetually committing the sin of the bad language (Lashon HaRa).
When we get into trouble, we usually identify ourselves with Joseph instantaneously as if to strengthen our supposed innocence. It is nevertheless most often to Jonas that we should compare ourselves. Because indeed, if we are in danger or insulted it is most often because of our insubordination to the Lord. When darkness surrounds us, always think whether it is really Joseph’s tank or rather simply the belly of the fish where Jonah found himself when fleeing his destiny. For in Jonah’s case, it was because of his disobedience that the sailors threw him overboard. It is good to clarify the situation otherwise we risk to be blocked in spirit without being able to advance, because we do not have the humility to see our faults in order to free ourselves by imploring the Grace of the Lord. We always would like to be compared to Joseph, because we feel his purity and aspire to it ourselves. We especially have trouble confessing our mistakes and it is easier to identify with the winners. But in most cases, we should be content with Jonah’s more modest title in order to move forward and look a little more like the coveted Joseph. Jonah had to suffer the consequences of his fault. He was truly a man of the Lord, a great prophet, one of the leading characters in the Bible, yet he also had some things to put in order in his relationship with the Lord.
All this naturally does not exclude us from being subjected to cowardly and unjust persecutions from time to time. Problems do not rise only when we are rebellious. We’ve been given the heavy promise of having to suffer persecution because of our faith in Christ. We are often falsely accused by our neighbor and we must suffer this in silence. We must also avoid falling into the other extreme and constantly judge ourselves, always trying to find something wrong with us, even what is not true, just to please the Lord and our own spirit of religiosity. It is wise to first prostrate before the Almighty thinking that we are like Jonah so that He occasionally reassures us that it is because of our purity and in His name that we are rejected by others. May He always be the only one to have the right to name the nature of the evil remaining in us.
Humility does not stop here by the way. Because we have our own Joseph. We can never know who they are and when and how we push them to the bottom of the pit. We often think to be Josephs although we are simply one of the brothers of the one we believe to be.
zeev shlomo 29/11/2013
Joseph the shepherd among shepherds
From the beginning of his story, we learn that Joseph was reporting bad news to his father about his brothers born to the maids of Leah and Rachel. This may not seem very positive at first sight and we might think that Joseph was a spoiled child who deliberately denounced his brothers in order to discredit them and to strengthen his own image in the eyes of his father. However, it was Jacob himself who sent his son to fulfill this mission and it was not a question of making false accusations, but of keeping a benevolent eye on the sons who, without a doubt, needed it. Jacob has made a lot of mistakes in the past, because he was a man, a young man full of vitality and hormones who often rejected the fulfillment of the divine will in his life. Nevertheless, we have come here to a period in Jacob’s life, where his own person begins to step backwards giving more and more the way to this Israel that the Lord has always wanted him to become. Now, we read about an older, a more experienced and a much wiser Jacob than he was before. We see a man who is getting aware of the nature of his calling and those of his sons, especially in the case of Joseph. In my opinion, Jacob did not err in preferring Joseph to his other children. He made no mistake by making him a beautiful robe and by sending him “spying” on his brothers. This preferential treatment was indeed in the will of the Lord. The election of Joseph among his brethren, like Jacob’s compared to Esau, was the Almighty’s will and absolutely not the result of human feeling. It was not Isaac and Rebeca who decided that Jacob would be the Lord’s favorite. In the case of Joseph, it is the same. Joseph is a separate figure among the 12 sons of Jacob, an envoy among the messengers having a pastoral call to fill among his brothers. Shepherds do also form a flock where the members are often scattering leaving the flocks assigned to them without supervision or protection.
This is how the Father sent his only Son to watch over his people, to bring him news of their behavior and ultimately to gather the spiritually bewildered flock. Yeshua HaMeshiah was also hated by most of his brothers for the same reasons as Joseph, because he had a deeper and more intimate relationship with the Father, a more beautiful garment, a more valuable calling.
Jacob did indeed act according to the will of the Lord by favoring his son Joseph and sending him to his brothers in a particular garment. This was done precisely in the interest of the ungrateful brothers, so that they do not disperse and they do not ruin the family’s heritage. This was the providence they refused by rejecting Joseph.
Joseph has two dreams, one of which goes so far as to anger his father. One shows sheaves and the other stars. The sheaves of his brothers bowed down before his, and the sun, the moon, and eleven stars did also bow down directly before Joseph. The fulfillment of these prophecies will occur very soon. In fact, the famine broke out fairly quickly and the eleven brothers were crawling at the feet of Joseph dressed as a prince of Egypt. The sheaves of the brothers did bow to Joseph’s. However, only the first dream is realized here. Jacob, is still not bowing down to his son and his mother Rachel even less since she died long before he dreamed anything. How is this second dream realized, when the sun and the moon, that is to say, his father and mother glorify their son? The fulfillment of this prophecy does not occur in the visible world. It is an event that takes place in spirit when the souls of Jacob, Rachel and the eleven brothers meet Yeshua and recognize him as the Messiah and Redeemer. Meanwhile, the eleven stars are not limited to Joseph’s eleven brothers, but they stand for the entire descendants, the famous 144,000 saved, the entire People of Israel who has the promise to recognize the true identity of their Messiah and who will bow down at the feet of Yeshua HaMashiach.
From the human point of view, it is indeed scandalous to hear a child say such things about his parents, especially in the historical and moral context of the Middle East at the time. Jacob is offended, but he keeps this story in his memory which means that deep inside he feels that what his child prodigy said should be true. It is at this stage of the story that we can understand the contradiction of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees when He claimed to be the son of David and his Lord at the same time (Mark 12: 35-36). The parallel is identical. Just as Joseph was the prefiguration of Christ, so his calling is so elevated that even his parents must bow before such a power. Although being physically the descendant of King David according to his family tree, Christ is similarly reigning over everyone and everything in spirit even over David himself.
Numbers of biblical characters are the prefigurers of Yeshua HaMashiach, like Moses. However, few show as much purity and innocence as Joseph. He was the one who best embodied the holiness of the most holy one. Joseph was one of the biblical characters in whom the human side was the most absent. No trace of insubordination or human error in his case. He prefigured that Jesus Christ of Nazareth who, like him, was rejected by his own brothers and sold not for 20, but for 30 pieces of silver by one of them. He is the Meshiah at the feet of which Jacob and Rachel are permanently prostrating in the spiritual world, in the Kingdom of Heavens.
From Jewish to Egyptian, from Egyptian to Jewish
Joseph was born, as we would say today, as a “Jew”, but more precisely, he was born as an Israelite. (The term Jew comes from the descendants of Judah and Benjamin expelled from Israel during the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and today forming what remains of the people of Israel). Because of the sin of his brothers, however, he was forced to endorse a different identity for a while. Joseph was a gift of the Lord to his family and brothers in particular so that through his visions, faithfulness and virtue he could watch over and serve them. On the other hand, they refused this providence. For this reason, the Almighty has entrusted his servant to a foreign power for a certain time. The Egyptians saw and accepted the supremacy of Joseph to such an extent that they practically raised him to the rank of pharaoh. Egypt wanted him and bought him for 20 shekels to use and exploit him for their own purposes. Although it was out of personal and community interest, the Egyptians loved and respected him. He was so much praised that the supreme pagan sovereign designated him as his right hand. Following Jesus Christ’s rejection, the same process began. Yeshua has been adopted by a spiritual empire where He received a privileged place alongside or rather a notch below the pharaoh. In this empire which is now more powerful than ever, his name is invoked with love and respect among many other alien deities. We know who these pharaohs are and what this empire is about. From the demon of the false virgin Mary through the horde of “saints” and other human institutions named churches, we finally lead up to the person of the pope and other “pastoral” authorities and churches who, invoking the name of Christ, arrogates the right to govern on billions of human beings. Like Joseph, another coat, another face and even another identity is given to him. Let us not be naive do not think that we are here simply talking about the Catholic Church, although this church is the leader in this process. We are here talking about a larger movement that goes beyond the borders of Rome and includes all spiritual currents even many ultra-reformed Christians. Icons, statues, and other often charismatic manifestations of the pale-faced bearded God are all falsifications of the true person of the Messiah. Ecumenism is the main obstacle in the recognition of the Messiah’s essence.
In short, we see in Joseph a Jew who became the supreme authority of Egypt. It was through Joseph that the people entered Egypt. It will be later by the person of Moses that it will come out of it. Joseph was born Israelite and became practically a pharaoh, Moses will begin his life as almost being a pharaoh himself to finally become an Israelite again. A similar story took place about 2000 years ago. When Yeshua was sold to the Egypt of the time, to Rome who used it largely for purposes that were alien to the will of the Eternal He incarnated. But the Almighty intervenes in everyone’s life and sends his Holy Spirit to open peoples eyes in order to distinguish the original from the fraud. It is in the will of the Lord that the worship of idols is transformed into true redemption and deliverance. That when those who unconsciously turn to the falsifications of our Savior, recognize who He really is. The Eternal wants everyone to move from the worship of the crucifix to the rule of Christ. On the other hand, the purple robe that he wore before his death was given to him by the Roman soldiers. His colorful garment is white as snow according to the prophecies.
Today’s Jews do know Jesus dressed in a Roman robe as the sovereign of a pagan empire. For them, He remains a stranger inspiring fear since it was mianly in His name that we have been persecuted for many centuries. However, the famine is more and more turning into their direction. The voice of Jacob, in other terms, the voice of our Father is already telling Jews that they must go to meet him if they don’t want to die of hunger. Thus let them go and see this Jewish brother who became an “Egyptian” ruler, because He is indeed the only one who is in possession of the grain of life. His word recorded in the New Testament foretells the fulfillment of all the prophecies and promises made in the Tanakh (Old Testament) that are awaited by the Chosen People for thousands of years. Jacob did not send his sons to Egypt to become Egyptians, but to keep them alive and to be able to come back and recover their place among their people in their identity. When they finally bowed down before Joseph in humility, he revealed his identity before his brothers. At that moment Joseph became an Israelite again, the Jopseph he has always been. He has fulfilled his call and has regained his identity. The people, nevertheless, had to stay in Egypt for a time so that the promise made to Abraham would come true.
zeev shlomo 23/11/13
Peace with the ennemy
Jacob leaves Laban’s land with his family and cattle and then sends messengers to his brother Esau to tell him he has a lot of wealth. The news comes back informing Jacob that his brother comes to him escorted by 400 soldiers armed to the teeth. They have not seen each other for 20 years. So many years have not been enough to appease Esau’s wrath. Jacob is naturally scared and divides his people into two groups in order to preserve one in case the other is besieged by Esau’s troops. He then turns to the LORD of Hosts in prayer. So we see a man in danger to whom comes a “good idea” to solve his problem then goes before the Lord begging for his help.
All the problems that I had to face up to now in my life, except from those given by the Lord as trials, came from this kind of inverted process. The majority of my troubles were the consequences of the fact that I always have a very good idea at first, which I put into practice on the spot before finally turning towards the one to whom I would have asked help from immediately. We often imagine ourselves to be good believers, pure and faithful enough to be able to judge at once and make instant decisions based on our supposed wisdom. This is when problems arise. Fortunately for us, problems do really come and quite loudly enough to open our eyes to our mistake and realize Who is the only solution to all our troubles.
After awakening the beast, Jacob elaborates another strategy. He wants to redeem himself literally with his brother. He tries to establish a long lasting peace by mutual agreement and win his sympathy for want of his love. He offers Esau a part of the wealth he has received from the Eternal as a sign of his submission to the authority of his brother.
As we can read, for some unknown reason, Esau burst into tears at the sight of his brother and his family. It would seem that the Almighty had accomplished in him what he had done in Laban in last week’s parashat when he ordered him not to harm Jacob, his servant.
The enemy, however, does not resign so easily. He first proposes to Jacob to ally himself with all that he possesses. Jacob refuses. Esau then tries to convince him to accept that some of his men escort Jacob and his household on their way. Jacob refuses in a subtle way too. Here we see how the enemy refuses to let you go and struggles in order to maintain some control or keep a certain view on the life of the one who is following the path of the Eternal.
Esau finally agreed to have received only the secondary blessing of his father. Seeing the situation of Jacob, the years of bondage with his father-in-law, Esau himself came to understand that he wants nothing to do with a blessing that results in a calvary such as his brother’s. Esau certainly did not work as hard as Jacob to acquire his fortune. We can imagine how a hunter like him could have got rich. Esau is a man of the world and as such, it is only in this world that he feels good. This world where you can hunt, plunder and have the right to enjoy your goods instantly. He does not understand and can not understand the content of Jacob’s blessing. It is not based on earthly pleasures and quick success. There is no guarantee that the blessing will be fulfilled during the life of who receives it. The true blessings of the Lord are long term and concern many people and generations. Jacob’s blessing is for all people and stands forever. The greatest blessing for a believer is to know that it is his children, his offspring that is going to enjoy the fruits of his devotion. By transmitting the spiritual heritage from generation to generation, the blessing continues to grow. The good blessing for a man of the world like Esau is the one that bears fruits immediately and that serve the well-being of the individual without really worrying about the future of his children. For many, children are important only as long as they help raise the image of the parents in the eyes of the world. Most of the time, the child counts as long as the parents can pride themeselves on his beauty, size, strength, intelligence or any other aptitude for certain things of the current life.
zeev shlomo 15/11/13
Jacob: his dream
Fleeing his brother’s anger, Jacob finds himself in the middle of the wilderness and falls asleep. He takes a stone that he puts under his head and sleeps. He makes a dream. He sees a ladder whose top reaches the sky and angels are moving up and down on it. Jacob was in trouble hiding and was undoubtedly afraid. His only comfort in this arid and cold desert was a stone that he used as a cushion, a symbol of the hardness of his trial. No tent, no warm duvet, no soft pillow, just a stone under the neck. In the original Hebrew text it is highlighted that the stone was one among the stones of the place. As we move on our path of discipleship, the problems and questions of our past and future should not matter. What is left behind and what will happen in the future are issues that are blocking out our present duty. During our ministries, the only question that matters is what are the current sins of the place we are and how to solve them. Our prayers going up to the Lord as messengers on a heavenly scale are the solution-holder at the same time since the angels move up, but come down the same way. The quintessence of prayer is described here. The origin of the evening prayer is precisely this communication between Jacob and the Lord. Jacob spoke to Elohim and Elohim answered him by sending back the messengers. So Jacob received answers to his questions, solutions to his problems, comfort in his sadness and healing to his pain. The Almighty makes the promise of granting him assistance and protection. Jacob builds an altar where he pours oil to seal his covenant with the Lord.
Jacob: his trial
Following his encounter with Elohim, Jacob still finds himself in slavery, under the yoke of a foreign authority. There, alien commandments are of force. In the world, there are two different types of laws. First, the ones that does not necessarily contradict the Eternal’s Commandments and that are based on logic and rationalism being quite legitimate even from the divine point of view. Laban declares, that it is not customary to marry the youngest before the eldest. Such tradition is indeed an assurance to protect young women from being neglected and remaining lonely. We could say that this is a wise behaviour in order to protect the children. The other type of law, on the other hand, is based on selfishness and contempt for one’s neighbor. When Laban is consciously hiding this little detail, knowing that Jacob will be motivated to work hard for him to get the woman of his dreams, he does nothing but deceive his nephew in order to get the most of him like a vulgar crook. Jacob served for two times seven years a man who was a relative, the brother of his mother Rebecca. Laban is a character just as exceptional as Rebecca’s. Except that unlike his sister, Laban is distinguished by his mediocrity and hypocrisy. The opposite poles are meeting as well as in many other stories in the Bible. (Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, Saul and Jonatan, …)
We can not know the reason why HaShem lets Jacob live such a trial. Why does he have to work so hard for 14 years then for 6 more years to get his flocks? Why does he also have to “deceive” Laban in order to obtain what was due to him when he was handling the birth of the speckled and spotted goats and lambs of his master? I don’t want to guess, yet Jacob’s stay in that place was obviously a trial, a preparation, and a stove that helped cleanse the soul of Jacob who, like most of us, had a strength of character that does not harmonize well with the Supreme Will.
I often find myself in difficult situations by the will of Elohim. There, I have to work hard while constantly undergoing blatant injustices. Laban is always there, present all around us and just waiting to put the leash arround your neck. Many commit great injustices and / or leave the way open to such sins. I often ask myself the question to the Eternal: “Is it not by your will that I am where I am? Did not you want me to work here? Why do I still have to go through such situations? It is in these moments that the answer arrives. It is better to stay in silence and not struggle in vain. By wishing to defend ourselves, we run up against the powers that are ruling this world and they are much more powerful than us. We must not only suffer the humiliation caused by the evil surrounding us, but all the curses coming from it also reaches us. We go out of the divine protection and we venture on the alien battlefield where the enemy has the rights and the weapons to defend itself. Indeed, the sinful man does not tolerate that the newcomer lectures him and tells him how things should work in his little world. It is better to suffer in silence for a while and turn directly to the Almighty in prayer. It is better to send our messengers to the Lord so that the answers come. Only the Lord of Hosts is empowered to put order in our lives and around us. He will send his army when he sees fit, just as Jacob did when he left Laban’s house. The Lord alone has the right to settle our accounts and restore the things and situations that surround us according to His will and not to ours. It is then that we can often realize that if we have to suffer troubles, that comes from the fact that certain things have to be cleaned away from us. Our christian pride often thinks to know everything better than those poor unbelievers. That is very often not really the case. Our own sins are often leading us to be purged from time to time and this implies to have pain.
Jacob: his fortune
It is once again in dream that the Almighty counsel Jacob to obtain his cattle by cleverly managing births within Laban’s herds. This is the history of speckled and striped goats. Here again it is not a question of imposture, because it is the Almighty Himself who intervenes in the injustice undergone by Jacob for all these years. Laban explodes with anger at the sight of Jacob’s success with his cattle. The Lord intervenes again and orders Laban to do no good or bad to Jacob. The Lord is speaking to a man who does not belong to him, who is under the yoke of a foreign spiritual power and with whom he has hardly any covenant. It is surprising to read that Laban can not only do no harm to Jacob, but that no good deed is allowed to him either. What would be wrong with doing good? Indeed, the “good” of the world is sometimes much worse than the evil itself. The biggest thorn in Jacob’s foot would have been to be indebted to Laban, to have to be grateful to a scoundrel like his father-in-law. One of the greatest clemency of the Eternal is precisely to free us from all debt to the enemy and man in general. It was similarly that his grandfather Abraham separated from the king of Sodom after helping him in his fight against enemy kings. He wanted to honor Abraham’s support, but he categorically refused that any human could say that Abraham owed his fortune to a man and not the Lord. (here Abraham was not told to do so, it came from his inner wisdom).
It is also sometimes very tempting to accept damages after a long period of servitude. We often feel that we deserve it because we have suffered unfairly for years. It is good to know in these cases that true restitution can only come from the Lord. It may be that this compensation comes from men to a certain extent as in the case of Jacob’s cattle, but the Almighty makes sure that this good does not come directly from the concrete fortune of man. The good is always purified of all expectation and influence of man. The sheep and the goats obtained by Jacob did not affect Laban’s capital at all, since he would not have invested his property as Jacob did. Jacob simply raised a capital for his sake that was not damaged the original capital of Laban which was returned in full to his owner as agreed. Laban was thus not harmed by Jacob and the animals were kept as agreed.
I find it amazing that Jacob’s memory needs to be rehabilitated in the eyes of practically everyone. The story is so clear that I find it difficult to believe that millions of Christians and Jews blindly adopted the thought and rhetoric of Esau saying that all the miseries of Jacob are only the consequence of his sins. As we read the story, we can witness how gossip is born and spread in order to sully the image of an innocent person. Jacob has always been a person of honesty and good will. However, he had a very serious fault, and more than anyone else in the Bible he was in a hurry to solve his problems autonomously, according to his own thaughts. It was this stubbornness that led him into many troubles.
Jacob, his false covenant
Jacob makes the same mistake as his father and grandfather. When everything is finished, when they are on the verge of deliverance, the enemy attempts a final assault. Knowing that he can not hold us back under his power, the enemy is always launching a last offensive in order to cause the maximum harm before resigning. It attacks the human side of the person and it is acting on the people’s fears. He proposes to sign a treaty of non-aggression of the territory where he is, assuring the conqueror that he will not attempt any offensive against him. He lets you go, but he makes you accept him as being your ally. This is what happened between Abraham and Abimelech, between Isaac and Abimelech, and this time between Jacob and Laban. But if we consider the enemy as our ally, do we not make ourselves our own enemy? I de tolerate and legitimize the sin that I may have to fight one day by the will of the Lord, because it is my calling? If I promise him not to take his territory, what will happen if he takes possession in the meantime of the territory that the Almighty would have given to me? Once again a false alliance obstructing the real Covenant was passed between a patriarch and the enemy. After twenty years of hard work spent in the service of his uncle and father-in-law, who did not simply exploit his nephew, but also thinks that everything that belongs to Jacob, his wives and children, we can understand Jacob’s tiredness in front of such an arrogance. In addition, the memory of his brother Esau, tracking him down for revenge should have also haunted Jacob’s thoughts especially since he knew that the meeting was near. He was tired of fighting and resigned himself to signing a pact that he should not have signed. He did not have the strength to say no, as we frequently do. We are often ashamed to assert our rights and we have compassion for our opponents. This time too, Elohim is indulgent and sends his soldiers behind Jacob to cancel this unlawful contract and leave the way free in Spirit to Jacob so that he can fulfill his call without having his hands tied to anyone from his past. During the period between our conversion and our birth again, we also frequently make this type of mistake. False covenants would prevent us from pursuing our journey if the Lord did not give us the grace to break these ties that are binding us to our past. However, the Eternal does not take into account the time of ignorance and we have the opportunity to implore his clemency for our missteps and our bad decisions so that everything is canceled, annihilated, and no longer effective. Thus we can move towards our destiny in complete freedom. Here Jacob had not yet become Israel.
Rachel’s two faces
Rachel was beautiful in size and figure. At the first appearance of Rebecca, the notion of beauty seems to me completely different than in the case of Rachel. Rebecca was discovered by an old servant of Abraham. A wise man of an advanced age who indeed no longer really had any interest in women’s beauty. He did not look at the opposite sex like most men usually do, but with much more sober and wise eyes. Jacob was a young man on the top of his virility at the time he met Rachel and so had other priorities. The servant of Abraham still spoke about beauty in the case of Rebecca. Of course, disinterest and old age do not exclude the sense of beauty and refinement on the contrary. However, the beauty described by Eliezer was of a different kind. As I grow older myself, I realize how much my tastes are changing and becoming more refined over the years as I get sanctified even more. Beauty is moving from the surface to deeper layers of the human being. Rebecca was undoubtedly a very pretty girl in the physical sense as well, but her real beauty came especially from beyond her body. With Rachel, we find no trace of such type of beauty. We read that she had a beautiful face and a beautiful body. In the original Hebrew text, the word beautiful used for both women are different. Rebecca is defined by the term טובה – tova (good, kind) and Rachel is described as being יפה – yafa (beautiful in the physical sense). Rebecca took care of watering not only the men but also their animals, while Rachel was hiding her father’s idols under her dress even after she married Jacob. For this reason Jacob curses the person who committed such a crime without knowing that it was his beloved. The curse will soon reach Rachel when Benjamin is born. She will die on their way and be buried alone on the road while they were only a few hours away from the cave of Makpela where all patriarchs and matriarchs are buried except her. Even Leah will be buried there later. Although she was his favorite wife, Jacob decided not to bury Rachel in the family vault. She made a mistake. She did not look forward, but back in the manner of Lot’s wife. Rachel did not cleanse herself of her pagan past and it cost her the physical life. She should have been exclusively faithful to the Lord of her husband, but that was not the case. She still has fulfilled her calling since she gave birth to Benjamin and Joseph, but she had not been allowed to see her sons fill theirs.
zeev shlomo 8/11/2013
Rivka the blessed presence
Without Rebecca the inheritance of Abraham would never have reached Jacob and thus the 12 patriarchs. Isaac has put himself in a sort of quarantine for a while so his wife had to take over the family business. She did not act as a jezebel because she did not do it of her will, but because she was forced to do it. The man on the side of which she was living and whom she had to support in his moments of weakness, lost his sight and was momentarily suspended from the function he had received from the Almighty. Isaac became almost blind. It is very rare that such a thing happens to a righteous man. The loss of sight is in most cases the consequence of sin, usually idolatry. Indeed, Isaac did not love the same son that the Lord did. He admired Esau for his “virility”. Esau, on the other hand, was hated by the Eternal as we read in the haftara of the week (Malachi 1: 2). He looked at his biggest son with the eye of the world and that is what caused his blindness. Here is the point where we can the best see what the blessing of Rebecca really represents. She goes so far as to commit a sin considered very serious at the time. She betrayed her husband. This husband who for a time, was not in the place that has been assigned to him. However, she did not quite betray her husband, she rather deceived this thing inside of Isaac, that caused his blindness. In fact, it was precisely by committing this “offense” that she showed the greatest loyalty to her husband. Rebecca did not lose her sight. In spirit, she was quite lucid and by the grace of the Lord, she was granted to carry out the project of the Almighty that had been momentarily rejected by Isaac. She acted in all good faith and legitimacy. It was Rebecca and Jacob who had been deceived by the foreign spirit that provoked Isaac’s deviance.
Jacob the cheater
As in the case of Rebecca, Jacob has never been a crook. His name, unlike all misconceptions and other bad translations, does not mean cheater, usurper or crook, but “heel grabber” (some sources tell us that it means “the Lord favors”, or cunning). The following statement: “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob ? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me” was made by the same usurper spirit inhabiting Esau as the one who once pushed Eve into sin. It is not because something is written in the Bible that it is right and holy. Let us not forget that the words of the enemy are quoted the same way as the Word of the Most High.
Jacob was born grasping his brother’s heel. By this act, he certainly wanted to point something out. They will have to talk about certain things later.
The two children collided in thier mother’s womb. Why could they be bickering about at such an early age? Who was fighting the other and why?
The Lord defined a well-established order, an order from which He may deviate in some cases and according to His Will. The birthright is one of the pillars of the Jewish spirit. In some cases, however, it happens that the Eternal wants to show his power by bequeathing the right of the first born to a younger member of the family, to the weak ones, to those who are not even taken into account by their parents. Such was the case of King David and many others. We can not know if this was the case here. However, it is very likely that it was against this original law of birthright that Esau rebelled already in the womb of his mother. He seems to have taken advantage of his strenght to overtake the exit of his brother. It was at this point that Jacob made it clear to the outside world that a treachery has occured against him: “we’ll talk about it later!” It is this discussion which has fulfilled when Esau sold back his birthright for a dish of lentils. Esau tried to steal this right by using physical force when they were babies, now it is by taking advantage of this same carnal instinct governing his brother that Jacob is taking back what was his right originally. However, this is not that simple. How could one believe the word of a man like Esau. He naturally had no intention of keeping his promise, as we will see later. For this reason, Rebecca had to come in reinforcement. Esau may plot as he wish, only their father is allowed to pass on the birthright and the blessing that goes with it.
The Almighty allowed Esau to be the first to be born. Indeed, He warns Rebekah when she was sadden by the behavior of her unborn sons: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger. “(Gen 25:23). Perhaps Isaac’s inclination to the flesh was already present in him and that was the reason why the Lord allowed the other son to be born first in order to put the family to the test. A similar situation had already occurred in the case of Isaac precisely, when consequence of the “good ideas” and the lack of faith and patience of his parents, an older brother was born to him who is still the source of huge troubles untill this day. Ishmael was for Isaac what Esau is now for Jacob.
The character of Jacob is nevertheless not as pure and perfect as I describe it above. Indeed, he too has shown many times the same human weaknesses that have manifested in his father’s and grandfather’s life. His tendency for Truth makes him a fighter like many of his ancestors. The young Jacob often looks more like an avenger than someone in perfect submission to the Almighty. He will go so far as to serve a man for 14 years in order to get a woman like a true medieval knight. He is often acting on a whim, knowing that the Lord of Hosts is with him and that nothing can happen to him. We read in Hosea, “The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah; he will punish Jacob according to his ways and repay him according to his deeds. In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel; as a man he struggled with Elohim.” (Hosea 12: 2-3). It seems that Jacob did not have to report anything when he was born. The Lord would certainly have asserted His Will in due time, it would not have been necessary for him to intervene as a human. He should have let things go their way so that the situation would have been restored according to the original will of the Lord. In this act, we can see the same basic mistake many biblical characters are falling into. Knowing the will of the Lord concerning their own lives they just think to have the right to intervene and accelerate the fulfillment of their promises.
Even Jewish teachings often describe Jacob as a cheater. The spirit of history’s first antisemite, Esau, has even been deceiving and contaminating Jacob’s descendants themselves. It’s a huge mistake. We can describe Jacob as stubborn or reckless, but the saying that he was a liar of a swingler is pure distortion of reality and a false accusation. It is therefore time to rehabilitate not only the person of Rebecca, but especially Jacob himself. So many would perhaps realize what Jews really are. The Jewish people is not a tribe of parasites cunning like foxes in order to exploit the peoples, but a nation that have received a Legacy from the Lord that many other nations would like to steal from them. And as if that was not enough, they are accused of committing the crime of which they are the victims. I do not wish to open a separate chapter in order to demonstrate how this unhealthy process is acting today when, for example, the most humanist army that has ever existed is falsely accused of committing serious crimes against human rights and “innocent victims”. This revolting lie re-emerges periodically through history in different forms according to actual mood.
The most beautiful proof of the Lord’s will to transmit the birthright to Jacob is in the text of the blessing that he is given through his father Isaac: “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed. May Elohim give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness— an abundance of grain and new wine.” (Genesis 27: 27-28). When Isaac’s mouth opens to speak these words, he is not conscious about what he is saying. He serves only as an intermediary, as a spokesperson. It is indeed the Spirit of the Eternal that expresses itself. How could Isaac have said these words to a son who has never had anything to do with agriculture, fields, harvest or flocks. Esau was a hunter and if Isaac had blessed him according to his human vision, he would rather have spoken of hunting, game and precision in archery. Esau had nothing to do with the morning dew, the fat of the earth, the wheat of the harvest, and wine!
zeev shlomo 27.10.2013
We often hear about the concept of the perfect woman. For my part, I could summarize this in one word, or rather in one name: Rivka (Rebecca). She is without a doubt one of the most noble and memorable personalities in the Scriptures. She is the one who embodies all the merits, qualities and virtues written Proverbs 31: 10-31 the ode to a virtuous woman.
Abraham’s envoy was also perfectly aware of what the ideal woman is. When he goes out looking for a wife for Isaac, he is not just asking for the girl to be hospitable, someone who takes care of the visitors (this kind of hospitality was common and quite usual in those times, mostly the mere expression of personal interests), but he asks for someone who also takes care of the camels, that is to say the goods, the material, the utensils of his/her neighbor. This detail may seem trivial, but it shows a particular devotion and disinterest. By watering the animals Rebecca shows a kindness that expects nothing in return, since the camels are unable to honor her services. In a society of shepherds, this is an inestimable virtue since a good housekeeper plays a vital role in the calling and sustenance of her husband and thus of her family. Rebecca’s exceptional merit is even more evident when she makes the difficult decision of misleading her husband in next week’s sidra parashat. (Toledot)
The meeting with Rebecca is a fabulous story which I expect myself to happen in our family life as a father. I deeply wish to live a similar story when the day comes that my children will be old enough to marry. May the Eternal bless us with such a messenger who will go and get a woman like Rebecca for my sons and who will come and take my daughter to guide her to her future husband, in whom the Holy Spirit reigns. This Envoy already exists. It is up to us to know how to ask for his coming so that he can carry out this mission. One of the greatest joys for a believer is to see his children unite with those whose lives are also under the reign of the King Messiah, when marriages are sealed in Christ and according to His will. The greatest gift is to see our children find their spouses with whom they will complement, support and reinforce each other even if one or the other loses balance as in the next portion of Isaac and Rebecca’s story.
This week’s parashat is about Rebecca, it is although named after Sarah. Sarah lived 100 years and 20 years and 8 years. In the English translation, it is quoted that she was 128 years old. However, in the Hebrew text this period is subdivided into three as mentioned previously. According to Jewish tradition, this subdivision points out that Sarah was as beautiful at the age of 100 as she was at the age of 20 and was as pure when she was 20 as when she was 8. Whatever the significance, this week’s parashat describes a continuity. Sarah is leaving us and Rebecca joins us to replace her. The death of one leaves an empty place that will be filled by the arrival of the other. Her role is essential in Isaac’s life but so is it for the entire community. As in many cases described in the Bible, when someone dies, a successor is appointed. (Joshua came after Moses, Samuel after Eliyahu, Salomon after David, Yeshua after John) Rebecca is like Sarah’s worthy heir. We read that Isaac is comforted after the death of his mother by the arival of his wife. Indeed, the female presence was missing. A house (a tent in their case) is empty and cold without the presence of the woman who fills the place. The Lord does not just enssure the descent of the patriarchs, kings and prophets, but that of the women as well. The succession of women is also vital. The girl must also learn a lot and the mother has a lot to pass on. The transmission of this feminine knowledge is just as indispensable as the knowledge transmitted from father to son. Indeed, without women and without all that they can give us, men would be helpless. It is very important to pray for the restoration of women, because their strenghtening largely ensures ours. May the Lord make present women like Sarah and Rivka.
zeev shlomo 25.10.2013