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