Laban’s Gasconade

Jan 5th, 2012 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
“Presumption is our natural and original malady. The most vulnerable and frail of all creatures is man, and at the same time the most arrogant (Michel de Montaigne).”

We have been tracing Jacobs steps as he sets out with his “Two Way Vision,” to reverse the steps taken by all since Adam was expelled from the Garden, creating increasing distance from what could have been humanity’s natural state. (“A Different Sort of Fear of Life”) Jacob is the “Eternal Man,” and refusing to, “Wait for his Monument,” lived every moment of his life, even in death and after! Jacob understands that to seek tranquility is to forfeit, “The Fragrance of Permanence.” He contained all the energy showered on him by God, and, “Stopped the Leaks,” that occur when we, “Break Our Link to the Eternal.”

In this, the final portion in the Book of Genesis, Jacob begins by teaching Joseph the importance of, “Balance,” as Joseph had begun to master in resisting his Temptations, “Directing the Conversation,” and the additional lesson of, “The Power of Softness.”

Jacob, the Master Teacher, allows Rachel and Leah to independently form their, “The Character in the Storm,” and building a family that will learn how to combine their strengths, as we saw in Part “Two.”

It takes the man who can allow the people around him to master their own growth with minimal guidance to understand the importance of “The Power of Softness.” This is why after Rachel and Leah have mastered combining their strengths, and healed their relationship (An Eloquent Silence Part Three) that Leah gives birth to Dinah and Rachel gives birth to Joseph, the brother and sister who are understood to share the same soul strength. The two sisters, with their newly combined attributes, are able to give birth to the male and female side of a single soul.

Jacob further developed his sense of balance through his dealings with Laban and his bravado: “Laban said to him, ‘I have learned by divination that God has blessed me on account of you’ (30:27).” Laban didn’t need divination to figure out that his wealth had exponentially increased since Jacob began working for him. His divination claim is pure bluster.

“It is in my power to do you all harm; but the Lord of your father addressed me last night, saying, ‘Beware of speaking with Jacob either good or bad’ (31:29).” Sounds like a mixed message to me! If it was truly in his power to harm everyone, why is he obeying the Lord of their father? If he has to obey God’s message, which included a warning to beware even of speaking with Jacob about good, why is he insinuating a threat in his words? Laban is torn between his desire to smash Jacob and his fear of Jacob and his God. (Learning How to Stand Up to a Bully)

“The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children and the flock is my flock, and all that you see is mine (31:43).” This is Laban as the famous, “Aramaean [who] attempted to destroy my forefather (Deuteronomy 26:5),” who we include in the Haggadah. Laban wanted to lay claim to the entire family (An Eloquent Silence Part Two). After all, he and his father had contributed more to Jacobs family than had Abraham and Isaac: Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, the maidservants, and all of Jacob’s wealth; Jacob had arrived in Laban’s home as a penniless vagabond.

Laban successfully distracted Jacob from his connection to the eternal and had him touch death: “With whomever you find your gods, he shall not live (31:31).” Jacob had just unknowingly cursed Rachel who had stolen Laban’s gods. He carries this taste of death for the rest of his life, as he says, in this week’s portion, to Joseph, “but as for me; when I came from Paddan, Rachel died on me in the land of Canaan on the road (48:7).” Here is Jacob speaking to Joseph about the importance of maintaining an unbroken link to the eternal and yet he is still carrying this “taste of death!”

Joseph is not resentful of Jacob for burying Rachel in a faraway place. Joseph is not resentful of the fact that Jacob inadvertently caused Rachel’s early death. Joseph is resentful of Jacob carrying this sense of “on me,” ever since Rachels death. Jacob was not only carrying the guilt; he was keeping alive the wound of death that Laban had inflicted on him!

Joseph suspected that Laban was successful in wounding Jacob because there was a part of Jacob that believe Laban’s gasconade.

Jacob explains to Joseph that the issue was not that he was intimidated by Laban; but because Rachel died, “while there was still a stretch of land to go,” Jacob was weak because he felt he still had “far to go.”

At this moment, as Jacob is approaching death and his family will soon face slavery in Egypt with all its depressing suffering, he must send a message to the family that when we perceive ourselves as weak, we make ourselves vulnerable to the false claims of power and influence of liars such as Laban and Pharaoh.

In this, we see a powerful parallel to David’s reflections on his life as he speaks to Solomon in “Haftarah-Vayechi-Abner IV.”

Author Info:
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