Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sad Wings Of Destiny (Israel Syndrome Pt. I)

Who could possibly fathom the anguish, hurt and agony of Yaakov Ovinu, whose entire relationship with his father is summed up by the posuk (25,28) " ויאהב יצחק את עשו כי ציד בפיו ורבקה אהבת את יעקב - Yitzchok loved Eisov for the game in his mouth and Rivka loved Yaakov*"? Leah, probably. Living her whole life in fear of becoming Eisov's lot, when Yaakov finally arrives, she is ignored and rejected. Seven years went fast for Yaakov and Rochel - but extremely slowly for Leah. When Yaakov is tricked in a way reminiscent of Yitzchok’s duping, Leah still has to live in Rochel’s shadow. During these seven years, did Yaakov exhaust all possibilities for Leah to find an honorable match, thus avoid Eisov and the pain and humiliation of being turned down, while her sister is blissfully engaged? In the absence of explicit scripture, we can only surmise that Yaakov’s acceptance of Leah as wife instead of rejecting the marriage as “mekach to’us” or otherwise, indicates that he may not be totally independent from causing his deception. At any rate, it seems that both Yaakov and Rochel accept that Leah has at least a certain degree of legitimacy to her claim of being Yaakov’s rightful spouse (30,15: “… isn’t it enough that you took my man…”, probably based on Yaakov being the rightful bechor, she therefore being his rightful wife).
Perhaps Yaakov displays a tacit admission that he may not have dealt properly with his father, yet Leah’s conduct (e.g. naming her children) indicates that he repeats a favoritism similar to that of Yitzchok, which had caused him so much suffering.

At this point Yaakov Ovinu seems to succumb to some kind of determinism, an unconditional acceptance of his fate and refusal to try to affect his destiny – this being exemplified by his scolding of Rochel and refusal to act on her behalf, as well as not intervening in the rivalry between his wives. The animosity appears to culminate with Leah, who already has four children, allowing her maidservant to bear two of Yaakov’s offspring – seemingly a rather cruel act. Not until the birth of Yossef does the narrative shift away from the two sisters’ twisted relationship – which looks to pass over as inheritance to their progeny, and set the stage for the ensuing tragic saga.

* I gave this murky translation in order for the verse to best reflect its original versatility as well as better lending itself to the various interpretations.


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