We follow the Book of Genesis and move on
from Abraham and Isaac, to Jacob.
The Torah presents Jacob’s history in four episodes:
1 The struggle of Jacob for his birthright against his twin brother Esau
2 The struggle of Jacob against his father-in-law, Laban, who cheated him by giving his the wrong bride against their contract
3 The struggle of Jacob against Laban as Jacob’s employer.
4 The struggle of Jacob against the people city of the city of Shechem, whose mayor’s son abducted and raped his daughter Dina
You can see that all those stories revolve around
Jacob’s seeking justice, civil justice,
within the family, against his employer
and for his right to live peacefully as a citizen in the city of Shechem
without his daughter being abducted and raped.
Unlike Abraham and Noah before him,
We don’t see him fighting for the Faith, against IDOLATRY,
but rather for his CIVIL RIGHTS and SOCIAL JUSTICE
And that is appropriate and goes along with the flow of
the Book of Genesis, who takes us from one Commandment of Noah to the next.
At first we learned about IDOLATRY and ADULTERY from
the story of CREATION presented in Genesis Chapter One and the Story of forming Adam and his wife the Garden of Eden.
Then we learned about BLOODSHED from the stories about Cain and Abel up to Noah and the Flood and the Rainbow Covenant
which entails the BLOODSHED Laws in details.
Noah received one more Commandment over Adam’s six,
Which enforces our heart against cruelty and BLOODHSED.
MEANING: NOAH’S NUMBER SEVEN CAME TO SUPPORT NUMBER THREE, THEFT.
Then the book takes us to the stories about Abraham and his struggle against THFET, especially against ORGENAIZED THEFT, like the new way to get rich and powerful by invading other nations, grabbing territories and manpower for slavery. In Abraham’s time Empires were establish against the ancient Noah’s covenants.
Abraham spent his life fighting against THEFT and for RIGHTOUS WONERSHIP. In his zeal he even introduced a new name for G-d, calling him “The Supreme EL Who OWNS The Heavens and the Earth.” He also called G-d “My OWNER, AaDoNai” who owns me. As a reward for his life long struggle, Abraham received from G-d a new Commandment, number Eight, one above Noah’s seven, namely the CIRCUMCISION, which is the emblem of our master in our flesh. Thus Abraham’s eighth, came to support Noah’s Fourth, THEFT.
Now very appropriately, Jacob is struggling for the next Commandment, JUSICE and CIVIL RIGHTS which is Noah’s number Five. Like Abraham and Noah before him, he is going to change to concept of JUSTICE and give G-d a new name, accompanied by a new Commandment, number Nine. Hence Jacob’s Ninth Commandment came to support Noah’s Fifth. In the process, the name of ISRAEL is born. You can’t understand what ISRAEL is all about without paying attention to Jacob and his struggle for CIVIL RIGHTS and JUSTICE.
Now, before we dive into Jacob’s stories let’s recall what Noah’s Commandment number Five – Civil Order and Justice – entails.
According to the RaMBaM (Maimonides) and the RaMBan (Nachmonides) the commandment obliges any human society to establish the following:
1 A righteous set of laws between Man and Man, or Man and his country (the laws are not necessarily the laws of the Torah)
2 Establish Courts of Justice in every city, district or state (the details are in debate)
3 Elect qualified and brave judges for the Courts, judges who seek the truth and can’t be bribed (as stated by Yithro, Moses’ father in law)
4 Establish ecourt’s marshals and police force who would enforce the verdict of the Courts
On a deeper level, Commandment number Five takes for granted the existence of several human rights.
It assumes that all Mankind are equal to the Law, since all people are made in G-d’s Form and Image. This is disregarding skin color or the shape of the eyes.
It also assumes that all people have the right to owns things they possess either by making them or by acquiring them in trade. They also have the right to bequeath them to their heirs.
Since the preferred mode of government is the “king who consults,”, namely a democratic government, the Torah takes for granted the right of every human to vote.
lle like the equality of all Man by the Law , based on the notion that all peoples are made by G-ds’ Image, as well as the right to own things officials and more.
Let’s recall that the Fifth Commandment of JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER was first given to Adam and his wife in the Garden of Eden.
When YHVH ELKM warned Adam about the Forbidden Fruit it says “and YHVH ELKM commanded Adam saying from all the trees of the Garden you shall eat but from the Tree of Kowledge Good and Evil you shall not eat,” the Rabbis noticed that the word “Commanded” here is superfluous, so they said “here G-d gave Adam the Six Commandments namely IDOLATERY, ADULTERY, BLOODSHED, THEFT and BLASPHAMY.”
Clearly, out of the Six, only the first two- IDOLATERY and ADULTERY- had any meaning in Eden and could be violated while living there. Indeed, Adam and his wife did violated the two – by eating the fruit and by the woman cohabiting with the Serpent – and consequently they lost Eden. Then, on Earth, all the Six became very relevant to their lives.
Nevertheless, since the Fifth Commandment Civil Order and Justice was given in Eden, which is the cradle of Mankind, there is no wonder that all Mankind possess an inherent sense of JUSTICE and fairness. We are all born equipped with a genuine sense of justice, which to the scholars it seems a natural morality code, yet it comes from Eden.
It comes out, therefore, that no human may claim that he or she was unaware of JUSTICE while committing a crime.
Let’s focus on the concept of justice in Eden.
When the Serpent said to the woman: Had ELKM really told you not to eat from the Tree? It is only because ELKM knows that the day you eat of it you would become like ELKM, knowing Good and Evil.”
The Serpent hint that eating the Forbidden Fruit, would render the humans to be like ELKM, , to create and judge. In fact, in the Torah’s eyes there is no higher achievement of Man than our ability to arrive at t truthful verdict.
Let’s recall also that ELKM’s ways of JUSTICE is to act “measure for measure” in precise way with no MERCY. During the Six Days of CREATION, when He ruled the world awesomely alone, He created and judged according to efficiency, executing His plan. Thus when the time to eliminate the Dinosaurs arrived, He acted ruthlessly in order to allow Man to appear on Earth.
So when the Serpent said “you shall be like ELKM,” it meant ‘if you eat the Fruit, you would become like ELKM, emulating Him, seeking the truth and acting harshly “measure for measure,” an eye for an eye.
The Serpent as a beast of the Filed, was unaware of the advent of the MERCIFUL ATTRIBUTE, YHVH, in the Heavenly Court. In its words to the woman, it mentions only ELKM, never YHVH.
So for the Serpent, and for people who emulate the Serpent on Earth, , the notion of JUSTICE entails only acting measure for measure, taking what you rightfully deserve, even by force, with no consideration to other moral arguments.
Yet the Serpent was wrong. It saw only half of the truth, half of the Heavenly Court. In truth,
eating from the Forbidden Tree rendered the humans not only the ability to emulate ELKM, as the Serpent asserted, but also the ability to comprehend MERCY and COMPASSION and apply it to the human court.
It says that after they ate from the Fruit, their eyes opened and they saw both ELKM and YHVH. They immediately became aware and ashamed of their nakedness, which is a typical characteristic of YHVH awareness.
So they made for themselves a cover from leaves, hiding their nakedness.
Henceforth, in Eden and later on Earth, every huma possesses a clear awareness of MERCY, COMPASSION and FORGIVNESS, that to the eyes of the experts seems a natural code of morality, a sense of consciousness, that somehow we got through the Evolution. In the Torah’s eyes, we got that precious sense immediately as we ate from the Fruit of Good and Evil back in Eden.
In ancient time, all civilizations followed the concept of JUSTICE as perceived by the Serpent, implementing it by the rule of “measure for measure,” imposing harsh retributions on whoever violated it.
The Emperor Gilgamesh and King Hammurabi in ancient Mesopothemia had a complex and convoluted code of JUSTICE between Man and Man, yet it was based on “Justitia distributive” meaning distinguishing different levels of justice according to social status. The King had all the rights. Undeneath him were the nobles with plenty of rights, then the lay people with some rights and slaves with no rights at all. The retributions were harsh and erciless.
Even for the Greeks, 1000 years after Moses, the law was sacred as harsh as it might be. Socrates insisted that he would be executed according to the law, even if it was clearly inhuman. So did Plato believed in the law that at reflects what is good for society. Aristoteles separated the “ideal”, pure JUSTICE that can’t be achieved, from the human laws in daily practice. The Romans recognized the existence of judiciary principles that reflect common sense above the regular laws and allowed, in rare occasions, to appeal to the court in the name of those vague, righteous principles. Thomas Aquines, added the concept of “Justitia Legalis,” the supreme status of the law, basically returning to Socrates and the Romans.
It was only in England, in the 17th century, that the law allowed to establish special “courts of righteousness” to which a person may appeal in the name of vague Consciousness of the Heart.” Yet these courts operated beyond and above the regular Courts of Laws. Those condition still prevail in one form or another in the USA today.
So this was the world into which Jacob was born, around 1800 B.C. Since the central government was weak and corrupt, people had no choice but to pursue JUSTICE on their own, in any way they could.
And since the prevailing belief was a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye, as written in Hammurabi code, they spared no measure to achieve their JUSTICE.
You see that in the first story of Jacob and Esau. They were born as none identical twins, each with opposing personality. Moreover, They came out as one piece, Jacob holding the heel of his brather (as if protesting.) Since Esau’s head came out first, he was proclaimed as the first born child, although Jacob too could have a legitimate claim for it. That meant that if Esau gives up his status, from some reason, Jacob could easily and legitimately enter the shows of the first born child.
Now the twins evolved into two different personalities. While Esau was a man of the field, intermingling with the general society and violating all the Seven Commandments of Noah, Jacob set in the Tents of Torah – possibly at Sham’s Academy- and studied. While their blind father, Isaac, loved Esau, their mother Rebecca could not be fooled. She loved and preferred Jacob over Esau.
And when Isaac prepared to give Esau the coveted Blessing of Abraham, Rebecca took the necessary steps to have Jacob receiving the blessing instead. She ordered Jacob to disguise himself as Esau and
Fool his father. She and Jacob
what they perceived as JUSTICE, yet that action cost Jacob dearly. He had to run away for his life to Rebecca’s brother, Laban.
The same story would repeat itself later as Jacob confronted Laban, as an employer, arguing that he was not fairly compensated for his work. He cheats Laban in return, measure for measure, and achieves his JUSTICE but with the dear cost of peace. He had to escape at night while Laban pursues him with wrath. And later on, when he faced the people of Shechem, his sons cheat the people, causing them to circumcise, only to weaken them and kill them all to set their sister Dinah free. They achieved their JUSTICE, yet they had to run away for their own lives.
All those stories showed Jacob that by seeking to implement JUSTICE with all cost, even by cheating back, the unavoidable result is never peace. Each side of the conflict would stick to its own claim and continue to challenge the other. Where there is JUSTICE, there IS NO PEACE.
Let’s focus now on a pivotal moment in Jacob’s life, on the Ladder Dream. He finds himself desolated, running away from Esau, poor and with no clear future. He is at the bottom of society. He feels first hand what it means to be poor and hungry. He remembers his grandfather Abraham who established ‘E-She-L” meaning places where Food, Drinking and Sleeping was provided free on crossroads in the name of YHVH, Who Owns Everything. How he wished now that such a place would be available for him! He takes some stones and falls asleep on them. The site is, of course, Mount Moriah.
And he dreams a weird dream, which is probably the most famous dream in history. In the dream, he sees a Ladder on which the Angels of ELKM ascend and descend. There are many interpretations for the dream, but we will use the one offered by the Book of Zohar. The Angels of ELKM, says the Zohar, present the Noahide Nations. The go up and down, pending on their spiritual level. Right now at his dream, ELKM’s Name is mentioned Five times, indicating that the Angles are stuck at level Five, which stands for Noah’s Law number Five – CIVIL ORDER and JUSTICE. Then, on top of the Ladder, Jacob sees YHVH standing above the top, over Commandment number Five.
And YHVH, in the dream, speaks to Jacob, promising to take care of him in his exile. Jacob wakes up totally overwhelmed, and he makes a vow that would become the prototype of all vowed after him. In the vow he says:
If ELKM would be with me and guard me wherever I go,
Give me bread to eat and a cloth to wear,
and bring me back with peace to my father’s house,
I pledge that
YHVH would be my ELKM
And the stone that I have erected here shall be a house for ELKM
And from whatever you give me I shall give a thigh to you.”
What does the pledge mean saying “YHVH shall be my ELKM?”
The Vilna Gaon says: “I shall make YHVH values a Law to me.”
It means: While Abraham established care for the needed as a voluntary deed, out of his love to the MERCIFUL YHVH,
Jacob was pledging to do the same as part of his Laws.
In our language- he would take moral principles of consciousness, that had been seen only vaguely above the ordinary set of laws, and convert these human principles ot the law of the Land, somenting that no other nation or civilization had dene before or after.
The Torah Law obliges you to leave a corner in the wheat field for the poor. If you don’t, you get lashes.
The Torah Law obliges you to give once every three years a whole tenth of your crop to the poor in your city. If you forget, you get lashes.
The Torah Law obliges you to return a coat taken as a collateral to the poor owner to cover himself at night, if that is needed. No such law exists in any culture.
The Torah Law obliges you to offer loans to the poor with easy payments, so that he or she would recover from his poverty and regain his self – esteem.
The Torah Law asks you not to cheat back but rather face your opponent directly and come to a compromise, even in the cost of loosing the absolute truthfulness of your claim.
In other words, Jacob was pledging to bring YHVH and Her Values into this world of commerce and struggle for life and livelihood. He pledged to convert what is usually seen as a goodness of the heart into a part of the Law, the Torah’s Law.
Having that on his mind, when he finally returns to the Land of his father, Canaan, he encounters the Angel of Esau. This time he does not cheat back nor does he try to circumvent his opponent, but rather stands up and wrestle it. At down, Jacob wins and the Angel changes his name to Israel, also means the One Who Sanctifies YHVH on Earth, by making YHVH values into ELKM’s Laws. On that well dwell next time in more details.