Rabbi Dr. Zvi Aviner, 2022
Copy Right 2022
Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner
JUSTICE-1/Jacob’s Contribution to JUSTICE
From Abraham to Jacob
We follow the Book of Genesis and move on
from Abraham and Isaac, to Jacob.
The Torah presents Jacob’s history by four selected episodes:
- Jacob’ struggle against Esau for his birthrights
- Jacob’s struggle against his father-in-law, Laban, who cheated him by giving him his wrong daughter as a bride
3) Jacob’s struggle of against Laban as Jacob’s employer. Jacob argued that he had work for him for years without being fairly compensated.
4) Jacob’s struggle against the people of the city of Shechem, whose mayor’s son abducted and raped his daughter Dina.
The common denominator of all the episodes is that they revolve around Jacob’s pursuing justice.
First within his family, against his brother and his father in law,
then against his employer,
then as a peaceful citizen against the mayor of the city.
Unlike Abraham and Noah before him,
we don’t see Jacob fighting for his faith, or against IDOLATRY,
but rather for his CIVIL RIGHTS and SOCIAL JUSTICE,
which is Noahide Commandment number Five.
The Flow of Stories in Genesis
This fits well the general flow of stories in the Book of Genesis
that takes the reader from one Commandment of Noah to the next,
In specific order:
First to IDOLATRY through the story of CREATION in Chapter One,
Next to ADULTERY through the Garden of Eden,
Next to BLOODHSED and its laws through Cain and Abel up to the Flood and the Rainbow Covenant,
Next to THEFT through the stories of Abraham,
And now to JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER through the stories about Jacob.
JUSTICE as a religious issue
Let’s note that by teaching us about JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER
The Torah makes an enormous innovation in religion,
unseen in any other ancient or modern religion on Earth.
Because apart from Judaism, no other religion has seen
social JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER as an integral part of faith.
The ancient gods were interested in power and their worshipping,
never in civil issues like a dispute between Man and Man.
Even today’s major religions focus on faith and some moral issues
like abortion, Satan or on the End of Time Judgment,
rather than on Civil Order and trade or government.
In contrast, nothing enraged the prophet of Israel
more than INJUSTICE.
In fact, most of the Talmud is dedicated to JUSTICE in the daily life, whether it is in the markets, the courthouse, he government halls
or the private home.
Noahides, who follow Judaism, should adapt that attitude
and see the public arena as a place where Noahide Commandment number Five
of JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER does play out.
A Paradox: Justice and Truth by Cheating?0
Another common denominator of all the stories about Jacob
is that they all revolve around lying, cheating and distorting the truth.
Jacob cheats his father to get his blessing, then Laban cheats Jacob
by giving him the wrong daughter, and by denying Jacob’s compensation. Jacob then cheats back to get JUSTICE.
Then in the city of Shechem, Jacob’s sons cheat the citizen in order to redeem their sister and get JUSTICE.
Now, if JUSTICE means aspiring to get the truth out and restore damages,
how could Jacob use cheating to get his truth out? Isn’t it a paradox? 0
We’ll have to address this issue.
Is Jacob’s Struggle
Relevant to our Time? 0
Another question is: Does Jacob’s struggle have any implication to our times?
The answer is that certainly his struggle for JUSTICE is very relevant to JUSTICE in our times.
We have all seen the destructive impact of false news on our society.
It can even affect a presidential election, our markets and our economy.
We are bombarded today by lies spread intentionally and by cider attacks.
They have become the foremost burning issue of our time, when we can’t tell anymore
what is true and what is false.
And in history, there is no other nation in the world that has suffered so badly from false accusation
than the nation of Jacob – Israel.
Today, half of humanity falsely accuses Israel for having killed G-d,
he other half falsely accusing Israel for stealing the Torah from the Muslims.
Both camps have perpetrated terrible, false blood liable and other false accusations
that has prompted the holocaust.
So, how did Jacob’s trials and tribulations add to his understanding of the damages that cheating can cause?0
What is Jacob unique contribution to JUSTICE in the eyes of the Torah? 0
What does he add above what his predecessors, Adam, Noah and Abraham had already known about it?0
So, first let’s lay out what the original concept of JUSTICE was before Jacob,
and then see his contribution and his message to us.
Where was the Commandment
First Given to Mankind?0
The Commandment of JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER was first
given to Adam in the Garden of Eden.
When YHVH ELKM warned the Adam about eating the Forbidden Fruit,
“And YHVH ELKM commanded on the Adam saying,
from all the trees of the Garden you shall eat
but from the Tree of Knowledge Good and Evil you shall not eat.”
Here the word “Commanded” is clearly superfluous,
Indicating that in addition to the warning about the fruit,
G-d gave Adam the “Primordial Six Commandments,” namely
IDOLATRY, ADULTERY, BLOODSHED, THEFT JUSTICE and BLASPHEMY..
Clearly, the Commandment of JUSTICE and Civil Order had no meaning
In Eden, since it requires the existence of a human society.
According to the RaMBaM (Maimonides) and the RaMBan (Nachmonides)
the Commandment obliges every human society to
- Set up righteous laws between Man and Man,
- Set up courts in at every district in the country.
- Elect qualified judges
- Establish police force to enforce.
Clearly, those specific demands had no meaning in Eden.
In fact, out of those Six,
only the first two – IDOLATERY and ADULTERY- were relevant to Eden since they could be violated there.
IDOLATRY, by disobeying G-d’s Order and eating the Fruit,
ADULTERY, if Eve, as a MARRIED woman, has cohabitted with the Serpent.
As it turned out, they violated the only two Commandments available to them, and subsequently they lost Eden.
Then, on Earth, they could violate the entire six.
From there on, humanity would stumble over the entire Six, one by one,
as shown in the flow of stories throughout the entire Book of Genesis.
So, why were the entire six given to Adam in Eden?
Why not waiting till they live on Earth?
Natural Moral code
The answer is that on Earth it would be too late.
They came to live on Earth already equipped with everything needed to withstand the challenge of the entire Six.
They were built with all the necessary psychologic makeup and the mindset
that would allow them to feel the drive for sinning and
have the power to overcome those drives.
Eden, after all, is the cradle of Mankind.
Thus, to be able to withstand the challenge of JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDSER on Earth,
G-d implanted in them in Eden the basic understanding
of right and wrong, of what is fair and unfair, what is just and unjust..
This explains the observation that has puzzled the philosophers of JUSTICE,
who ask how is it that all people across the Globe, all civilizations, seem to share
a basic notion of JUSTICE, of what is right and what is wrong?0
Yes, there are nuances between different civilizations, yet basically
all humans share the same motion of what is JUSTICE and getting even.
The philosopher, like Spinoza, Kant and Hegel, call it
a natural code of morality inherent in every human mind,
as a part of our brain’s structure.
But in the eyes of the Torah, that basic perception of JUSTICE
come to us from Eden, the cradle of Mankind.
It was planted in us there, as a preparation to live on Earth.
How was it implanted in Eden?
When the Serpent attempted to seduce the Woman, it said to her:
“Had ELKM told you not to touch the Fruit?
For ELKM knows that on the day you eat of it
you’d become like ELKM Knowing good and evil. “
The Serpent knew that eating the Fruit
would render the human the ability to emulate ELKM,
meaning to judge like ELKM, to find the truth like ELKM
and distinguish right from wrong like ELKM.
Judging like ELKM means implementing JUSTICE
according to the rule of “measure for measure,”
getting even in precise way.
For as we recall, during the Six Days of CREATION,
when ELKM ruled the Earth awesomely alone,
He ruled it by the iron fist, with no MERCY, COMPASSION or FORGIVENESS.
Under ELKM’s rule, creatures are allowed to eat other creatures,
since they too would be eaten in turn.
Creatures are allowed to cause pains to others,
since they too would suffer pain in turn,
in an cycle of ABSOLUTE JUSTICE.
In the eyes of the Serpent,
this sort of JUSTICE, ELKM’S JUSTICE, is the highest form of JUSTICE
that Mankind could ever achieve.
But the Serpent was wrong, it saw only half of the truth.
In its speech it fails to mention YHVH. And that makes sense,
since as a Beast of the Field, it could never perceive
MERCY, COMPASSION, FORGIVENESS and HOLINESS
that are qualities associated with YHVH.
It could not see the presence of the Merciful Attribute YHVH in the Heavenly Court.
But the humans were different. They were created with a room in their hearts
capable of perceiving YHVH.
So, once they ate the Forbidden Fruit,
their eyes opened and they saw both ELKM and YHVH.
This is why they immediately felt ashamed of their nakedness
and covered it with leaves.
Only an awareness of YHVH and Her holiness would make anyone
ashamed of nakedness, which otherwise seems a natural fact
with no shame attached to it
Two Wings of JUSTICE
From thereon, in Eden then on Earth,
all people share a basic notion of JUSTICE that comprises of two wings –
the Wing of ELKM seeking the truth and operating by the principle of
measure by measure, of getting even,
the Wing of YHVH, giving us the sense of MERCY, COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS
which we call “consciousness.”
All people, in all civilizations, are capable of feeling and operating by those two Wings.
People and civilizations differ only in how much they would follow those Attributes to enter their judgment.
And here is a difference –
While the Laws of ELKM seem simple and logic, easy to grasp and follow,
the input of MERCY, COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS
seem nebulous, vague, undefined, easy to be pushed away
when facing harsh reality and bad circumstances.
JUSTIC codes in History
This is why in all human history,
from the ancient world of Gilgamesh and Hammurabi
to the Greek and Romans through the Middle Ages,
up to the Napoleonic code of JUSUCE and our own time,
all systems of JUSTICE have followed the basic Wing of
ELKM’s JUSTICE, implementing it according to the rule of
“measure for measure” and getting even, restoring damages,
leaving MERCY COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS
as an act of consciousness above the code of Laws,
to be exercised on rare occasion by few elites.
The English Law recognizes special courts set up above
the regular courts where people may apply to overturn a verdict
that seems dishonest or unhuman.
Those “Courts of Equity,” as they were called,
existed even in the USA up to the late 19th century
and then faded away, remaining today only in the state of Delaware.
But even those Courts were seen as above the regular law,
operating with no clear and defined guidelines.
Let’s return now to Jacob and his struggle for JUSTICE, and ask:
What did he contribute to JUSTICE, that his predecessors,
Adam, Noah and Abraham did not know?
Noah and Abraham
added a new aspect
We are right to ask that question, since both
Abraham and Noah not only struggled for a Commandment
but also added a new aspect to it.
Abraham, before Jacob, not only fought against THEFT,
but also saw it as a transgression of the CREATOR’s ownership.
He gave G-da new name- AaDoNai, my Owner,
and received a new Commandment, circumcision,
which is the emblem of our OWNER in our flesh.
It is counted as one Commandment above Noah’s Seven,
namely the Eighth Commandment,
and it came to support THEFT, which is Adam’s Fourth.
In the same token,
Noah not only fought against BLOODSHED, which is Adam’s THIRD,
but also added new aspect to it- the Rainbow Covenant.
The new Covenant enforced Adam’s BLOODSHED law
by spelling s out for the first time all the BLOODSHED Laws in details,
something that was missing in the previous generations.
And he also added a new aspect to BLOODSHED Laws in details,
but also see MURDER as a cruel, evil act,
that enrages the Merciful YHVH.
In addition to the BLOODSHED Laws Noah received
a new Commandment, the Seventh, one above Adam’s six,
which forbids the consumption of blood and a limb torn from
an animal which it is still alive.
Thus Noah’s SEVENTH came to support Adam’s THIRD, BLOODSHED.
In the same token we may ask,
what did Jacob add to the concept of JUSTICE,
above Adam, Noah and Abraham?
Did he also receive a new Commandment, the NINTH,
one more than Abraham’s Eight, that supports Adam’s FiIFTH, JUSTICE?
To delineate what Jacob added to JUSTICE,
We need first to delineate what was known about JUSTICE
in his time.
Jacob was born into a world that believed in the basic, ‘natural’ JUSTICE,
as seen by the Serpent in Eden, namely “measure for measure.”
If people cheat you, cheat them back. If they harmed you, harm them back.Get even.
It was a world bereft of human rights with a weak central government,
with corrupt judges and no loyal police.
Jacob’s world said, take the law into your hand
and do as much as you can to restore your JUSTICE as you see it.
Rebecca, Jacob’s mother, grew up in such a society, in Haran.
Her idolatrous father and brothers were known as master crooks,
who cheated and even seduced young girls, as their names in Hebrew implies.
Hence, Rebecca was familiar with their crooked ways, yet she was different,
a “rose among the thorns” as the Rabbis describe her.
Yet her bad background affected her decisions for the rest of her life.
For instance, when she was pregnant with non – identical twins
who were struggling fiercely in her womb, causing her much agony,
she entertained the thought of abortion. Surely, as Isaac’s wife,
she must have known that this is forbidden, yet in her despair
she did consider it.
After consulting with Noah’s son Shem, who lived nearby in Jerusalem,
she allowed her pregnancy to come to term, yet she was punished by Heavens
for her thoughts and was never pregnant again.
The rabbis said that originally, she was destined to be the mother of
he twelve tribes of Israel, but that privilege was removed from her.
Her background also affected her attitude towards her sons
especially towards Jacob.
When Two Rights Clash
Now seeking JUSTICE in Rebecca’s way,
taking the law into your hands and implement JUSTICE as you see fit,
can cause a war if there are two or more opposing litigants,
each claiming for having the truth on his side.
A human JUDGE may fail to decide between the sides,
fails to act like ELKM.
To show us such a difficult case, where only the Wisdom of ELKM
may find the TRUE Verdict,
the Torah presents the extreme case of the rival twins,
Jacob and Esau, intentionally presented in such a way
that we, the readers, would have a tough time to decide
who among the twin is right and who is wrong,
who carries JUSTICE and who does not.
Exiting as One Piece
When the twin finally came out, s.Rebecca and Isaac faced an unusual
legal puzzle, unparalleled in any other story about birth.
For when the struggling twin came out, they exited as one piece,
Esau’s head first and Jacob following, yet holding Esau’s heels as if in a protest.
So, who among the twin is really the firstborn?o
It is a tough legal question, with no predecessor,
that no one could tell the answer.
The verse says that his father, and perhaps the midwives,
ignored the heels and called Esau the firstborn,
yet the mother, Rebecca, wasn’t sure about it.
Thus Jacob had a potential legitimate claim for the firstborn status,
no less than Esau, that could become effective if
Esau resents his firstborn status.
That explains how Jacob could later ask Esau to sell him the firstborn right, for a lentil soup.
Usually, such a birth right can’t be sold. Being a firstborn is a given fact.
But here, in this case, since Jacob had a potential legitimate claim for the title, he could buy it from Esau.
Since the Torah attests that Esau accepted Jacob’s offer wholeheartedly, and he ate, arose, and went away without protesting,
Jacob could assume the firstborn title and the sell was final.
Jacob received his JUSTICE, but we the readers also detect here
some moral fault: Jacob did take advantage of Esaus’ weakness,
which could make Esau’s protecting angle angry at Jacob.
Esau too later regretted the deal and blamed Jacob for chating him.
With whom would you, the reader, side? It is a difficult choice.
Those of us who love Jacob would decide for him,
those who love Esau would decide for him.
Showing us that our judgment is tainted and biased by our love.
Cheating his Father
Now the Torah continues to challenge our perception of JUSTICE
showing how difficult it is to emulate ELKM and find the truth.
For although the twin grew up in the same home,
receiving the same parental love and same training,
they turned into completely opposite personalities,
as often seen in non-identical twins.
The Rabbis insisted that each of the twins came out from his mother’s womb with complete, unique personality.
Esau grew up to became a man of the outdoors, involved in the general society,
yet secretly violating all the Seven Commandments.
Jacob, in contrast, grew up to become a shy boy, secluded in
the “Tents of Torah,” studying it with Shem.
Those two opposing personalities were decided before birth,
as if dictated by a specific genetic makeup beyond our control.
I am sure that each reader has encountered such a split
between non-identical twins, each born with a completely opposing
personality compared to the other.
This is important when we consider JUSTICE.
why should Esau be blamed for his behavior, having been born with his wicked personality?
And vice versa – why should Jacob be credited for his righteousness, when his personality was set up in his mother’s womb?
How much we, as human judges, can take those genetic factors
into our assessment of guilt and JUSTICE?o
How much our behavior is left for our freedom of choice?o
It is as a major puzzle that enters our judging the twins,
who is right and who is wrong,
who has JUSTICE on his side and who does not.
It is as if the Torah shows us how difficult it is
to emulate ELKM!
Jacob learned from Shem the Seven Commandments of Noah,
including the Fifth – JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER.
He learned about the Serpent and its view of JUSTICE,
which should be implementing by the rule of “measure for measure,”
in ELKM’s ways.
He also learned about his grandfather Abraham
who built taverns, kitchen and hotels on crossroad
to care for the needed free of charge.
Abraham did all that out of his love to YHVH, voluntarily,
without being obligated by law , of either ELKM or Man.
Esau was exposed to the same teaching,
yet rejected it and transgressed all the Laws,
whether of Man or ELKM’s Laws. That made him very successful
and he had numerous followers.
He concealed his behavior from his father by cheating him,
yet he could not cheat the piercing eyes of Rebecca,
who saw him through and through.
Therefore, she loved Jacob and hated Esau,
while Isaac adored Esau.
In Rebecca’s eyes, there was no question
who among her twin was more qualified to receive
So, hearing that her husband was about to give it
to his beloved Esau, she decided to implement JUSTICE
with her own hands.
She held that if you are cheated, then cheat back
and take whatever you deserve.
If people lie, then lie back. Especially when this is the only way
to implement JUSTICE.
She therefor instructed Jacob to disguise himself as Esau,
cheat his father and receive his blessing.
Did she do the right thing?0
Cheating forbidden in the court,
overlooked outside the court.
After all, even Abraham cheated Pharaoh about Sarah,
saying that she was his sister, when her life was in peril.
From Abraham she could derive that although
cheating is the art of the Serpent, and is forbidden,
but the law confines it only within the court’s theater.
Out there, in the real world, however,
cheating is sometimes necessary for survival ,
or to sometimes the only way to achieve JUSTICE,
Jacob complied with his mother and recieved Isaac’s blessing
by cheating his father. He implemented JUSTICE as she saw it.
Yet the Torah presents the story in such a way that we, the readers,
may empathize with either Jacob or Esau.
For instance, when Esau found out what happened
he cried sincerely with pains, so much that the Rabbis said
that even the Angles in Heavens cried along with him, with Esau.
THUS AGAIN, the Torah presents the truth as each side saw it,
making it extremely difficult to decide between them.
In fact, though Jacob received his JUSTICE by circumventing his brother, his brother only got more angry at him.
Esau actually never forgave Jacob f or consented to what Jacob did,
and he wished to kill Jacob.
Where is JUSTICE, the Rabbis said, there is no peace.
if each side tries to implement his JUSTICE in full,
taking the law into his hand, there would be no peace.
Jacob would lerarn this truth later, through his struggle with Laban,
meanwhile he have to leave his father’s home and run away for his life,
escaping from Esau’s anger.
The Rabbis therefore concluded:
where there is JUSTICE, there is no peace.
If each side seeks his justice, there would never be peace.
Jacob would have to learn this truth time and again.
To understand Jacob’s contribution to JUSTICE,
let’s move to Jacob’s Ladder Dream.