We follow the Book of Genesis and move on
from Abraham and Isaac, to Jacob.
The Torah presents Jacob’s history in four, specially selected 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
The common denominator of all the episodes is, that
they revolve around
Jacob’s pursuing civil justice.
First within the family, against his brother,
then against his employer
then against the rulers of his city where he lived as a peaceful citizen
Unlike his grandfather Abraham and Noah before him,
we don’t see him fighting for his faith, or against IDOLATRY,
but rather for his CIVIL RIGHTS and SOCIAL JUSTICE.
And that fits well with the flow of the stories
presented in the Book of Genesis, that takes the readers from one Commandment of Noah to the next.
Thus, at first, the Book of Genesis introduced us to the First Commandment, IDOLATRY through
the story of CREATION.
Then the Book introduces ADULTERY and the concept of MARRIAGE through the story of Adam and his wife in the Garden of Eden.
Then the Book of Genesis leads us to Noah’s third Commandment, BLOODSHED, through the stories of Cain and Abel up to
the Flood. The stories culminate with Noah’s Rainbow Covenant and the BLOODSHED Laws.
In the Rainbow Covenant, G-d adds to Noah the Seventh Commandment,
one above the original Six of Adam in Eden.
The new one, number seven, forbids Noah’s Children to drink or eat blood or a limb torn from a still living creature.
Obviously, it came to
Support Man’s struggle
against cruelty and our fascination with violence and BLOODHSED, that Noah was so worried about.
Thus we can say that
NOAH’S number SEVENTH came to support Adam number THREE, BLOODSHED.
Then, after the Flood, the book of Genesis leads us to Abraham and his struggle against THFET, which is Adam’s Commandment number Four.
In particular, Abraham fought against ORGANIZED THEFT where one nation invades another to build Empires and enslave their people.
In the process, Abraham called G-d with a new Name, AaDoNai, My Master, my Owner, and as a reward he received a new Commandment, Circumcision, which is the emblem of our master in our flesh. Hence Abraham’s Eighth Commandment supports Adam’s Fourth, THEFT.
And now, in the same flow,
the Torah takes us to
Jacob’s struggle for JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER,
Which is Adam’s Commandment number FIVE.
As we’ll see, in the process Jacob would give the commandment a new meaning, offer G-d a new name, and in turn would receive a new name, Israel, sealed by a new Commandment, number Nine, one above Abraham’s eight.
Thus Jacob’s Ninth supports Adam’s Fifth Commandment, Civil Order and JUSTICE.
AS A RULE OF THUMB, ALL THE COMMANDMENTS IN THE WORLD, INCLUDING THOSE OF SINAI, CAME TO SUPPORT THE ORIGINAL ADAM’S SIX ONES.
Now, before we dive into Jacob’s stories, what does the Fifth Commandment of Adam – Civil Order and Justice – entails?
According to the RaMBaM (Maimonides) and the RaMBan (Nachmonides)
the Fifth commandment of Adam (or Noah) obliges every human society to erect a judiciary system that comprises of:
1 A righteous set of laws between Man and Man, and Man and his country (which are not necessarily identical with the Torah laws.)
What constitute righteous law? The scholars debate, yet in the eyes of the Torah a righteous system should be fair to all and treat every person equally, since all humans are made in G-d’s image and form.
The system should also recognize other human rights like the right to own and bequeath property, and the right to vote, and the right to demand justice to repair damages and restor of one’s status to the former state.
2 The Commandment obliges every nation to set up Court Houses in at least every district in the country
3 It obliges the election of well trained and qualified judges for the courts. Those judges should be brave and resist any attempt to bribe them or influence their decisions unwarrantedly.
The description of these judges is given to Moses by Yithro, his father in law, the first Noahide in Moses’ time.
4 The Commandment also obliges to establish court’s marshals and police to enforce the Courts’ verdicts.
Let’s recall how Adam received his Fifth Commandment – JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER -in the Garden of Eden.
As we’ve said, the Fifth Commandment, JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER, was given to Adam and Eve in Eden. Where does it say so? Reading the simple text does not show it. The rabbis in the oral Torah said differently.
When YHVH ELKM warned the Adam about the Forbidden Fruit, it says: “and YHVH ELKM commanded on 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, so the Oral Torah says that in addition to the warning about the fruit, G-d gave Adam the Six Commandments, namely IDOLATERY, ADULTERY, BLOODSHED, THEFT JUSTICE and BLASPHAMY.”
Clearly, out of those Six,
only the first two- IDOLATERY and ADULTERY- could be violated in Eden.
Adam and Eve could violate IDOLATRY, by disobeying G-d’s Command and eat the Fruit.
They could violate ADULTERY, if the MARRIED woman cohabited privately with the Serpent.
Indeed, they violated both Commandments and consequently they lost Eden. But here on earth, all of A dam’s Six became relevant to their lives. From here on, humanity would stumble over all of them again, one by one, throughout the Book of Genesis.
So why were the entire six given to Adam in Eden? Why not waiting till he and Eve would live on Earth?
The answer is that on Earth it would be too late. They came to live on Earth already equipped with everything needed to face the challenge of the entire Six. In Eden they had already been built with all the psychologic makeup and the mindset to feel the drive for sinning, and h the knowledge how to overcome it. Eden after all is the cradle of Mankind.
For instance, when G-d, YHVH ELKM, gave Adam the Fifth Commandment, Civil Order and Justice, He also planted in Adam an inherent sense of JUSTICE and fairness, without which the Commandment had no meaning.
No wonder that here on Earth , all people possess a genuine sense of morality and fairness, common to all civilizations, which the expert of law call natural moral code. It came us from Eden.
We all differ, however, in the details of that fairness, pending on our cultures and other believes.
What else did we inherited from Eden in regard to JUSTICE?
When the Serpent enticed the woman to eat the Fruit, it said:
“Had ELKM really told you not to touch the Tree? It is because ELKM knows that the day you eat of it, you’d become like ELKM, knowing Good and Evil.”
The Serpent entire speech was a distortion of JUSTICE.
First, it lied on the facts. G-d did not forbade them to touch the Tree, only to eat of it. So when she touched it and
nothing happened, she wondered if ELKM had told them the truth. Teaching you that a lie and false news destroy JUSTICE.
SECONDLY, and very importantly, the Serpent mentions ELKM, never the Merciful YHVH. The fact was that it was YHVH ELKM, the two Attributes in Oneness who had spoken to Adam. Did the Serpent lie? Not necessarily. As a beast of the field, it could not perceive YHVH who stands for MERCY, COMPASSION, FORGIVENESS and HOLINESS. IT saw only half of the truth.
Teaching you that even telling the truth, may lead to disaster, when it presents only half of it.
More importantly, the Serpent reveals its view of executing JUSTICE.
When it said to the woman that eating the Fruit would allow them to be like ELKM, to emulate Him, it referred to the ability to create like Him as described in Chapter one, and to JUDGE like Him as described in Chapter One.
And in Chapter One, during the six Days, ELKM ruled the world with upper hand, building and destroying as He wishes yet in ABSOLUTE JUSTICE. Creatures were made and sustained as long as they fulfilled their task and as along they were needed. When they were no more needed, ELKM in His JUDGMENT destroyed them right there and then, with efficiency and ABSOLUTE JUSTICE but with no MERCY, COMPASSION or FORGIVENESS.
And during those Six Days, all creature was judged by the same exacting law of measure for measure. One eats, only to be eaten. One causes pains, only to later suffer pains.
So by praising the Fruit and saying that eating it would render the humans Wisdom of ELKM, which to the Serpent it looked supreme, it meant that the humans would be able to rise and establish Courts where they emulate ELKM and His ways of judging, seeking the truth, following the rule of ‘measure for measure’ in precision and fairness, in logic and efficiency yet with NO MERCY. To the Serpent, these sorts of human courts would be the apex of Mankind achievement.
Yet, the Serpent was wrong. It saw only half of the Heavenly Court, being oblivious to the presence of the Merciful YHVH in the Court.
Why was the Sere pent so effective?
For at that point before the Primordial Sin, the humans too failed to mention YHVH. And like the Serpent, they too walked naked unashamed of it. The humans and the serpent were a good match at that point.
Thus the Serpent lied, then it said half of the truth, then it promised something that can’t be achieved. It said that eating the Fruit would render them the wisdom to distinguish, like ELKM, Good from Evil. That promise is false, since only the awareness of UYHVH endows us to see Good and Evil. The Serpent does not know that Evil means being cruel and indifferent to other creatures’ suffering.
This was the Serpent view of JUSTICE. If the humans would eat the Fruit, they would acquire the ability to set up courts and follow that sort of JUSTICE, which to the Serpent seemed divine.
But the Serpent was terribly wrong.
Despite of what it predicted, once the humans ate the Fruit, their eyes opened and they saw both ELKM and YHVH. This is why immediately afterwards they became aware of their nakedness and were ashamed of it, so much that they covered it with leaves.
Only awareness of YHVH and Her Holiness in your heart, would make you ashamed of nakedness, which otherwise would seem just natural fact with no shame.
Hence, eating the Fruits rendered them human not only the Wisdom of ELKM, of JUDGING like ELKM with fairness and absolute Justice, but also the ability to perceive MERCY , COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS, be sensitive to its calling and apply it to JUSTICE in our courts.
But there is a difference here.
Whereas emulating ELKM’s JUSTICE and Fairness seems to us logic and natural, for it means using “measure for measure,” getting even,
following the calling of YHHV from the depth of our heart is quite vague and mysterious, like a consciousness planted deep in us with no shape. Unlike ELKM clear laws, this hidden consciousness seems weak, and can easily be pushed away by other pressing issues, like external pearl and harsh reality so prevailing in nature, besides other political or economic or other forces prevailing our society.
Because of Eden, all humans possess a hidden sense of COMPASSION, MERCY and FORGIVENESS due to our awareness of YHVH. But this nuclear spark, needs cultivation to grow and be effective in our lives and in our courts. This is in contrast to the simple, straight forwards logical laws of ELKM that follow the rule of getting even, measure for measure, even with vengeance.
We need the Torah, the guidance of YHVH, to grow and affect our lives.
Therefore in history, all ancient civilizations were able to develop quite sophisticated systems of JUSTICE based on ‘measure for measure’ and Fairness.
All those systems sought to repair damages and restore situations to the former status.
They differed only on what they considered fair.
For Gilgamesh and King Hammurabi, living hundreds of years before Jacob, JUSTICE was implemented according to prescribed social status:
The king had all the rights and received a full justice, the nobles had slightly less, regular ‘citizen’ even less and slaves had no rights nor justice at all. Any compassion or forgiveness or mercy was left as a privilege of the ruler to be used on rare occasions, above the law.
That sort of “Allocated” JUTICE permeated human societies for thousands of years, up to the Greek and the Romans. The Romans perfected it and turned it into a science, allowing lawyers and rhetoric into the courts.
The Romans adapted the views of Plato and Aristoteles who saw the law itself as it is a reflection of what is good for society, since an ideal JUSTICE is unreachable by humans. Socrates, for instance, insisted on his duty to abide by the death penalty imposed on him by the court, rejecting any attempt to appeal or to escape town.
The Roman Law of JUSTICE was finally encoded as late as 414 A.D. by the Emperor AD, still bases on measure for measure, and that “a person may receive from the court only whatever he or she deserves,” meaning by their civil rights and social status, with no room for compassion, mercy or forgiveness. This was considered above the Law, to be applied rarely by the Emperor “according to his good heart” or the Bishops.
The Roman code was used in Europe through the middle ages up to the French Revolution.
Then, it was replaced by declaring equality and brotherhood of all people, implementing equal JUSTICE to all, the so called Justitia Commutativa.
The great philosophers of the Time, from Voltair to Kant, Hegel and Spinoza, they all discussed at length the role of what they called “natural consciousness” or “basic decency” in the law system. Almost unanimously they considered it as a call of the heart, above the dry law of the land.
This approach permeated the Napoleonic Laws and the English Laws up to the USA Laws.
That right to pardon and act with MERCY, COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS has been given only to the few elite
above the regular law system.
The English law, however, even back in the 13th century, authorized special “Court of Equity” or “Court of Honesty,” where a person could appeal to overturn a bad decision of a regular court, on the base of inhumanity and honesty. However, these Courts of Equity operated with a prescribed protocol, but with no written fix laws.
Such Courts of Equity” existed in the USA up to the 19 century then gradually faded away, leaving only one court the state of Delaware.
Now let’s go back to Jacob and see what was his contribution to the notion of JUSTICE in the Torah, and to HUMANITY?
What did he add over his predecessors, Noah and Abraham?
Jacob was born into a world that believed in the basic, ‘natural’ mode of JUSTICE, as seen by the Serpent in Eden, namely “measure for measure,” getting even. If people cheated you, cheat them back. If they harmed you, harm them back with vengeance. It was a world bereft of human rights with a weak central authority and corrupt government and judges. So take the law into your hand as you can, and restore JUSTICE as you see it.
Rebecca, Jacob’s mother, grew up in idolatrous home in Haran, and her father and brothers were experts in cheating and seducing, as their names in Hebrew implies. She was certainly familiar with their ways, yet she was different, an ‘ugly duckling,’ a “rose among the thorns” as the Rabbis said. Her background is important, since
Occasionally it had a negative impact on her decisions.
For instance, when she was pregnant with non -identical twins who were struggling fiercely in her womb, casing her much agony, she entertained the thought of abortion. As Isaac’s wife, she knew well that this is forbidden, yet in her despair she considered it.
After consulting with Shem, Noah’s son 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 the twelve tribes of Israel, but that privilege was removed from her.
Her background also affected her own impact on her sons, especially Jacob.
When the twin finally came out, she and Isaac faced an unusual legal puzzle. There is no such story in the entire world. The twin came out together as one piece, Esau first but Jacob holding his heels by force, as if protesting. Who then is the firstborn? The midwives called Esau the firstborn, yet Jacob had a legitimate claim for the status, if Esau recant it or despises it.
That explains how Jacob could ask Esau to sell him the firstborn right, for a lentos soup. Since the Torah attests that Esau accepted the offer wholeheartedly and resented the first born status, it reverted legally to his twin, Jacob.
So the twin grew up in the same home, received the same parental love and same training, yet they turned into completely opposite personalities, as often seen in non-identical twins.
Esau became a man of the outdoors, being involved in society and secretly violating all the Seven Commandments.
Jacob in contrast, became a shy boy, secluded in the “Tents of Torah,” studying with Shem.
He learned about the Seven Commandments in details, including the Fifth One- CIVIL ORDER and JUSTICE. But to Noah and Abraham, JUSTICE meant a strict adherence to ELKM’s Laws, or measure for measure. Even Abraham, who loved the Merciful YHVH and built in He name taverns, kitchen and hotels on crossroad to care for people free, this was done voluntarily, as Chessed, COMPASSION and MERCY above the Laws of ELKM.
Esau could cheat his old, blind father Isaac, but not his smart mother, Rebecca, who knew cheating from her family. No one could cheat her. She saw Esau through and through, therefore she loved Jacob, while Isaac loved Esau.
In Rebecca’s eyes, there was no question who among her twin was qualified to receive Abraham’s Blessing, that was given to the firstborn.
So hearing about her husband intention to give it to his beloved Esau, she decided to implement JUSTICE in her own hands.
She held that if you are cheated, cheat back and take yourself what you deserve. She therefor instructed Jacob to disguise himself as Esau and receive Isaac’s blessing.
We are all moved when we read about Esau’s reaction when he found out what happened. The Torah says that he cried in pains, and the rabbis added that even the Angles in Heavens cried along with him. It turned out that Esau never really consented to the selling of his birthrights and henceforth he would never forgive Jacob for stealing Abraham’s blessing.
Jacob received his JUSTICE by cheating back, yet it came with enormous price: he had to run away for his life. The Rabbis said that where there is JUSTICE, there is no peace, and Jacob would learn this truth time and again.
Let’s move on to the second episode that the Torah tells us about Jacob. It also evolve about JUSTICE and in fact it would change the world.
We see him at nightfall, running away for his life, desolated, poor and hungry. Tradition says that he was robbed earlier on the way by Esau’s son and his gangue. He had no more resources and one to turn for help or for CIVIL ORDER.
At dark, he lies on the bare ground, using hard stones as a cushion. He remembers his grandfather Abraham’s taverns, kitchens and hotels which he built on crossroads for poor passengers to be used free. How he wished that one of those would be standing nearby! !
Lying down warped with thoughts, he could identify with all the poor, hungry and desolated people in the world; with all the unfortunate souls whose turbulent life has thrown them to the ditches, on those who were robbed and taken advantage of.
In his despair, he fell asleep and had a dream, that would become the most famous dream in history. In it, he saw a latter, its foot on the ground and its head reaching the sky.
And he saw Angels, particularly the Angels of ELKM, ascending and descending on it. There are many interpretations, yet the Book of Zohar says that ELKM’s Angels present the Seventy Families of Noahide Nations, who ascend and descend on the Latter according to their spiritual level, pending on how much each nation observes ELKM’s Laws, namely the Seven Commandments. Each step on the Ladder stands for a Commandment.
Since the term “Angles of ELKM” is mentioned Five times in the story, one may say that there are five stairs on the Ladder, and the top one therefor stands for Commandment number Five, which is JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER. It fits the flow of stories in the Book of Genesis, as we move from Abraham’s struggle for THEFT to Jacob seeking JUSTICE.
Then, the story continues, Jacob noticed in his dream that the Attribute of MERCY, YHVH, was “standing on him,” or “on it.” Some say that Jacob himself carried YHVH, as a chariot, but most commentaries say he saw YHVH standing on “it,” on top of the Ladder.
Here is a diagram that depicts what he saw:
Jacob woke up and said, in awe, the famous words: “How awesome is this place! Isn’t it the gate of Heavens, and I haven’t known!”
Falling asleep again, YHVH talked to him again, from the top of the Ladder. Addressing his tribulations, YHVH promised to guard him and bring him back home.
Waking the second time Jacob made his famous vow, the (Halachic) prototype of all vows, in structure and content. It comprises of two part. First he presents his petition, the condition to be fulfilled for the vow to take effect. Then he lays out his pledge, the things he would do in case his petition would be answered.
Thus, Jacob is saying:
YHVH would be my ELKM
In the first part, in the condition part, Jacob expresses the things he is asking for: bread to eat, cloth to wear, safety, peace and returning home.
Then comes his pledge, the things he would do in return. He would make this stone a , he would build a house for ELKM on that awesome Place, he would bring here his offerings and donations and give G-d one tenth of his crop. All of those pledges are tangible, material things.
But what about the first line of the pledge, where he is saying:
“And YHVH will be my ELKM”?
What kind of a pledge is this? Certainly it does not refer to a tangible, material item.
If you translate that line to English saying: “And the Lord will be my God,” you may wonder: Wasn’t the Lord his G-d right then and there? Was he idolater? (Asks…)
But if you stick to the Hebrew Names and read it as follows:
“Then, the Merciful Attribute YHVH, shall be my JUDGE, ELKM.”
It receives a profound meaning:
“Then, I will turn your MERCY, YHVH, into ELKM’s Law.”
Oh, what a change in the meaning!
Hence, Jacob was saying as follows:
If my dream would turn true,
and You, Merciful YHVH, have given me bread to eat, cloth to wear,
room to sleep, as you’ve promised, and as Abraham did for other people in your name, voluntarily, out of love to you,
if all these things would happen,
then, when I return home in peace,
I shall turn your ways, and Abraham’s way, into a Law of my Land.
I shall tell my children to follow your way and treat the poor, the desolated and the oppressed in society with your COMPASSION, MERCY and FORGIVENESS AS THE LAW OF THE LAND.
You can say that on the Diagram, Jacob pledged to draw YHVH down from above the Ladder into the Fifth stair, adding He values into JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER, making He values into the Law of the Land.
Indeed, that is what separates the Torah from all other codes of laws in the world. What is there considered consciousness, given to the good hearts, actions above the law, here in the Torah that social consciousness is part of the law.
The Torah Law obliges every owner of a field in the land of Israel to leave a corner full of wheat for the poor. This does not depend on your good heart. It is the law, enforced by the court.
The Torah Law obliges every owner of a field to give, once every three years, a tenth of the entire crop to the poor. It does not depend on the owner’s good heart. It is the law of the land, enforced by the court.
The Torah Law obliges every owner of a slave to treat him fairly and dignity, then set him or her free after six years. It is the law of the Land.
The Torah Law obliges a person to return a coat taken as a collateral to the poor owner, in order to cover himself at night, if that coat is needed. No such law exists in anywhere .
Of course, this law is only a token for a whole approach toward the poor. The Torah Law also obliges to offer loans to the needed with easy payments and no interest, so that he or she would recover from his slump and regain his self – esteem and place in society
And most importantly: Jacob is pledging here to draw MERCY and FORGIVENESS into Commandment number Five, which is JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER. Applying those features into the court’s decisions is not the privilege of the ruler on rare occasions, but a daily part of the regular court’s debates and decision.
The sun rises and Jacob begins his journey to Haran, where he would find his wives, children, and his fortune. But his chain of struggles for JUSTICE is not yet over.