Haran or Bust

The *previous posting* told of Esau’s threats to his brother Jacob. So terrifying were these threats that Rebekah, their mother, felt compelled to arrange for Jacob to flee Beersheba (in Canaan), for Haran (in Mesopotamia) where she was originally from, and where her brother, Laban, still lived.

Not only did Rebekah fear for Jacob on account of Esau, she feared for him also on account of the local young Canaanite women, whom she thought not good enough for her precious Jacob. Rebekah had a veritable bee in her bonnet about the young women of Canaan, who were of the Hittite tribe. Rebekah would say over and over to her husband, Isaac, that, were Jacob to marry a local Hittite woman, her (Rebekah’s) life wouldn’t be worth living.

You who read this blog regularly, and who cannot sleep at night in excited anticipation of the next installment, will see a parallel between Rebekah’s contempt for young Canaanite women, and a *similar contempt for them* held by Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham. Since it turned out that Rebekah was *a grand-niece of Abraham*, could Rebekah genetically have inherited Abraham’s contempt for young Canaanite women?

Esau, who was even more closely related to Abraham than was Rebekah, had married – to the dismay of his mother and father – at least one young Canaanite (Hittite) woman. So Esau would appear not to have inherited his grandfather’s (Abraham’s) contempt of Canaanite women. As for Jacob – equally a grandson of Abraham – he, too, would seem not to have inherited his grandfather’s contempt of young Canaanite women, since he must have had a sufficient interest in them for Rebekah to fear that he might marry one, and thus make Rebekah’s life not worth living.

What of Isaac, who, being a son of Abraham, was an even closer blood relative of Abraham than any of Esau Jacob or Rebekah. Had Isaac genetically inherited his father’s contempt of young Canaanite womanhood? If not, what is one to make of his telling Jacob not to marry a Canaanite woman, but to go to Padanaram (the area in Mesopotamia where Haran was) and find a wife from one of the daughters of Laban, Jacob’s uncle?

At first sight it seems nonsense that Rebekah’s and Isaac’s contempt of Canaanite women could have come out of their genetic inheritance. However there is now scientific evidence to suggest that the way our ancestors a few generations back felt and acted, can affect the way we, their descendents, *feel and act*. Why, then, should this obviously genetic dynamic not also have applied to Isaac and Rebekah?

Back now to our story……..

Jacob, by fleeing to Haran, would not only escape his vengeful brother, Esau, he would also be better able to meet a non-Canaanite girl to marry, for the girls in Haran were mostly Hebrew girls. Jacob was, as mentioned earlier, instructed by Isaac before he left, to find a wife to marry from one of the daughters of his Uncle Laban.

“But Father”, said Jacob, “the daughters of Uncle Laban are my first cousins. If I marry one, our children will be inordinately inbred, and so might have receding chins and be unhealthy. As it is, you and Mother are already blood-related, so it’s a miracle that neither I nor Esau have receding chins or are unhealthy.”

“Do as I say” said Isaac, “If you don’t, I’ll send Esau after you. I don’t need to tell you what will happen to you if Esau gets hold of you.”

“Right, Father” said Jacob. Whereupon he set off for Haran……..

Source: Genesis 28, 1-9

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This entry was posted in Abraham, Esau, Isaac, Jacob, Laban, Rebekah and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Haran or Bust

  1. jenny says:

    Philippe, I read your post and thought I would make a light-hearted comment about the horrors of inbreeding and my amusement that receding chins comes to mind before poor health. Then I read your hyperlinked article about evolution and, honestly, its implications for the Jewish character are profound. Like why my husband has an anxiety attack if one of our passports has expired (as if a working passport would solve the sort of problem he anticipates). Or why Linda Pastan wrote this poem (and so many of us–who hear hoofbeats or married someone who hears them–understand it):

    The Cossacks

    For Jews, the Cossacks are always coming.
    Therefore I think the sun spot on my arm
    is melanoma. Therefore I celebrate
    New Year’s Eve by counting
    my annual dead.

    My mother, when she was dying,
    spoke to her visitors of books
    and travel, displaying serenity
    as a form of manners, though
    I could tell the difference.

    But when I watched you planning
    for a life you knew
    you’d never have, I couldn’t explain
    your genuine smile in the face
    of disaster. Was it denial

    laced with acceptance? Or was it
    generations of being English–
    Brontë’s Lucy in Villette
    living as if no fire raged
    beneath her dun-colored dress.

    I want to live the way you did,
    preparing for next year’s famine with wine
    and music as if it were a ten-course banquet.
    But listen: those are hoofbeats
    on the frosty autumn air.

  2. jenny says:

    Dafna might disagree with me. But I bet she’ll still like the poem.

  3. Philippe says:

    “The Cossacks” is indeed a wonderful poem.

    You may have heard of Transpersonal Psychology, of which Stanislav Grof was one of the founders. Transpersonal Psychology postulates that if you have a phobia which cannot be explained, its genesis may lie in one of your previous incarnations.

    Hence a Transpersonal Psychologist will hypnotically regress you back through your previous lives to the traumatic event which brought about the phobia you have today.

    I remember from the only book of Grof’s that I’ve read, “Beyond the Brain”, that although past-life regressions often cure the sufferer’s affliction, Grof didn’t claim reincarnation as a fact, merely that his past-life regression technique seem to work.

    Does Epigenetics explain the vivid experiences of patients who are hypnotically regressed to past lives? If so, these experiences would not be those of the patient, but of his ancestors.

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