Like Father, Like Son
Dr. Haran: So, how are things?
Jacob: It’s been a good week.
Dr. Haran: Why do you say that?
Jacob: I finally left my father-in-law’s house. It was a big step.
Dr. Haran: How come?
Jacob: What’s the big riddle? After two decades of letting Laban walk all over me, I finally let him have it.
Dr. Haran: But you snuck away in the middle of the night.
Jacob: Again with your theory about my always maneuvering and scheming? I told you, it was my mother’s idea to steal the blessing from my brother, Esau.
Dr. Haran: And what about the birthright?
Jacob: I didn’t steal it.
Dr. Haran: Mm-hmm.
Jacob: I didn’t steal it!
Dr. Haran: Your brother might say that you swindled it from him in his moment of weakness.
Jacob: It’s more complicated than that.
Dr. Haran: What about the womb? Can we talk about why you were grabbing at your twin brother’s heel?
Jacob: Okay, so I wanted to be the firstborn. Haven’t you ever heard of sibling rivalry?
Dr. Haran: It is not about your brother.
Jacob: Oh, really.
Dr. Haran: Whom do you feel you have deceived most?
Jacob: My father?
Dr. Haran: One could make that argument.
Jacob: We’ve been through this a million times: My mother told me to pretend to be my brother and…
Dr. Haran: And do what?
Jacob: … steal the blessing from Esau.
Dr. Haran: Did you have trouble with that?
Jacob: Okay. I get your point. But that was the old me. Everything changed when I confronted Laban.
Dr. Haran: You mean when he confronted you?
Jacob: You just can’t help yourself. Yes, fine. Instead of just running away, I should have complained directly to my father-in-law. But when he caught up with me, I didn’t hold back. I finally let him have it.
Dr. Haran: What finally pushed you over the edge?
Jacob: Are you kidding me? Imagine the chutzpah. First, after seven years of toiling for him, Laban tricks me into marrying the wrong daughter. Then he makes me work another seven years to marry the right daughter. Through it all, I was his best shepherd. And then he has the nerve to accuse me of stealing from him.
Dr. Haran: So?
Jacob: Enough is enough, I told him.
Dr. Haran: And then?
Jacob: That’s not enough for you?
Dr. Haran: The question is, why wasn’t it enough for you?
Dr. Haran: What happened next?
Jacob: Laban backtracked. He offered to make a covenant. I agreed. But then he tried to get me to seal the deal by swearing to two different Gods — Abraham’s and Nachor’s.
Dr. Haran: Did you?
Jacob: Of course not. We’re monotheists.
Dr. Haran: But you never did end up invoking the name of the one true God.
Jacob: I didn’t?
Dr. Haran: No, you did not.
Jacob: What did I vow on?
Dr. Haran: Well, it says at the end of Genesis 31:53: “And Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac.”
Jacob: What does that mean?
Dr. Haran: You are the one who said it.
Jacob is silent.
Dr. Haran: What has always upset you the most? What is it that you have resisted more than anything else?
Jacob: Look, don’t start with that again. I love my father.
Dr. Haran: Yes, you do. But you also hate his passivity.
Jacob: Yeah. Ever since I was a kid, it would eat away at me. I mean, what kind of person would allow himself to be sacrificed?
Dr. Haran: But here you are, leaving the safety of your father-in-law’s house to return to Canaan — where you face the possibility of a murderous death at the hands of an angry brother still thirsting for revenge. Why?
Jacob: Because I finally realized that my life with Laban was not worth living; it had no spiritual purpose.
Dr. Haran: Sounds like the “dread of your father” talking.
Jacob: So you’re saying Isaac couldn’t stand to live if it meant not serving God, so he submitted to the Divine Will — and now I’m making the same choice, by deciding to return to Him despite the dangers?
Dr. Haran: I think you are the one who said it, in Verse 53.
Jacob: Let’s assume, by some miracle, I survive this reunion with my brother. Now that I’m trying to be more upfront and direct with people, don’t you think I should make it clear to everybody that Joseph is my favorite son?
Dr. Haran: We have to stop now.
Ami Eden is executive editor of the Forward.