Jacob & Sons: Part I


“Altogether, I think we out to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we’d be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.” —Franz Kafka, the son of a chamberlain

Living in the “credentialed” world, in order to make a living there is a need presenting credentials to the proper authorities, in order to be recognized with the right to speak? Ever since the greatest commandment in the Garden had been to know God, locate the resentment over who exactly knew God best. (It was why, based upon what I heard this week from my eight-year old niece, women wanted to be ordained, symbolic of equal rights in over who knew God best? ) And so in this decade, in this century, in this millennium, another war – this time both inside and outside the tribe. Like ever since the time of Abraham, the father of faith.

There are other pieces written here as part of the Dormady Academy for Private Detection about the character ABRAM, who dedicated his life to the importance for a nomad to stay connected, through bonds both inside and outside the tribe… and passing it on. Was it just an accident that this civilization was able to build with deeper foundations, without building collapse?

There was this invisible connection to the theology shared by the majority of the young people with the way they were formed, through higher education, as the outside world became more threatening, with each passing generation… For Jacob & Sons.

Yes, there was a time when holiness was only found in the mountains and in the desert, where prophets fled to seek God’s voice amidst the quiet and the solace, uncluttered in a world that had then seemed much more calm, to allow themselves to be chosen, in the deepest part about prayer which involves listening, which somehow involved life.

In the ax to the frozen sea ending, did you ever feel the displacement in the story of Joseph, with the deep feeling like a charley horse of the throat when you recognize his Post Traumatic Stress disordering after your brothers tried to kill you, when you were seemingly forced out? Note the movement in the story of belonging which came out of a displacement in the story of Joseph. That charley horse of the throat comes when you recognize his part in the invisible sacrifice with the birth right, living outside the tribe, when he had become the sacrifice.

Did you recognize the same theme in stories from one generation to the next, about The Missing Persons Bureau? Yeah, just as Jacob had left his family behind, there is always an affect on the sons and one daughter in their belief in the God of Isaac. Over and over, there is the theme of separation, with the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome after a loved one tried to kill, sacrifice or annihilate you. Would Joseph be shaken as much as Isaac had been, when Isaac really was the lamb that Abraham had planned to sacrifice?

Time. Timing. Creation. Where it was said by Picasso that every act of creation involves a form of destruction, as you break one bond and form another; as you no longer see each other, when you go away.

So how to keep a connection, in your private life, after you have gone away … in the outside world, as an immigrant, in the New World? In a world with both outsiders and insiders, there is this tremendous human problem contending with, connecting with, strangeness, as you arrived in a new land as a stranger.

Mostly through story-telling like people do, one of two things happen: either a truth in uncovered or something hidden is revealed about identities which came out of the banishment, a liberation, the exile, and/or the slavery. As told in story, uncovering of what seems lost to history, what a literature of ghost stories does is invite others inside, where maybe they too could be held in the arm of ghosts.

And so another CREATION STORY, when darkness had been on the face of the deep . . . on the face of the water – God said, “Let there be light.” When telling stories about people either reveals something hidden, or uncovers a truth.

Ghost stories, about holy ghosts . . . about Abraham and his sons and grandsons.

In the quest to KNOW, did you inherit a religion to be safe? Under constant fear of neighbors like in the Eastern Bloc of whispering campaigns, under surveillance? When your mother knew but never told you – that Abraham was your father, but you were asked to leave his tribal home, banished so much like in the story of Cain, who lived without commandments, like Adam and Eve. When you, as I, were born into ignorance, knowing nothing about the past, with centuries of silence, did you feel the QUIET CONVERSION THROUGH FAMILY in these stories?

There is also an awkwardness when someone adores you, much less when the world does – just ask an ‘only’ child. Parents do have tears when these folks go in service. So had there been a coverup from Sarai, from Hagar, in what it was Abraham had been doing on Mount Moriah? Before the son got back home? In the sacrifice of identity, maybe not unlike what my Roman Catholic Church has been living through for the last twenty years, when darkness had been on the face of the deep … and every act of creation involves a form of destruction?

And so another CREATION STORY. So who was better than whom, in the great identity question, in the ghosts of the distant ancestors, after a human betrayal of your first born son replaces the quiet CONVERSION THROUGH FAMILY, and the human consequences are loyalty oaths, as heresy became a crime and as one Abrahamaic religion tries to become the dominant power over those living far from the old tribe? Just like, for me under the leadership of the prior pope, in the century old battle against modernism.

Sacrifice. With all the wars which came out of identity connected to place, there is sacrifice, as fathers over and over are sacrificing their sons. Even, as I note the date that I write this, on D-day.

Feeling insecure in a sacrificial bond, why exactly – in the key moment or his life – had Abraham gone to Mount Moriah?

What was the one command given to Adam in the Garden, before the creation of Eve? There are so many people who want to control the Truth. What is the Truth about God? Much like a journalism major has no idea what they are getting into in a place like Russia or in the Philippines, it is dangerous work to want to be a theologian.

In another story about sacrificing knowing God, Abraham went to Mount Moriah. But what was his idea of sacrifice? Was this just some kind of Lenten offering, like my fifty-year old brother-in-law still gives up chocolate? What was the significance of all the chronology of the stories in the Book of Genesis? What was the connection between Ishmael and Isaac in the matter of sacrifice? And why do Muslims hear the same story involving Ishmael that the Hebrew Bible records about Isaac in this sacrifice on Mount Moriah? How was it this story followed the story of Cain and Abel? Or why? Did you ever note the chronology and the significance of the placement of the stories? Was that how you worked to solve the mystery?

If Abraham had succeeded, he would have given up forever whatever he had come to know of God … if he had killed his first born son. And over and over, there are stories in the Book of Genesis about the sons of Abraham sacrificing “knowing God.”

In stories about belonging, in the battle over modernism, about the living past surviving into the future, how did the Living God want to belong in the modern world?

The Missing Persons Bureau. What if there had been a Missing Persons Bureau, so Isaac could find what happened to his son, or so Jacob could find what had happened to Joseph. Or what happened after the rape of Dinah, after the death of Rachel. Rachel was the sister of Reuben’s mother. The handmaids. The servants. (To know. To love, To serve.) Note the significance of the first born son of Jacob with the hand maid, in the bed of the deceased. Get your scorecards here!

Time. Timing. Creation. Yes, where Picasso noted every act of creation involves a form of destruction, note the chronology in the life of Jacob, of first the battle with his brother, with concerns of being followed by his father-in-law as he tried to get back home, until the rape of Dinah, the vengeance of the sons of Jacob, just before the death of Rachel, until Reuben loses his birthright.

Did you ever notice all the hoodwinking in the stories about false idols? In stories about the seen and the unseen, note all the hood-winking. How a brother saved a brother, like Abraham had once rescued Lot, there was Reuben and Joseph, after Jacob had reconciled with Esau.

For a people without a homeland, there had been the dreams of Abram, followed by the nightmares of Isaac after the Akedah, in what I would call Post Traumatic Stress which was connected to the God of Abraham. In the naming of her firstborn son, Rachel went with Joseph, meaning “God has taken away my disgrace.” Was her disgrace marrying a guy like Jacob, when he had a wife who was her sister? Jacob who were never coming back to the nuthouse which had been the homestead of Abraham, with his thinking, then trying to kill within his own family, his son? And did you notice how soon Rachel died after God had taken away what she thought was her disgrace? The disgrace was removed from Jacob’s life? Or was finally being noticed?

And so the suffering of Israel. To silently remember the disgrace in the story which ends up saving the sons of Jacob, in the arc of generational justice through family, as image is defined by others, especially in the way of Rachel’s Egyptian (?) handmaid, not much different than the Egyptian handmaid belonging to his own mother. So did Reuben love these Egyptian handmaids like he knew his father never had? In the offense that Joseph could hardly have remembered, Reuben slept with Bilah.

In contending with the outside world, after a banishment and so much fear of the stranger in the outside world, did you ever note that most of the stories in the Book of Genesis begin with what loved ones did to each other.

What I believe to be missing in the mystery of the Book of Genesis is that neither Isaac nor Ishmael, in trying to save Abraham – on matters of shame – ever reported what had almost happened to them. In a coverup: “Don’t tell your mother.” And this was part of THE birth right.

So Reuben slept with Bilah … and how exactly did Jacob explain the immorality of his act, to Reuben and his other sons, when compared to his own actions with Bilah? And this was not the first recorded sin of the flesh, if you recall the actions of Abraham with his wife’s handmaid. So why was this act of Reuben offensive to Jacob, unless there had been unconditional love involved? Bilah “belonged” to Jacob through the family of Rachel? This “offense” resulted in the loss of birthright for the first born son? But consequently, it was Reuben who came to save the life of Joseph. About fifteen or sixteen years later.

The dreams, the prophecy, the dreams of prophets …. did you ever notice the importance of the PLACE of beds in these stories? For people without a Promise Land?

And so the story of Joseph begins. Only after Reuben had saved his life. In another “Don’t tell anyone” moment of the Book of Genesis. “Mostly they are the same lives, the same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker. We endow our lives with such stories, if the power in the ideals are going to survive. If somehow, this birth right is going to save us.

In the mysterious sacrifice to save the world, like when Abraham went to Mount Moriah – one of two things can happen: either a truth is uncovered, or something hidden is revealed about identities which came out of an exile. In another story about sacrificing your brother (not the son) if not your goal about knowing God – in story-telling which people do about the unsolved mystery – Joseph ends up in Egypt … so all alone, one day sleeping with an Egyptian woman whom he had married. As Joseph had become an outsider … alienated from everything important. in Egypt. And so ends the first part of the story of the birth right of Joseph … when every act of creation involves a form of destruction.

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1 comment so far

  1. paperlessworld on

    First there had been Abraham’s Dream: “”Now the sun was ready to set, and a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and behold, a fright, a great darkness was falling upon him. He said to Abram, ‘You shall surely know that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and oppress them, for four hundred years. And also the nation that they will serve will I judge, and afterwards they will go forth with great possessions. But you will come to your forefathers in peace; you will be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.’ ” (Genesis 15:12-16)

    There was in the first years of Joseph’s life the hip injury of Jacob from wrestling with the angel. Had you forgotten the injury …. the ensuing lifelong affliction in the story? And speaking of lifelong affliction, was a character ever more disabled than Isaac had been after his return with his father from Mount Moriah? And now Jacob and sons in the story …. as Joseph life is spared, not by Abraham, not by Jacob but by God’s intervention. Through Rueben, in his discovery of the meaning of his birthright. Yes, as Joseph’s life is spared, by caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, by a people who shared a past — so unike another firstborn son who allegedly had lost his birth right.

    “Something that is your forever is never precious.” — Chaim Potok


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