Archive for the ‘Power’ Category

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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Yūsuf ibn Yaʿqūb ibn Isḥāq ibn Ibrāhīm

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No one is a born story-teller. With words, in translations, there was such a long learning curve that cut into you. In words and borders and getting across time, with power and dominion and in BONDS which came from stories about ‘Forced labor’ like in the Soviet Bloc, little different than life in the nineteenth century. Bonded labor. Less a system today than in the past – but still serial servitude. Not just servitude but serial servitude. Passed on, like a religion. Ever revolving. Ahead of the evolving human law that punishes. Or outlawed with tactics to make it harder to identify.


Serfdom. Poverty is a factor in all slavery, with unscrupulous owners of business, on the legal edge of criminal slavery who focus on the price of a product like cotton, to be sold in another market. Not as well-known is the Asia-Pacific slave trade in South India, writes Siddharth Kara on chattel slavery in the modern context, with ‘Dead Bondage’ contract after a deed-of-sale had been outlawed in 1833. Generation after generation, the relationship carries on in the bonded labor of agriculture, into the modern world.

To be caught in life cycles of SLAVERY: In a world of BAD spirits, written about by a one-time slave in 1789. The suffering, generation after generation in bonded labor of agriculture. There is the degree of suffering even in the relationship of slavery into the modern day world.

Note the irony of the history found in the Hebrew Bible with the goings-on after Joseph, knowing the story of the Egyptian handmaid which afflicts the world today. Note the connection of Passover to the story of slavery, since slavery “by the sweat of your brow” was the affliction since the times of Adam, in the beginning.

When slavery was always connected to the earth. When the earth is the vehicle that carries the future, as humankind is to have a shared dominion, with ‘forced labor,’ in a bonded kind of labor that never would end and which would involve your children’s children.

Hagar, without a husband, in human bondage trying to make a decision about the future with her very good master, Sarai. Here was another lamb story which was never heard until more than 700 years after the common era began.

We all belong to an age, and it is not our fault. Looking for independence, women more and more are rejecting not just servitude but serial servitude in the institutions; in the crisis of modernity, maybe people were rejecting all of the work involved to care for just one child.

Having to start over like Hagar, out from human bondage. Did you feel the ghosts of fragmentation which came out of independence, in the conflict over belonging? Did you feel the ‘independence’ in the stories of an independent people, maybe in compliance with the right “to be forgotten” initiative of the European Union, as Google has started to remove certain of their search engine results? Or so they say.

Did you read to be ahead of where the world was moving, as the old world was dying, with all the fragmentation …. but with The Spirit in the fragmentation. Did you read the warnings about ending up like Hagar, so all alone? Note once again the suddenness in the story.

Had there been a reluctance at Gettysburg in the line delivered about what was so self-evident, to Abraham Lincoln? And speaking of loss of life, to men named Abraham, compare a sacrifice at the end of life, offering all that you had built up to incremental sacrifice made each day … or when you were young and forced to put it all on the line.

Creating a cycle of vulnerability. More nimble and transitory, in the modern world, the supply chain – the corrupted supply chain – comes from the human desire for a cheaper product, for greater ease. The greater unease created over the desire for ease. Everyday concern one day is transferred from the price of the products consumed to the cost to the victims in the economic systems. It is the awareness of the missing bond between the keeper of the flock, like the later missing bond between Isaac and Ishmael, between Jacob and Esau, the first recorded twins? And like Cain, speaking of inheritance, having to leave again … just like Hagar.

El Shehaby

Living history. Whoever could believe how it all began? In the story about how it all happened, did your kids believe the chronology, before they arrived? Or was this just a secular chronology, denoting attitudes, activities, or other things which have no religious or spiritual basis? Did the kids even ask? In the beginning of – when the skies had been shapeless and formless, and darkness had been on the face of the deep. About our chronology? And their personal appearance on earth.

To be dumped. Onto earth. Not knowing. To go back to the beginning: Banished again, like Hagar and her genetically modified son. Hagar, without a husband. Living with her bastard son, Ishmael. In what all the ghosts of saints have learned over a lifetime, in the seeds of charity and forgiveness, here was another lamb story.

Firstborn sons. Birthright. Planned parenthood. Creating, then sustaining the illusion, in a parental kind of way about systems like slavery. Feel the presence of a spirit, that you might love like I loved, in a powerful kind of way. Feel the power, in relationship.

“From age to age, from east to west,” we all belong to an age, and it is not our fault. Does it matter so much WHEN you were born? When your membership in a tribe was everything, and the place in the story was always important – like the place of origin.

Feel the desire between two women over issues of fertility which becomes obsessive, which does happen to those who obsess — even over religion, over spouses, if not children? TO be moved like the clouds from stories about life and death to replicate. In what all the ghosts of saints have learned over a lifetime, in the seeds of charity and forgiveness, Hagar, living with her bastard son, Ishmael. In the story that surely marks the New Millennium like — at least, the Irish people in the Twentieth Century, forgot. In all of the stories, over and over, about deleting the First Creation, before somehow taking it back. How could I ignore all of the bad choices Hagar had made in collaboration with her master? That was the story of Ishmael which led into the story of Isaac.

The War on Terror. The times we are born into. To be caught in life cycles of SLAVERY and serial servitude, was there shame ever felt over the damage that you had done so far to this world? Was there need to set forth to start making amends over the conflict with the past, and all of our institutions. After the Space Age, where there is cyberspace, and there is no THERE there. No right or wrong? Just ask the National Security Agency about their interpretation about the meaning of human rights, if not torture, under the two past American presidents as concerns over security become so obsessive.

The weakly connected villains with the spiritual direction of a butterfly, denoting attitudes, activities, which have no religious or spiritual basis, the real New Millennium generation born under these two presidents with the genetically modified idea about goodness and evil, if not constitutional rights.

“Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker . When we endow our lives with stories, when your relationships were so alive but with the missing self-awareness in the story about allowing yourself to be Chosen, legitimately. Look in all of these stories about the descendants of Abraham, at the manner of the arrangements in relationship, even like the woman named Sarai doing all of the arranging with Hagar. Look at the way Sarai used her human ownership-power, here. Sarai, doing the arranging – as opposed to what had happened to her with Abram – when she was chosen from Abram’s father’s household. When your prayers were so alive and you were barren, but you wanted others to then have the same experience, to avoid extinction. With or without God’s intervention in the relationship. Note the importance of the binding in the relationships, in mostly the same stories about unconditional love, generation after generation.

Or the disappearance. To go back to the beginning, what all these ghosts of saints since the time of Noah were contending with was displacement, with their children looking for a spiritual direction. A woman using only her power through serial servitude who was expected to somehow, in her very own way, to carry the God of Abraham further in the world, beyond the tribes and the homeland where she was born? When growth was so much the measure of success, but from serial servitude, no human could ever really grow.

From the visible and the invisible, in stories about birthright held back, contending with displacement, did you carry an unrealistic expectation that a woman is gonna know God like I know God. Or that you son might replicate God’s greatness as Sarai — a direct descendant of Noah’s nameless wife — dreamed to do. Have you ever, like I have, heard a story of how a woman went ahead with a wedding when she knew that she was doing something wrong? It was like forcing a shot in basketball, which was never there, when time was running out on the shot clock.

In the stories of the seen and the unseen, the relationship is never entered into on a consensual basis between an owner and a slave. The word used is “Mistress” if female, not “Master.” On matters of shared dominion, the mistress dominates and there is no true sharing. And when your son hears one day about the circumstances of his birth, how would a mother maintain parental control over their child when it came to the concept of the connection of sex to “relationship?”

Did you feel the human force in the story of Hagar and Sarai? So what is your perspective concerning this story with Abraham, in what would later happen? Why had Abram ever left home in the first place — had he been banished? He married his half-sister, for God’s sake? Was there a connection over the command to cleave and the meaning of “cleave” in all of this? What is your perspective of the man who imposed circumcision on all of his nameless slaves, as well as on Hagar’s son? His thirteen-year old son, Ishmael, like all those adult SLAVES, would never forget the pain that Abraham inflicted in the name of his God with their own circumcisions. So was Abraham, after the birth of Isaac, after the unreflected upon pain of over-powering sacrifice which seemed to cross the line, if not the road which perhaps Abraham had so quietly inherited from Noah’s wife, banishing Hagar from the Promise Land just as Adam and Eve, as Cain had once been banished? Or was he setting the captives free?

In the stories of the seen and the unseen, in modern stories of displacemnt, after all the 20th Century Liberation Movements, with liberation theology and more emancipation proclamations, there currently are 28.4 million slaves in the world, or were at the end of 2006, per Siddharth Kara, of which 1.2 million were trafficked nameless sex slaves sold into another market. As Catholic Relief Services reports, “In every 800 trafficking cases worldwide, only one person is convicted.”


Copyright © 2014.

Being secure in one’s ‘papers’ in a paperless world

Daily Reflection Creighton Online Ministries

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Reacting to the shared unexpected, which will change the future of the world … as a student, Jorge Bergoglio came across an 18th-century painting, “Our Lady, Undoer of the Knots,” which showed the mother of Jesus persistently undoing the knots in a long rope, which resonated deeply for him. This “Undoer of the Knots” might involve the job description of the current pope with his struggle in our day with, however small Vatican City looked to be on a map, what is the office of both a temporal and spiritual monarch, to meet and challenge the “doctrine” about God then and now which needs undoing?

To consider that in Ireland, probably no different than Argentina, per a 2012 commissioned survey by Amarach Research by Ireland’s priests’ association, showed that three out of four Irish Catholics find the church’s teaching on sexuality “irrelevant.” Did the priests wonder, if faith was about shared belief, what belief was shared any more? Were these questions about the truth about sex any different than with what Ishmael had to contend? When the people with power always wanted to just banish the enemy, perhaps because they had no sons of their own. But would their mothers set the captive free?




IN OTHER NEWS ABOUT NOMADS, The White House said Thursday that in his sixty-second month as president, President Barack Obama had ordered a review of deportation practices, an announcement that comes amid pressure from Hispanic groups to scale back deportations of those who were considered illegals and not quite human, like a slave.

The Woman Who Never Returned: Wasn’t this above story about sexual abuse? Chosen people who felt that they could have sex inside the other tribe, with no idea of their traditions? Wasn’t that the story of “choice” in the world of democracy – the goal of Bill Gates and Planned Parenthood, or of genetically modified seeds which Mr. Gates is promoting if not for his family, for the rest of the world? When God gets near in your suffering, as God gets near as you clear out room, when it might seem like a void inside but it was some kind of unknown process. Or one not understood. Wasn’t that the story of the 21st Century war– chosen people who felt that they could annihilate the other tribe? If you owned the world, or tried to?

Note how no one ever asks how it was that Hagar had become a handmaid, or how this Egyptian had come into the house of Sarai. Had her arrival been a result of war? Or just the gift of the Pharaoh? In all of human history, the harm from the culture of war was in reducing the other human being to an object. And when you own a body, you could do anything.

To confess my sins to my son through stories not so much Chosen as much as “Privileged” people? Isaac, more like his momma, never left home? Isaac and place, in the story of generational justice with the prophet leading you somewhere. To stir you up. When you sacrificed a son … on Good Friday. Or Hagar. To give up your son to your mistress? And Abraham, sacrificing his sons, for Hagar, for Sarai? To scream out in story, to object as you carried the future. As you father, juggling all of these things local and the distant, in the inside and the outside world, was going to sacrifice you because when you own a body, you could do anything… for the ones you felt closest to? To make claim to your God, but to punish along the way his son, in the name of unconditional love?

Aseret Yemei Teshuvah

allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.


Being secure in one’s ‘papers’ in a paperless world

Daily Reflection Creighton Online Ministries

Rabbi Abraham Skorka

The Event Planner Dealing With Arrangement

It is stories that map a place as well as a time. And yes, the same stories about match-making and being chosen change over time as the old tellers die off. As times change, especially from the perspective of the woman.

Growth, in almost all of human history, came through a system of arranged marriage. Was that the proclamation in marriage, when growth was the only measure of success? If you were dishonest in your reports of growth, what else was dishonest about your organization? (I once served at the age of thirty on a board of directors which allowed its president to send in money, claiming new members, trying to prove greatness to the national. Whether there was true growth, however dishonest.)

Power. Truth and story-telling, with words, in the story about power and dominion. Feel the BONDS which came from stories . . . feel the speed up, of success, in numbers while trying to increase and maintain numbers, through some kind of human arrangement. In a world of power and the story about power, you take something so private public in relationship – in either sexual relationship or in worship. That you might pray, like I prayed: did you ever realize how personal this all had been — maybe a lot like the act of reading is — or even worshiping can be?

To allow yourself to be Chosen, legitimately, like the woman named Rachel, with Jacob like his grandfather, doing the arranging – as opposed to what had happened to Isaac. Creating, then sustaining the illusion, in a parental kind of way. Power. Feel the presence of a spirit, that you might love like I loved.

Power. When you are born into something. When you as a child had no choice and you had to live with it – in the outside world, in the inside world. When at one point in life you were able to run away, and in a sense discover your own inner power, but you now at this point could not run away.

Power. Restlessness. Shame. The visible and the invisible, as busy men and busy women did not understand power — the power of just keeping company as chosen people. There is the craziness of men who feel empowered, in the thrill of the connection, of distant people within the tribe.

The ordering, the separation, growing suspicion, and the doubts about each other, when you were young, bound by the family rules. Rules that started to look, oh, too confining. About the ordering of society, where families had been identified within a community. With rules about power.

The movement in the story of power. Listen once again through the stories in the power in connection as the invisible birthright was passed on again in a family: That this God is somehow connected to me. The inheritance, based upon goodness, did not involve “luck.” To realize how – wired to the community –that through institutions of learning and books, but mostly through stories, God is connected to me.

Exodus was the movement in the story of Jacob, not so unlike the story of banishment sustained by Adam and Eve. Upon the advice of his mother, Jacob was having to take decisive action, to survive, suddenly leaving upon receipt of birthright which came out of nothing but deceit — in this case, based upon his mother’s decree, just when he might have wanted to stay home, Jacob left Abraham’s homestead, for Rebecca’s homestead. And hadn’t Jacob really been a Momma’s boy?

With an Irish intuitive sense of what was happening, what is called in German fingerspitzengefuhl – the fingertip feel that maybe your pitching coach understood — for me the story, still, was all about Abraham’s old plan. He who was never coming back, you know. Home. To Sarah. Not after he killed her son, in sacrifice on Mount Moriah. As the past and the future were at odds, when reflected upon. And neither he nor his descendants could outlive this personal shame. Here so much was a living sacrifice by Isaac in role of a loving son; now, Jacob somehow was now being offered and given up as a living sacrifice to Rebecca’s family? And did you get the sense that Jacob was never coming back?

Note the vexation by Rebecca’s brother – Rachel’s father – not so unlike Abraham’s vexation with his son, Isaac. Once again there was a bit of the spirit of vexation: damage which is suffered in consequence of the tricks of another. Hoodwinking, not unlike Abraham getting Isaac to go on this three day journey, there was these stories of another trick on another journey. Over and over in the story of family, there is mention of hoods, of hiding, of idols. So all along, is God hoodwinking people to come to believe that they somehow are Chosen? What of the concept of unconditional love from the Covenant in the story of Jacob, as Jacob and Rachel gave up a belief in unconditional love to marry? Neither monogamy is present, nor was belief in monotheism shared for these two.

To know a land and its people was to know the stories. Have you ever left home thinking, maybe on a trip with Abraham to Mount Moriah, you were never coming back? Would you over time come to feel a shame over the greatness that you were born into? Did you ever feel the power in this story which comes from personal sacrifice while on the receiving end of all this deceit and the pretension in the every day aspects that took up every moment of your life. Did you ever note the separate belief connected to a place – to a land – like you discovered in a relationship with an outsider? Did you ever note how connected by belief you were as you shared a place in time, maybe somewhat like with a classmate?

Note the irony of the son of Isaac, marked for life by a mother, and the hostility of a mother with power in reduplicating Truth, in the arc of generational injustice based upon family pride. Like Jacob’s own mother had, there was Jacob living within a tribe, learning the mystery, as an outsider. Leaving home and not knowing if you ever would get back. Not knowing how long you would be gone. Like when you were drafted. Note the serious indefinite departures, after all this sex that the nuns failed to point out that Jacob had with one wife, two handmaids and now a second wife. Did you feel a hostility as an outsider, when you missed a feel, either within or not, for holiness?

Nice guys. Like in the insurance industry, there was a human resource department filtering out the people who just would not fit with the company, as it appeared in the public eye. Looking in the old days for guys, like Jacob, who every woman wanted to sleep with; a nice guy like Jacob, without any retribution. Leah. Leah’s sister. Their handmaids. I had failed to notice until relatively recently that there had been a lot of sex going on in Jacob’s bed, with his birthright. And Jacob, now with all of these wives and all of these children, and his belief in one blessing, with his one true love Rachel?

“Something that is yours forever,” wrote Chaim Potok, “is never precious.”

In the Jacob story, note the outsider, exiled from the world of theory, living at some point with now only memories but somehow wanting to make them your own. It was Jacob who thought a father with one wife had just one blessing to give. But Jacob was with his two wives and their two handmaids and eleven sons and one daughter.

It is stories that map a place as well as a time. What did the birthright of Jacob mean to the outsiders? To Laban who wanted his daughters connected to his sister’s family, so much like Abraham once had this same desire? There was the thrill of the connection, of distant people within the tribe, to others far away. It was part of the craziness of men who feel empowered. Did you feel the personal shame in the story of men who felt deeply inside that they were created to travel: men like Abraham, who felt so deeply inside that they had been created to travel the world? Men like Jacob who were never coming back to the nuthouse which had been the homestead of Abraham, thinking, then trying to kill within his own family, his son?

Yes, men like Jacob, hostile to and leaving that tradition behind. Before his attempt to return home, had Jacob really ever felt the presence of God directly, outside his youth? Beyond Canaan? Or outside his immediate family? And with Rachel, from Laban’s family with a belief in neither monotheism nor monogamy. Looking for the divine in all relationships even with superstitious women, looking for union with God, through their own flesh and blood. How could a man have a favorite child? How could a father or a husband with bonds, as the dogma of currency, show favor? Yes, how can Jacob have just one wife he loved the most? Or one son? Or one God?

What were the suspicions of this beautiful woman named Rachel, the young shepherdess grown, who had been born into this culture of deceit. Often in covert operations, a damage is suffered as a consequence of the tricks of another. And like Eve and Adam were punished by their cleaving, reproducing more people like themselves, so the story of Jacob and his wives.

When you were no longer so young, but still bound by family and the feelings which had come out of your family. What of the old rules which started to look, oh, too confining? Note the waiting in the story, to cleanse the influence of strange gods, from your native land, if that influence could ever be cleansed of the pretensions of the every day aspects that took up every moment of your life like a slave. A young shepherdess considered to be the lowest of the low – a shepherd girl willing to give her life for her sheep – on the receiving end and the giving end of all of his deceit, with Jacob who had wanted a piece of the institutions which had sheltered a civilization back home.

Power. Did you ever feel the power in this story – or the illusion of power — or the connection of the story of Jacob, in the story of the Promise Land, to the coming of a messiah? Have you ever left home thinking, as a child, you were never coming back? So much like Rachel, who was never coming back . . . but her children somehow find God in the story. These stories do not float free but are connected to a place – to a land. To know a landscape was to know the stories. So in this male dominated world, there had been Rachel, in shame over her fertility and infertility, another barren woman, the progeny of Jacob’s mother’s family, looking to bear a child to prove their worth. As if fertility came just from herself. As if she alone controlled fertility.

And what idol exactly had Rachel stolen from her father, Laban? (For all of these women in the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, merging lives between two tribes while facing sterility as a human condition.) How unusual was it for Rachel to be allowed to name her first-born son, Joseph, noting that God “has taken away (in Hebrew ASAPH) my disgrace”? Finally, after all of the messy arrangements, with her father, her sister, her servant, her husband. Yes, her disgrace was to allow Jacob to have so many wives, to have been a collaborator with her father in the marriage of Leah? From the world of fertility at harvest time, there is this second-born daughter Rachel, from the tribe of Laban and Isaac’s wife, caught up in the generational injustice based upon family pride. Jacob, hoodwinking each of his wives to come to believe that they somehow are Chosen?

Exodus. What did it mean in the way of institutional thinking, to give up personal ambition to rejoin the tribe, with a desire to return to the world that he knew had always been mostly more honest? So the thrill of the connection, of distant people within the tribe, in his return not so much to an institution but to the home and way of life which had formed Jacob.

Though the etymology of Canaan is uncertain, one explanation is that ‘Canaan” has an original meaning of “lowlands”, from a Semitic root kn’ “to be low, humble.” Though Canaan included what today is Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, northwestern Jordan, and some western areas of Syria, in Biblical usage the name was confined to the country west of the Jordan, the Canaanites being described as dwelling “by the sea.” The Biblical narrative makes a point of the renaming the “Land of Canaan” with “Land of Israel” in marking the Israelite conquest of the Promised Land. Transhumance is the seasonal movement of people with their livestock in a certain subsistence mode. Wikipedia report that evidence of this moving — between-pastures cycle of agriculture — has been found showing shepherds staying with their flocks during the wet season and returning to graze them on the harvested stubble, closer to water supplies in the summer. There was a polarity between coastal towns and agrarian hinterland, illustrated in Canaanite mythology by the struggle between the storm god and the god of the sea.

Men who felt deeply inside that they were created to travel, like Abraham and Jacob had traveled, much like Cain had desired to travel, as his brother had gotten to. Jacob, soon to be renamed Israel, just before Rachel dies. Note the nomads as itinerants who still were a member of a community of people who move from one place to another. In trying to pass something in the way of spiritual power on– in the way of conversion through spiritual journeys. Note the humility, like a shepherd’s, in accepting a certain kind of authority until kids grow up and did not want to just obey what had always been the authorized commandments which belonged to someone else. There was an innate need for explanation about beginnings and endings. You needed others to tell stories of this migrant – otherwise if you just stayed home you would go, over a time, crazy.

Did you ever see the connection of these stories to past stories, or a connection of yesterday to today? As the past and the future were at odds…hoodwinked to believe that you were chosen, or hoodwinked to believe that you were born into a world that always had mostly seemed more honest. In an innocent view of a child.

Did you see the very same shame in the story, like the hostility of the son of Eve, in the stories? So Jacob, the allegedly just man of his generation who, like his grandfather before him with his family ego, wanted to return with some revolutionary ideas about relationship? Abraham had had a concept about only marrying within the tribe, one women. And there was this grandson of Abraham who had discovered the one true God, marrying his mother’s niece — or then two of her nieces, for God sake! Can you imagine the shock of Isaac when he heard the story about two of their nieces marrying one of his sons? Or the neighbors when Jacob returned, if he would safely return, to Canaan, with some degree of shame. Did you connect this to the hostility of Eve which she had to finally recognize in her son –even if a parent never came to blame themselves, their neighbors would. Hadn’t Eve eaten the apple out of an unease if not a hostility toward the Creator?

“Why are you going back to the ‘Land of Canaan’, Jacob? With two wives, when that seemed the norm only within the tribe of Laban.”

Yes, how old were you when you felt the growing shame in the story? And so the shame and disgrace in these stories of firstborns and the world’s systems. Did you see the sacrifice of Rachel, forced to travel in her finals days of gestation? In the story of unconditional love, what kind of man would make their so pregnant wife travel, even when all the forces of the world came down on you? Did you wonder about the connection of false gods — false idols so much the center of this trip — to what exactly Jacob thought he was returning? Contrast Rachel, who had upheld her tribal rules, waiting to marry Jacob after seven years as her father finally gave his consent, with Jacob who had not his tribal rules. So Rachel had honored her father, as Jacob at this point really had not? And what of the shame of Jacob, in having to still address what he had done to all of the firstborn: Esau, Leah, and the systems that favored firstborn. After Jacob had hid with his family — with what was supposed to be the future — placed in front of him for some kind of protection, as either one or both of Isaac’s sons faced annihilation, just like on Mount Moriah?

Exodus and the relationship conflict: Did you have a the ringing in your ear in certain words connected to this story not so unlike the initial conflict of Adam and Eve facing banishment? From that stated belief of Rachel with a birth of her first son: “God had taken away my disgrace”? Chosen. ‘Favored’ sons, with ‘favored’ wives and ‘favored’ sons. Note the hostility of those things which get in the way of either God or independence. Note, in the beginning, the hostility toward insiders – people using people – if growth was the only measure of success, when you were dishonest in your reports of growth, what else was dishonest about you and your organization, out for material gain and personal profit? Suspicions perhaps between women . . . envy between sisters, like between brothers: Esau and Jacob. Cain and Able? Were these the first pair of sisters mentioned in the Book of Genesis, who until this point in the story lived by the rules of their father, who allowed themselves to be Chosen. As Jacob prepared to meet Esau, were the word of Cain ringing in your ear, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”?

Jacob with his birthright, who somehow was above all other men. When you had it all, and you wanted to keep it? Jacob, with his two real wives and their handmaids, all caught in a borderless land, between the borders of the past, between two places, between customs of favoritism granted to firstborn sons/daughters in their tribal world, with handmaids, just like Hagar. The revolutionary Jacob, re-named Israel, for what he had done to the systems that favored the firstborn. And what of the shame of Jacob, in having to still address what he had done to all of the firstborn: Isaac, Esau, and Leah. What he had done to the people he had once loved, or based upon the system that he was supposed to? Did you feel the pride in the story, just as Jacob was returning to the world he knew, to the home with a return to a way of life — his old way of life — like an old institution which had formed Jacob, Rachel died delivering her second-born. In the movement in the story, with power in reduplicating Truth, in the generational injustice based upon family pride — Jacob now more and more like Abraham – note the perspective changes to the next generation?

Did you ever feel the power in this story, in Jacob’s discovery of a Living God, after he intended to wage battle to kill Esau, as Cain had killed Abel? Did you feel a connection of the story of Jacob, in the story of the nomad with the physical disability after his battle in the night – when a disabled nomad could not travel without pain. Note the humility in the story, which does give a certain power as all the force of the world seemed to come down upon you, as he gave up his perceived birthright, by sending flocks of his livestock to his brother in recompense of his crime. Had Jacob asked the Living God to bless his shame, as he prepared to meet his brother, in a battle between old tribal beliefs and what was missing for all other powerless beyond-the-firstborn people?

To lose either what you once had or what you once longed for and had waited, comes the discovery how to really pray, with a communal perspective. With the need to save the entire tribe. In one story of conversion, note those living with the system built for the human spirit of vexation. What Jacob was doing in the story was bringing HIS family back, feeling a command from Y*w*h to “Return to the land of your forefathers and to your birthplace, and I will be with you.”

Note the personal transformations in the generational injustice based upon family pride, in the dénouement of the story. Note the change in Jacob as a result of the death of his true love, with the power of his great love which in the end involved no deceit. Just as there was a hostility toward a brother who tried to take a birthright, just as Jacob thought his father had just one blessing to give, was there a hostility toward a God who tries to take life – like Abraham had once tried to take from Isaac –if you had never come to know the one true God? It seems that it was the power of unconditional love for Rachel, for his brother, that so moved Jacob to find a Living God, transforming hostility to love. As Leah was left having to care for Rachel’s sons?

“Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of  The New Yorker. As a birthright grew to the twelve tribes and some knowledge how to pray. Did you feel a growth in the suffering of one man, living with the system built for the human spirit of vexation, in the need for a larger place, for a Promise Land, for a place to freely pray and to try to love Isaac’s one true God unconditionally, and to atone for what he had done and what he had failed to do? Did you feel a presence still in the first recorded death of a woman in childbirth, in the human creation process, trying to prove greatness to God, which foretold so much of the history to come, as you were forced to somehow start over, with such a long learning curve, of a people shamed by what they had to endure. The leaving, the coming back informed and engaged in the world, to a place that it was believed God would return, in the “lowlands” called Canaan, with a Semitic root meaning “to be low, humble.” And there was Jacob, dealing with loss, wondering what would be the reception from Isaac and Rebecca, as to an anger and blame which went towards those who left you. And did you see an irony that by giving his blessing which came from the sacrifice scene on Mount Moriah, Isaac ends up with his birthright sacrificing his son Jacob for twenty years. Would Isaac come to see a growth of the concept of “Chosen” in the family of Jacob, as his own son had not come to banish the sons of the handmaids of his two wives?

There was Jacob, in the days with a need for support. . . with his large family. To go home, to gather together, with Isaac to grieve. Together, a hoodwinked people who come to believe that they somehow are Chosen, but still having to contend with death, accepting God’s support and a support of one another, in times of grief? Friedrich Nietzsche said that it was the stories passed on from generation to generation about the deepest of all suffering –stories about love — which made life worth living.

So what was the connection in the bonds of a grown shepherdess to God Who made all of this possible? With the two children delivered by Rachel who would deliver a generation from hunger, what was Rachel’s connection to Moses, to the City of David, to a Promised Land and the long-line of Chosen People — as vast as the stars in the sky?

Copyright © 2012.

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