Posts tagged " Esau "

Be a Heel

August 7th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 21 comments

High heeled shoes for women, and at times for men, go in and out of style. Yet, two English expressions that revolve around the heel seem to be negative. We speak of someone’s weakness as his Achilles heel and we use heel as a pejorative term as in, “He’s such a heel.” 

In the Lord’s language, the heel means something quite different.  It implies progress made possible by being properly grounded.  Just think of how we move forward by walking. The first part of our body to touch ground is our heel. We then swing forward on that perfectly shaped round heel and prepare the next step.

In Hebrew, Jacob’s name, Ya-AkoV, contains within it the word heel.

ע ק ב          י ע ק ב

   (Ya)A-K-V          A -K -V
Jacob                Heel

If ‘heel’ were a verb, Jacob’s name would suggest, “He will heel”.  But that would be meaningless.  What does Jacob’s name mean?

Let’s try to understand by looking more closely at the verse describing the birth of twins Esau and Jacob. 

And afterwards, his brother emerged, and his hand was grasping Esau’s heel (A-K-V), and he named him YaAKoV…
(Genesis 25:26)

But there is a problem. 

Jacob’s action was grasping.  The heel was almost incidental.  It’s not impossible that had Esau been aligned differently, Jacob might have grasped his arm.  So, the younger brother’s name could more appropriately have been Grasper because that is what he did.

In reality, however, a careful reading of Genesis 25:26 shows that there is no “because”.  Scripture does not specify ‘therefore he called him’. 

In many other instances throughout the Bible the verse is quite clear as to why someone is named.  Here are two examples:

And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has seen my affliction, for now my husband will love me.”
(Genesis 29:32)

And it came to pass, in due course, that Hanna conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, because I have asked him from the Lord.
(I Samuel 1:20)

But when Isaac named Jacob, it was not because of anything. 

Or was it?  What does this word A-K-V mean?  Is it only heel?

In order to understand the full meaning of Jacob’s name, we need to be aware of four other times the word AKeV appears.

1:  God cursing the serpent in the Garden of Eden: … He [man] will strike you [using] the head, and you will strike him [using] the A-K-V. (Genesis 3:15)

2:   An angel of the Lord promising Abraham:  And through your children shall be blessed all the nations of the world, A-K-V  you hearkened to My voice. (Genesis 22:18)

3:  God speaking to Isaac:  A-K-V Abraham hearkened to My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My instructions. (Genesis 26:5)

4:  Moses speaking to Children of Israel: A-K-V  you will heed these ordinances and keep them and perform them, that the Lord, your God, will keep for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers. (Deuteronomy 7:12)

Looking only  at 2,3, and 4 you might think that A-K-V means because.  But Hebrew has perfectly good and often-used words for because. There is much more to A-K-V. 

We begin to understand this word better when we note that the three-letter word A-K-V, has a numerical value of 172, This links it, In ancient Jewish wisdom, to the Ten Commandments which have a total of 172 Hebrew words. (Exodus 20:2-14)

Now we are getting somewhere.  Let’s examine these four verses above in the light of ancient Jewish wisdom’s explanation of this very special ‘code word’ A-K-V. 

Abraham will be the source of blessing on account of the depth of his commitment to authentic Biblical values: hinted at by A-K-V.

Isaac is being told that his mission comes because his father, Abraham, really listened to God’s voice and kept all His Biblical rules: hinted at by A-K-V.

Moses is teaching that if we want God to keep His covenant that He swore to our ancestors then we need to heed these authentic Biblical values: hinted at by A-K-V.

And what of the Serpent? The serpent is synonymous, according to ancient Jewish wisdom, with Satanic forces intended to distract mankind from God.  God is not saying that the Serpent will bite our heels and we will stomp on his head. Rather, the Serpent, manifested by our desire to do wrong, knows that the way he can best strike us is by attacking our Achilles heel, our urge to rebel against authentic Biblical values— hinted at by A-K-V. The only way we combat this is by using our heads to dominate our desires.

Isaac named his son, Ya-AKoV, prophetically seeing he would remain true to the values of grandfather Abraham, hinted at by A-K-V. Doing likewise keeps us well-heeled indeed.

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The When and Where Matter

April 17th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

This evening, Tuesday April 17, Susan and I are doing a live TV show in Akron, OH before a studio audience.  Among other teaching, we will accept questions from people in the audience to which we shall respond by employing principles of ancient Jewish wisdom.  This is what we do with our Ask the Rabbi feature that appears on our website each week. Except that tomorrow evening, we shall see the people asking and get to meet them after the one-hour show is done.

Imagine someone in the audience asking, “Rabbi, I want to get a divorce, but my wife who is here with me is really hurt and wants us to work on our marriage; what should we do?”  There is, of course, no way to respond helpfully to all the pain oozing out of that question in the few minutes available in the show format.  I know that both Susan and I would view it as a really inappropriate question to ask in a public forum.

A lawyer friend told me that, more times than he would have expected, he would be celebrating a family birthday at a restaurant when a client would approach him saying, “I know you’re in the middle of dinner, but…”  What would follow would be some technical issue that could have and should have been addressed in an office environment. 


Rowdy Red or Benign Blue

May 31st, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

It was on election night November 2nd, 1976, when President Ford was being challenged by Jimmy Carter that NBC television showed us our first blue/red electoral map. The blue was Republican and showed the 27 states won by Ford, while red was Democrat. It was only in the 2000 Bush-Gore election that the colors were switched. Since then red shows states and counties voting Republican while blue stands for Democrats.

This was a cunning reversal of the usual convention of red symbols standing for left-leaning revolutionary movements while conservative parties in almost every country used blue. After all, the color red was emblematic of communism and still reminds us of the Soviets. You might remember the Cold War cry of the American left, “Better red than dead!” (more…)