Posts tagged " Jacob "

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.

Find out more about the Ten Commandments, the Hebrew language, hidden wellsprings in Genesis, ancient Jewish wisdom on money, marriage and more by taking advantage of our free shipping special within the United States, going on right now. Be sure to use the special code SHIPFREE at checkout. See all our resources HERE.

Bury the Blame

July 10th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 31 comments

With immigrants in the news, let me tell you about fifteen-year-old David Sarnoff whose father died shortly after his family immigrated to America.  To support his mother and siblings, David got a $5/week job as office boy at the Commercial Cable Company in New York.  (Government funded welfare programs weren’t to arrive for another 30 years.)  On his own time he taught himself to use the telegraph key making himself more useful to the company’s telegram business.  On Monday morning September 17, 1906, he explained to his supervisor that he’d be unable to come to work on Thursday and Friday on account of the Jewish holyday of Rosh HaShana.  He was promptly fired. 

Ten days later, on Saturday, September 29, 1906 he observed the holyday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and on Sunday morning he began working for the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America.  Two months later Guglielmo Marconi, himself, visited the New York office.  Young David brashly introduced himself to the great Italian inventor who took a liking to his young employee.  While off duty, David took correspondence courses in mathematics.

At work on the night of April 14, 1912, David Sarnoff received the distress signals being telegraphed from the doomed Titanic. He passed the tragic information to William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers.  This turned the new-fangled radio into a household term. Meanwhile, despite his fascination with the technical side of radio, David Sarnoff moved to the financial side of the business saying, “…the place to make money is where the money is coming in…”

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You + You = YOU

July 2nd, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

Money, money, money…” sang Abba in 1976.  What is it?  It is funny how challenging it is to define.    Is it those metallic discs clinking in your pocket? How about those strips of colored paper in your wallet?  How about when you write a check? Is that money?  What if you write on a napkin, “I’ll give you $10 on Friday.” Is that money? How about if we shake hands and I simply say, “I’ll give you $10 on Friday.” Is that money?  Or is money the magnetic orientation of iron oxide molecules on that brown strip back of your credit card?  Is it a stream of ones and zeroes on the hard drive of your financial institution’s computer?  What is money?

Whether you consult economists or financiers, business school deans or directors of the International Monetary Fund, you’ll always get much the same answer.  It will be something like this: money is a government authorized circulating medium of exchange that allows us to count and store value. 

While that definition is basically true, it hardly tells the entire story.  For a far more useful depiction, we should turn to the 10th chapter of William James’ The Principles of Psychology published in 1890. While William James, who in my opinion had a much more correct understanding of the human soul than Sigmund Freud, is not trying to define money, he is helping us understand the breadth of its impact upon our lives.

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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. 

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What kind of role models are these!

February 21st, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 33 comments

My wife and I love listening to your podcast.

I have a question that no Rabbi has been able to answer to my satisfaction. (It could be that they have answered the question accurately but it never resonated with me.)

It’s about Jacob and his children. Jacob is revered by us and his children were given the privilege of having tribes named after them. What bothers me is that these were not nice children. Judah had a terrible mean streak and was known to hang out with women of ill repute. His brothers sold a brother into slavery. They lied to their parents, they wiped out entire cities for revenge. (If I was Jacob’s neighbor my kids would have been under strict instructions to avoid them at all cost!)

Where does the reverence for Jacob’s children come from and why do rabbis insist on calling them righteous?

Cliff

Dear Cliff,

We’re not sure we can answer this question to your satisfaction, but we are going to try and contribute perspective which we hope you will appreciate.

Recently, a book about a complicated woman, Dr. Anne Spoerry was published.  (In Full Flight by John Heminway)  She fought the Nazis while part of the French Resistance. She was betrayed and sent to a concentration camp where she collaborated with the Nazis in monstrous crimes against other captives.  To escape war crime prosecution, she fled to Kenya and spent the rest of her life saving the lives of thousands of Africans.

To the Africans whose lives she improved and saved while working devotedly on that continent she is a heroine. The concentration camp internees who saw her as a sadistic torturer viewed her very differently. A snapshot of her work for the Resistance before she was sent to a concentration camp would reveal another aspect of her personality. We haven’t read the book yet, but we surmise that Dr. Spoerry was an incredibly powerful and complex woman. We may never know the truth about her feelings, motivations and even her actions but her life does serve as a reminder that God created humans as amazingly complicated beings.

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Ignore that STOP Sign

September 4th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 8 comments

Don’t we all start out with optimistic plans? We are going to accomplish great things, be great spouses and parents, build our businesses and ever so much more.  Yet, somehow, we sometimes find ourselves still single, still yelling at our kids, still working at a dead-end job struggling to make ends meet. We haven’t made the impact we hoped to on our communities, family or friends. Perhaps a Hebrew word can move us back on track.

Just before Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh, God threatens Moses for neglecting to circumcise his son.  God would have terminated Moses’ career, had Moses’ wife, Tziporah, not intervened.  (Exodus 4:24-26) What is going on?

We get a clue from the language used in and around this event:

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Were a third of Jacob’s sons illegitimate?

June 6th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 28 comments

Deuteronomy 23:3 says that a bastard is not part of the assembly unto the 10th generation.  How can that be when half of Jacob’s sons were born to his concubines and became the heads of tribes?

Peggy

Dear Peggy,

If you are not a lawyer you may not know the difference between manslaughter, 1st degree murder and 2nd degree murder. If you aren’t a gourmet chef you may not distinguish between Hungarian paprika and Spanish paprika. Yet, in the courtroom or a five-star kitchen a great deal may hinge on those distinctions.

The Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 23:3 is mamzer. It is generally mistranslated as ‘bastard’.  This is not what the term means. Mamzer is a technical term that refers to the very rare case of a child of a man and a woman who are not allowed to marry, such as siblings or a married woman and someone other than her husband. So, for example, while the Torah much prefers children to be created within marriage rather than outside of that holy covenant, the child of an unmarried couple who are legally able to get married but did not do so, is not a mamzer.

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Where Did I Hear That?

April 18th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

“When we were young, we were taught again and again that we shouldn’t get pregnant. Now we can’t!”

That plaintive wail from a childless 43 year-old woman caught my attention. Holly Finn describes the mortification and expense of countless in-vitro-fertilization procedures she endured. A little cashmere baby sweater goes everywhere with her; she bought it years earlier for the baby she hoped she’d one day have. Now Holly weeps about having the sweater but not the child. Her most excruciating experiences are being in the company of other women chattering happily about their children, or with men, most of whom simply don’t get how she feels.

Holly’s sad situation echoes the Biblical account of Rachel. When Leah repeatedly gives birth, the childless Rachel cries out in agony to her husband:

…give me children otherwise I’m as good as dead.
(Genesis 30:1)

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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…)

Make Meetings Matter

January 16th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

In early January we tend to focus on the future. Yet, while New Year’s resolutions are not about reexamining last year’s failures, it is important to remember that there is no moving forward if we fail to integrate our past realities with our future plans. Our past realities shouldn’t haunt us and hinder us. But we do well to recognize them, adjust for them where necessary and reject the notion that they have the power to keep us anchored in an unchangeable present.

What is one of the most powerful tools for moving forward? Make meetings matter. (more…)

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