Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This


I’m so tired my eyeballs are falling out.

I forgot to post yesterday. So much for the great resolution. But I shall get back on the horse and ride, even if the horse feels dead at the moment.

In this week’s Torah portion, Va-yetze, we read the story of Jacob and Laban, a story of a man and his horrific relationship with his father-in-law. Jacob and Laban spent all their time and energy circling one another, trying to get an advantage or get even after the other had taken advantage. Their foolishness would haunt the family for generations.

Laban had two daughters, one beautiful, one with “weak eyes.” Jacob wanted the pretty one. Laban (and his daughters) deceived Jacob and married him to Leah, the one he didn’t want. So he wound up working another seven years for the wife he wanted. Jacob, who had tricked his brother out of his birthright in the last Torah portion, was now the victim of a cleverer trickster. He got even by breeding Laban’s sheep and goats in such a way that he profited from the deal. Meanwhile his two wives had a fertility competition, dragging in concubines and competing to see who bore the most sons. ┬áIt is no surprise that those sons grew up to be a contentious lot.

Why on earth do we keep this stuff as holy Scripture? Perhaps it is to teach us that all of life has the potential for holiness, even the messiest, most unholy bits of it. The God of Israel insisted on seeing potential in a bunch of people who seem more suited to The Jerry Springer Show.

So yes, it’s been a rocky day at Chez Coffee Shop Rabbi. I’m tired and dirty and can’t think what to type. But I refuse to give up on my potential, because if God could see potential in scheming Jacob and his two fussing sister wives, then maybe there’s hope for me.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

7 thoughts on “Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This”

    1. That sort of wondering is part of the process of learning Torah, Lurkertype. Some of the ancient writers wondered if Rachel was still attached to her home deities and was perhaps not much interested in Jacob’s God, and they speculated that maybe that was why she had fertility problems. (Obviously, this was before anyone understood how fertility actually works.)

      Another possibility is that she knew Laban was going to be angry, but by stealing his gods she was trying to diminish his power to retaliate.

      Do you have any theories about it?

      1. Pretty sure that she was angry at Laban (as she says in the text earlier), so it would be the ultimate screw you as she left. “Taking the husband, the kids, the sister, the concubines, the specked flocks AND your household gods. So there.”

        1. Love it! And you are reading the text closely – excellent! Some of the best fun in Torah study is noticing these little gaps in the story and playing with them.


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