Jacob's Journey, Marriage and Children
||Rachel realized that she was not bearing any children to Jacob. She was jealous of her sister and said to Jacob, 'Give me children! If not, let me die!'
||Jacob became furious with Rachel. 'Shall I take God's place?' he said. 'It is He who is holding back the fruit of your womb.'
||[Rachel] said, 'Here is my handmaid Bilhah. Come to her and let her give birth on my lap. Through her I will then also have a son.'
||She gave him her handmaid Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob came to her.
||Bilhah became pregnant and gave birth to Jacob's son.
||Rachel said, 'God has judged (dan) me and has also heard my prayer. He has finally given me a son!' She therefore named the child Dan.
||Rachel's handmaid Bilhah became pregnant again and had a second son by Jacob.
||Rachel said, 'I have been twisted around with my sister through all of God's roundabout ways (naphtuley), but I have finally won.' She therefore named the child Naphtali.
||Leah realized that she was no longer having children. She took her handmaid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife.
||Leah's handmaid Zilpah bore Jacob a son.
||'Good fortune (gad) has come!' exclaimed Leah. She named the child Gad.
||Leah's handmaid Zilpah bore a second son to Jacob.
||'It's my happiness (asher),' said Leah. 'Young girls will consider me happy!' She named the child Asher.
||Reuben took a walk during the wheat harvest and he found mandrakes in the field. He brought them to his mother Leah.
Rachel said to Leah, 'Please give me some of your son's mandrakes.'
||'Isn't it enough that you have taken away my husband?' retorted Leah. 'Now you even want to take my son's mandrakes!'
'All right,' replied Rachel. '[Jacob] will sleep with you tonight in exchange for your son's mandrakes.'
||When Jacob came home from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him. 'You will come to me,' she said. 'I have paid for your services with my son's mandrakes.' He slept with her that night.
||God heard Leah's [prayer], and she became pregnant, giving birth to a fifth son to Jacob.
||Leah said, 'God has given me my reward (sakhar) because I have given my handmaid to my husband.' She named the child Issachar.
||Leah became pregnant again, and she bore Jacob a sixth son.
||'God has given me a wonderful gift (zeved),' said Leah. 'Now let my husband make his permanent home (zevul) with me.' She named the child Zebulun (Zevulun).
||Leah then had a daughter, and she named her Dinah.
||God gave special consideration to Rachel. He heard her [prayer] and opened her womb.
||She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. 'God has gathered away (asaph) my humiliation,' she said.
||She named the child Joseph (Yoseph), saying, 'May god grant another (yoseph) son to me.'
||After Rachel had given birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, 'Let me leave. I would like to go home to my own land.
||Let me have my wives and children, since I have earned them by working for you, and I will go. You are well aware of the service that I rendered you.'
||'Haven't I earned your friendship?' replied Laban. 'I have made use of divination and have learned that it is because of you that God has blessed me.'
||'Just name your price!' said [Laban]. 'I will give it!'
||'You know full well how I worked for you,' replied [Jacob], 'and how your livestock fared with me.
||You had very little before I came, but since then it has increased and become very substantial. God blessed you with my coming. But when will I do something to build my own estate?'
||'What shall I give you?'
'Do not give me anything. Just do this one thing for me. I will come back and tend your sheep, giving them the best care.
||I will go through all your flocks [with you] today. Remove every lamb that is spotted or streaked, every sheep that has dark markings. [Also remove] every goat that is streaked or spotted. It is with that kind that I will be paid.
||'In the future, this will be a sign of my honesty. I will let you inspect all that I have taken as my pay. Any goat that is not spotted or streaked, or any sheep without dark markings, that is in my possession can be considered stolen.'
||'Agreed!' replied Laban. 'May your words only come true!'
||That day, [Laban] removed the ringed and streaked he-goats, and all the spotted and streaked she-goats - every one with a trace of white. [He also removed] every sheep with dark markings. These he gave to his sons.
||He then separated himself from Jacob by the distance of a three day journey. Jacob was left tending Laban's remaining sheep.
||Jacob took wands of fresh storax, almond and plane. He peeled white stripes in them by uncovering the white layer under the wands' [bark].
||He set up the wands that he peeled near the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, facing the animals. It was when they came to drink that they usually mated.
||The animals mated in the presence of the wands, and the young they bore were ringed, spotted and streaked.
||Jacob segregated the young animals. Still, he made the animals in Laban's flocks look at the ringed ones and all those with dark markings. But he bred his own flocks separately, and did not let them breed with Laban's flocks.
||Whenever the stronger animals mated, Jacob placed the wands before their eyes at the troughs, so that they would mate facing the wands.
||But when the sheep were feeble, he did not place [the wands]. The feeble ones thus went to Laban, while Jacob got the stronger ones.
||In this manner, the man became tremendously wealthy. He had many sheep and goats, as well as slaves, slave-girls, camels and donkeys.
|on my lap|
Literally, 'on my knees.' This denotes that the child born would be considered hers. The woman giving birth would sit on the lap of the foster mother, using the lap like a birthstool (see Exodus 1:16). The child would then appear to emerge between the legs of the foster mother.
|have a son|
See Genesis 16:2.
|I have been twisted...|
(Rashi). A difficult phrase, also interpreted, 'I have offered many prayers to God regarding my sister, and I have been answered.' (Targum; Rashi); 'With divine bonds I have been bound to my sister' (Menachem ben Seruk in Rashi); 'With divine struggles I have struggled with my sister' (Ibn Ezra); or 'Divine mysteries have been hidden from me regarding my sister' (Malbim).
Or 'success.' (Targum Yonathan; Rashi; Josephus). Others render it, 'A troop has come,' (Ibn Ezra), that is, 'she (Leah) has had a troop of sons,' or 'let him be considered as many children.' Also see Genesis 49:19. Or, 'I have been vindicated' (Saadia).
In the late spring.
(Targum; Ibn Ezra; Radak, Sherashim; Josephus). Dudaim in Hebrew, from the word dodim denoting passion or carnal love (Radak, Sherashim; cf. Ezekiel 16:8, 23:17, Proverbs 7:16). It was called this because of its use as an aphrodisiac and fertility potion (Midrash Ne'elam, Zohar 1:134b). The mandrake (mandragora officinarum) is a herb of the beladonna or potato family. It has a thick perenial root, often split down the middle, like the lower limbs of the human body. Stalkless, it has large leaves that straddle the ground and violet flowers (cf. Rashi). In the spring, its yellow fruit, the size of a tomato, ripens. This fruit can have an intoxicating fragrance (Song of Songs 7:14).
The variety found by Reuben was a rare, extinct species that gives off deadly fumes when pulled from the ground (Midrash Aggadah on Genesis 49:14, quoted in Tzeror HaMor as Midrash HaGaluy; Toledoth Yitzchak on Genesis 49:14. Cf Niddah 31a; Josephus, Wars 7:6:3). In the Talmud, there appears to be a dispute as to whether Reuben brought home the violet flowers, the fruits or the roots (Sanhedrin 99b). Other sources indicate that he brought home two fruits (Tzava'ath Yissachar 1:3,5,7; Josephus, Antiquities 1:19:8).
Obviously, the Patriarchs and Matriarchs knew how to use these plants in mystical ways (Genesis 30:37). Still, Rachel did not bear children because of the mandrakes, but because of her prayers (Genesis 30:2, 30:22; cf. Zohar 1:157b). According to one ancient source, Rachel did not eat the mandrakes, but offered them to God (Tzava'ath Yissachar 2:6).
Yissakhar in Hebrew. The name can be interpreted as yesh sekhar - 'there is reward' (Radak). The name also alludes to Leah's paying for Jacob's services (Genesis 30:16).
Some say that Dinah was Zebulun's twin sister (Ibn Ezra; Tol'doth Yitzchak; Yov'loth 28:23).
See note on Genesis 8:1.
|Let me leave|
Some say that Rebecca had sent the promised word (Genesis 27:45) to him (Sefer HaYashar).
|Haven't I earned your friendship?|
Literally, 'If I have found favor in your eyes.'
See note on Genesis 31:19.
|giving them the best care|
Or 'waiting' (HaKethav VeHaKabbalah).
|trace of white|
In the ancient middle east, goats usually were completely black.
|three day journey|
According to the Talmud (Pesachim 93b), a day's journey is 10 parsangs or approximately 34 miles. (The Talmud thus defines the distance between Jerusalem and Mod'in, a distance of 17 miles, as being 15 mil or 5 parsangs). A three day journey was therefore 102 miles.
(Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim; Septuagint). Livneh in Hebrew, a 'white tree.' It was believed to have occult powers, and was sacred to idolators (Hosea 4:13). The storax (styrax) has white blossoms (cf. Targum Yonathan), and its bark yields a brown, vanilla-scented resin when it is peeled. Others, however, identify the livneh as the white poplar (populus alba), a tree having white bark (Rashi on Hosea 4:13; cf. Septuagint there). Here Rashi translates it as tremble, French for aspen, a species of poplar. Others translate it as elm (Radak on Hosea 4:13). A possible allusion to Laban.
(Saadia Gaon, quoted in Radak, Sherashim; cf. Targum on 17:23). Luz in Hebrew; see Genesis 28:19. In Arabic, an almond is loz. Others, however, translate luz as hazel. Rashi thus translates it as coudre (coudrier), French for hazel, and Radak (Sherashim) translates it as avelanier (alveane), Spanish for hazel. (See Tosafoth, Bekhoroth 8a, s.v. Tarnegoleth).
Armon in Hebrew. The Septuagint translates it as platanes, the plane tree. It is called armon because its bark peels off the trunk, leaving it naked (arum). There might also be an allusion to Laban's trickery (armah; Lekach Tov). The reference is to the oriental plane (planatus orientalis). This is a tall tree, with a trunk as great as 18 feet in diameter, having a lofty crest (cf. Ezekiel 31:8). It is like the sycamore, and was very common in the Middle East. Later sources, however, identify the armon as the chestnut tree (Rashi; Radak, Sherashim). This is difficult to understand, since the chestnut did not grow in Mesopotamia where Jacob was (also see Tosafoth, Rosh HaShanah 23a, s.v. Armonim, Sukkah 32b, s.v. Dulba, Bava Bathra 81a, s.v. Armonim).
It appears that by deep meditation on the wands, Jacob was able to direct spiritual energy and actually to change the genetic structure of the sheep (Bereshith Rabbah 73; Midrash Tehillim 8:6; Tanchuma B 24; Midrash HaGadol). Kabbalistic sources note that at this time, Jacob was manipulating some of the highest spiritual forces that exist (Zohar 161a, 163a; Etz Chaim, Shaar HaAkudim). See Genesis 31:12.
|sheep and goats|
The Hebrew word tzon denotes small domestic animals, including both sheep and goats, as we see from context here (cf. Rashi on Exodus 12:5). We usually translate it here as 'flocks' or 'animals.'