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   by Jacob Solomon

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After Esau discovered Jacob's obtaining the blessing he believed was due to him, their mother Rebecca took Jacob aside and advised him to leave home - in hurry:

Run away to my brother Laban in Haran. Stay with him for a few days, until your brother's anger subsides (27:43-44).

At that moment, Rebecca shows her concern for a life's partner for Jacob, though in a roundabout way.

"I am sick of my life because of the Hittite women (two of whom were married to her son Esau 26:34). What would life be worth to me were Jacob to marry a Hittite woman?" (27:46).

Whereupon Isaac tells Jacob:

"Do not marry a Canaanite woman… go to Padan Aram and marry a daughter of Laban, your mother's brother" (28:1-2)

The fear child marrying out is well-known, and Esau's two Hittite wives were indeed a "cause of distress to Isaac and Rebecca" (26:35). It appears that the first time concern was shown for Jacob's getting married was when he had to quit the family environment. The issue was not raised before, even though Isaac and family were living amongst the Canaanite nations and there was no doubt a fair share of attractive local women to choose from - as Esau discovered, to the family cost.

This sudden concern for Jacob's marital future may be explained in the following way. Esau, the text tells us, was a man of this world "a hunter, a man of the outdoors" (25:27). He not only knew how to take care of himself, but could be counted on to support his elderly father as well (c.f. 27:3). He was not sheltered, he had life's experience, he knew how to make his way in a world where food resources were not to be taken for granted (c.f. 26:1). In short, he was a man - a man of this world. And a man is what a woman naturally looks for to take care of her.

Jacob - in contrast - was "a simple man who lived in tents". Living in the home orbit meant that he was sheltered - "a good person" but hardly the person to give the security and the excitement that women crave. As an appendage to Isaac's household, he was a "good man". In order that he could attract suitable girl, he needed to get away from home, to experience on one side a deepening relationship with G-d (as he would through G-d's revelation to him after the dream of the ladder), and also to develop backbone in leading people (as he would do in dealing with shepherds at the well in Laban's territory).

In other words, it was Jacob's experiences waiting outside the family nest that would bring out the side of him that a woman would want. That could explain why Rebecca warned Jacob about intermarriage, saying in effect "Now is the time to tell you not to follow Esau's footsteps and marry out, because you are now entering the phase when you will be doing the choosing as far as women are concerned."

As indeed happened, as recorded in next week's parasha…

As a footnote - Rebecca's emphasizing the Hittite women, whereas Isaac warned of intermarriage with the Canaanites may be for the following reason. During that period, the Hittites - and Indo-European empire - were a major force in the region. They appear to have conquered Anatolia, the Haran area (where Rebecca came from), and had been making southward incursions into the land of Canaan without actually controlling all of it. Rebecca immediately linked the Hittites in Canaan with those she experienced in her childhood in Haran. So she warns of the Hittites. Isaac - who had never left Canaan saw them as just more subgroup of the different Canaanite clans - so he referred to them as Canaanites…

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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