Laban & My Fear of Box Turtles
Most mornings when we are walking the dogs along the Hudson we have to avoid certain paths because of the swarms of ducks (that Debbie is convinced are laughing at her – who am I to argue with my wife?), geese and seagulls. They swarm all over certain sections of the boardwalk.
Debbie is impressed with my imperturbable demeanor, her brave husband who shrugs off the birds with barely a nod, and focuses only on turtles. In my mind, birds and not a threat unless there are turtles around.
According to Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, Aeschylus had been warned by an oracle that he would be killed by a house falling on him; accordingly, he spent as much time as possible in the open, far from any edifices that might collapse. He was taking an ostensibly healthful stroll in the fresh sea air when what was said to be an eagle dropped a turtle on his glistening bald head, which the not-so-eagle-eyed bird mistook for a rock. Bearded vultures are known to pick up box turtles and drop them from great heights onto large rocks with remarkable accuracy in order to get at the juicy meat and bones inside. The turtle “house” that was dropped on Aeschylus reportedly remained intact, but, alas, the old playwright’s head did not.
What concerns me is of no concern of Debbie’s just as I simply want to avoid little gifts birds seem to drop a little too close for comfort.
My own son is confused by my fear of box turtles dropping from the sky.
Nathan BB Kruman wants to know about my shabbat!
It was tough, my friend, very tough.
It felt like a bunch of box turtles were dropped on my head!
Well, my sister Naomi, after hearing many of my questions about this week’s portion demands that I use my Time Machine to go back to Yitzchak and speak with him about parenting.
Debbie wants me to go back even further, to Rebecca’s issues with pregnancy.
I hesitate to share some of my questions because it’s very possible to read the entire story of Laban and Jacob from Laban’s perspective.
Perhaps a box turtle would be preferable.
Put me in Laban’s house I wouldn’t be concerned with Laban finding ways to steal from me, his daughters and granddaughters.
Were I Laban I wouldn’t be concerned with Jacob hurting me in any serious way.
What was it between these two remarkable characters?
In fact, I can understand Laban’s discomfort with Jacob who came with a history of lentil soup transactions and the Great Bracha Robbery.
Laban may play around with Jacob and cause difficulty but he did give Jacob his four daughters.
Jacob sneaks away in middle of the night,
Laban’s idols are missing.
God appears in middle of the night to protect Jacob from Laban, “But God appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, “Beware of attempting anything with Jacob, good or bad (Genesis 31:24),” implying Laban’s not the Tzaddik he imagines himself to be.
Rachel treats her father as less than intelligent, “Oh Daddy! Please forgive me for not standing up and having ample space to hide stolen idols because I’m having my womanly ways!”
He left home to chase Jacob convinced that he, Laban was the victim and now God and Rachel treat him as the obtuse bad guy! Jacob starts yelling about his working conditions – “I didn’t say anything for twenty years, but you are a lousy boss!” (Hey man! You never complained.”
I imagine he felt as if a box turtle had dropped out of the sky onto his head.
Laban makes it clear he has only the one concern, “If you ill-treat my daughters or take other wives besides my daughters..” And yet, I can picture him overhearing his grandsons whispering, “Granddad is worse than Pharaoh!”
A box turtle falling on his head!
Can Laban really trust Jacob to not hurt his daughters? One grandson named, “God saw my pain.” Another grandson named, “God heard I am hated.” Another named, “Perhaps this time my husband will like me!”
A daughter cries, “I might as well die!” Jacob responds, “Am I in God’s place?”
He adds two more of Laban’s daughters as wives and now wants Laban to feel that Jacob will treat his wives well!?
You got to be kidding!
Another box turtle falling from the sky…
Laban strongly suspects that Rachel stole his idols and Jacob, completely unaware of what his wives are doing, pronounces death on anyone who stole the idols.
Can Laban feel his daughters are safe with Jacob?
There drops another box turtle on his head!
And he’s the bad guy for all generations of Jacob’s descendants!
“Come, then, let us make a pact, you and I, that there may be a witness between you and me.”
Thereupon Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar.
And Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” So they took stones and made a mound; and they partook of a meal there by the mound.
Laban named it Yegar-sahadutha, but Jacob named it Gal-ed.
And Laban declared, “This mound is a witness between you and me this day.” That is why it was named Gal-ed;
and [it was called] Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD watch between you and me, when we are out of sight of each other.
—though no one else be about, remember, God Himself will be witness between you and me.”
He Sounds quite religious there!
And Laban said to Jacob, “Here is this mound and here the pillar which I have set up between you and me:
this mound shall be witness and this pillar shall be witness that I am not to cross to you past this mound, and that you are not to cross to me past this mound and this pillar, with hostile intent.
Had Yaacov ever treated Laban with hostile intent?
If Yaakov was running away, why would Lavan worried about Jacob crossing the boundary with hostile intent?
May the God of Abraham and the god of Nahor”—their ancestral deities—“judge between us.” And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac.
Jacob then offered up a sacrifice on the Height, and invited his kinsmen to partake of the meal. After the meal, they spent the night on the Height.
(Genesis 31:44-54 – sefaria.org).”
Does this mean all was well that night?
(Megaleh Amukot: Yaakov in Laban’s house:)
In the days of Matisyahu, son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the evil Greek kingdom rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and to turn them away from the statutes of Your will—
(Megaleh Amukot: Empowering Yaakov to Leave and Directly Confront Laban:)
You, in Your abundant mercy, stood by them in their time of distress,
You defended their cause,
You judged their grievances,
You avenged them.
You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, many into the hands of the few,
(Megaleh Amukot: Three Different Names for the Marker:)
defiled people into the hands of the undefiled,
the wicked into the hands of the righteous,
and insolent [sinners] into the hands of diligent students of Your Torah.
(Megaleh Amukot: Chanukah Ability To Use Beit Hamikdash-Synagogues-Homes-Menorah as our Yegar-sahadutha – Gal-ed – Mizpah:)
And You made Yourself a great and sanctified name in Your world.
And for Your people, Israel, You performed a great deliverance and redemption unto this very day.
Afterwards, Your sons entered the Holy of Holies of Your Abode, cleaned Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, and kindled lights in the Courtyards of Your Sanctuary, and designated these eight days of Chanukah to thank and praise Your great Name.