Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Parshat Vayetze, 5773/2012 thoughts

You can read the basics here.

B'reshit/Genesis, chapter 31:

Yaakov flees from Lavan without advance warning :
לא וַיַּעַן יַעֲקֹב, וַיֹּאמֶר לְלָבָן: כִּי יָרֵאתִי--כִּי אָמַרְתִּי, פֶּן-תִּגְזֹל אֶת-בְּנוֹתֶיךָ מֵעִמִּי. 31 And Jacob answered and said to Laban: 'Because I was afraid; for I said: Lest thou shouldest take thy daughters from me by force."

How common was it, in the Ancient Near East, for a father to use force to reclaim his daughter(s) from their husband(s)?

מג  וַיַּעַן לָבָן וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל-יַעֲקֹב, הַבָּנוֹת בְּנֹתַי וְהַבָּנִים בָּנַי וְהַצֹּאן צֹאנִי, וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה רֹאֶה, לִי-הוּא; וְלִבְנֹתַי מָה-אֶעֱשֶׂה לָאֵלֶּה, הַיּוֹם, אוֹ לִבְנֵיהֶן, אֲשֶׁר יָלָדוּ. 43 And Laban answered and said unto Jacob: 'The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that thou seest is mine; and what can I do this day for these my daughters, or for their children whom they have borne?

What my husband read in the commentaries of the Plaut Chumash regarding verse 43 answers my question regarding verse 31:  "Lavan places Jacob's marriages in a special Assyrian legal category, erebu, in which the husband lived with his wife's family; if he left, he could not take his wife or her belongings with him."

Old Vayetz posts of mine:

Conservadox warns against trying to force G-d's hand.

Monday, November 26, 2012 update regarding the midrashim about Leah and Rachel:
  • I've changed my mind about any indirect evidence in the Torah that Rachel helped Leah con Yaakov into marrying her.  (See my Midrash madness post, linked above.)  I think it could probably be more easily argued that, in such a strongly patriarchal society, any protest on Rachel's part would have been completely disregarded.  A female did what her father or husband told her to do, or else (for the most part).
  • On the one hand, I tend to take these midrashim with a grain of salt (if not a box thereof!), because I see no evidence in the text to indicate that anything other than a fierce competition to produce babies was going on between the sisters.  On the other hand, I credit the ancient sages--who were not exactly 21st-century feminists--with having been sufficiently uncomfortable with a text that, basically, portrays Rachel and Leah Our Mothers as little more than baby-making machines that they made sincere efforts to improve upon the original in their midrashic interpretations.  Kol hakavod (my respects)!


Blogger Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

> How common was it, in the Ancient Near East, for a father to use force to reclaim his daughter(s) from their husband(s)?

Given that Lavan repeatedly violates Yaakov's trust and attempts to steal everything from him, Yaakov Avinu's assumption that Lavan would send him away penniless isn't so far fetched.

Sun Nov 25, 02:02:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Agreed, and ancient Assyrian law (see Sat. 11/24 after-Shabbos update) seems to have given him the authority to do so. :(

Mon Nov 26, 01:14:00 PM 2012  

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