Friday, January 29, 2016

Why Jews Often Disagree: The Twins, Esau and Jacob, Complete Opposites

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                   
Esau and Jacob, twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca

A very special man named Abraham lived about 4,000 years ago in the 2nd millennium BCE.  He and his wife, Sarah, had a son named Isaac.  The land was full as strange people at that time in the Middle East.  People usually found mates among their own family.

Isaac at the age of 40 and Rebecca had twin sons, Esau and Jacob.  Jacob was a very important person in our Jewish history as he was the father of 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel.  And who  was Israel?  It was actually Jacob, who had a name change as his mind and soul  had developed.
Terah, father of Abraham
I wondered about their grandparents being I'm a grandmother now.  How did they contribute to the minds of both twins?  What genes did they bring to the table?  Their paternal grandfather was Abraham and grandmother was Sarah, the niece of Abraham.  So this set of grandparents had come from the same genetic family.  Abraham's father was Terah.  They had lived in the city of Ur, which is in today's Iraq;   Ur of the Chaldees, Sumeria, Mesopotamia- Iraq.  Abraham's line goes back to Noah.  Sarah's grandfather was Terah.  That's how they had been related.  Abraham and Sarah are buried in Hebron, Israel, now taken over by the Palestinian Arabs.    Abraham had been one of three sons of Terah.  His other 2 brothers were Haran and Nahor II.
Abram- Abraham
Abraham's son, Isaac, born in the Negev,  had married Rebekah who was his 1st cousin once removed.  Again, they were all  from the same family and were laying down the roots of their descendants becoming an endogamous society.  Rebekah's father was Bethuel,  the Aramean from Paddan-aram, and she was the sister of Laban, also an Aramean.   Bethuel's  father was Nahor II and mother was Milcah who would have been the other set of grandparents.  .  Milkah was the daughter of Haran. She had married her uncle, Nahor II.   Nahor II's father was Terah.  Luckily, brother and sister never had married in this family like what had gone on in the Egyptian culture.

The tribes of Aram, called Arameans,  were a group of Semitic tribes who invaded the Fertile Crescent at the time of Abraham and roamed between the Persian gulf and Amanus Mountains.  Aram and Israel had a common ancestry and the Israelite patriarchs were of Aramaic origin and maintained ties of marriage with the tribes of Aram.  They were found living in Syria and Mesopotamia.  The states in Syria were overthrown and turned into Assyrian dependencies.  When they were rebellious, they were punished by deportation to distant countries.  This is how the Aramaic language spread.  The Aramean deity in Syria was Hadad, god of wind, rain, thunder and lightning.  Today it's an important surname.

When Rebecca was pregnant, she could feel much movement, like an agitation, and she ask G-d about it and was told this: " That she had 2 nations in her womb, 2 regimes that shall be separated.  The might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger."  This actually came about.

When Esau was born,  he was red, entirely like a hairy mantle.  This is why he was named "Esau."  After that Jacob was born with his hand holding onto the heel of Esau, so he was named "Jacob".  Isaac was 60 years old when they were born.

Esau and Jacob were fraternal twins.  They were complete opposites.  Esau was born first.  This meant he was to receive his father's birthright.  Jacob tricked him into selling it to him, as he felt he really deserved it more.  This made Esau so angry when he realized what he had done that he intended to kill Jacob, so Jacob fled to the land of Haran. and only returned to the family after 20 years.  While there he married his uncle Laban's 2 daughters, Rachel and Leah.    Esau received him warmly when he returned home.  .  Esau is later identified with Edom and Jacob had a growth in spirit and his name was changed to Israel.  It was later when he had sons by his wives' handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpah.  Leah also had given him a daughter.

When grown, they had different interests.  Esau became known for hunting, a man of the field.  Jacob was known as a wholesome man, abiding in the tents.  Isaac loved Esau the most and was proud of his hunting skills.  Rebecca loved Jacob.  Jacob would cook the game that Esau caught.

When Esau was 40 years old, he married Judith, daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath, daughter of Elon the Hittite.  Isaac and Rebecca were not happy about this at all.  These wives were a source of spiritual rebellion to them.  The Hittites were enemies.  From the 15th century BCE on, their power extended south to Syria.  Their main kingdom had fallen in 1200 and all they had left was in northern Syria and the area around the Euphrates River.  These places were then run over by the Armenians and Assyrians.  The Hittites in the Bible were connected with the Canaanites.  Abraham had bought the cave at Machpelah from a Hittite.  They had been one of the 7 peoples the Israelites had to fight to conquer Canaan.  Later on, King David had Hittite warriors, and King Solomon himself took Hittite wives.  This should mean that some of us  carry some Hittite genes.

These twins and their story symbolizes the relationship between 2 nations, developing to the point of hostility.  In the Talmud, Esau was synonymous with villainy and violence.  The word, Esau in late Hebrew literature implies a coarse materialist.
Ishmaelites buying Joseph from his older brothers
 Very little has changed.  The Arab nation is said to have come from Ishmael, son of Abraham by Hagar, the Egyptian princess who was Sarah's maid. She had been a servant for 10 years before Abraham felt the need to have a son through her.  This was because Sarah had been barren and he was living under the injunction to have many children.  It was at this time that Abram's name was changed to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah.   Esau had joined Ishmael's new family when he left his father's house. Ishmael had gone to live earlier in Paran, which was the desert in the Negev.  It was land that the Israelites have marched through after they had left Mt. Sinai.  It lies south of Kadesh, going to the shores of the Gulf of Elath and the Arabah.   Ishmael  had joined Isaac in burying Abraham when he died.  His daughter married Esau.

Whatever happened to Abraham's brother Haran?  He was the father of Lot, Abraham's nephew.  Haran lived and died in Ur of the Chaldees.  It had been a trading town of NW Mesopotamia and was the center of a moon cult.  Assyrian inscriptions from this period mention a Habiru (Hebrew?) settlement in the vicinity which some scholars link with Terah's residence there.  In the 12th century, Benjamin of Tudela found a small Jewish community in Haran.

We do have the story of Lot's problem.  Lot had 2 daughters.  Lot and his daughters had been living in Zoar and settled on the mountain in a cave.  The girls had no males around to marry, so they decided to sleep with their father.  They got him drunk on wine one night, and the older one laid with him.  She bore a son and named him Moab.  He became the ancestor of all the Moab tribe.  The younger daughter had also laid with her father and she had born a son she called Ben-Ammi, the ancestor of the children of Ammon.

Moab is a country in southern Transjordan bounded by the river Hesehbon in the north, and the river Zered in the south.  The Jordan and Dead Sea is to the west and the Syrian Desert is on the east.  We see the Moabites were related to the Israelites from Lot.  Their language was akin to biblical Hebrew.  During Abraham's day they had settled in their land which had been captured from the Rephaim or Emim.  During the Exodus Period, part of this land had come under the rule of the Amorite monarch, Sihon, but after he had been defeated by the Israelites, it was occupied by the Amorites and became an object of contention between Israel, Moab and Ammon.  The Moabites were originally divided into small tribes but also united into a single kingdom, and it was the 2nd ruler, Balak, who called up Balaam to curse the Israelites.  The Moabites had extended their kingdom to Jericho.  King David had conquered the Moabites .  It finally fell to the Assyrians and became a province of theirs.  During the Persian Period, Arabs entered and assimilated with the people.  Moabites were conquered by the Hasmoneans and was later incorporated by the Romans into Arabia.

When the Pentateuch was completed, we see it forbids intermarriage with a Moabite.  The Talmud took this to mean only males and then the prohibition was finally abolished in the Mishnaic Period.  Ruth was a Moabite!  She was the ancestor of King David!  She had married Boaz, Naomi's cousin.  David's father was Jesse and his mother was Ithra's daughter.  His grandfather was Oved and his great grandfather was Boaz.  Boaz was the son of Judah of the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel..    David, the youngest son,  became king of Israel in about 1000 BCE to 960 BCE.  Today,  many of us find through DNA that we have King David as a distant ancestor.

And so Jews often disagree.  We are split in religious understandings between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform with many names in between each today.  We range from left to right in political ideals.  Much of this is connected to our religious understanding.  Each one of us thinks we are right.  The old joke has been that if 2 Jews were stranded on an island, they would build 3 synagogues; one for each and the third the one neither would enter.                                                                            
I have dual citizenship: USA and IsraelNadene Goldfoot, age 15 
 We have almost 6 million Jews in the USA making up about 2% of the population though we are only 0.02% of the world population.  6 million Jews populate Israel along with 1.7 million Arabs.  I see that we have our differences.  A big % of American Jews are Democrats and voted for Obama.  Israeli Jews have switched from left leanings with Labor to right politics with Likud for security's sake.  Where Jews in the USA have had it pretty good since WWII's end in 1945, Jews in Israel have been struggling to keep afloat since their inception in 1948.  Each has developed some different outlooks on life.  Israel lives with orthodoxy while 1.5 million American Jews are of the Reform Jewish movement and many are on the left side.  Many have also intermarried with non-Jewish partners.  It's all in the article, "Have Reform Jews given up on Israel? by Elliot Jager in The Jerusalem Report Magazine, Dec. 14, 2015 issue.  But yes, this is a crucial time in our history, and here we share very different ideals, J Street with many Reform American Jews and Israeli Jews defending Israel through the IDF service until age 55 in Israel who have gone over to the right side with Netanyahu.  .
You don't want to argue with my father, the boxer in his youth.
His haplogroup is Q1b1a or Q-L245.  
Though it must have been the haplotype of J1 that Aaron, brother of Moses, a Levite,  carried as the chosen Priest by Moses, and almost half of the Jews of today carry this DNA marker, we are carrying other haplotypes as well  as Jews.  My father carried Q1b1a; others carry E, G, R, I, in the male line, most likely picked up from our out of family-from the neighborhood  connections.  I guess we were never meant to all be agreeable with each other.  Differences of opinion keeps us thinking and on our toes.  There are no sheep here in our outgrown clan.  We do have a nation once again.   I have to give Netanyahu a double hand.  Anyone who can manage a people like us is just amazing.  I know what it was like to teach in a Jewish school and keep all my parents happy, both in the USA and in Israel!

I can't complain about us.  We are a creative people.  That's what we do:   debate, become lawyers, teachers, performers, businessmen and women and doctors.  But don't be surprised if we do not always agree with each other.  What we do and must keep on doing is respecting each other's opinion.  Like my husband used to say, " Moshe has a point and Sam has a point, but their hair hides it nicely.  Now my point is......"   To L'Chaim, life.  The important thing to us is preserving life.  This must come first in our decisions.

Yes, Jewish people count Abraham and Sarah as their ancestors.  It doesn't matter if we are Mizrahi, Sephardi or Ashkenazis, we had to leave Jerusalem in 70 CE and we scattered.  Now many are back.  We carry the same DNA as our ancestors.  It's like a label found in clothing telling where it was made.  Only if an ancestor converted would they not have some common haplogroups found in Jews.

Resource: The Jerusalem Report Magazine, Dec. 14, 2015, page 26-31; Have Reform Jews given up on Israel?  by Elliot Jager; though the movement is on the political and theological left, members remain mostly committed to the Zionist enterprise.  
 The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Tanach, The Stone Edition, ArtScroll Series.

No comments:

Post a Comment