The Ancestral Mother and her Son
PART OF PROJECT BENJAMIN
Note: If you are interested in the Rabbis Quoted short biographical sketches are to be found at:
Joseph and Benjamin were full brothers sons of Jacob through their mother Rachel.
Rachel was the first love of Jacob.
How did Jacob meet Rachel?
Abraham begat Isaac. Isaac begat Esau and Jacob. They were twins but Esau came out first and so was considered the firstborn. Esau sold the Firstborn right to Jacob. later when Isaac wanted to bless Esau, Rebecca the mother of the two brothers disguised Jacob as Esau. Jacob then received the blessing from Isaac wgho thought he was Esau. Consequently Esau wanted to kill Jacob (Genesis 27:41). Rebecca knew about this. She consulted with Isaac and it was decided to send Jacob tp the home of her brother, Laban, in Haran to the north.of Syria.
In Geneses 29 we are told how Jacob journeyed northward. When he reached the outskirts of Haran he came across a group of shepherds gathering together to water their flocks. Rachel the daughter of Laban was among them.
Genesis (NASB) 29:
1 Then Jacob set out on his journey, and went to the land of the people of the east. 2 He looked, and saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep were lying there beside it, because they watered the flocks from that well. Now the stone on the mouth of the well was large. 3 When all the flocks were gathered there, they would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep. Then they would put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the well.
4 Jacob said to them, 'My brothers, where are you from?' And they said, 'We are from Haran.' 5 So he said to them, 'Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?' And they said, 'We know him.' 6 And he said to them, 'Is it well with him?' And they said, 'It is well, and here is his daughter Rachel coming with the sheep.' 7 Then he said, 'Look, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.' 8 But they said, 'We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.'
9 While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10 When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of his mother's brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother's brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well, and watered the flock of his mother's brother Laban. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and raised his voice and wept. 12 Jacob told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and that he was Rebekah's son, and she ran and told her father.
13 So when Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister's son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Then he told Laban all these things. 14 And Laban said to him, 'You certainly are my bone and my flesh.' And he stayed with him a month.
15 Then Laban said to Jacob, 'Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?' 16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 And Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in figure and appearance. 18 Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, 'I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.' 19 Laban said, 'It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.' 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him like only a few days because of his love for her.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, 'Give me my wife, for my ]time is completed, that I may have relations with her.' 22 So Laban gathered all the people of the place and held a feast. 23 Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to him; and Jacob had relations with her. 24 Laban also gave his female slave Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a slave. 25 So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, 'What is this that you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?' 26 But Laban said, 'It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn. 27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me, for another seven years.' 28 Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. 29 Laban also gave his female slave Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her slave. 30 So Jacob had relations with Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years.
The Sages said that before Jacob went into the marriage ceremony he suspected Laban of intending to trick him just as eventually happened. Jacob had given Rachel a password or secret sign that would affirm who she was. Rachel however feared that her sister Leah would be humiliated if the deceit was exposed. She therefore revealed the secret signs to her (Talmud, Megillah 13b).
We see here that Rachel possessed traits that were later to be found in her sons, Joseph and Benjamin, i.e. bravery, self-sacrifice, compassion, sensitivity.
We saw how Benjamin received his name.
His mother called him "Ben-Oni." This can mean "Son of my Sorrow," and so it is usually understood. It may also imply "Son of My Struggle" or "Son of My Prowess." The word "On" has different connotations. Rachel was the favorite wife of Jacob. Her sister Leah however was older than he, and had been the first wife that Jacob married. Leah also bore the more children. Rachel and Leah were struggling with each other concerning the attentions of Jacob and also over their relative stature within the Household. Bearing children was one of the determining factors in all this.
The word "On" can connote either power and prowess or suffering and struggle, even depression. Life is a struggle. Things can be difficult at times. Many people today have a tendency towards depression. This is dangerous and can cause serious problems. On the other hand it can be sublimated and enhance the drive to succeed and get on in life.
A physiological cause and effect of Depression is a lowering in the level of a chemical called Dopamine. This is secreted by the brain. Physical exertion and exercise increase the level of dropamine. People who suffer from depression may gain some alleviation by exercising more.
Concernign Rachel, we see here an attitude of combativeness, of struggle to maintain relative status in this case within the family but it could also be extended to the community and workplace in general.
Anything learned from Rachel regarding possible personality traits in Benjamin also apply to Joseph (Ephrain and Manasseh) the full-brother of Benjamin.