When I was younger,
I was struggling with Faith,
How to be in Faith,
Find a blind Faith!
I loved music and I Looked at 2 great musicians Mozart and Beethoven.
Which one was I????
Which one are You???
The impression one gets about
Mozart is that, from him, music
There is something effortless and
effervescent about his compositions.
He wrote at speed.
He carried the worries of the world
Beethoven, for whom it sometimes
took years for an idea to crystallise
into its final form,
with countless drafts and revisions,
This was a man who could be angry
with himself and with the world,
for whom creativity was a struggle
And full of conflict until its final
And jus latest compositions were the
creation of one who has finally found
peace after a life of wrestling with his
own angels and demons.
I am not trying to give music lesson,
but all of this is, for me, a way of
coming to understand Jacob,
the man who became Israel,
our father in faith.
Jacob is not the most obvious choice
of religious hero.
He does not appear,
at least on the surface of the biblical
as a man with Abraham’s courage or kindness,
Isaac’s faithfulness and self-restraint,
Moses’ vigour and passion,
David’s politics and poetry,
or Isaiah’s lyricism and hope.
He was a man surrounded by conflict:
• with his brother Esau,
• his father-in-law Laban,
• his wives, Leah and Rachel,
and his children,
whose sibling rivalry eventually
brought the whole family into exile in
His life seems to have been a field of tensions.
Then there were his transactions:
• the way he purchased Esau’s birthright,
• took his blessing,
• got the best out of his father-in-law
In each case he seems to have won,
but then his situation deteriorates.
• He deceived his blind Father and this forced him to leave home and this left him traumatised with fear at the
prospect of meeting Esau again.
• He suffered at the hand of Laban.
• His life as portrayed in the Torah
seems to be a constant series of
escapes from one trouble to the next.
So who and what was Jacob?
To this there are two radically
- There is the Jacob of midrash
• who spent his years as a young man
studying in the bet midrash ,
• who looked like Abraham
• whose arms were like pillars of
• His motives were always pure.
Jacob is called an
which conveys the sense of
• integrity and
The plain sense of the oracle
Rebekah received before the twins
were born was that
“the elder will serve the younger.”
She knew Jacob was
the son destined to prevail.
- The other Jacob, though, is the
one we read in the plain sense of the text.
The obvious question is:
why did the Torah choose to portray
the third of the patriarchs in this way?
The Torah is highly selective in the details it chooses to relate.
Why not paint Jacob in more attractive colours?
It seems to me that the Torah is
here as elsewhere,
an extraordinary message:
that if we can truly relate to
G-d as G-d,
in His full superiority ,
then we can relate to humans as
humans in all our ability in doing errors.
The man who, more than any other,
has the tendency to make mistakes or
be wrong, is Jacob.
And perhaps that is the point.
Jacob was a Beethoven, not a Mozart.
His life was a series of struggles.
Nothing came easily to him.
He is the patriarchs, and was a man
who chose to be chosen.
• Abraham was called by G- d.
• Isaac was chosen before his birth.
• Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David,
these were all singled out by G- d for
Not so Jacob.
• It was he who bought the birthright
and took the blessing,
• he who chose to carry Abraham’s
destiny into the future.
• Not until he was running away from
home did G-d appear to him.
• Not until years later, alone, at
night, terrified at the prospect of
meeting Esau, did G- d or an angel
wrestle with him.
• He alone was given, by G-d or the
angel, a completely new name,
a completely new identity: “Israel.”
And, despite the fact that he was told
“Your name shall no more be called
the Torah continues to call him Jacob,
suggesting that his struggle was
lifelong as, often, is ours.
If I would have to choose a
soundtrack for the Jacob I have come
to know, it would be Beethoven’s
or his Grosse Fugue, music of such
This is how Beethoven went through
his struggles and eventually reached
and it was through Jacob’s extended
wrestling-match with destiny that he
eventually achieved what neither
Abraham nor Isaac accomplished:
all his children stayed within the faith.
“According to the pain is the reward,”
said the sages .
That is Jacob.
G-d does not reach out only to saints.
He reaches out to all of us.
That is why He gave us
Abraham for those who love,
Isaac for those who fear,
and Jacob/Israel for those who struggle.
if you find yourself struggling with faith, you are in the company of Jacob-who-became-Israel, the father-in-faith of us all.