Twenty years have passed and yet he still hears her voice.
Her words are like the whisper of dying hot coals in his ears. He never ceased to blow on them with the breath of his longing, to restore the flame.
Maybe she would send him to return?
And now, my son, hearken to me — Arise, flee to Laban my brother, to Haran. And thou shall remain with him a few days, until thy brother departed from thee, and didst forget what thou hadst done unto him, and I had sent, and he had taken: (my emphasis).
He heard no more from her.
Time became meaningless to him.
The wish she would call him back home kept vibrating within him. And to numb the pain of anticipation he deceived himself and imagined seeing it as “a few days.”
Even when he met Rachel and transferred to her all of his pain and fear and longing and remorse and confusion that had accumulated in him in an uncontrollable burst of crying, even when he fell head over heels in love with her and offered to work for her for seven whole years — and they seemed to him like a few days.
“May you curse me, my son,” she promised him when she sent him to deceive his father and appear disguised as Esau before him. And it was he alone who paid the price.
The price of exile from his home. The price of the fear that he has no-one to rely on in the world. That his beloved mother scatters promises and does not keep them, that his brother wants to kill him, that his father realizes that he has deceived him (will he ever forgive him?) That he is completely alone. And the dream he dreamed – can you believe the dream?
All these fears like distant drums beating on his heart with increasing drumbeats, as he turned and decided to return home. To be honest — he had run away from his son-in-law’s house like a slave who escapes from his master and steals his wives and sons with him.
The decision to return to his father’s house seemed to take him a step backward — he regressed and acted like a powerless little boy , not like a master, an owner of women, children and property , a man who feels he is worthy, that he deserves after twenty years to determine his fate.
And fear overcame him again.
Fear of meeting his brother Esau without knowing if his anger had cooled down.
Fear of losing face in front of his wives and children in a meeting with the hairy brother whose identity he stole fraudulently.
Fear of meeting his father without knowing if he forgave him for the betrayal.
Fear of meeting his mother who did not keep her word.
Is she still alive? Would she be happy to see him? Will she know how to explain her unfulfilled promise?
A dull ache in his chest, a choking in his throat, as he remembered the situation prior to his escape, when he recalled her words urging him to take his brother’s identity and deceive his blind father to win the blessing, when he remembered his betrayal of himself.
Why did he agree? A black screen fell. Blessed forgetfulness.
But something in him called for him to stop. Wait! Clarify! Organize. Understand. Do not continue on autopilot.
Maybe that’s why, when he moved his whole camp to the other side of the Jordan, he went back and was left alone on the opposite side of the river?
He sat there alone in the darkness, gathering himself inside. As in a movie, all the events of the last twenty years passed before his eyes: The plot of his mother Rebecca, disguising himself as Esau, the deception of his blind father, the cry of his brother like a wounded beast and his oath of revenge, the story of Cain’s murdering Abel that resonated , his dream and the revelation that there is God in this place, the promise to build an altar for him if he returns in peace, the exciting meeting with Rachel, and then Laban’s scam, his fraudulent marriage to Leah, her inaudible cry for love and recognition, the infertility of his beloved Rachel, and his getting stuck in Laban’s house without being able to leave. The expectation that lasted from a few days to twenty years without hearing his mother calling him to return home …
Perhaps he should have been at a distance from the river crossing, away from his wives and children (his private Sea of Reeds?). With himself alone, to allow himself to fully feel the experience that dictated his fate, which defined him, that played in his life in various forms (deception, betrayal,) that wounded him, that left a scar on him, and which now called on him to stand face to face — untie the knot and straighten up?
Perhaps only alone by the river could he hear in his ears the voice asking him the poignant question: Who are you? What is your name?
And remember: In what other situation was he asked for his name? And answered the wrong answere: Esau.
The pain of memory pierced him, a sharp pain that he felt for some reason in his thigh, in his sciatic nerve, in the tendon of forgetfulness,
I’m Jacob! I remember!
What will allow me to get back my power and sense of self that I gave away to my mother, to my uncle, to my wives, and to live my truth without betraying myself?
What will allow me from now on to straighten up, to be honest and straight-to-God (as my new name Israel states)?
I’m Jacob and I’m coming home. To continue to flee is no longer an option.
He began to make his way back to camp limping, revealing his vulnerability.
The slow walk made him feel. And he felt more whole than ever.
And he also knew that this was just the beginning.
“And for him, the sun rose.”