This is a (hopefully) daily series of short reflections in English on the daily chapter of Tanach in the (wonderful, wonderful) 929 Project. The initiative, and the ideas and opinions expressed here, are my own. If you haven’t heard of 929, you can learn more at 929.org.il
The magic of Torah study, which participation in the 929 project delightfully affords, is in its ability at once to resonate and to challenge. Common wisdom nowadays dictates that a person ought to have their career in order before having children. This is pragmatic – it’s considered irresponsible to have children before you’re able to provide adequately for them. More fundamentally, it reflects a value system in which people see the meaning in their life provided by self-actualization, and self-actualization as provided primarily by one’s career- the work that they get paid for. This worldview puts a double emphasis on your paycheck- it represents your level of responsibility, and also reflects how much your work is valued by society, which sends you signals about how much you ought to value (it) yourself. The primary breadwinner of the family, in this worldview, is more responsible, more actualized, and more valued. And children are a double nuisance; the more you have, the less you can provide, and the less time you have to dedicate to your self-actualization in the form of your career. Chapter 30 presents us with a topsy-turvy world worth contemplating. Children are the primary source of meaning in this world, a value expressed most forcefully by Rachel, but reinforced by the frequent invoking of God’s name with almost every new birth, and with Yaakov’s attempt to leave after Yosef is born. Once he has had a child with the woman he intended to marry, his purpose in Haran has been realized; it doesn’t bother him that all his earnings have gone to Lavan in accomplishing this purpose, and that he will leave penniless. Yaakov the breadwinner is an enabler; he comes home from a long day’s work and is told by those responsible for what is really valuable where to go and what to do. It’s a woman’s world…at least until Lavan intercedes.