Life’s duality

10.12.2011                      14.Kislev. 5772                       Wajischlach


Life's duality

‘And he named the place “Twin Camps” [Mahanayim]’ (Genesis 32: 3).

Jacob has left Laban and Laban’s land behind and – after more than two decades of living in exile – returns to his ancestral land of Israel. He retraces his steps to his original point of departure, Beth-El, where he had dreamed of the ladder uniting heaven and earth, and prepares to fulfill his vow to dedicate a monument to God. His entire household removes the last vestiges of the idolatry they had taken with them from Laban’s alien environment, and they appear purified as they prepare for a homecoming to God’s Promised Land.
And then – unexpectedly and apropos of nothing – the Bible records the funeral of an unknown person: “Rebekah’s nurse Deborah died and she was buried in the valley of Beth-El under the oak tree; it was named Alon Bacuth [‘Weeping Oak’ or ‘The Oak of Double Weeping’]” (Genesis 35:8) 
Who was this Deborah whose name had not previously appeared in the narrative? Rashi records that Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, had dispatched Deborah to inform him that he could finally return home and Esau would not harm him. Rashi further explains that Jacob was now told of a second cause for mourning, that Rebekah had also died, but her death was hidden because, had her funeral been publicized, people attending would curse the womb that bore Esau….