Biblical stories, as familiar to us as our own family tales, can reveal hidden meanings when the text is meticulously reread. So it is with the story of Jacob and his beloved Rachel, for whom he yearned and labored for 14 years. Jacob’s impulsive vow that the person found with Laban’s stolen idols will die; his deathbed adoption of his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh; his erection of four pillars at places where critical events occurred—all are part of a tangled skein unraveled by Gordon Tucker in “Jacob’s Terrible Burden.” As the story unwinds we share Jacob’s awful revelation—that he had doomed Rachel to death—and he knew it!
Tucker holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and is assistant professor of Jewish philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, in New York. He serves on the committee on Jewish law and standards of the Rabbinical Assembly, the national organization of Conservative rabbis. From 1979 to 1981 Tucker was special assistant to U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti.