“And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son....And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.”
Genesis 30: 19,21
King James Version
“Mothers and Daughters”
“All daughters, even when most aggravated by their mothers, have a secret respect for them. They believe perhaps that they can do everything better than their mothers can, and many things they can do better, but they have not yet lived long enough to be sure how successfully they will meet the major emergencies of life, which lie, sometimes quite creditably, behind their mothers.”
What thoughts fill my mind when I hear the word, “mother?”
Do I honor my mother in word and deed?
Do I honor my daughter or daughters-in-law in word and deed?
“Mother dear, lend me your heart. I look for it each day to pour my troubles into.”
“Complete individual integrity is the condition of personal relationship. Moral relations are dependent on the absolute value of the human being.”
Several years ago, I was meeting with one of our company’s clients. She wasn’t her usual, peppy self and I asked her if everything was alright. With tears in her eyes, she told me her mother had died a few weeks before our meeting. Then she shared this revealing insight. She had always been closest to her dad. They were alike in many ways. They had similar tastes and their personalities meshed beautifully. “It seemed,” she continued, “that my mother and I were so different. I always felt if one of my parents died, it would be my father’s death that would impact me the most.” Then she shared her feelings after her mother died. “Dorothy, I can’t tell you how lost I felt. And how very alone I was. One day, when leaving my office an overwhelming despair took over my emotions.” As she drove down the street, she hunted for the first church she could find and pulled into the parking lot and went inside. She prayed in this quiet, sacred spot and it helped her feel better. But she added, “when the person who gave me life, the person who carried me in her body, died, I felt an emotional isolation like I’d never known before.”
Mothers and daughters. The author, Anne Roiphe in her book, Lovingkindness, observes that, “Our mythology tells us so much about fathers and sons; what do we know about mothers and daughters?”
She notes, that in society, where fathers turn over “kingdoms” in the form of possessions to sons, we rarely focus on what mothers pass on to their daughters. She describes the gifts mothers share as “oblique, hidden and ethereal.” I tend to agree with her. Those hidden traits, those characteristics, those tendencies to act and speak a certain way do get passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter.
We see this played out in dramatic fashion in the lives of Rachel and Leah, two sisters married to the same man. The qualities that either benefited or degraded the women of this family had a way of being passed from one female member to another.
Especially in the story of Leah and Dinah – a mother and daughter whose relationship is a roadmap for us on what can happen when certain traits are encouraged and fed.
We know from our study of Jacob that his “favorite” wife was Rachel and just as we begin to think that perhaps the relationship between Leah and Rachel had smoothed out, we find Jacob pulling a “favoritism” act that really ranks up at the top as a mean and thoughtless deed.
In Genesis 33: 1,2, (K.J.V.) we are told that Jacob saw Esau his brother coming to meet him. Don’t forget, Esau had 400 armed men with him. So Jacob decided to divide his family and here was the plan he cooked up: “And (Jacob) divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids.”
Alright, let’s get this picture clear. There were four women who had children, whose father was Jacob. What Jacob did was say to the two wives and two handmaids, “claim your children. You are responsible for the kids you gave birth to.”
Then what did Jacob do? The Bible continues: “And he put the handmaids and their children foremost.” This means Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid, and her sons, Dan and Naphtali along with Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid, and her sons, Gad and Asher were at the front. So if Esau’s anger let loose, they would be first in the line of fire. Then good old Jacob says, “Next in line – it’s you Leah!” So we find Leah and her six sons and daughter Dinah are in the second group. And last, in the most protected spot of all was Rachel and her son Joseph – the protected and privileged ones.
All her days, Leah had to put up with comments that she wasn’t the beautiful one. All her days, she was not the favorite. And her daughter Dinah was watching. In fact, I imagine Leah may have complained to Dinah about the situation. I don’t believe any of us would have blamed her. But seeds can grow flowers and seeds can grow weeds. And what Leah, and Jacob (as well), planted were seeds that caused Dinah to long for something different from what she had witnessed in her own family.
She had witnessed disobedience, disrespect and deceit. So it is little wonder that one day Dinah decided she’d had enough. She was going where the grass was greener, at least that’s what she thought, and yet, as we see, just because of the breakdown in the relationships in her family it didn’t mean what God had forbidden would bring her happiness.
As author Stephen Neill so aptly stated: “Every virtue is a form of obedience to God. Every evil word or act is a form of rebellion against Him.” Whether Dinah rebelled against a family that favored others over herself, in the end, her rebellious act brought serious consequences on her entire family. As Marguerite de Valois penned: “The more hidden the venom, the more dangerous it is.” And Dinah’s travels into venomous territory left the whole family bitten.
Mother and Daughter – Having Our Tea
“There’s something religious in the way we sit
At the tea table, a tidy family of three.
You, my love, slicing the bread and butter, and she,
The red-cheeked tot a smear of blackberry jam,
A new creation is established, a true presence.
And talking to each other,
breaking words over food
Is somehow different from customary chatting.”
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus