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The Strong Man Who Cried

From Does God Have a Big Toe? Stories About Stories in the Bible by Rabbi Marc Gellman (HarperTrophy, 1993). Used with permission.

Jacob cried a lot. Jacob cried when he was happy. Jacob cried when he was sad. But mostly Jacob cried when he saw beautiful things. The sight of a fresh new flower or a sunset would fill him with happiness and he would just cry. He couldn't help it. But his father Isaac was not happy about having a son who cried a lot.

Isaac would not take Jacob hunting because Jacob would cry at the thought of some furry little animal becoming his supper. So Isaac would take his other son Esau, who loved to hunt and never cried.

"Why can't you be more like your brother Esau?" Isaac would scold Jacob. "He hunts and fights and never cries. He is a real man."

And Jacob would answer, "I cry when I feel like crying, I just can't change that." Then Isaac would stomp off, kick the dirt, and mutter strange words.

Meanwhile, Rachel, who was Jacob's cousin living in a place called Harron, was also having trouble with her father. Rachel was a shepherd, and this drove her father Laban crazy. Day and night he would yell at her, "Get away from those sheep and goats! Why can't you be more like your sister Leah? She doesn't smell like sheep. She sits in the tent and cooks and sews. She is a real woman."

And Rachel would answer, "I like being a shepherd. I just can't change that." Then her father would stomp off, kick the dirt, and mutter strange words.

But there was one part of shepherding Rachel did not like. The well for watering the flocks had to be corked up each day with a huge rock so that all the water would not gush out and dry up. The rock was so big that every morning all the shepherds in the area had to push together to move the rock off the well. And every night they had to gather together to push it back on.

One day, on the way to morning rock pushing, Rachel saw a new man at the well. He was small and fair skinned, with warm brown eyes, and he was talking with the other shepherds at the well. Suddenly this little man, all by himself, pushed the big rock off the well. The shepherds were amazed. The man approached Rachel and said, "My name is Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah. I am your cousin and I have been on a long journey. I am very happy to see you." The Jacob kissed Rachel and started to cry because she was so very beautiful.

When the other shepherds saw Jacob crying, they said, "He is strong, but real men don't cry," and they walked away.

But Rachel did not leave Jacob. She sat by him on the rock and they watched the flocks drink from the well. Rachel said, "I never saw a man as strong as you who cries." Jacob looked at Rachel and said, "I never saw a woman so beautiful as you who is a shepherd."

They laughed and Jacob cried, and then after a time they went home—together.

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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