Jacob, Esau, Laban, and Balaam
We study ourselves and wish to find within us all the distinctions The Book of Zohar describes.
“Thus shall ye say unto my lord Esau: ‘Thus says thy servant Jacob: ‘I have lived with Laban.’’” Jacob immediately opened, to turn into a slave before him so Esau would not look upon the blessings that his father had blessed him, because Jacob left them for the end of days.
What did Jacob see that he sent for Esau and said, “I have lived with Laban”? Did he do it on a mission from Esau? Rather, Laban the Aramean, a voice walked in the world, as no man has ever been saved from him, because he was the soothsayer of soothsayers and the greatest charmer, and the father of Be’or, and Be’or was the father of Balaam, as it is written, “Balaam… son of Be’or, the soothsayer.” And Laban was more versed in soothsaying and wizardry than them, but he still could not prevail over Jacob. And he wanted to destroy Jacob in several ways, as it is written, “A wandering Aramean was my father.” For this reason, he sent for him and said, “I have lived with Laban,” to let him know of his strength.
The whole world knew that Laban was the greatest of all sages and soothsayers and charmers. And one who Laban wished to destroy could not be saved from him. And all that Balaam knew came from Laban. It is written about Balaam, “for I know that he whom thou blesses is blessed.” It is all the more so with Laban. And the whole world feared Laban and his magic. Hence, the first word that Jacob sent to Esau was, “I have lived with Laban.” And not for a short time, but for twenty years was I belated with him.
Zohar for All, VaYishlach [Jacob Sent], Items 21-23
If we picture before us all those forms and explanations that we heard in school and in life in general about the stories of the Bible—about Jacob, Esau, and all the other familiar names—and approach the study of The Zohar with them, we fall into a great confusion and cannot focus on what The Zohar really says .
While reading, we should seemingly go out to space, as if planet earth does not exist, as if we are only imagining that anything ever took place on it. After all, time, motion, and space are illusions that exist only in our current perception.
The fact that we imagine that someone was here thousands of years ago, and proceed to dig and find archeological findings, is just in our minds. Yet we call it “reality.” Now we want to change that perception. We want to see this world as existing only in our will, which is where it truly is.
Since we were born, we have been accustomed to seeing the film of life in this way—that there is seemingly something outside of us. However, the whole of this film is happening only in our will. We must fight against our habit and convince ourselves time and time again that in fact, it is all happening within the desire.
This approach does not deny reality because the desire is reality. Even now, when we run into something, we are actually running into a desire. Even the sensation that there are things happening around us is a manifestation of desires, forces that appear this way before us.
The more we try to live this inner picture through The Zohar and refrain from sinking into historic images of familiar Bible stories, the more The Zohar will promote us to the interior of the Torah, to the true Torah—the real perception of reality.
The Zohar is directing us.
 Yet, there is a strict condition during the engagement in this wisdom—to not materialize the matters with imaginary and corporeal issues, for thus they breach, “Thou shall not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness” (Baal HaSulam, “Introduction to The Study of the Ten Sefirot,” item 156).
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