1. A. "And Abraham rose early in the morning, [saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac, and he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place which God had told him]" (Gen. 22:3):
B. Said R. Simeon b. Yohai, "Love disrupts the natural order of things, and hatred disrupts the natural order of things.
C. "Love disrupts the natural order of things we learn from the case of Abraham: '. . .he saddled his ass.' But did he not have any number of servants? But that proves love disrupts the natural order of things.
D. "Hatred disrupts the natural order of things we learn from the case of Balaam: 'And Balaam rose up early in the morning and saddled his ass' (Num. 22:21). But did he not have any number of servants? But that proves hatred disrupts the natural order of things. ..." 2. A. Said R. Simeon b. Yohai, "Let one act of saddling an ass come and counteract another act of saddling the ass. May the act of saddling the ass done by our father Abraham, so as to go and carry out the will of him who spoke and brought the world into being counteract the act of saddling that was carried out by Balaam when he went to curse Israel.
B. "Let one act of preparing counteract another act of preparing. Let Joseph's act of preparing his chariot so as to meet his father serve to counteract Pharaoh's act of preparing to go and pursue Israel."
We see that the narrative is carefully culled for probative facts, yielding laws. One fact is that there are laws of history. The other is that laws may be set aside, by either love or hatred. Yet another law of history applies in particular to Israel, deriving from the life of both Israel and the nations, Abraham and Balaam. The fundamental syllogism, not stated at all, is that Israel's history follows rules that can be learned in Scripture. Nothing is random, all things are connected, and fundamental laws of history dictate the sense and meaning of what happens. These laws are stated in the very language of Scripture.
Once we recognize the mode of inquiry, we ask about the results. What are the laws of history, and, more important, how do they apply to the crisis at hand? The principal message of the story of the beginnings, as sages read Genesis, is that the world depends upon the merit of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Israel, for its part, enjoys access to that merit, being today the family of the patriarchs and matriarchs. That sum and substance constitutes the sages' doctrine of history: the family forms the basic and irreducible historical unit. Israel is not so much a nation as a family, and the heritage of the patriarchs and matriarchs sustains that family from the beginning even to the end. So the sages' doctrine of history transforms history into genealogy, just as Eusebius's doctrine of history turns history into chronology. The consequence, for sages, will take the form of the symbolization through family relationships of the conflict between (Christian) Rome and eternal Israel. As we shall see later in this chapter as well as in chapter 4, the rivalry of brothers, Esau and Jacob, contains the history of the fourth century—from the sages' viewpoint a perfectly logical mode of historical reflection. That, in detail, expresses the main point of the system of historical thought yielded by Genesis Rabbah.
Israel therefore endures, whatever happens. The relevance of that message to the time of the document is self-evident, but no one can maintain that the framers made up, or selected, the items treated by them with the victory of Christianity in mind. The way in which the merit of the patriarchs and matriarchs protects their grandchildren finds abundant exemplification. Here is a brief instance:
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