Yeshayahu Leibowitz, in his book, Accepting the Yoke of Heaven, quotes a midrash before concluding his parsha analysis:

All those things which Jacob wished to refrain from, came upon him. He wished to refrain from slander, and what happened to him and his household? "Joseph brought to his father their evil report" (Bereshit 37:2). Jacob wished to refrain from lewdness, and in his household, the events of Reuben and Bilha, and of Judah and Tamar took place. He very much wished to live in peace and to refrain from shedding blood, and the affair of Shekhem and Simeon and Levi occurred - an action for which one can find justification ("Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot?" - Bereshit 34:31), but which was nevertheless an action whose accursedness Jacob mentioned decades later, just before he died. Whatever Jacob wished to refrain from occurred to him: slander, lewdness in his family, the shedding of blood, and even idolatry - Rachel took her father's idols into Jacob's home, and later Jacob had to demand the removal of the foreign gods "in their midst."

Where is this from?

  • FWIW, I searched Torat Emet's Midrash Rabba for "הכזונה" (two hits), "ויבא יוסף" (three hits) and "תרפים" (ten hits)....it doesn't appear that this Midrash is in Midrash Rabba.
    – MTL
    Dec 2, 2014 at 22:31
  • Fwiw I checked two Likut sfarim of medrashim and did a search on my uvilechticha baderech, if this medrash exists and someone finds it, they've earned that bounty. But im not holding my breath.
    – user6591
    Dec 3, 2014 at 18:12
  • Maybe someone can find the original Hebrew version of this book and find the midrash cited there.
    – rosenjcb
    Dec 3, 2014 at 22:24
  • 1
    I sent an e-mail to Yeshayahu Leibowitz asking him for the source. I will post his answer when I receive it. Dec 9, 2014 at 2:58
  • 2
    @GershonGold I wouldn't wait too anxiously for a response, as he's been dead for 20 years.
    – Double AA
    Dec 9, 2014 at 3:44

1 Answer 1


I'm guessing he was not quoting verbatim and he mixed two medrashim as I will show you. He also seems to have misquoted the one you are looking for.

Here is a first quote from him. "More deeply, the Midrash in Breshit Rabbah converts Jacob's vow from a request for supplying his needs to an obligation that he accepted upon himself toward God. Thus: If God will be with me and protect me on the path (Hebrew: haderekh) I am going means that He will preserve me from committing slander, as is said (Jeremiah 9:2), "They bend (Hebrew: vayidrekhu, from the same root) their tongues for lies."

and He will give me bread to eat means that He will preserve me from sexual transgression, in accordance with the understanding that "the bread he eats" (Genesis 39:6) alludes to sex.

and I return in peace to my father's house means I will refrain from bloodshed.

and He will be my God means He will protect me from committing idolatry."

This is a direct quote from Bereishis Rabba 70 4. The medrash ends there and there is no indication in the commentaries that there is a variant reading. So this next quote from him is a proof he was not quoting verbatim.

"Here the same midrash makes a shocking statement: “All the things that Jacob wished to refrain from came upon him." Etc. as per the quote in your question.

The commentators on that medrash send to Vayikra Rabba chapter 37. There we find a similar idea where Yaakov suffers through these things but the medrash has a different slant. I'll quote (please allow my translation) All who make a nedder and delay fulfilling it will eventually come to idol worship, promiscuity, murder and gossip. From whom do we learn this? All from Yaakov. Being that he made a nedder and delayed it, he came to all these. Idolatry, from Breishis chapter 35, and Yaakov told his family remove the foreign gods. Promiscuity from Dinah, there chapter 34, and Dinah went out. Murder, from there, and it was on the third day when they were in pain. Gossip from there chapter 31 and Yaakov heard the words of Lavan's children. And the rabbis added whoever delays his nedder will bury his wife as we see there chapter 48 and as I came from Padan Aram, Rachel died.

This Medrash is also in the Medrash Tanchuma parshas Vayishlach #8.

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