Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Fruit (10/10/05)
TITLE: Bitter, Sweet Fruit!
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“O Ruben! Where did you find them?” Her first-born son’s eyes danced with delight knowing how much his gift of mandrakes meant to her.
Leah didn’t hear son’s reply. Even her fruitful womb couldn’t erase the anguish of her lonely heart. Longing for another child and the love of her husband, she had already began to explore the possibilities that the mandrakes procural had proposed.
Mandrakes possessed pregnancy inducing properties. But pregnancy was only one outcome she envisaged. Leah also yearned for the tender embrace of her husband, and to hear endearing words as he caressed her. Driven by the mandrakes’ enamouring properties, Jacob would love her with unbridled passion - for that moment she would be his!
Giddy with excitement, Leah’s romantic mind contrived the idyllic scene. Lost in her romance of imagination, she mirrored her desire with an ardent love song:
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,
For your love is more delightful than wine.
How handsome you are, O lover of my youth,
And I am his always and my beloved is mine...”
Rachel suddenly appeared at the tent to prepare the evening meal. Absorbed in her silent song to an unrequiting lover, Leah was unaware of her rival’s approach. Before having opportunity to conceal the rare treasure, Rachel discovered the mandrakes lying in her sister’s lap.
“Give me those mandrakes!” Rachel demanded, “You don’t need them. Jacob is mine! You are nothing more than a concubine to him.” The brutal truth stung Leah’s heart bringing a gush of bitter tears.
"Wasn't it enough that you took away my husband?” She retorted back, “Will you take my son's mandrakes too?" Livid with raw emotion the sisters glared at each other - one crippled with an empty heart, the other an empty womb.
“NO! You will not have these mandrakes as well!" Leah’s tear-stained face portrayed the agony of her loveless life.
Rachel’s fears had painfully surfaced in the ugly bantering to keep Jacob’s love all for herself. But Rachel realised that even the love of a husband couldn’t silence the scream of her empty womb. Celebrated for aiding conception, the mandrakes posed a viable remedy to her continuing disgrace as a barren woman. She wanted them at any cost.
Leah had tried every seductive devise to captivate Jacob as her lover. Her bed would be meticulously prepared to delight a prince with costly spices purchased from passing caravan merchants. Her clothing and linen sprinkled with the finest and most aromatic myrrh and henna. But it was always a futile endeavour. I married young, only to be rejected, Leah contemplated with excruciating sorrow.
“Let’s bargain!” the older said to the younger. “I want Jacob tonight.”
"Very well," Rachel said, snatching the fruit from Leah’s hands, "He can sleep with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes."
Leah relished the fact Jacob would be hers tonight.
Rushing over to Jacob as he returned from the wheat harvest, Leah blurted out, “You must sleep with me. I have hired you with my son's mandrakes."
Jacob’s memory briefly revisited the shocking discovery that terrible morning after his wedding. The course of time hadn’t warmed his heart towards her. Jacob wasn’t interested in entering into his wives’ petty squabbles. He walked away without responding to her.
Well after dark Rachel was still brooding in her tent. Sleep eluded her. Holding the mandrakes close to her bosom, her mind inevitably drifted to her fruitless womb. The hasty exchange of the mandrakes had ended with a bitter taste. Only the fruit of the womb could satisfy her. Twice empty - the ravaged woman was devoid of desire for the voluptuous fruit nor with a precious seed implanted within to bear fruit in her wanting womb.
Her mind lingered momentarily on Jacob and Leah in the neighbouring tent...her husband she knew, would merely fulfil his manhood impulses as a routine marital obligation. The passion of love would be absent with Leah.
Leah laid awake for a long time after Jacob had fallen asleep. The mandrakes had not been a necessary ingredient for entering Jacob’s bed after all. Smiling in the darkness, somehow Leah knew that Yahweh had answered her prayers and that her womb was to again bear fruit. A greater reward had been granted her, something more valuable than even the love of a husband. She would know true joy!
Adapted from Genesis 30:14-20, NIV; Song of Songs 1:2,16; 2:16, NIV; Isaiah 54:6, NIV.
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