June 8: 5 Sivan
According to tradition, it was on this day that Reuben brought mandrakes to his mother, Leah. It’s recorded in Genesis 30:
“Now Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest and found mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’ But she said to her, ‘Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?’ And Rachel said, ‘Therefore he will lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.’” (Genesis 30:14-15)
This is one of those stories in Scripture that baffles people, theologians included, because there doesn’t seem to be any real meaning to it. At the very least, its meaning seems to elude a clear understanding. There are rabbinical sources that hint at a hidden meaning in the fact that Reuben brought mandrakes, which were plants believed to contain some kind of medicinal property. They claim the mandrakes (in Hebrew duda’im) promoted better eyesight, as well as being good for human fertility.
These claims about the mandrakes coupled with the fact that there existed a great deal of tension between Leah and her sister, Rachel, might explain why the boy brought these plants to his mother. She was considered to be weak in the eyes. These rabbinic claims might also explain why Rachel was so determined to obtain some of the mandrakes – at this point, she had not conceived.
Rachel was given some of the mandrakes, but she didn’t get pregnant. To the contrary, when Jacob went into Leah’s tent that night, it was she who conceived and it was by her that another son, Issachar, was added to the family. Obviously, the mandrakes were no help to Rachel in the baby department. Because both of these women were reared in a pagan land, perhaps that’s why they thought these mandrakes possessed some kind of property that would help them, whether it was Leah’s eyes or Rachel’s barrenness. Yet, the Scripture demonstrates that the plants did not help either of them. Moreover, Leah conceived without the mandrakes and Rachel, with the mandrakes, didn’t conceive.
The reality is that God hearkened unto Leah and she conceived. Later on, in Scripture, we are told that God “remembered Rachel” (Genesis 30:22), hearkened unto her and she conceived. Here’s the point: plants had nothing to do with Israel growing as a nation and the development of the 12 tribes – that was all God’s doing.
There are, no doubt, those in the Body who believe that if they do something in a particular way according to their tradition, they are guaranteed a specific outcome. There are those who believe that if a certain formula worked successfully in the past, it should prove to be successful again and again. For instance, many of us grew up believing that if we sang the right songs at the right tempo, and at the right volume, and if the preacher preached loud enough and long enough, something good was bound to happen. Sometimes it did but sometimes it didn’t – here’s why.
God never seems to respond to man’s traditions and man’s formulas. We think God should do certain things if we faithfully follow our traditions. What we sometimes fail to recognize is that what we now consider to be a fail-proof tradition may have started when God initially responded to a contrite heart and humble spirit. Scripture teaches us that God hears the prayers of the righteous and He has compassion on those who seek Him in humility. Therefore, formulas derived from man’s wisdom don’t work when we need a miracle. Perhaps the best way for us to realize a miracle is to give up on our methods, our formulas and traditions and commit ourselves to walk in obedience to our Creator. Let’s block out all the noise that we may hear His voice speak to us. and then believe in His faithfulness. That’s how miracles occur.
God hearkened unto Leah. He remembered Rachel and that’s how Israel became a nation.