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The allusion to Abraham
This novel is about aJewish man with very deep connections to the stories of his faith. We see that through the allusions he establishes between his own life and the sacred stories of his forefathers. For instance, he alludes to Abraham by changing his wife's name to Sarah, just like Abraham's wife whose name was also changed to Sarah. The resulting dance of trying to hide his wife's pagan accent is similar to Abraham lying about the nature of his relationship to his wife; both men are trying to cleverly avoid a harsh fate.
The allusion to Benjamin and Rachel
When Sarah dies delivering Jacob's son, he names the son Benjamin, because that's what the biblical Jacob (then Israel by name) named his own son when Rachel, his wife, died in childbirth. This allusion is completed by their shared voyage to Jerusalem where Benjamin is educated to become a Jewish lecturer. This represents the generational voyage to the promised land, another very important biblical theme.
The pilgrimage toward Jerusalem
This voyage to the holy land is similar in nature to the Muslim journey toward Mecca. For the Jews, Jerusalem is the chosen city of God, where God comes to the earth to do business with the humans. In other words, Jerusalem is like a spiritual port city between earth and heaven, so by taking his son there is symbolic. It signifies Jacob's commitment to spirituality and closeness to tradition, through which he hopes his son will attain immortality (according to Jewish belief). Jerusalem represents heaven itself to Jacob.
The generational success of Benjamin
To say that Jacob helped his son to the "Promised Land" of Jerusalem is like saying that Benjamin inherited the blessings of his father's sacrifices, which is literally true. This serves as a picture of the sacrifice a parent makes for their child to have a better life than they had. This is especially true given the political turmoil in Poland for the Jews who live their. In other words, Jacob put up with those close-minded people so his son wouldn't have to.
The growing cemetery
In the end, that judgmental community is doomed. When Jacob returns to his wife's grave to spend his last days with her there, he finds that the community that had judged them for their interracial relationship is now dead, and the number of their dead so much that the cemetery has grown to include his wife's grave (they buried her outside the cemetery as an insult against her ethnicity). This signifies the equality of men, because no matter where someone is born, or what their language is, or what their culture is, all men die just the same. In other words, there is no room for racism in death.
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Without his family Jacob's life would be hell. This is partly to do with the fact that he lives in an unstable, sometimes close-minded community, but mostly it has to do with the fact that he tragically lost his family once already, in the...