Chavarah- Jewish Community Learning

A blog of Jewish study and traditions. Notes from classes: Torah Study with Rabbi Marder, Toledot and Shabbaton as well as other details found of interest.

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Saturday, December 31, 2011

birthright and self control - then to Isaac

Torah Study 12-31 Genesis 25:30-34
Sale of birthright - summary

1. Archeological findings. Mare and uzie sites excavated found stone tablets. Established that oldest got a double portion of the inheritance.
2. Ch 21 Deuteronomy says the father cannot take away the firstborns birthright.
3. Arheological find in Newzie.. Where someone sold his birthright for sheep... Records found. Shirt term gain traded for future gains.
Trade for a mess of pottage - idiom used for immediate gain for possible future loss of more gain.

James Walden Johnson. Book used the same idiom. A black man who passed for white.
Essay by Rabbi Brad Artsen...John Wayne meets Jacob. Unfair portrayal of Esau.. He is simple and not intellectual... We distrust intellectuals.
(Study in New Yorker ..Don't. The secret of self control. Temptation study... With children.
30% waited... Those people were higher achievers in the future. )

Book on will power - new popular topic. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister, John Tierney

Jacob defers gratification to benefit later. Is this in contrast to the current way people really are?
The story is used in literature a lot. "delayed vs immediate gratification"

Literary point of view. Narrator wants us to wait to see what happens. Next chapter switches focus to Isaac.

* Chapter 26:1-5 Only chapter where Isaac is the protagonist.

Robert Alter. Isaac ... Passive character.

Women's commentary. Parallels his father but only because of his father. Distinguished by his compliance.

David Liber.. Reenacts many events of father .... Repetition of same stories...coming to better understand his father.

V1. Famine in the land. Again. Gen 12 and Gen. 20

Goes to Avimelach... Same name as the king in Abraham's time... Not same person.

V2 God appears to him (2 times in Torah) (Abraham 3 times. Isaac 2 times. Jacob 1 time. Diminishes. )
Isaac has an relationship of fear with God.

God says don't go to Egypt... Why? Egypt is not subject to the effects of famine as much.

Goes to the land of the Philistines...

God told Issac to dwell in this land...stay here. Isaac the only one who stays in the land.

Rashi - Isaac like an offering - other places not good enough for him.
Eli Munk... Land outside is not worthy of him.

V3. Reside in this land... Ger..stranger. Make yourself a ger, live as an alien. God will be with him (don't be afraid)
Ramban - Eli Munk - man is a guest of God... Righteous feel themselves as a stranger wherever they are.

Chafetz Chaim... Story of the ‘guest’ Business man goes to his home and in was sparse of furniture... Asked where furniture is... Chafetz Chaim says he is a guest (in his own home) (find this story:
A Midrash and a maaseh: an anthology of insights and commentaries on weekly ... By Hanoch Teller)
Individual should feel like a visitor to the world.

George Steiner. Celebrated the wandering status of Jews. Jews are on the outside and because of this they contributed more cultural advancement. Celebrates Jews lack of rooted-ness.

We are strangers in a strange land.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Birthrights and Lentils....

Torah Study 12-24 Genesis 25:28-34

R. David Lieber. On Isaacs preference for Esau because he was compensating for his own lacking.
Midrash that Isaac comes back to say he loved his not so good son!

Because of the lentil stew they derive the Midrash regarding the mourning for the death of Abraham. Lentils because they are shaped like a wheel...round. Also that they have no mouth as mourners are not required to speak.

(Lentils. In Hebrew similar word for contact lenses. As the original word was lens and shaped like a lentil.)

Midrash paints Easau in a negative light.

Midrash drama... Mourning for Abraham... All weeping they return from the burial and Jacob is cooking the mourners meal. Where was Esau? Going about his regular day while others are mourning. "came in from the field" what it means?
- Esau is having a crisis of faith due to his grandfathers death. Deny the idea of the afterlife. Spiritual crisis.
- Esau is portrayed as a blasphemer
- Link to the story of the rape in the try to accuse Esau of this sin.
- Esau was tired. In desperate need of food and drink. Same words apply to the land in other places in Torah.
- Rashi- he was exhausted from killing - comes from Jeremiah verse where same word used. (equate Esau with Rome)

interesting analysis:
V30- give me to gulp down. /. Let me swallow / pour in to me
“hapax legomenon” Word only occurs once in the Bible.
Does occur in Mishnah to apply to feeding animals. This is where more modern interpretations come from.
Robert Alter. Higher level of writing... And this word is from the colloquial.

"Give me that red red".
N Sarna.. Word play for the Edomites. Or word play for “dam” = blood.

Robert Altar. Jacob trying to compete with Esau who brought meat with his stew.

Family dynamics and survival of siblings.

Soloveichik. Esau lacks faith which adds to his hunger. He lives for the moment and has no foresight.

Lieber... Hunger usurps other needs.

Sell the birthright.
Robert Alter pays attention to the order of the words. Esau spontaneous with words vs Jacob's words carefully chosen. Greed vs Calculation.

Nachum Sarna. Jacob exploits his brother in the request.

V32 Esau says he is about to die (of hunger).
What use us the birthright?

Robert Alter. Same words used by Rebecca when they were in the womb.

V34 Jacob gave bread and lentil stew...chain of verbs...he ate and drank and got up ... And cast off his birthright.

Midrash. After he eats then he returns to his hunt.. Verbs reflect his impatient nature.

Negotiations... Sforno - commentator... “For the price agreed upon”...says that it was a monitory exchange. Implies that there was more negotiations than just the stew!

Story gave rise to the idiom about selling birthright for a bowl of pottage...
Thoreau. (from Walden – Life in the Woods)
The world is a place of business... No time for Sabbath... All about business rather than satisfaction
“I trust that I shall never thus sell my birthright for a mess of pottage. ...”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jacob and Esau grow up.

Torah study. 12-17 Genesis 25:27-34

Parent favoritism a Trade: Stew for birthright.

Esau is the hunter a man of the field. Metaphoric reflection on his character.

Midrash pictures Esau as evil, negative, not good:

Rashi –says he is an idler not favorable

SRH. The man who hunts is the one who can stalk and be sneaky. Malicious nature of the hunter. Entraps his father.

Zohar. Man of the field. He was a highway man who robs and kills people.

Jacob... Mild man. Tam. Simple naive. Plain. Has integrity. Not sharp witted in deceiving.

Eli Munk - Jacob's stage of perfection exceeds Abraham.

Zohar interpretation...Jacob holds both generosity and firmness in balance.

J Marder... Unto himself he is complete.

Second description of Jacob... The one who dwells in tents. Nomadic shepherd... Pastoral nomad. The family business of the Israelites.

Midrash and Rashi. In the tent of Shem and ever primeval figures.

Running a yeshivah. In the study house.

Eli Munk - where he studied. Abraham was a missionary. Grandson focus on study...Jacob the one who stays inside concentrating on study.

V28. Taste for game... Isaac loved Esau because he brought him meat.

Rebecca liked Jacob better.

Parent bias.

Esau his meat was in his words.

Isaac loved Esau for a particular reason vs no reason given for Rebecca loving Jacob.

SRH. Train each child in accordance to their own nature. important but there are some who need more love... Those not a good need more love and attention.

Different types of love... Conditional and non conditional love.

Book: Erich Fromm the Art of Loving. Motherly vs fatherly love. Fatherly love easier because you can do something to effect it- need to achieve conditional love.. Motherly love gives security...need both.

Book: UnConditional Parenting... Alfie Kohen writer NY Times

Book: Super Nanny by Jo Frost.

Problem with praise... Can be problematic because it can effect the future opinion of the parents. Long range effects of conditional parenting are harmful.Using love as a method of control is not a good way to get long range results.

Foreshadowing of the next happening...

Jacob Cooking something in a pot... Esau comes in and he is famished in desperate need of food and drink... Lentil stew.. Why.. Lentils

It is known that they were cultivated in that place... Rashi says that Abraham died on that lentils to comfort the mourners.. Give lentils to mourner because they are round like a wheel... Mourning is like a wheel. Cycle of life... Lentils have no mouth like the mourners who cannot speak. Mourner is mute...not supposed to speak or naturally inclined to be silent. This meal must be given to the mourner - round food is a symbol.

More next time….

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

About Esau & Jacob

Torah Study 12-10
Genesis 25:24-30
Esau red. Isaac hold heel.
Red - hair or skin.
Famous red heads and prejudice.
Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Margaret Sanger, Judas Iscariot, Ron Hubbard, Napoleon Bonapart, Lizzie Borden
Cleopatra, Emily Dickenson, Oliver Cromwell, Thomas Jefferson, Vincent Van Gogh, Mark Twain

Different interpretations:
Red all over and all over like a hairy mantle.
Rashi... Filled with hair like wool.

Name Esau...subtle pun because the area is sair..because of the terrain (Nachum Sarna)
Meaning if the name not clear..could be ‘the covered one’.
Another theory re spelling ayin sin - to do.. He was already made.
Rashi - completed like he was older.
Kuni - says from Adam and it was that he was manly.

Midrash Eli Munk- Esau not circumcised because his father thought he was not well. Then when he was 13 he refused.
Jacob was born circumcised. Perfectly formed. This doesn’t happen any more because we have to work to form a perfect world.

Midrash is what emphasizes the contrast between them.
Jacobs hand holding he'll of Esau. Most commentators say he was trying to supplant his brother to be first.

Book of Hosea before the Bible canonized. Hosea is attacking the people -says they are full of deceit and guile. Jacob tried to supplant his brother in the womb.

Rashi gives a political point of view ... Esau symbol of Romans. Sign that Esau will not complete his reign before Jacob takes power. On the heels of Roman dominion "we will have our day"

SRH - younger will supplant older

Inspired Bob Dylan song lyrics:
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
Both of their futures
So full of dread
You don't show one.
Shedding off one more layer of skin
Keeping one step ahead of the persecutor within.

Jacobs name. Root to protect. God protect this child. Forecast of his future life surrounded by danger.
Eli Munk. Heel. Like the holy land reaching for the boot of Italy.
Zohar. Jacob will be the master of the heel of Esau. Later the interpretation will be that Jacob outwitted him.
Projects to the future of the Jewish people.
Ayin kuf vet. What follows. Word is part of the root of the word yakov, Jacob.
Sarna. Says that the heel means the end of time and that we will prevail .

Rashi.. First one came out and the following not called second. Called his brother.
Midrash. Lawful that Jacob grabbed heel. Jacob formed with the first seeman... Goes in first comes out last. Therefore Esau formed second.
Jacob was trying to restrain Esau.
Try's to explain the later actions that Jacob was just taking what was rightfully his.

Question of whether the system should be creatively outsmarted to get ahead.

Torah shows us that you can suffer by the deception. Jacobs life is not necessarily celebrated.

Remember that Jacob really did not need to go through the trickery to get where he did... It was foretold by God.

V27. The boys grew up.
Rashi. When little similar. When 13 years old one went to study and one went to idol worship. This is at the age of responsibility when choices have consequences.

Noted that Abraham was their tutor until he died and then it was the the time when the brothers departed ways.
Rambam said that Esau had the drive to do wring but could work to do right and overcome then inclination to do wrong.

Esau hunter Midrash. He knew how to hunt trap and deceive his father. His game was in his mouth. Would cheat his father with his words. Midrash seems to make his character bad. He is demonized in Midrash.

Hunting, Edomites weeper hunters before they settled. Hunting as a way of life is not looked well upon in Torah. Only one other...Nimrod

18th century responsa... Asking about hunting... Not to hurt living creatures and not to destroy things of value. Response... If done for human need then it is not forbidden.
Not part of our tradition ... If not for livelihood then it is discouraged. Thus not for sport...

Next about dwelling in tents. Parental favoritism.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Jacob & Esau Struggle in the Womb

Torah study 12-3 Genesis 25:19-26

Rebecca's pregnancy Two nations. Elder serve younger.

Rebecca was barren. Literary device repeated in Torah.
Shows the miracle of birth of children.

She seeks an answer to her barrenness and why her pregnancy is difficult.
Automatic succession is challenged. Younger sons dislodging the elders is another theme throughout Torah.

What happens is foretold.

Esau and Jacob .
Children struggle within the womb. Midrash.

The word for Struggling ( v22)... sounds like the verb to run...

Rashi. Verse demands interpretation.
Means ‘running’. When she walk by yeshivah Jacob would run to try to get out...
When walk by place of idolatry Esau run to get out. They are already at war.

Symbolize Israel and Adom the people who live east of the Jordan.

Eli Munk... The antagonism goes back to congenital differences that goes back to the womb. No rational grounding. It is inherited.

Esau =Rome. Edom. Code word for Rome. Later equated with Christians ... Hostility of Christians anti-Semitism stems from the struggle between Esau and Jacob.
Shows that there is no rational explanation for anti Semitism.

Torah shows that in the end they embrace but go separate ways. It is later Midrash that poses them as irreconcilable.

Book. Constantine's Sword James Carroll and Jerusalem Jerusalem James Carroll
Addresses the struggle between Christians and Jews.

They are born (v24). Hine tovim. Look Twins. Word spelled without the aleph. Defective spelling. Similar to Tamar. Spelling different.

Eli Munk on twins. Speaks of astrology. Third month zodiac sign of Gemini. Same month that Torah was given. Implies Torah is open to all people.

Malbim. Russian commentator in the time of pogroms.

When Jacob and Esau emerge into world they stop struggling. Symbolic of a messianic time.

First one came out red... Reference 1st Samuel 16. Ask of other son. Described as ruddy... David. Described as ruddy and handsome. Admiring quality here,

Wordplay. Adom and Edom...

Most say it is referring to the hair color. Historic position. Minority. Cultural association with prejudice even today. Art historian Ruth Melankoff...article. 9th century..Judas differentiated in art. No Europe made him hateful as in red coloring... Disdain for red hair...goes back to early Egypt.

Shakespeare reference to red hair and Judas coloring. Relation to foxes. Relation to pagan god Thor. Many negative connotations.

Next time the fact he was covered in hair.