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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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Jacob as Esau deception

Torah Study 2-25

Genesis 26:9-20

The Jacob as Esau deception - in detail.
Could be a comic farce or a tragic episode.

Dov Elbaum. Editor of Yediot Ahronot , publishing house.

Reading of the character of Isaac.. Noted that Isaac didn't have a relationship with God... Not renamed..every other patriarch has name changed to incorporate the name of God. Isaac chooses Esau due to a tie between them more than with Jacob. Sense of Isaac being damaged when he was tied up on the alter..cannot have the same type relation with God.

Naomi Rosenblat...Wrestling With Angels...sins of parents on the children..parental favoritism is passed on in this case. Jacob had an aggressive brother who he could not compete with...thus he must rely on his wits. He learns his skills from his mother...strategy and cunning. Needs his fathers leadership but he doesn't get this. Torah emphasizes the need for strong fathers. Jacob has "father hunger". Needs his fathers love and doesn't get it which may be what opened him to a strong relationship with God.

Two Goats...

V9 intense instruction from Rebecca...two good kids... Word for goat like the song, had gadyah... BUT...Why does she need two goats?

- a lot of food...for an auspicious situation. Important occasion calls for lots of meat.

Why goat? Taste of kid is like the taste of venison. The hair of the goat fells more like human hair.

Another Midrash in that it is ere of Pesach so the second goat is the one for sacrifice...

This is the day that will be Pesach..the two goats will later be the ones used to bring atonement at Yom Kippur...the scapegoat ... Atonement for the sins in this act.

Goats are the instrument of deception. Happens again in the story of Joseph when the garment is dipped in goat blood...also in the story of Tamar later whe goats are offered.

Rashi...note about the two goats..they belong to Rebecca. This was in the marriage contract. She is entitled to the goats. And relates to the two offerings to be made in the temple.

V10 take to father to eat so he will bless you. Joy is needed for the presence of God. The shechinah.. Need not to be hungry... Need to satisfy your physical needs to be able to unite your soul with God.

Jacob answers with the fact that Esau is hairy... He is concerned with consequences.

V11. Jacob says to his mother Rebecca , emphasizes the relationship.

Hairy and smooth. Wordplay. Pun in Hebrew. Saire the mountain where the Edomites live is rough and next to the smooth mountain..relates to the political differences as well.

Jacob fears being caught as a cheat or a trickster... The word is an onomatopoeia

In Hebrew.. Translated a deceiver or one who mocks.

SRH. Like an imposter...not really an imposter but he fears his fathers reaction..would not have time to explain at he is following his mothers instructions.

V13 Rebecca's response. Your curse is on me.

She knows she is doing the right thing...previous revelation.

Like when Adam is cursed the curse falls on the earth ( his mother).

She says the curse is on her...when a child acts bad ..the blame is on the parents.

There is the disturbing pattern where one son is turned away.. The dysfunctional family dynamic..

Rebecca's plan is straightforward with knowledge of shepherding...the disguise. A blessing unwittingly bestowed is still a blessing. She used deception because she was powerless...Torah rewards her cunning and trickery. Contemporary interpretation is positive toward her actions

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meat & Rebecca's Plot

Torah study 2-18 Genesis 27:1-13

The request for meat ...Rebecca's plot for Jacob...

Tension between brothers. Book- Janice Garfunkel.. Esau the symbol of masculinity. Jacob is an ectomorph. (book...Atlas of Men). Jacob a mothers boy... Skinny type...
Intellectual... The Torah favors the studious type and so do Jews...prefer their men to be doctors rather than boxers.

Isaac tells Esau that he is old. Soforno...blessing is more effective when near death. At that point it is less about material things...

The Food Connection: Get food and cook it... What is the connection between the food and the blessing. The meal referred to many times.

Theories- Ritual meal goes with the blessing.
SRH - Isaac wanted to bless Esau in relation to his occupation..hope he will use his aggressive nature and desire to hunt for good and humane purposes to make a meal for his father.
Since Esau got married he didn't bring food to his father .. But maybe did before.

Why does Isaac want to bless Esau rather than Jacob?
Ora Chaim.. Issac thinks that Via the blessing Esau would change.
Rebecca never told Isaac about the message from God.

Joseph Rackman. Reason Isaac wants to divide the blessing.. Isaac empathized with the expulsion of Ishmael... He didn't want to choose between his sons. Rebecca wants everything to go to one son. Later Isaac shows his value as he wants to recognize both of his sons.

Kimkee. Isaac saw that Esau needed the blessing more than Jacob did. Esau needs the love and attention.

Birthright and blessing are two different things but it is not clear exactly what they are in the text.

Isaac says go out so my soul may bless you.
Robert Alter. Bless with life breath..with deepest soul.
How blessings should be given. Maharam of Prague... Do it with a spirit of joy.
A blessing must be done with soul.

Rebecca... She was listening. (not that she heard). Her practice was to eavesdrop. The way written shows that she does this all the time.
She waits for Esau to leave then talks to Jacob. ( seems she should have spoken to Isaac instead)

  • she didn't have time ...
  • the ends good but the means were wrong... (English commentator)

Women's Commentary... Rebecca must insure the results... Works to usurp the authority of Isaac... Subterfuge is what the women must use to get what is needed.

Happens again with the story of Tamar. Women must be more creative in how they get what they need. Also to use trickery.

Rebecca repeats the words to Jacob... Difference.. She mentions God ... Isaac did not.
Implies that God approves of this trickery.
Isaac was traumatized and doesn't have a relationship with God... He was spiritually damaged.
Rebecca says now listen to me.. Listen carefully as I command you... Telling you this as your mother.. Abravonel...emphasized that she was commanding him as his mother.

She will take responsibility... Makes her a tragic hero. She has more insight to the nature of the children.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Focus on Esau

Torah Study 2-11 Genesis 26:34-35. 27:1-7

Esau marries Hitites two wives.
Isaac sends Esau to hunt for his meal.

Two cryptic verses at the end of chapter 26
What Esau does a triple breach of custom -

  • he took a wife... Usually the parents arrange this.
  • violates monogamy rules
  • intermarriage with the Hittites

Parents reaction... Rashi... Says it is rebellion and provokes Isaac and Rebecca.
Christian commentary... Notes that Esau is still around they do not break off the relationship... Even though they are not happy with his choices.
Ch 27.. Focus on the blessing from the father.
Not necessisarily related to the birthright. Separate

Book. Wrestling with the Angels. Naomi Rosenblat.
Fathers are distant..mothers are stronger. Look for surrogate fathers. Insecurities result.

Jacob is Genesis' is best described in a psychological terms... Easier to identify with.
So many flaws.. Rebecca turns her passion to her younger son...she taught him the lesson of the disenfranchised...

27:1. Isaac was old...
Eli Munk. Says that when the phrase is used it means that bad things will happen...
Isaacs success is short lived... Distrust and hatred within the family... And things are not so good...
Midrash.. Why told he is old here? Compare to Abraham. As he gets older he gets wiser. But for Isaac as he gets older he sees less both physically and in understanding.

His eyes were dim. Loss of vision is central to the plot...allows for the deception.
Robert Alter..says Isaac is sensual noted by his love of meat and of Rebecca... But loosing this.

Rashi. Why eyes dim?

  • from the smoke - idol offerings of Esau's wives.
  • when Isaac bound by his father..angels wept..tears fell into his eyes and effected his vision.
  • bribes cloud our vision (from Exodus) Isaac took bribes from Esau in the special food...that effected his vision.

(Larry thinks Isaac has glaucoma - Jacob also later looses vision.)

Matthew Henry - Isaac really does live for another 40 years more... This is where he makes his will... Make his will early and after he lived with a better feeling of having his things in order.

Sforno. Blindness is a punishment for not teaching Esau better...

Eli Munk. Isaac requests physical suffering to pay for his sins... Better than need to suffer after death. Suffering is a kind of atonement.

Calls his older son... Never calls him the first born because he sold the birthright.

Response: Heneney. Here I am... Here it is ironic as he is requesting meat... Very different circumstances from the previous times this word is used.

Norman Cohen ..HUC professor.. Based on midrash.. Esau's response may have attitude attached - Isaacs request. Esau to take care of older parents...test of Esau...are we ready to respond to our parents request? Why didn't Esau respond recognize his father? Esau feels burdened by his fathers request...sees the response as being one with reluctance or being upset... Esau does show that he honors his matter the attitude.

Isaac says, "Old and do not know how soon I will die...."
Midrash... Within 5 years of our own parents death...start thinking of his own death...

Etz Hyiam commentary...those who tend to dying tells them to set affairs in order...planning ahead. This is where thy derive the need for an ethical will as well.

V3-4. Take gear, quiver and bow..
Rashi...sharpening...sharpen on another knife..sharpen his gear. Slaughter the animal properly..worried about kosher slaughter.

Isaac is trying to influence Esau ... Parenting

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Isaac Beersheva and Esau Marries

Genesis 26:31-34 - End of story of Isaac and the wells.

Well has water. Sheva = seven. Beershivah place name.

Story based on the similar story with Abraham where ther are many symbols of seven... This time a shuvah an oath. The stories are overlaid...

In actuality there was no city of Beersheva until much later... A suggestion that the text is actually written later than Moses.

Eli Munk. Connect wells and treaties... Twice there is a connection between wells and treaties... Water connected to a spiritual resource. Separation of the spiritual belief and heritage.

Orthodox Rabbi..Moshe Lictman - the relation with Avimelach connected to the story of Jacob and Esau.... Why the deception? To create the animosity between the brothers.. So Esau can teach a lesson to Jacob. Isaacs blessing had an uncomfortable twist. This resulted in the fears of Jacob.. Related to the animosity between Gentiles and Jews.

Also relates to the story of Isaac and Avimelach ... Isaac accused of making his wealth from the Gentiles... Avimelach sent him away to prove that his wealth was not taken from them but it was a gift from God. Troubles happen when we get too close to the non Jews. Psalm 105 King David alludes to this concept...

Antisemitism Is a corrective to keep Jews separate...and strong

Arnold Eisen ... Continuity in the narrative. Repetitive stories. Was Isaac familiar with his fathers stories when he repeated the history... Desire for the women and then the desire for their wealth... Hostility between them remains but they try to make the best of the situation... Wealth and trade helps to make the situation better.. But doesn't change the attitude ... Has this changed today? (The Jew Within: Self, Family, and Community in America by Steven M. Cohen (Author), Arnold M. Eisen (Author))

Esau begs for the blessing as well.. Does the others also get the blessing?

Midrash: the messiah will only come when the tears of Esau are dried up.

Peony by Pearl Buck about the Jews in China.. The Jews disappeared when they stopped speaking Hebrew.

Orphan verse... Esau gets married at 40... Isaac was also 40 when he gets married.

Rashi...Esau compared to a swine. Swine sticks out its hooves to pretend to be kosher...Esau presents selves as if honest but not... Says that Esau lives a sinful life before. But pretending to be "kosher" by doing what his father did... However the person he chooses is the daughter of the Hitite. But she did not have children...

Would have two wives .. One for children and one for playing with...Basmat second wife... In spice trade....Parents not happy about the marriage of Esau.Sforna. Cut short the spirit of Isaac and Rebecca ... A reason why she sent Jacob away

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Isaac and his father's wells... successful again.

1-29Genesis 26:18-30

Isaac and the wells. Names of the wells.
Beersheba blessing and altar. Avimelach comes to make peace.

Dvar Torah. Catherine Shadd.. From conservative synagogue in Berkley.

Uses the metaphor. Isaacs journey on his own from the akidah... Make his own life... But he returns to his fathers wells to regain part of his fathers legacy. He takes on his fathers teaching in this way. The journey from generation to generation crossing the paths and the wells of our parents.

Esek. The name of the well. Only once in Torah ( hapax legomenon) - Rashi... Means contention. Related to quarreling .

Sitnah. Well name. Enmity. Relates to Satan. The adversary or hostility
Word Satan in Torah is not a spiritual being just means an adversary.

A place called Rehoboth.. Means wide...can spread out. 1890 in Israel founded the city by that name that is now in Israel.
Allegorical reading... Quarrel prior to naming first two wells... Then could spread out.

Ramban teaching... Well of living waters stands for the Temple... Or as God.
First is the first Temple destroyed because of idolatry.. Second Temple destroyed by Rome. Third well no one the time of the messiah it will stand in peace.

V22. Eli Munk. Relocated from there... Search for a place without hostility. Hide from the hostility...message of retreat.
Midrash. “the story of Rav Gamliel, who saw Rav Akiva drowning from a wrecked ship, and was later shocked to find him alive and healthy on dry land. He asked Rav Akiva how he survived the shipwreck. Rav Akiva answered, "I grabbed hold of a Daf, a plank of wood, and with this Daf for support, I sailed over every wave until I reached land."” ... When danger comes duck down.

Robert Alter... This is an interlude in the Jacob story... Struggle over wells... Prep for the next Jacob Esau story.
Relates to the conflict over the question of who gets the birthright.

V23. Isaac chooses to go To Beersheba
Eli Munk..Isaac was tested by being left alone until he is faced with conflict...
He was isolated and separated. God speaks when he voluntarily returns to Beersheba.
Interpretation - Survive by choice to be separate and different.

Difference between being a minority because you are forced into it vs choosing to be part of the minority.
Covenant renewed now with Isaac... Builds the altar...

V24. Bless and increase offspring for the sake of his father....
Merritt of ancestors... We are building on the foundation started by those before us.
The benefit of a good deed will benefit those who come after you.

Servant of God... Isaiah ... God says "my servant will prosper..."
Suffering servant passage. Many say he was describing the Jewish people.
Etz Hyiam... Why God appear now? Isaac feeling low... This is the reassurance.

V26.. Avimelach comes bringing his counselor and military leader...
Why is Isaac being visited by the king.?
Because of his wealth... Now Isaac is in the position of power... Speak in terms of "we" on behalf of his people (not personally )
Isaacs response...asks why king come? Not a social call... Isaac not trust Phillistines.
Kings Reply. They see that God is with you due to his success. Need to make a deal with him. Forced to make a deal...
Says they didn't harm him and sent away with peace... Not physical harm...

Midrash.. Parable of a lion devouring its prey gets a bone caught in his throat... Lion offers a reward to anyone who would remove the bone. A kora bird dislodges the bone. When the bird asks for the reward the Lion says “ for an animal to stick its head in the mouth of a lion and come out alive is the greatest reward.”