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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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Brothers Go Separate Ways...

11-17 Torah Study with Rabbi Sara Wolf
Genesis 33:12-17
Reunion ends... And they go separate ways
Esau wants Jacob to travel with him...Jacob declines.

Gifts... Both say they don't need anything...Jacob insists...Esau finally accepts.
But back to reality they go separate ways.

Did Jacob really intend to go to Esau?  Some midrash says that he doesn't go to Esau's home and thus..they can only really be reconciled in the messianic times.

V16. "le darkov" ...on his way... Esau back to his usual ways and they cannot walk on the same path.  So they go their separate ways.

Contrast...wants reconciliation but also holds back.

Leon Kass…book Beginning of Wisdom.  Brotherly rivalry...a problem that repeats itself again and again.
Jacob & Esau - This is the best they could have done..not like the Cain &Abel tragic conclusion .

Jacob arrives shalem...whole.  Interpreted differently.

Jacob buys land and pays for it...proof of ownership and settlement.

Sets up an alter...odd grammar ...called for/to self.
Tradition from this ...being called up to to Bimah.

Transformational moments don't stick!

Torah does not refer to Jacob by the name Israel so this name change is different from Abraham's name change.

Is this reconciliation related to the need and process of tshuvah?

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Dawn Breaks and Name Change

Howards notes!

3 November 2012
27. And he (the angel) said, "Let me go, for dawn is breaking," but he (Jacob) said, "I will not let you go unless you have blessed me."
  • More on 32:27 from Elie Munk – the being has only power at night; it’s a struggle between darkness and light.  As dawn breaks, angel begs to be leg go, but Jacob refuses until he has been blessed – how poignant.  
    • Rashi writes, Acknowledge for me the blessings, [with] which my father blessed me, which Esau is contesting.  In other words, confirm that his father’s blessing was legitimate.  Is this “angel” Esau’s guardian angel?  Jacob wants to shed his self-image as a liar and cheat.
    • Etz Hayim – need for parent to bless you as life is ending; cannot let go of the mother and father until there is a blessing.
28. So he said to him, "What is your name?" and he said, "Jacob."
  • 32:28, Rabbi David Kimchi (Radak) - question is not an inquiry but an invitation to dialogue, like God asked of Adam, “where are you?”  In each case, angel and God knew the answer to this rhetorical question.  Jacob is reliving Adam’s primeval scene and attempting to grow from it.  The question is direct, not formal and not polite.
29. And he said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have commanding power with [an angel of] God and with men, and you have prevailed."
  • 32:29
    • Nahum Sarna (JPS Torah Commentary,”) – name changes are always significant because they are tied up with personality and destiny.  
      • To Jacob, his unsavory traits are finally purged.  Naming also implies a certain power over the one who does the naming.  Naming something makes it easier to categorize people or things.  Perhaps that’s why Jews never pronounce God’s name יהוה; it would imply a power over God.  
      • Jacob is trying to escape his “nickname” of his youth, just like other people.  Jews change their Jewish-sounding names to more gentile sounding ones and change English sounding names to Hebrew names when emigrating to Israel.  Kings, Queens, and Popes take new names on their coronation.
      • Sarna concludes in his “Excursus 25” in JPS Torah Commentary that the explanation of the word ישראל Yisrael, has escaped commentators thus far.
    • Rashi – the name Jacob (meaning a heel, a sneaky dude) no longer suits you.  From now on you will prevail …
It shall no longer be said that the blessings came to you through trickery (עָקְבָה) and deceit, but with nobility and openness, and ultimately, the Holy One, blessed be He, will reveal Himself to you in Beth-el and change your name, and there He will bless you, and I will be there.“ He then acknowledged them (the blessings) as being his (Jacob’s). This is [the meaning of] what is written (Hosea 12:5): ”He strove with an angel and prevailed over him; he wept and supplicated him,“ [meaning that] the angel wept and supplicated him. With what did he supplicate him? ”In Beth-el he will find Him, and there He will speak with us“ (ibid). Wait for me until He speaks with us there. Jacob, however, did not consent, [to release the angel] and, against his (the angel’s) will, he (the angel) acknowledged them (the blessings) as being his (Jacob’s). This is [the meaning of] ”And he blessed him there," that he entreated him to wait, but he did not wish [to do so]. — [from Zohar, vol. 3, 45a]
  • God will formally change the name later [in the next chapters, he is still called “Jacob.”] Robert Alter comments that the name “Jacob” continues to be use in subsequent chapters, unlike Abram-Abraham.  Perhaps Jacob never completely assumes his new identity.  
    • From now on (in today’s prayers), “Yaakov” and “Israel” are used as synonyms.
    • A messianic name?
  • “Yisrael”- prevailed over them [Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary, unless noted]
    • Radak – divine beings = angel; men = Lavan and Esau
    • Meaning is not truly “wrestling with God”, but God prevails or God’s dominion (unlike Hosea 8:4)
    • Link to “yeshurun” – from root for straight (רשי); people evolved from crookedness and developed a moral conscience.  Yeshurun is an antonym of Yaakov, connected to deceit and craftiness.
    • Rabbi Neal Loevinger writes (in; underlining added):
“Perhaps the question [in 32:28] is not merely a conversation-opener, but the main point of the conversation. In the case of Jacob, the messenger seems to want Jacob to think deeply about the meaning of his name, which we learned at his birth would represent the depth of his troubled relationship with his brother. (Cf. Genesis 25:25-27 and 27:35-37.)
“The messenger knows not just Jacob's name, but his history--he's asking if Jacob has wrestled sufficiently with his own identity. "What is your name," in this context, can be understood as "are you still Jacob, the deceiver, or are you ready to become Yisrael, the person of conscience?"
  • Sarna on early archeological references to “Israel that refer to kings who believe they conquered and wiped out Israel.  Sarna writes, 
“The innovation of the name ‘Israel’ in the Bible is associated with struggle and triumph in the face of overwhelming odds.  Curiously and instructively, the earliest extra biblical document to mention Israel, the victory hymn of King Merneptah of Egypt (ca 1207 BCE) reports that ‘Israel is laid waste, his seed is not,’ while the second, the victory inscription of King Mesha of Moab (ca 830 BCE) declares ‘Israel has perished forever.’”
How wrong they were!
  • Jacob is a man who is constantly seeking blessings from father figures.
  • Munk - The Jews’ mission is to fight for a kingdom of God; however, the fighting is not with material things but with other people.  Munk writes,
Based on Onkelos [a converted Roman nobleman who translated the Bible into Aramaic in the first century CE], “Israel” means a fighter for God.  However, “no indication of the fight with men is to be found in the name ישראל, Israel.  And this is very significant for its [Israel’s] mission.  Jewry’s millennial struggle is within society and its goal is to establish the kingdom of God on earth.  But in this struggle Jewry fights only with spiritual weapons..  It fights for ideals and principles.  Jewry’s fight is never directed against human beings.”
  • Munk also cites Jerusalem Talmud Midrash – king who attaches a string to a key lest he lose it.  God’s name is embedded in the word “Israel” – God is attaching himself to Israel so they won’t get lost amid other nations.
30. And Jacob asked and said, "Now tell me your name," and he said, "Why is it that you ask for my name?" And he blessed him there.
  • 32:30, why asking my name
    • Sarna – angels’ names are unknown in pre-Babylonian exile times, as in Judges 13:17-18, before Samson is born.
    • Angels’ names are based on their mission – those names change.
    • Sforno – Jacob thinks that angel is sent to teach something, which can happen only if Jacob knows his name.
    • Nachmanides – name is no value; angel is not a genie to be summoned; angel works for God only.
    • Blessing Yaakov
      • Radak – Jacob did get the blessing for which he asked.
      • Angel took leave of him [without blessing?].  Reference: Genesis 47:10 – Jacob blessed and departed from Pharaoh.  Anytime you leave someone, you bless him: “Goodbye” is a contraction of “God be with ye.”
      • The blessing is getting the new name [and a new identity, image].
31. And Jacob named the place Peniel, for [he said,] "I saw an angel face to face, and my soul was saved.
  • 32:31
    • Jacob names the place – “face of God.”  Face to face can also mean combat.
    • Sarna – name may have been based on grotesque rock formation named, “God’s face.”
32. And the sun rose for him when he passed Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh.
  • 32:32 
    • Name changes, yud to vav. Munk – my face vs turn to God
    • Sun rose and limped
      • Rashi – the sun rose especially for Jacob to heal his thigh: This is a common expression: When we arrived at such-and-such a place, the dawn broke for us. This is the simple explanation. The Midrashic Aggadah (Tanchuma Buber, Vayishlach 10; Genesis Rabbah 68:10) [explains]: And the sun rose for him-to heal his limp, as it is said: (Malachi 3:20): “the sun of mercy, with healing in its wings”; and those hours that it hastened to set for him when he left Beersheva, it hastened to rise for him.
      • Sarna – a contrast with sunset when Jacob fled in Genesis 28.   Sarna writes, “Jacob’s ignominious flight from home was appropriately marked by the setting of the sun; fittingly, the radiance of the sunrise greets the patriarch as he crosses back into his native land.”
    • Alter on limp – it’s scars of confrontations
33. Therefore, the children of Israel may not eat the displaced tendon, which is on the socket of the hip, until this day, for he touched the socket of Jacob's hip, in the hip sinew.
  • 32:33 - Jump forward in time to a law about eating this part of an animal – sciatic nerve area.
    • Talmud Chulin 89b, 96b discusses in great detail how this nerve can impart a taste to the entire mean dish.
    • Many cuts of meat near this nerve are not sold in kosher butcher shops in USA.
    • What’s the big deal?  According to the Zohar, this is a symbol of wrestling with our dark side.  Thigh signifies root of sexual desire.  Sin can be overcome except for lust; men are powerless in this area.  The strongest, most pious men often are helpless from sexual lust.  Avoid the temptation by not eating this part of the animal.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Wrestling all night / Name Change/ The Limp

Genesis 32:27-33
Blessing of the angel. Name change.

damage to his thigh... 
Don't eat the part of the thigh muscle of an animal.

Jacobs opponent only can fight at night. Connection to enlightenment 
Not let you go..asks for a blessing.  
Rashi .He asks the angel.. Confirm the blessings that Isaac gave him...the one that he stole from his brother.
to assure that he earned the blessing in his own right.
Angel asks the same question that Isaac had asked him...this time he answers in truth.
This is way to come out of his previous deception with integrity.
When the angel asks his name...kimkee. Related to the question God asks Adam   To engage him in conversation.

His name and identity is is Israel...
Nahum Sarna... Names tied to character... Jacob= crooked... 
Rashi..the name doesn't suit longer heel or designates that he has earned his position openly...

Israel. Means he has striven with Devine beings and with people and have prevailed.
Kimkee. Devine being is the angel...human Laban and Esau 
Real meaning not wrestling with God... Actually means that God has prevailed. Gods dominion.
Other name relates to yisuan= Jews.  The one with integrity.
Not the deceiver but now the person of conscious. The straight one.
Earliest archeological mention of Israel.  1200BCE
9th century BCE notes that Israel is gone...
Name= you have prevailed. Actually in fit ire tense.

Name is changed but we continue to refer to him a Jacob..
Unexplained...but the two names are interchangeable...
Even with the name change Jacob actually continues to aspire to the name Israel.

fighter for God...fight to bring Gods presence to the world.
Analogy to a key to the palace..add a string to the key so it doesn't get lost.

Who has he been wrestling with?
Why ask? Or must not ask.
Don't know the names of the angels in Genesis.

Name of angel is unknowable ...until much later.

Jacob was trying to escape the name from his youth...
Reason slaves in Egypt held their identity by not changing their names.

Angels don't have names.  Angels only have a single purpose. Name changes each time.
Sforno says he is asking what his character is.  What is he to learn from this?
Nachmanades..the angels name would not serve him any purpose...God is in charge of him.

Kimkee.  Devine being gave Jacob the blessing.  
Or. He said goodby.  

47:10 Joseph  blesses and says farewell. Good bye= God be with you.

Change names was more common in ancient times.  Signifies a change in status...still a practice for Popes...

V21. Name the place...Pene El. face of God... Double meaning..combat or intimacy.
Immediately after in 37. Name changes. Yu'd to van.  
Penu=turn to God.

The sun rose on him...for his benefit to heal his lameness. 
He has been hurt.  
Low point of his life at high point at sunrise.

The limp...
Significant...sciatic nerve,
R. Alter...physical damage to reflect his spiritual scars from his experiences.
Leaps into future tense and not eat the sciatic nerve near the hip
Nerves are carefully cut out of the meat in Kosher process... Difficult to do.

Zohar..symbol of our own wrestling with the dark side...the thigh is the root if sexual desire.
Reference to lust.  Makes people forget.. Even great men.  Avoid temptation.