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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

What is gleaned from the list of names of Esau's family

Torah Study with Rabbi Marder 2 March 2013
·      Why such detail in verses 1-15ff when other pieces of Torah legislation are so terse?  Sages say this shows the depravity of Edomites.
·      36:2 - Rashi: “Anah” is masculine name; see verse 24.  Zibeon is another father of Anah.  How can this be?
If she was the daughter of Anah, she could not have been the daughter of Zibeon: Anah was the son of Zibeon, as it is said:“And these are the sons of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah” (below verse 24). [This] teaches [us] that Zibeon was intimate with his daughter-in-law, the wife of Anah, and Oholibamah emerged from between them both [i.e., from Zibeon and Anah]. Scripture teaches us that they were all mamzerim (illegitimate), products of adultery and incest. — [from Tanchuma Vayeshev 1]  
-      Mamzer” – colloquial Yiddish, not a “bastard” – persons who cannot marry according to Jewish law.  All descendants of Anah are mamzerim.
-      Adah = Basemat.  According to Rashi, his is [actually] Basemath the daughter of Elon (mentioned above 26:34). She was called Basemath because she burnt incense (בְּשָׂמִים) to idols. [some references to Song of Songs…]
-      Oholibamah - She is [identical to] Judith (mentioned above 26:34). He (Esau) nicknamed her Judith (יְהוּדִית) to imply that she denied the validity of idolatry, so that he might deceive his father.  Judith, the daughter of Ishmael, is from word for praise.
-      Rashi solves problem of multiple sources and justifies the negativity toward the Edomites.
·      Raises issues of projecting bad characteristics onto some people (outward) and good things on others.  This is verbal aggression, done by people without the ability to use physical power.  Often, Jews’ only weapons are words. They are not above criticizing other sages, too.
·      36:3 - Basemat
-      In v 28:9, she’s named for machalat (sickness); but in Aramaic, sweetness
-      Rashi - Elsewhere [Scripture] calls her Mahalath (above 28:9). I found in the Aggadah of the midrash on the Book of Samuel (ch. 17): There are three people whose iniquities are forgiven (מוֹחֲלִים) : One who converts to Judaism, one who is promoted to a high position, and one who marries. The proof [of the last one] is derived from here (28:9). For this reason she was called Mahalath (מָחֲלַת), because his (Esau’s) sins were forgiven (נְמְחֲלוּ).
-      Origin of Jewish tradition: all sins are forgiven on wedding day; bride and groom wear white; they fast until the ceremony.
·      36:5, children of Oholibamah
-      Korach - This Korah was illegitimate. He was the son of Eliphaz, who had been intimate with his father’s wife, Oholibamah, the wife of Esau. This is evidenced by the fact that he [Korah] is [also] listed among the chieftains of Eliphaz at the end of this chapter. — [from Genesis Rabbah 82:12]
-      In Torah, he’s the son of Esau
-      36:16 – Korach is descendant of Eliphaz – incest!
-      Another tradition about Eliphaz from Ramban: raised in Isaac’s household; he would not kill someone…
-      Eliphaz appears in Job 2:1 as one of Job’s friends; Job was an Edomite as was Eliphaz.
·      Identification of an individual by his/her ancestors is rare today [in USA].  Bible is a literary work, not a factual history book.  Such genealogy shows patterns that show structure of the world, despite the outward chaos.
·      36:6-7 – Esau takes his family elsewhere, another land away from Jacob
-      Rashi - to dwell wherever he would find a suitable place.  There is no further specification of where this land could be, implying that Esau had no specific place in mind when he left [Rashi. Sapirstein Edition/Artscroll].
-      Alter [The Five Books of Moses, page 201] and Sarna [JPS Torah Commentary.  Genesis, page 249] note that the language of these verses is similar to the separation of Abraham and Lot in Chapter 13.  Furthermore, Esau recognizes that the loss of his birthright does not entitle him to stay in Canaan, so he moves elsewhere.
-      Me’Am Lo’Ez, citing many commentators, lists six reason the Esau-Jacob split
*  The land could no longer support the herds of livestock both brothers owned (Rashi on 36:7 and Ramban).
*  Esau feared Jacob after learning of what his sons did to Sh’chem (Targum Yonatan).
*  Esau did not want to be enslaved for 400 years as a condition of inheriting the land according to the covenant in 15:13 (Midrash Rabbah 82:13).
*  He was ashamed and humiliated at having sold his birthright to Jacob (Midrash Rabbah 82:13 and Rashi).
*  Because of the “bastards among Esau’s children, [he] went to a place where he was not known” (Yafet Toar, page 458).
*  Esau and Jacob agreed to divide Isaac’s estate.  Jacob divided that estate into two parts: (1) gold, silver, and other treasure; and (2) land of Canaan and Cave of Machpelah. Esau as the elder had first choice.   He saw no gain from the land and thus took the gold and silver – i.e., Isaac’s movable assets -- because of his [short-term] materialistic tendencies.  Jacob knew of Esau’s desires and divided the estate accordingly – clever of him! (Zohar, Pirke Rabbi Eliezer 38, and other sources)
-      Wives are mentioned first.  In 31:1, Jacob took children before wives.  Esau thought more about his women than his children; this is a comment on righteousness; righteous people marry to produce righteous children; wicked people marry for the physical pleasure; children are by-products [Bereshit Rabbah 82:13].
·      36:8 – Esau goes to hill country of Seir.  This land got its name from the bushy (shaggy) vegetation, just like Esau’s hairy appearance as birth.  It’s near today’s Petra in Jordan.
-      Deuteronomy 2 – identified as territory of Esau; in v.12, formerly inhabited by Horites, whom Esau wiped out.
-      But Esau was already in Seir according to 32:4 and 33:14. He was a nomad who moved around; now he makes a permanent break from Jacob.
-      What about Seir?  Why this place?
*  Oholibamah is a descendent according to 36:20, 25; i.e., Seir is a dowry.
*  וַיֵּשֶׁב – does this imply permanent residency?
-      Munk on 36:6 and 8, citing Onkelos and Zohar– Esau’s destination is less important that just getting away from Jacob.  Did we go away to college to get away from our parents?  Separation looks like an economic necessity, but it’s more of a mental separation: Jacob priorities were spiritual; Esau’s motives were materialistic.
Munk writes, “Henceforth the paths of the two brothers separate definitively.  Esau goes ‘to another land’ to devote himself to material satisfactions, whereas Jacob, sheltered from bad influences, will become the people who are God’s portion, Jacob, the lot of His inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:9).” [italics in original]


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