Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Walking Into a Manfield


DovBear recent post about Dear Uncle Esav led me to check the source Midrashim.

In Bereshis Rabbah 63:10 I came across this gem that complicates my hashqafa on homosexuality even further:

וַיְהִי עֵשָׂו אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד, אִישׁ שָׂדֶה="and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man (of the) field".

Apparently bothered by Esav being described as a "Man Field" rather than a "man who knew the fields/ a capable farmer" the Midrash has this to say:

Rebbee Khiya said: "he made himself hefker/owner-less as a field" (i.e. "that whoever wanted to sow their seeds in him was welcome to do so"- Rashi and Matnos Kehuna ad locum. To update and explicate the discreet metaphor this means that he "played catcher" in promiscuous homosexual activity) Said Yisrael before HKB"H " Master of all worlds, is it not bad enough that we be subjugated to 70 nations that we must also be (subjugated) to this one who approximates a woman in intercourse? (you're all welcome to try your hand at translation the Hebrew reads: אף לא זו שנבעלת כנשים) HKB"H responded: "I will exact my vengeance from him (Esav) with the same words [Jeremiah Chapter 49:22] וְהָיָה לֵב גִּבּוֹרֵי אֱדוֹם, בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, כְּלֵב, אִשָּׁה מְצֵרָה/and the heart of the mighty men of Edom at that day shall be as the heart of a woman in her birth pangs. "
(i.e. that "she had sex and was impregnated"- Rashi ad locum).

In other words Esav was bisexual. (His many sons enumerated in the Bible and his many adulterous conquests slammed in the Talmud and the Midrash suggest that he was quite adept at hetero-sex.)

There are many telling attitudes and, some might say, prejudices revealed in this khazal. Among other things there is a deep revulsion to the homosexual act. At the very least in its passive receptive form when practiced promiscuously. Some might argue that this is because, being obviously libidinous towards women, his same sex activity is deemed willful and an exercise of free choice and not something that he was hard-wired to do and beyond choice. IMHO this is a stretch

Moreover, as Esav is the archetype for the "anti-Jew" THE goy, and when this critique of his effeminate homosexuality is taken contextually (grouped together with being scattered in golus among 70 nations) there is something decidedly un-JEWISH about these behaviors. So antithetical in fact that it deepens and darkens the golus experience. In Rebbe Khiya's words, K'lal Yisrael feels a deeper sense of OPPRESSION being under the thumb of this manfield/woman. Though this Midrash was probably composed under Roman occupation it might also allude prophetically to our contemporary golus when radical gay activists attempt to coerce their value system upon society at large and when "Queer eyes" are at the cutting edge in fashion and art.

Finally, it may be another dig at Esav's defining hypocrisy. Not just the pious fraud but the macho fraud as well. Big, tough, virile Esav is in reality a man-field i.e., a woman. EVERYTHING about Esav is an illusion, a sham and a fraud. Indeed, reality and truth in this old alma d'shikra of ours where Esav and his minions are ascendant, are always more than a mouse click away.

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