Friday, December 12, 2008

Parsha Notes (Vayishlach)

And away we go with the next exciting addition of DovBear's ParshaNotes! [Parsha what?] If you'd like to sponsor ParshaNotes please let me know.

- Why did Jacob send messengers to Esav. Wouldn't it have been better to let sleeping dogs alone?
- Why do we say Jacob and Esav were destined to die on the same day? Because of that midrash about Esav's head rolling into Jacob's grave following a stand-off at Machpela? Shkoyach. It says in the text that Jacob's corpse wasn't transported out of Egypt until 70 days after his death.
- According to Rashi, Jacob intended this when he said he had lived (גַּרְתִּי ) with Lavan: "גַּרְתִּי has the numerical value of 613. That is to say: I lived with the wicked Laban, but I kept the 613 commandments, and I did not learn from his evil deeds." In what way could Jacob have kept all 613 commandments, when a great many of them require a Temple, or can only be done in Israel or by a priest?

Famous Rashi
You've certainly heard me say this before, but the famous Rashi in which he quotes the famous Rashby on "Esav hating Jacob" doesn't mean what you (likely) think it means.

Superb Symbolism
Jacob's name can be construed as "he who acts crookedly," a point noted by Esav who condemns him with the words: הֲכִי קָרָא שְׁמוֹ יַעֲקֹב, וַיַּעְקְבֵנִי זֶה פַעֲמַיִם/Doesn't his name fit? He's cheated me twice. Jacob's whole life is entangled in moral ambiguities. His father's blessing and whatever wealth he acquired in Haran came to him through deviousness. In almost all of his dealings, he is the bargainer, trader, wrestler and heel-grabber. The Sages say "tofasta merubah lo tofasta." he who grabs gets nothing, and in some ways this is the story of Yaakov's life: He grabbed for the blessing, but after many years have passed Esav is a sort of prince with a retinue of 400 men and great wealth, while Yaakov has only his bondmen and his flocks. On the eve of his meeting with his more successful brother, Yaakov has a strange encounter, and it leaves him damaged. Here's Alter
A powerful physical metaphor is intimated by the story of [Yaakov's] wrestling [with the unknown man who was no man at the end of this week's parsha] Jacob, whose name can be construed as "he who acts crookedly" is bent, permanently lamed, by his nameless adversary is order to be made straight before his reuinion with Esav.
I think Alter is right when he says the mysterious stranger is the externalization of all the Yaakov has to wrestle with in himself, a doubling of all with whom Yaakov has to contend, and of all of his experiences to date. The mark of his experiences --of tending the flocks of Lavan, and of raising 11 children after traveling to Haran with nothing but his stick-- has been left on Yaakov, but as is often the case, struggles have made him a better, stronger man. As Alter notes, the text strongly suggests that his experiences, represented by the wrestling match, have cured Yaakov of his crookedness and made him ready to face his brother. In fact, when day breaks he is no longer Yaakov (crooked) but Yisrael (lordly).Later, the point is driven home when the brothers meet and, instead of lethal grappling, Esav embraces his rehabilitated brother with affection. Jacob, likewise makes his own statement of repentance: קַח-נָא אֶת-בִּרְכָתִי , literally "take my blessing" (33:11)

Two way Torah
Jacob finds himself alone on the far side of the Yabok on the night before he reunites with his brother and is attacked by a sort of demon. Rashi [from Gen. Rabbah 77:2, Chullin 91a] says Jacob was alone because "He had forgotten small bottles and returned for them." Some see Jacob's concern for the bottles as something praiseworthy, arguing that Jacob's actions shows us how the righteous act with their money, valuing even "small bottles" because everything we have is a divine gift. Others, say the opposite, and claim Jacob made a grave error putting his life in danger for the sake of something so insignificant. The Klei Yaker, in fact, believed that Jacob was attacked specifically because of this sin.

After Dina is raped Jacob's sons answer Shchem and his father with מִרְמָה deceit. (וַיַּעֲנוּ בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב אֶת-שְׁכֶם וְאֶת-חֲמוֹר אָבִיו, בְּמִרְמָה ) After the incident with the blessings Issac describes his son's act with the same word (וַיֹּאמֶר, בָּא אָחִיךָ בְּמִרְמָה) and when the brides are switched Jacob accuses Lavan with the same shoresh (הֲלֹא בְרָחֵל עָבַדְתִּי עִמָּךְ, וְלָמָּה רִמִּיתָנִי)

Internal Parallels
-Delete the concubine's child and Esav, like Ishmael and Jacob, is all the father of 12 tribes
-At Isaac's burial both Jacob and Esav appear, and Esav is mentioned first. At Abraham's funeral, Yishomel is mentioned behore Issac and this is understood to be a sign that Yishomel had repented. Shall we say the same about Esav? after Issac, and many commenters take this to mean that Ishmael had repented, and allowed his younger brother to go first, as befitting someone who had the rights of the elder child. Does Esav being mentioned first at Issac's burial suggest something similar about Jacob?

Gen 26: 24 tells of the famous Ana who is remembered because he found... something is the desert ( הוּא עֲנָה, אֲשֶׁר מָצָא אֶת-הַיֵּמִם בַּמִּדְבָּר, בִּרְעֹתוֹ אֶת-הַחֲמֹרִים, לְצִבְעוֹן אָבִיו) The MT has Yamin, a word that appears nowhere else and has never been adequately translated. Some say it means mules; the LXX gives hot springs. Switch the first two letters, though, and you have mayim water; the discovery of water in the desert, unlike mules, is something noteworthy. More

The rape of Dina is described as נְבָלָה...בְיִשְׂרָאֵל a scurrilous thing in Israel. This is odd. Israel, at that moment, consists of just Jacob and his 12 sones. Later the term will be used by the prophets to describe any act found offensive by the whole of the nation, but it's a little early for this, no? Unless a later writer meant it as a sort of pun....

How do we know Jacob was a Hasid? The place is called Panu-el, but Jacob refers to is as "Pnee-El"

- Don't put your daughter in a box, real or figurative
- If a whore or foreign prinecess wishes to marry into your family let her down gently

Buy my book. (please)

No comments: