Sunday, November 15, 2009


Of all the Torah portions in B'reisheet this may be my all-time least favorite.  Each year I struggle with the character of Ya'akov as it is expressed in his actions here.  I remind myself that this text is here for a purpose - as I believe all the text in the Torah is - and wonder once again what God wants me to learn as I read and re-read the descriptions of the actions of all the players here.

  • Yitzhak, whose relationship with his father Avraham had to have been affected by the experience at Har HaMoriah.  He loves his wife, he loves his eldest son, he doesn't really trust his own judgment.
  • Rivkah, who left her immediate family to become the wife of a distant relative, who was unable to bear children until her husband intervened with God, and who appears to believe she has the right to manipulate the people around her to further her goals
  • Ya'akov, who didn't show much initiative as a youngster, who went along with his mother's ruse and outright lied to his father about who he was in order to receive his father's blessing
  • Eysav, who - on the surface at least - seems the most innocent of all the actors in this play.  He hunts, he tries to please his father, he gets taken advantage of by those more clever than he.
So what are we to learn from this?
Are these the lessons?
  1. It's OK to lie to your parents if it gets you what you believe you deserve.
  2. The ends justify the means.
  3. Jews aren't supposed to be good outdoorsmen
Somehow I doubt these are the lessons we're supposed to learn from this section of Torah.

Here are some ideas I prefer:
  1. Food can be an expression of love and part of an important experience.  That's the idea in David Kraemer's commentary here
  2. Rivkah has amazing clarity about God's Big Ideas.  She knows what the overarching plan is and does what is necessary to advance it.  That thought is expressed in The Women's Torah Commentary in the article by Rabbi Beth J. Singer here
  3. Today as in the time of the Bible water is the key to survival.  We have a responsibility to treat the land and its resources with care and respect.  That idea is connected to this week's parasha in the commentary by Rabbi Yuval Cherlow at the website of Canfei Nesharim
How do you understand this parasha?  What Jewish values do you see here?  What do you think God wants us to learn from this portion?

Please feel free to share your ideas as comments to this post.

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