Monday, November 30, 2009


As I typed the title to this post I thought about the column in yesterday's NY Times Magazine about Camel Case, a term I had never heard before but which describes the practice of capitalizing letters within a word (as in the hump of a camel!).  Just a note - when I do this, it is to emphasize the use in Hebrew of attached prefixes and suffixes.  Not really important, except I hope it helps the reader differentiate the prefix or suffix from the word.

And now to the parasha:
There are several stories in this week's parasha.  Yaakov is told by God to return to Canaan.  Knowing his brother is there, and more than a little nervous about meeting him after all these years, he devises a plan to send messengers ahead.  The rest of the summary is here at My Jewish Learning, with some questions you can think about .  As we have seen each week, there are some aspects of this story that are troubling to the 21st century reader.

[By the way, I recently read in a sixth grade textbook that all this took place in "Palestine", with no mention of the land of Canaan.  Strange, since the country was not named "Palestine" until the Roman conquest.  One wonders who is writing (or editing) social studies textbooks.] is a site that offers a short (usually about 4 minutes long) cartoon video about each parasha of the Torah.
In its video of Vayishlach the creator of this week's commentary suggests that the "man" with whom Yaakov wrestled was neither an angel nor himself.  Watch the episode by clicking on the link and consider whether or not you agree with the conclusion.

The rape of Yaakov's daughter Dinah is another of the incidents described in detail in this parasha.  Many of you have read The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant.  This novel based on the incident described here has been widely discussed, particularly in women's groups - the audience to whom the book seems to be addressed.

  • Do you think it is appropriate to rewrite stories from the Torah today?
  • Why might one want to do this?
  • Why do women today often react negatively to stories in the Torah?
  • In what way might this story sound different to girls [and women] than to boys [and men]?  How might your teaching acknowledge this?
I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

1 comment:

  1. Torah contiunally shows the "less than perfect" side of human beings. Taken all together, the lives of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov and their extended families is are chronicle of absolutely dysfunctional family life with theft, murder, rape. jealousy, revenge, rage, cheating etc. To use a contemporary phrase, they put the "fun" in dysFUNctional. (Camel case!) As I look at these parshayot and read the news about the Taliban practices, I see a strong connection in family and tribal law.

    Do we really want to emulate this behavior?

    It all makes my extended family very civil by comparision.