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  •  My interpretation of Isaac (4+ / 0-)

    My interpretation of Isaac being "tricked" by Jacob is that in fact Isaac knew exactly what he was doing.

    Esau had taken up with Hittite women, so any children that might have come from subsequent wives would have been subservient to the Hittite children. The Hittites were polytheistic and hence would corrupt their descendents. Jacob was the son who could father a family that recognized only G-d.

    I think it's simplistic to think that Jacob was a d--k. In deceiving Esau and stealing his birthright and blessing, he was carrying out the divine plan. However, the young Jacob did not know the Lord. Thus, as he is escaping, he sleeps, has a dream of angels, recognize that the place is holy and says, "If G-d will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear
    so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my G-d." These are the words of a man who is just beginning to know that there is a supreme Being. And, of course, he ends up wrestling with the angel of the Lord to demand a blessing, as if one could demand anything of the Most High.

    Jacob is far too dependent on his intellect, which is why he feels he has to deceive people in order to get ahead. He lacks simple faith. In the end, he doesn't even really reconcile with his brother. After the famous scene where they meet, Jacob says, " let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir."  But does Jacob go to Seir?  No:

     "that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. Jacob, however, went to Sukkoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Sukkoth." As far as we know, they never really live together.

    And, finally, we know that Jacob's household was not really committed to the Lord at that point, since chapters later, we read that he tells his household, "“Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes."

    I think we have to see Jacob as a man who, like his brother, lacked Isaac's pure connection to the holy, one so pure that Isaac did not resist being made a sacrifice. Jacob's trials represent a purification of his branch of the family to make it worthy to father the Jewish people.

    And thus Isaac's behavior is better understood as not being that of a fool (indeed, he lived long after Jacob fled), but of a father delicately confirming what had to be: the disinheriting of Esau.  

    •  Understand, I don't DO interventionist G-d (4+ / 0-)

      or destiny, or woo woo holiness. Which is really odd for a chassid, but there you go.  So it's not simplistic at all when you don't believe in any of that - this is a completely disfunctional family.

      He didn't in any way intend to disinherit his favourite son, he was tricked into it.  Whether he wasn't very bright (his Mum was very very old when she had him after all) or simply gullible (here get on this pile of wood so I can kill you, son) - any kind of justification of it is simply not dealing with the text as written.

      If someone believes all that interventionist, woo woo destiny, there is a very vested interest in explaining away what actually happened.  If Yaakov deceives people, it's because he can and chooses to, not a lack of faith.  He thinks he's better than other people - and it bites him in the ass again and again.  This is not Toradik, deceit is not a virtue.

      He reconciles with his brother because Esav has given  up on the idea of revenge.  He didn't do anything to merit that change of heart, he stayed away until he thought he could bribe his brother into not killing him - it never occurred to him Esav didn't CARE anymore and had moved on and lived his own life.

      •  Generally I would point out (5+ / 0-)

        that a non-interventionist-God approach is also not dealing with the text as written.  In this story, however, there is no description of God intervening at all between the conception of the twins and Jacob's dream of the ladder.

        •  G-d left it to the players - and it's all on them. (4+ / 0-)

          I know it's not a popular way to look at it.

          I would argue about the whole wrestling an angel as well, but that's another parsha.

        •  Amen (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I agree: G-d repeatedly intervenes in the life of the People of the Book and, indeed, in very definite ways. Plagues, miracles, aid to those who call on Him, speaking through prophets, etc.  

          But here, G-d's intervention is through the character of Rebecca. Being faithful to the Lord, she reasons something like this: turn over the clan to a bunch of Hittites? Over my dead body! One can say--without being wrong--that this is not G-d intervening; it is Rebecca. I would say that it is G-d's spirit, which dwells in and is part of the nature of Rebecca which causes her to rebel against her husband and oldest son and even invite a curse down upon herself, rather than allow the bloodline to run through Hittites.

          This, too, is within the text.  

      •  He is the alpha and the omega (2+ / 0-)
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        RiveroftheWest, JDsg

        I'm not sure what you mean by an "interventionist G-d."  I assume you mean a G-d that manipulates human beings in each moment, thereby depriving human beings of free choice. This concept would be clearly contrary to scripture.

        But if the long-term result is not good, how can it be from G-d? The Alpha was good, and the Omega must also be good. So G-d is in each moment, turning it toward good. A sailboat is free to go anywhere, but it must also go where the wind permits it to go.

        In this story, everyone has his/her own motives, and most of them are not particularly good. But the result is the perpetuation of a line of people faithful to G-d.

        True, the text does not say that Isaac knew for certain that this was Jacob he was blessing. But he heard the voice of Jacob and blessed him anyway. He was not really fooled. At some level, Isaac knew he was blessing Jacob.

        •  I don't "believe" like you do. At all. (1+ / 0-)
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          So I have a completely different way of looking at it.  That doesn't make it invalid, only different.

          •  Perhaps it's like Pascal's wager (2+ / 0-)
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            RiveroftheWest, ramara

            Naturally, we will only know for certain after death whether the Most High intervenes in human affairs, so whatever you believe is your business.

            But I will quote myself in another context: " By refusing to believe that miracles are (while not common) possible, we make them impossible."

            Isn't it possible that your belief that you are entirely on your own in this life making it so? In other words, if one refuses to recognize the presence of the Lord, there is certainly no way one will recognize His actions in one's life, whether they are there or not.

            It's a question, not an answer.

            •  I didn't say I didn't believe, I said I don't like (1+ / 0-)
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              you.  NOT the same thing.

              And frankly, you trying to preach to me in my dvar Torah - pretty dickish.

              •  You said "I said I don't like you." (2+ / 0-)
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                RiveroftheWest, mettle fatigue

                OK, message received. I will avoid your threads.

                •  That doesn't mean I don't at all. You assumed. (2+ / 0-)
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                  Not A Bot, RiveroftheWest
                  your belief that you are entirely on your own in this life
                  This is making a HUGE assumption right here.
                  if one refuses to recognize the presence of the Lord
                  That's just digging your hole deeper.

                  This is a Jewish diary.  It's not a praise diary, a preaching diary or an evangelical diary.   I asked you to respect it as Jewish space and not preach - because we don't do that.

                  I translated that into English myself from the Hebrew.  I translated the commentary too.  I didn't just look up someone else's translation and go with it.  I went to an orthodox yeshiva personally.  I've been actively orthodox - you could even describe my average level of observance as "ultra orthodox" - for twenty years.  So I'm not just trying to get a rise out of people.

                  I don't think it's ok to lie and cheat and steal.  I don't think it's ok to look at any of these actions and say - well, G-d SAID lie and cheat and steal, that makes it kosher - because it doesn't to me.  It might very well to you - but it's not your diary.

                  So telling me I'm not reading it right because you think it's ok to lie, cheat and steal 'when G-d tells you to' - not kosher.  And you got personal there.  I'm ONE of those people you know, an actual Jew.  So don't talk to me about my ancestors and how I have to understand how special we are and how I clearly don't.  

                  If you can't refrain from preaching and telling people what their own ancestors really did - then perhaps avoiding my diaries is a wise choice.

                  •  double-check your comment, Mort. (0+ / 0-)


                    you made a major typo resulting in a comment which was NOT an assumption on CharlesII's part, but a direct quote of  YOUR error.  Be enough of a mensch to cop to it with courtesy.

                    •  WTF are you talking about? (1+ / 0-)
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                      mettle fatigue

                      I don't like you (do) is not a major typo.  As in not in the same way you believe.  I don't care enough about Charles II to "not like him."

                      •  WTF I'm talking about is at the link to your (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        comment. Read it calmly and you'll see the error of phrasing is yours.

                        It's irrelevant whether or not you "don't care enough about CharlesII to 'not like him'" - it's not about him, it's about you so frequently giving yourself license to indulge in discourtesy and manipulative rationalizing toward relative outsiders, such as myself and christians who participate here; you often use the cover of righteous anger, when realistically there is absolutely nothing at stake in these threads to require/need your verbal belligerencies and use of expletives like WTF and "Learn to fucking spell". Torah stands in no need of such defense.

                        The rage is simply your indulgence, and yours alone: it undermines the credibility of your oft-cited credentials of yeshiva study, ba'al t'shuva-ism, and living as an orthodox Jew. In past diaries you yourself have said you discovered your Jewish heritage only as an adult, that your study under qualified teachers was relatively brief (and, from you describe, extremely narrow), and only self-guided since then, your sole tutelage the writings of a mystic 200 years too old to correct your missteps. How convenient.

                        So when you try to devalue others by bludgeoning with your credentials and by declarations such as,

                        "I'm ONE of those people you know, an actual Jew...don't talk to me about my ancestors and how I have to understand how special we are and how I clearly don't,"
                        you wear your credentials thinner and thinner, proving yourself every bit the "ordinary Jew" you've sometimes call yourself - a very ordinary one, who trumpets justifications for bad behavior like the vain boasts of a desperate bully, not a Jew serenely confident of his ground.

                        You appear to be trying to elevate yourself by portraying others low, both those who in Jewish tradition more than merit your high respect --e.g., parents and teachers - so far every mention I've seen you make of your parents is denigrating despite all they have done for you and continue to do, and you seem proud of having "fired more [rabbis]" than most people ever even go to-- and also those with whom you take issue, as if your arguments to place them low proves their ideas wrong and yours right. It doesn't. That's a hoary old debate trick too lame to work here.

                        You have a great mind, but you are no gaon, and in coming to Judaism as an adult without immersion throughout infancy and childhood, you are as much a mere student as everyone else, and that's putting it politely.

                        You do Judaism, Torah, and yourself no credit by unleashing your rage addiction in bullying toward others. Knock it off. You ARE ordinary, exactly as you've said. Have the menschlichtkeit to show the same courtesy toward others as they show to you even though you haven't earned it. That is their zchut, that they show it anyway, because it reflects meritoriously upon them and upon Judaism that they do. You should follow their example.

                        •  You - I don't like. (0+ / 0-)

                          So take your lectures and keep them to yourself.   I've already blocked you because of your bizarre and constant barrage of demands - and I don't want them here either.

                          Stop talking to me.  Period.

        •  It is Jacob's voice (1+ / 0-)
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          mettle fatigue

          but Esau's hands...

          Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

          by ramara on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 08:18:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Even in the one place (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mettle fatigue

        where Rebecca consults with her husband and they discuss their concerns about the kids, she must lie and talk about Esau's Hittite wives rather than her concern about Jacob's safety if he remains. But in this one scene they do seem like a couple.

        Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

        by ramara on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 08:15:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  There is no evidence (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mettle fatigue, Batya the Toon

      that Bethuel's family worship Abraham's God; they are the members of the family left behind in Haran when Abraham is told Lech lecha. Rebecca comes to worship as Isaac does (mostly) and becomes one of the women prophets who speak directly with God. And indeed, many years after these events, Rachel steals her father's household gods to take with them as they leave to return to Canaan.

      By the way, I don't think it's possible that Rebecca was only three when she went to wed Isaac. First, there is the whole story of what happens at the well, which we have repeated some three or four times. That took physical strength as well as kindness and planning. Also, when he sees her, Isaac takes her immediately into his tent where he is consoled for his mother's death. He went to her and he loved her - implying strongly that sex came before love.

      Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

      by ramara on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 08:11:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I can't agree on Bethuel's family... (3+ / 0-)

        But I do agree that Rebecca must have been 15 or so.  

        Genesis 24, Laban speaking:

        “Come, you who are blessed by the LORD,” he said. “Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”
        The reference is to YHWH, and Bethuel assents in a later verse. At the very least, Rebecca's brother Laban and his father were believers.

        I do agree about Rebecca.  

        Sarah was, we are told in Gen 17, 90 when she bore Isaac, and 127 when she died. Isaac would have been 37 when the servant was dispatched to find a wife and was 40 when he married Rebecca (Gen 25). Abraham's death occurs at age 175 when Isaac would have been 75 (since he was born when Abraham was 100). We are told that Isaac is 60 when the boys are conceived. That would make Rebecca so0mewhere in the vicinity of 30 when she conceived.  

        Since Jacob and Esau are vigorous young men when the deceit occurs, Isaac would presumable have been about 80 and Rebecca in her 60s. But Isaac lives to be 180. So at the time of the story, if Isaac is really decrepit, he must have been really, really decrepit by the end of his life.  

        •  Bethuel's family (2+ / 0-)
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          RiveroftheWest, mettle fatigue

          would have known about Abraham's faith - they knew of his leaving Haran because God told him to, and Rebecca told them what happened at the well, which included reference to the Lord.

          It's debatable; I think either interpretation is possible.

          Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

          by ramara on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 01:41:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I mentioned that, yes (2+ / 0-)
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          ramara, RiveroftheWest

          That he was 40 when he was married.  However, according to Talmud, Rivka was 3 when she carried the water - it's part of how miraculous and holy she was and what marked her out as Yitzy's future wife.

          And none of that math matters, because it's not literal.

      •  I'm just relaying what I was taught, I didn't say (2+ / 0-)
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        ramara, RiveroftheWest

        at any point it was emes.  But it IS a legit school of thought within orthodoxy itself, like it or not.

        And no there is nothing at all to suggest that Rivka wasn't an idolator herself. At all.

        •  So much legend (2+ / 0-)
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          RiveroftheWest, mettle fatigue

          it's hard to keep up.

          I would say it is part of the whitewashing of Rebecca, the way the stories of Abraham's childhood (some of which, in Genesis Rabbah, rival that of Jesus) make him into something beyond the possible. I don't like this, though many of the stories are interesting in themselves.

          For me, it's important that these ancestors of ours are imperfect and human - I don't think I could belong to a religion where the people we were supposed to emulate were perfect. If we are to struggle to be good, I want to read about other people who had to struggle and sometimes failed.

          Rebecca never thought of just talking to her husband about why she thought Esau was the wrong son to receive the blessing, and why Jacob was the right son. That was not part of their relationship - it's almost as if each son had only one parent.

          Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

          by ramara on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 07:21:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  it's great legend, don't get me wrong. (3+ / 0-)

            I love it.  But I don't think it's literal 99% of the time, written in order and not edited to sing better.

            Minor niggle - Abraham came first.  Just saying.  He has to be beyond the impossible, G-d talks to him firsthand - the Only G-d, not just any old ghod.

            They are very imperfect and human, which is awesome - but there is a tendency to idolize (and I use that word deliberately) them and explain away their humanity.  Particularly now.  Like this whole mishigas about how they kept the mitzvos before they were given.  A lot of the interpersonal mitzvos are given because of the stupid and evil shit they did to one another.

            G-d totally wanted her to jack up her sons inheritance through deceit.  Talking to her husband? Who does that? Just flat out scheme and lie and cheat!  G-d says it's cool!

            It's very much a dysfunctional family - I think that is part of the point of it.  This to me is a warts and all story, not a look how awesome they are story.  Which in some ways is awesome itself because not very many other cultures idolize warty people.

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