2. Genesis: VaYishla

late late late.  stress stress stress.  breathe breathe breathe.

Where do the days go?  I haven’t been to yoga in a week, so gotta fix that.  But first, just a few minutes of Torah blog. 

I spent the afternoon at the Contemporary Jewish Museum with my amazing friend Ramona.  They have a GREAT show if you have interest in the Torah.  They have a soferet (that’s a GIRL!!! sofer) scribing a Torah.  I don’t know if scribing is a word.  She is one of ten women Torah scribes in the whole wide world.  And she is here in our very own San Francisco scribing a Torah that will be loaned to various synagogues around the world once it is complete.  I learned a lot about Torahs today…about the actual physical Torah, not just the words that are in it.  I’ll get to the words in a minute.

The Torah is written on animal skin, but not just any skin.  And it is written with a feather quill, but not just any quill.  And it is written with black ink, but not just any black ink.  All three must be kosher.  It is written in panels and does not need to be written in the order that it is read.  If a mistake is made in the writing, it can be corrected but there is a specific way to make the correction.  Each time the sofer/et sits down to write, a blessing is said.  And each time the name of God is written, a blessing is said.  Each word is spoken when it is written.  Every word must be proofread by someone other than the scribe.  And the proofreading must be done letter by letter, not word by word.

Fascinating.  How remarkable to do something that is so very CONSCIOUS.  And CONNECTED.  Yes, I’m inspired.  I wonder if I could find a way to do my job with such rapture.  Maybe not.  But I do parent with that sort of commitment.  At least that’s something.

In addition to all of the Torah at the museum, there are several works of art included in the exhibit that represent various artist’s responses to different sections in Genesis.  It was great to see how others responded to what I’ve been reading these last few weeks.  One of the paintings really struck me.  There’s a bloody scene with soldiers and many dead in what looks to be a street in a crowded town.  Across the center of the painting are words (I’m paraphrasing) saying that kind parents breed kind children.  It’s obviously a satiric comment on the crappy parenting style of Isaac and Rebekah.  I get that!

So last week things got very interesting.  On his way back home, Jacob wrestled with the divine.  Or else he wrestled with a stranger who had no name.  Either way, this divine stranger blessed Jacob and changed his name from Jacob to Israel.  And wrenched Jacob/Israel’s hip in the process.  So this little meeting (apparently with God), lasted a half paragraph.  It kinda seems like it should have been a bigger deal.  This reminds me again that I’m going to have to read every year.  There’s so much stuff to learn!

So with his wrenched hip,  Jacob fearfully continued toward home with all of his flocks, wives and children.  He sent gifts ahead to appease Esau, hoping that this would calm Esau down from his rage of twenty years prior.  Esau travelled to meet Jacob and received him lovingly, but Jacob wouldn’t travel home with him.  Jacob said he had too much baggage (again, my paraphrase).  So Esau went ahead and Jacob went somewhere else, settled, his daughter Dinah was raped, his sons took revenge on the locals, and God told him to go build an altar, then Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, and finally Jacob went back to his father’s house and once arrived, Isaac died.  Then Jacob and Esau went to live in separate lands.

I don’t think the boys’ relationship ever recovered.  My sister got very angry with me once.  She never told me what she was angry about.  I pleaded over and over, apologized blindly, but she never would say what had made her angry or if she had forgiven me or gotten over whatever it was.  My sister was my best friend my whole life.  Growing up she was my “in case of emergency” (have you seen Grey’s Anatomy?).  She was the person I called in the middle of the night.  Then for about two years she wouldn’t talk to me, at least not like before.  Then she got sick and she asked me to stay with her in the hospital.  So maybe she forgave me.  She died without ever saying, but I hope that whatever had caused the anger and pain was absolved.  I hope that if I did something wrong I was able to make up for it.  Things were definitely better between us, but they were never the same.  I’m not sure if things can be fixed when they go really wrong.  I’m not sure if an apology can really work.  Sometimes the rift will always remain a scar.  Both parties have to work to minimize the scar.  One can’t do it alone.  I understand why Judaism requires us to accept the apology of a person who has hurt us.  Now that my sister is gone, there is no one to accept my apology and no way for me to know if she ever accepted it.  They don’t make neosporin for a scar like that.

4 replies
  1. harriet schnitzer says:

    There are teachings regarding jacob’s strugle w/ an angel or G-d that he could have had an “internal” struggle with himself.

    even though he does wind up w/ a physical injury, he could have fallen – he may have been struggling w/ a guilty conscience regarding stealing Esau’s birthright and was now apprehensive about meeting him.

    so perhaps the “struggle” “dream” was internal and jacob had to work through that before meeting w/ esau.

  2. meredith says:

    just like you are struggling still with your sister. maybe it can never be the same again if you don’t allow yourself to give voice to whatever the wrong was. even so, i think some things can just never be the same again.

  3. meredith says:

    just to be clear, my comment was a direct response to harriet’s proposal that jacob’s struggle was internal and involved his relationship with esau.

  4. Leslie says:

    it makes so much sense that Jacob’s struggle was internal. Maybe with his God within. The way this is written in the Torah is so different from other conversations about God. The Torah so carefully does not give name to the person that Jacob is struggling with. The only really odd thing though is that this person changes Jacob’s name to Israel. I wonder why Jacob would decide as a result of his internal struggle to change his name. Later in the portion God changes Jacob’s name to Israel. At that point it is very clear that God is changing Jacob’s name.

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