Legislating Intimacy

Legislating Intimacy

Dec 1, 2001 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayishlah

Judaism is not an ascetic religion. It makes no virtue of mortifying the flesh. At the end of Shabbat, a day devoted to the renewal of body and soul, we ask God not only to forgive our sins, but also to increase the number of our children and our financial assets.

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The History of Jewish Foreign Affairs

The History of Jewish Foreign Affairs

Nov 19, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayishlah

The meeting of Jacob and Esau after a separation of twenty years is preceded by a slow and suspenseful build-up. The Torah’s exquisite narrative skill does not allow the story to rush headlong to its climax. For our part, we would much prefer to hurry through Jacob’s extensive preparations, at least till we reach his night-long bout with an unknown adversary, which ends in the bestowal of a new name on Jacob: “Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed (Genesis 32:29).”

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Grappling with the Rape of Dinah

Grappling with the Rape of Dinah

Nov 30, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayishlah

At first blush there is nothing redeeming about chapter 34 of Genesis. it is a story of rape and revenge full of deceit and brutality. Jacob has returned to the land of Canaan, found his brother Esau to be without grudge for past slights and settled near the city of Shechem with the intent to stay. While on a visit to the city, Dinah, his one daughter, is abducted and raped by the son of the country’s ruler, who then falls in love with her and wishes to marry her.

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A Wounded Leader

A Wounded Leader

Dec 13, 1997 By Allan Kensky | Commentary | Vayishlah

For the past nine years, one of my assignments in the Rabbinical School has been to lead a year long, twice-weekly seminar in professional and spiritual development for our first year students. Our overarching theme for the year is the life-cycle of the Jew. We discuss and examine the major life-cycle rituals. We explore some of the larger societal issues of each turning point in the life-cycle with an eye towards their impact on the individual and their challenge to the contemporary rabbi. Students study rabbinic sources and halakhic texts on the life-cycle, gradually integrating these texts into their emerging rabbinic personality.

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The Comfort of a Forgotten Poem

The Comfort of a Forgotten Poem

Dec 5, 1998 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayishlah

Jacob’s life with his beloved Rachel is cut painfully short by her death in childbirth. After a long absence and before he has a chance to build a permanent home in the land promised by God, he loses the treasure acquired abroad. It was a relationship marked by love and adversity. Seeing Rachel for the first time at the well in Haran filled Jacob with the strength to remove unaided its heavy stone covering (Genesis 29:10-11). The intensity of his affection is conveyed by the fact that Jacob worked for Laban, his father-in-law, for fourteen years to win the right to marry her. And his resolve is undiminished by the fraud committed by Laban, which saddles Jacob with Leah, Rachel’s older sister, as his first, unsought-for wife. Rachel is the more comely of the two, and the Torah tells us unabashedly that Jacob “loved Rachel more than Leah (Genesis 29:30).”

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To Love the Other, We Must Love Ourselves

To Love the Other, We Must Love Ourselves

Nov 27, 1999 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayishlah

After many years abroad, Jacob returned safely to the land promised by God to his Mesopotamian clan. He chose to settle, once reconciled with Esau, his estranged brother, in the town of Shechem, where years before his grandfather, Abraham, had tarried coming from Haran (Genesis 12:6-7). Abraham had even built an altar there as testimony of God’s appearance to him to reiterate the assurance that the land was his.

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The Meaning of Benjamin’s Name

The Meaning of Benjamin’s Name

Dec 16, 2000 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Vayishlah

Child-raising in today’s Jewish America is serious business. The prime virtue is preparation. The drive to be prepared reaches its climax in the test preparation industry. All responsible parents must ensure that their children are thoroughly prepped for the standardized tests that open the doors to good schools and, ultimately, good jobs. Especially diligent parents don’t wait until high school. The drive to organize everything for a child in advance extends not only to infancy but to the prenatal period. It is not uncommon for parents to find out the gender of the fetus, schedule a caesarian section on a particular day, and, if a boy is expected, reserve a mohel and a caterer. Naturally, these parents have already selected a name for the to-be-born child.

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Winston Churchill and Our Patriarch Jacob

Winston Churchill and Our Patriarch Jacob

Nov 23, 2002 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Vayishlah

“Too often the strong, silent man is silent only because he does not know what to say, and is reputed strong only because he remains silent.” This indictment, spoken by Winston Churchill, initially reminds me of our patriarch Jacob. We read this week one of the most disturbing stories contained in the Genesis narrative – the abduction of Dinah. As ourparashah tells us, Dinah was the daughter of Leah and Jacob, sister to Shimon and Levi. When she went out one day to meet the other young women of the land, the local prince, Shechem, abducted her. Upon hearing the news of this violation, Jacob reacted as we never would have supposed a father would – with silence.

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