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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Conversion: Then and Now

Conversion: Then and Now

Nov 27, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayishlah

During my recent visit to Israel, the Israeli Supreme Court issued a decision of great import on the subject of conversion.

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Facing Our Struggles

Facing Our Struggles

Dec 12, 2003 By Joshua Heller | Commentary | Vayishlah

The story of Jacob wrestling with the angel is surely among the most puzzling in the Bible. Ancient and modern commentators debate the identity and motivation of Jacob’s mysterious attacker. Is it a divine representative? Esau’s guardian angel? Esau himself? Or, perhaps, the struggle is internal, played out in the realm of dreams. I am struck by a more basic question. The text records that the attacker sets upon Jacob only after he has sent the rest of his camp over the Jabbok river, and Jacob is left alone. Given the number of people in his camp, how did Jacob end up alone in the first place? The answer reveals something essential about human nature.

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Finding a Prayer Voice

Finding a Prayer Voice

Dec 13, 2008 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Vayishlah

This past Sunday, the New York Times ran an article on praying for “God’s bailout.” Accompanying the article was an image of hundreds of worshipers gathered at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit praying for the miraculous resolution to the imminent bankruptcy of the auto industry. Gripping much of the country and the world, this recession is particularly impacting the communities of metropolitan Detroit-autoworkers, executives, and salespeople alike. All find themselves searching, through whatever inspiration and revelation possible, for an end to the financial crisis. As the article reported, “While Congress debated aid to the foundering Detroit automakers Sunday, many here whose future hinges on the decision turned to prayer” (New York Times, December 7, 2008, “Detroit Churches Pray for “‘God’s Bailout'”). Delivering a sermon entitled, “A Hybrid of Hope,” Bishop Ellis of the Greater Grace Temple said to his congregants, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we need prayer. When it’s all said and done, we’re all in this thing together.” 

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Wrestling Over Sacred Issues

Wrestling Over Sacred Issues

Dec 9, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayishlah

Appropriately enough, this week’s Torah reading is Parashat Vayishlah.

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