Personal Transformation

Personal Transformation

Nov 20, 2010 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Vayishlah

A close examination of Genesis 34 and contemporary responses to its narrative will show how one of the Torah’s most troubling passages can inspire us to take action. We must, in the words of Proverbs 31:8, “speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” We must address similar injustices in today’s society in order to protect the living.

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A Painful Embrace

A Painful Embrace

Dec 10, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Vayishlah

Rarely do I find a midrash like the one above that reflects love and hate, admiration and anger, in a single passage about how Jews relate to Christians. While the two rabbis quoted here agree that a peculiar scribal feature is crucial to understanding Jacob and Esau’s reunion, they fundamentally disagree about what that detail signifies.

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Jacob’s Struggle Is Our Struggle

Jacob’s Struggle Is Our Struggle

Nov 24, 2007 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Vayishlah

“In olden times when wishing still helped, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, which was seen so much, was astonished whenever it shone in her face.”

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True Power

True Power

Dec 13, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Vayishlah

Power – who has it, how it’s used, and what it results in, is a major theme in the Bible. In an early example of the use of power, Cain overpowers Abel and kills him. The first murder is immediately preceded, though, by a non-use of power. God warns Cain:

Surely, if you do right, there is uplift. But if you do not do right, sin couches at the door; Its urge is toward you, yet you can be its master. (Genesis 4:7)

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The Reconciliation that Wasn’t

The Reconciliation that Wasn’t

Nov 23, 2002 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Vayishlah

I am struck, on this reading of Parashat Va-Yishlah, by the dramatic tension between Jacob and Esau, as they anticipate meeting and as they finally cry together after 20 years of not seeing or speaking to each other. Though not many of us “run off with the birthright” of our siblings these days, many of us have difficult relationships with a brother or sister with whom we try to reach reconciliation. But it is not easy. And sometimes, it is impossible.

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The Connection between Twins

The Connection between Twins

Dec 17, 2005 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Vayishlah

By Rabbi Lyle Fishman

While each family relationship in Genesis elicits dorsheini (“investigate, probe, and derive a lesson”), for me the relationship between Esau and Jacob holds especial interest. I am the younger of identical twin brothers. Although the biblical twins were clearly distinguishable by both outward appearance and personality traits, their “twinness” is intriguing.

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Speaking for the Silenced

Speaking for the Silenced

Nov 20, 2010 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Vayishlah

Commonly found in coroner’s offices across North America is the following motto: “We speak for the dead to protect the living.” Ancient and modern biblical commentators have taken a similar stance toward the rape of Dinah and its aftermath. A close examination of Genesis 34 and contemporary responses to its narrative will show how one of the Torah’s most troubling passages can inspire us to take action. We must, in the words of Proverbs 31:8, “speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” We must address similar injustices in today’s society in order to protect the living.

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Multiple Beginnings

Multiple Beginnings

Dec 5, 2009 By David Marcus | Commentary | Vayishlah

Attentive readers may note that our Parashat Va-yishlah does not start at the beginning of its chapter (Genesis 32), rather it starts four verses down with the words “va-yishlah Yaakov malachim lefanav” (Now Jacob sent messengers ahead of him). The actual chapter starts with the words “vayashkem Lavan babboqer” (Early in the morning Laban arose) (see the enumeration in Etz Hayim), and some printed Hebrew editions, such as the Koren Tanakh before 1992, and English Bibles, such as the King James Version and the New Revised Standard Translation, start the chapter with the next verse, “veYaakov halach ledarko” (Now Jacob went on his way). From these three beginnings we see that there are various ways of starting the story of Jacob’s meeting with Esau, the story with which our parashah commences.

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Seeing the Image of God

Seeing the Image of God

Nov 12, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayishlah

After a 20-year absence from home and family back in the Land of Israel, Jacob journeys home. And like any of us en route to the home of our family of origin, anxiety and uncertainty (along with anticipation and joy) play core roles in the experience.

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I Stayed with Laban

I Stayed with Laban

Dec 10, 2011 By Robert Harris | Commentary | Vayishlah

The opening verses of this week’s parashah recount Jacob’s decision, upon returning home after 20 years of “living abroad,” to get in touch with his brother, Esau. You may remember that they—ahem!—had not parted on the best of terms (see Gen. 25:27-34 and especially Gen. 27:1-41 for the gritty details). At the beginning of the parashah, it is not yet clear to what extent Jacob is motivated by fear, by friendliness, by craftiness—or by some combination of these and potentially other concerns.

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