CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 6


Voices of Torah

(Stephen Wylen)
When Isaac grew old his eyes darkened
so that he could no longer see, and he
called to his older son Esau and said to
him, "My son," and he replied, "Here am I"
(Genesis 27:1).
What follows, as we know, is that Jacob
steals the blessing from Esau, and the
household is broken up in the aftermath.
Mei HaShiloach (Rabbi Mordechai
Yosef Leiner of Izbica) notes that the life
experience of Isaac is exactly opposite
to that of Moses. Isaac, alone among
the patriarchs, lives his entire life, birth
to death, in the Promised Land of Israel.
Yet Isaac cannot see the Land, and he
bungles the transfer of the covenant to the
next generation. Moses, in contrast, never
enters the Land, although it is his lifelong
aspiration. While Torah tells us that Isaac's
eyes grow dim (Genesis 27:1), Moses's
eyes remain "undimmed" to the very end
(Deuteronomy 34:7) and God allows Moses
to view the Promised Land from afar.
Isaac and Moses are two types. The
strife between Jacob and Esau prevents
Isaac from living at peace in the land of
the covenant. Isaac lives the dream but
cannot appreciate it due to the turmoil in
his personal life. Moses lives with hardship
because he always strives toward the
Land, never quite reaching it. The tragedy
of Moses is not that he dies-we are all
mortal-but that he dies without ever
reaching the Promised Land. Although
Moses never experiences what Isaac
experiences every day of his life, Moses's
life is filled with direction and purpose, and
every day brings him one day closer to the
If you had to choose, would you rather be
an Isaac or a Moses?

(Amy Scheinerman)
Jacob has been grasping, snatching, and
seizing from the moment he emerged from
Rebekah's womb holding the heel of his
brother. His orientation is toward acquisition:
What can he procure for himself? The
birthright? The blessing? Rachel? Laban's
herds and flocks?
Jacob is demanding: Sell me your birthright
(Genesis 25:31). Sit up and eat my game so
you can give me your innermost blessing
(Genesis 27:19). Give me my wife... (Genesis
29:21). Give me my wives and my children...
that I may go... (Genesis 30:26). In our modern
context, we might well say that Jacob has a
massive entitlement complex.
Set against Jacob's way of being in the world is
that of his wives, Rachel and Leah, particularly
as the Sages viewed them. Torah paints a
relationship of rivalry, so palpable that we can
feel Rachel's agony when her wedding to her

beloved is transformed by Laban's deception
into Leah's. For the Rabbis, however, Rachel
was not the passive victim, but rather the hero
who, as Derech Eretz Zuta puts it, sets aside
her heart's desire for the sake of another. BT
M'gilah 13b and Bava Batra 123a tell us that
Rachel, knowing her father's proclivity for
deception, conspires with Leah to ensure that
the marriage to Leah is consummated so that
Leah is not humiliated-despite the searing
pain of seeing her sister marry her beloved.
Eichah Rabbah (proem 24) goes so far as
to claim that Rachel's ability to privilege her
relationship with Leah above acute jealousy
stirs God to end the Exile.
Jacob and Rachel offer us two models for
being in the world. One focuses on acquisition
and entitlement; the other on loyalty and

(Amy Scheinerman)
Jacob was left alone. And a man [ish] wrestled
with him until the break of dawn (Genesis
Who is that masked man? Is he a manifestation
of evil intended to weaken or frighten Jacob?
B'reishit Rabbah 77:3 suggests he is Esau's
guardian angel. Rashbam sees him as God's
messenger sent to prevent Jacob from fleeing
from what he must do. Many have suggested
he is Jacob's conscience, supported by the
Torah's unequivocal claim that Jacob was
alone that night. The wound the "ish" inflicts is
that which afflicts those of conscience.
In BT Chulin 91a, amidst an attempt to prove
that the injured thigh was on the right side, we
find an attempt to identify the "ish":
R. Shmuel b. Nachman said: He appeared
to [Jacob] as an idolater, and the Master
has said (Avodah Zarah 25b): If an Israelite
is joined by an idolater on the way, he
should let him walk on his right. R. Shmuel
b. Acha said in the name of Raba b. Ullah

in the presence of R. Papa: He appeared to
[Jacob] as a disciple of the sages, and the
Master has said: Whoever walks at the right
side of his teacher is uncultured (Yoma 37a).
Both Amoraim agree that Jacob was wounded
on the right side, but for very different reasons.
One walks with an idolater on one's right so
that if attacked, one can respond more quickly
and effectively. One walks on his teacher's left
as a sign of deference and respect. If Jacob
is alone, perhaps the idolater and disciple
represent two sides of Jacob himself. Jacob
has acted in ways unworthy of Torah too
numerous to count, from childhood onward.
He is a consummate deceiver. But now, as
he stands on the threshold of reuniting with
Esau, he a disciple of the sages, risking much
to make amends and establish peace. Jacob
splintered his family, but he now repairs the
breach. We all have two sides and we, like
Jacob, wrestle with both.


CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013

CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 1
CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 2
CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 3
CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 4
CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 5
CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 6
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CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 11
CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 12