Virtuosity Savored

A blog by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Month: December, 2019

Fuggedaboutit!: Miketz 2019

Pre-Game Chatter: Is there an experience in your life you wish you could forget? Why do you think you’re unable to forget it?

As Joseph starts a family in Egypt shortly after becoming the Pharaoh’s chief adviser, he claims that his past in Canaan is completely behind him:

The Pitch: “Joseph named the first-born Manasseh, meaning, ‘God has made me forget completely my hardship and my parental home.’” – Genesis 41:51

Swing #1: “Implicitly, the word [nashani, the root of Manasseh’s name] suggests dislocation, the discontinuity of a leap into a new place, a new mode of being. There is a clenching, a shrinking, a contraction. The rupture of experience that sets Joseph at a radical distance from his previous life has the virtue of allowing him to concentrate totally on the imperative of his new condition.” – Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, Genesis: The Beginning of Desire

Swing #2: “Joseph was now an Egyptian through and through, and he no longer was haunted by dreams of being abandoned by his brothers nor of his journey to Egypt on the slave caravan which had stayed with him for years.” – Norman J. Cohen, Self, Struggle & Change

Swing #3: “God granted me so much wealth and power that God enabled me to forget all the problems and setbacks I had experienced, and God has even made me forget all the members of my father’s household.” – Radak

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators seem to think Joseph has completely forgotten growing up in his family? Or, perhaps, is Joseph simply wishing that he could? Is it possible that Joseph remembers the good aspects of his childhood but forgets when his brothers had sold him into slavery? What are the benefits and risks of forgetting our past experiences?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We are so proud of our annual Hanukkah tradition known as the “Night of Giving”, taking place this year on Sunday, December 29th, at 6:00PM. Join us at Publix in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, or Summerville to light the first Hanukkah candles of the holiday, and then purchase a bag of non-perishable groceries to give to the Kosher Food Pantry. It’s a great way to celebrate by giving back.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of forgetting our history, sometimes baseball teams try too hard to put the past behind them. Exhibit A: Disco Demolition Night, July 12, 1979, when Chicago White Sox fans were allowed to buy discount doubleheader tickets in exchange for a disco album. The collected albums were blown up on the field after the first game, causing a riot that forced the White Sox to forfeit the second game.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!

Hidden Impact: Vayeshev 2019

Pre-Game Chatter: In your formative years, did you have both male and female positive role models? If so, do you think that fact made a big difference in your upbringing? If not, do you regret it?

The reaction to Joseph’s first recorded dreams reveals a bit about the role of women in his family:

The Pitch: “When [Joseph] told it to his father and brothers, his father berated him. ‘What,’ he said to him, ‘is this dream you have dreamed? Are we to come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow low to you to the ground? So his brothers were wrought up at him, and his father kept the matter in mind.’” – Genesis 37:10-11

Swing #1: “Dinah the Wounded One [says]: ‘Foolish Joseph! Had he told his dreams to the women in the family – me, his father’s wives, his sisters-in-law, his nieces – we would have recognized in these fantasies nothing more than the intemperate arrogance of youth. Instead he told my brothers, who interpreted his dreams as an expression of ambition to lord it over them. A different reading of Joseph’s dreams might well have changed the course of our family and thus of national history.’” – Ellen Frankel, PhD., The Five Books of Miriam: A Woman’s Commentary on the Torah

Swing #2: “[Jacob’s] reaction to Joseph’s dreams is as telling of his character as the reactions of his sons are revealing of theirs. He wonders at these dreams; the ten dismiss them with cynical question. In each case we have here the first direct speech of these figures, and it is especially revealing of character.” – W. Lee Humphreys, Joseph and His Family, a Literary Study

Swing #3: “The fact that [Rachel] had died in Chapter 35 does not detract from the symbol of the dream.” – Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses

Late-Inning Questions: Do you agree that, had Joseph told his dreams to the women in his family, his journey might have wound up differently? To what extent, if any, are the reactions of his father and brothers motivated by their gender identity? How are the women of the Torah influential even when not (or barely) mentioned in the text?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We are so proud of our annual Hanukkah tradition known as the “Night of Giving”, taking place this year on Sunday, December 29th, at 6:00PM. Join us at Publix in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, or Summerville to light the first Hanukkah candles of the holiday, and then purchase a bag of non-perishable groceries to give to the Kosher Food Pantry. It’s a great way to celebrate by giving back.

The Big Inning at the End: Regarding women in baseball, I’ll simply say this: I look forward to seeing the first female player appear in a Major League game in my lifetime – hopefully on the sooner side.

Shabbat Shalom!

I’ve Just Seen a Face: Vayishlakh 2019

Pre-Game Chatter: Is there anything you’ve seen that you wish you could “un-see”? If so, how have such visions haunted you?

After wrestling with a stranger, Jacob insists that his encounter with this unknown being had been fraught with danger:

The Pitch: “Jacob named the place Peniel, meaning, ‘I have seen a divine being face to face, yet my life has been preserved.’” – Genesis 32:31

Swing #1: “Jacob’s interpretation is not necessarily that of the author of the text, who may wish to suggest that Jacob has wrestled with a man and simply spoken of him as God after the fact. The text leaves tauntingly open the question of whether Jacob actually saw the wrestler’s face: The wrestler’s insistence on leaving before dawn may mean that he did not.” – Jack Miles, God: A Biography

Swing #2: “Since this etymology of Penuel (reading it as panei-el, ‘face of God’) relates the name to an encounter involving only visual contract, the tradition is able to say that Jacob met God Himself and not a ‘man.’ Seeing God was dangerous enough, and one who survived such an event unscathed should offer a blessing.” – Avigidor Shinan & Yair Zakovitch, From Gods to God:  How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths & Legends

Swing #3: “In the earlier sources, the danger lay in seeing the form of God and, therefore, perishing. In Deuteronomy, however, the danger lies in hearing the voice of God.” – Peter T. Vogt, Deuteronomic Theology and the Significance of Torah: A Reappraisal

Late-Inning Questions: Based on our commentators, do you think Jacob actually sees God’s face during his encounter with the stranger? Or is this something he imagines? Or, perhaps, does Jacob simply want to believe that he had seen God’s face? How much of what we see is only what we want to see?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We are so proud of our annual Hanukkah tradition known as the “Night of Giving”, taking place this year on Sunday, December 29th, at 6:00PM. Join us at Publix in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, or Summerville to light the first Hanukkah candles of the holiday, and then purchase a bag of non-perishable groceries to give to the Kosher Food Pantry. It’s a great way to celebrate by giving back.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of remarkable sights, I’m sure many eyes perked up when reading of the gargantuan contracts given to free agents Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole, and Anthony Rendon during MLB’s Winter Meetings. I see a sign of hope: the cooperation between players and management augurs future labor peace.

Shabbat Shalom!

Double Switch: Vayetze 2019

Pre-Game Chatter: What is the most shocking thing you have woken up to discover? Did you try to reassure yourself that you were dreaming it? How did you gather yourself after realizing you weren’t imagining it?

Our portion tells of when Jacob — no stranger to deceiving others — wakes up after his wedding night and realizes that he had been tricked into not marrying the woman of his dreams, but rather her sister:

The Pitch: “When morning came, there was Leah! So he said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? I was in your service for Rachel! Why did you deceive me?’” – Genesis 29:25

Swing #1: “[Jacob] creates his own universe based on lies. Then his world is turned upside down by lies others tell him. The sages deeply believed that each person is, at least to an appreciable extent, the architect of his own world. … That power vested in being human can transform one’s world either for evil or for good.” – Sheldon Lewis, Torah of Reconciliation

Swing #2: “Perhaps Leah herself harbors the fantasy that Jacob will learn to love and appreciate her. Imagine her feelings when, on the morning after her wedding, her husband’s only response to discovering that she, rather than her sister, is his wife is an excruciating mix of outrage and disappointment.” – Rabbi Shai Held, The Heart of Torah, Volume 1

Swing #3: “It is possible that Jacob referred to the humiliation experienced by Leah who now found herself Jacob’s wife and had to expect that her husband would hate her instead of love her. Jacob’s question ‘Why did you deceive me?’ indicates that he had immediately decided not to divorce Leah but to keep her as a wife.” – Or HaChaim

Late-Inning Questions: Do you feel sorry for Jacob after this incident? Or do you think he got what he deserved given his history of deceiving his brother? Was Jacob’s reaction to Laban justified? Do we have a right to our anger even when we have caused others to be angry at us?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: It won’t be long before our JBQ (annual Kosher barbecue competition) — this year, it will take place Sunday, December 15th. Contact the office to buy your tickets and to offer items for our silent auction!

The Big Inning at the End: The NBA reportedly is considering shortening its regular season in favor of creating in-season tournaments, in an effort to disincentivize teams from tanking and to add a bit of spice to a long season. Should Major League Baseball consider something similar?

Shabbat Shalom!