I’ve Just Seen a Face: Vayishlakh 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

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!