The Ungrateful Dad: Vayetze 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Are you gifted in the art of persuasion? If so, what methods work best? How often, if at all, to stretch the truth for the sake of getting what you need?

As Jacob seeks to leave Laban’s home after 20 years of servitude, he first needs to persuade Laban’s two daughters – who also happen to be Jacob’s wives:

The Pitch: “Jacob had Rachel and Leah called to the field, where his flock was, and said to them, ‘I see that your father’s manner toward me is not as it has been in the past. But the God of my father has been with me.’” – Genesis 31:4-5

Swing #1: “The figure of Jacob is here almost without moral offense. … Above all, the whole thing has now become a pious story in which much is said about God and his relationship to Jacob.” – Gerhard von Rad, Genesis

Swing #2: “The apparent piety is suspect. The truth of the matter is that Jacob has made no appeal to God during his years in Haran. Relying on his own skill and cunning, he has lived solely by the maxim of self-help, at most perhaps believing that God helps those who help themselves.” – Leon R. Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis

Swing #3: “Jacob invited his wives to give him a reasonable sounding explanation for their father’s recent hostility toward him. In the event that his wives would justify their father’s attitude by the fact that Jacob had become wealthier than their father, Jacob added ‘God was with me.’ He told them that his new wealth was a blessing by God, not the result of competing with their father.” – Or HaChaim

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators seem to see Jacob more as a trickster or more as a clever truth-teller? Is there a tangible difference between the two? Is Jacob using some of the same methods he had used on Esau years before? Once a trickster, always a trickster?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: We’ll start our live-streamed Tot Shabbat service, entitled “Shabbat is Here”, next Friday at 4:00pm. All you need to do is click on the synagogue livestream. These programs should take about 20 minutes per session, so make sure to invite the young families you know to tune in!

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of smooth talking, one common critique of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is that he isn’t smooth enough. Anyone who saw his trophy presentations at the end of this year’s World Series could tell that he was not made for the spotlight. Should he prioritize improving his public persona for the good of the game?

Shabbat Shalom!