I Would Do Anything For Love — Even That!: Vayishlakh 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What would you do for a Klondike Bar? In other words, how far will you go to get something you desperately want?

After Dinah is raped by Shechem, his people invite Jacob and his family to dwell among them. Jacob’s sons agree as long as the other men become circumcised — and the men agree:

The Pitch: “‘Their cattle and substance and all their beasts will be ours, if we only agree to their terms, so that they will settle among us.’” – Genesis 34:23

Swing #1: “As oddities, the Philistines could be compared to everyone else, who, like the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, also circumcised. The story of the rape of Dinah paradoxically confirms this shared Canaanite attitude: the men of Shechem did not hesitate to circumcise when asked, nor did they identify circumcision as particular to Jacob and his sons.” – Jennifer Wright Knust, Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex & Desire

Swing #2: “Rashi is answering the question: The verse seems to imply that the sons of Jacob asked for consent to live with them. But it was just the opposite!” – Siftei Chachamim

Swing #3: “The emblematic rite of circumcision is employed not only for literary effect (‘measure for measure’) but also to signal the utter religious distinction between Israel and Canaan, focusing on sex. The Shechemites invite Jacob’s clan to assimilate through peaceful intercourse, in all senses. To them the demanded ritual still has its older meaning as preparation for marriage. But by using circumcision as a ruse to frustrate that Canaanite enticement, the covenantal author reminds the reader that it is through the Word, not through sex, through transcendence, not immanence, that Israel will take possession of the land.” – Stephen A. Geller, Prooftexts, January 1990

Late-Inning Questions: What do our commentators make of Shechem’s people and their willingness to be circumcised? Do they think that such an action is a small price to pay for the prospect of prosperity? Or are they overwhelmed with guilt over Shechem’s crime? Do we always need to have a good reason to do something out of the ordinary?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: I’m very much looking forward to our initial “Shabbat is Here!” young family service, live-streaming at 4:00pm today and future Fridays. Just go to the services live-stream link on the Temple website to join.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of doing things out of the ordinary, Charlie Kerfeld had a brief career as a Major League relief pitcher. He was perhaps best-known for signing a one-year contract with the Houston Astros for $110,037.37 — plus 37 packets of orange Jell-O. And, yes, his uniform number was 37.

Shabbat Shalom!