Statues of Mystery: Vayetze 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What’s the sneakiest thing you’ve ever done? Do you regret it now? Or is the story of your heist a jolly anecdote you like to tell?

Knowing that both her father and husband are both tricksters doesn’t stop Rachel from joining the fray:

The Pitch: “Meanwhile Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household idols.” – Genesis 31:19

Swing #1: “These [idols] are icons which may relate to ancestor worship. Ancestor veneration was common in Israel at least until the reign of King Hezekiah. King Josiah burns teraphim [idols] along with other items related to communicating with the dead in II Kings 23:24.” – Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah

Swing #2: “These statuettes or amulets were probably small and made of clay or metal. We are given no hint why Rachel wanted them. Perhaps they were made of valuable gold or silver and would provide her with her missing endowment. Perhaps she still worshiped them. In any case, they must have played an important role as guardian deities and good-luck pieces in the religious life of Laban’s household, for their disappearance angers him more than anything else.” – W. Sibley Towner, Genesis

Swing #3: “I believe that the teraphim are human images made to draw power from above. I am not permitted to explain this any further [lest people learn to make them]. … The most likely reason that Rachel stole the teraphim was that Laban, her father, was an astrologer, and Rachel feared that he would look at the stars and discover which way they fled.” – Ibn Ezra

Late-Inning Questions: Do you have a theory as to why Rachel wants Laban’s idols? Does her theft seem consistent with the other things we know about Rachel? Does one clever trick deserve another?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: I’ll be leading another Learner’s Service this Saturday, but please note that it will start a half-hour earlier than prior sessions. Join us here from 9:00-10:00 a.m.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of trickery, there is an air of mistrust at the beginning of the offseason as baseball’s owners and players may be just weeks away from the game’s first work stoppage since 1995. While posturing is a key aspect of labor negotiations, the two sides need to be careful not to push it too far; the game’s popularity hangs in the balance, and baseball can’t afford another string of bad public relations.

Shabbat Shalom!