Separation Anxiety: Vayishlakh 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How often do you make decisions “just because”? Have you ever made a major life decision because of a whim, or at least without a major reason why?

After Jacob declines his brother’s proposal to have their families dwell near each other, Esau has a clear reason to pack up and move elsewhere:

The Pitch: “Esau took his wives, his sons and daughters, and all the members of his household, his cattle and all his livestock, and all the property that he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to another land because of his brother Jacob.” – Genesis 36:6

Swing #1: “Most of the second half of the Book of Genesis presents the story of Jacob and his sons as the ancestors of all Israel. Yet the right of Jacob and his descendants to possess the land was apparently contested by closely related groups of people represented by Jacob’s brother Esau, the ancestor of the Edomites. Genesis 36 focuses entirely on Esau and his descendants. In so doing, it mentions his daughters as well as his sons, wives, and other household members. The sons and wives have names elsewhere in the chapter, but not so the daughters. Perhaps they are included in the description of Esau’s household to parallel the presence of daughters in Jacob’s family.” – Women in Scripture, Carol Meyers, ed.

Swing #2: “[The end of the verse is] either ‘from the presence’ or ‘on account of’ [Jacob].” – E. A. Speiser, Genesis: A New Translation and Commentary

Swing #3: “Esau had to leave Eretz Yisrael because that land ‘vomits’ people who behave in a grossly incestuous manner. Isaac was the model of refinement in every respect. The reason God blessed him in such an extraordinary fashion was to demonstrate the fact to one and all that sexually pure conduct unlocks all the bounty of the land of Israel to those who dwell in it.” – Shenei Luchot HaBerit

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators believe that Esau’s departure from Canaan says more about him or about Jacob? What might have happened if Esau and his family had stayed in Canaan, against Jacob’s wishes? Does Esau have good enough justification to leave Canaan? How many of our decisions require justification to others?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: Our next Drive-Up event, which will take place Sunday, November 21st, from 10:30 am-12 noon, will solicit items to help new Afghan refugees moving to Buffalo.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of justifying our decisions, assuming the MLB owners lock out the players at the beginning of next month, it will be interesting to hear the owners explain their reasoning. Will the public believe that the players make too much money, given how much wealthier the owners are? Or will fans be frustrated at both the owners and the players, like they were in 1994 and 1995?

Shabbat Shalom!