The Tragically Hip: Vayishlakh 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How do we best cope when our physical limitations begin to multiply? Do we chalk them up to advanced age, or try to resist them?

After Jacob’s night-time struggle with a stranger leaves him wounded, one wonders if he would ever be the same:

The Pitch: “The sun rose upon [Jacob] as he passed Penuel, limping on his hip.” – Genesis 32:32

Swing #1: “In the stories of Jacob/Israel, the cultural narcissism of genealogical self-definition is turned, at least in part, into a self-representation of impropriety and guilt. The complexities of the Jewish soul are foreshadowed by this ambiguous characterization. On the one hand, Jacob/Israel is the man of the promise and blessing, who has ‘striven with God and with men and has prevailed’. On the other hand, he suffers for his triumphs and pays a price for taking the name ‘Israel.’ Though he prevails, he also limps.” – Ronald Hendel, Remembering Abraham: Culture, Memory, and History in the Hebrew Bible

Swing #2: “The encounter with the unfathomable Other leaves a lasting mark on Jacob. This physical note resonates with the larger sense of a man’s life powerfully recorded in his story: experience exacts many prices, and he bears his inward scars as he lives onward – his memory of fleeing along across the Jordan, his fear of the brother he has wronged, and, before long, his grief for the beloved wife he loses, and then, for the beloved son he thinks he has lost.” – Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary

Swing #3: “He had not been able to leave Penuel before the sun was shining strongly and its healing rays enabled him to walk. An alternate exegesis: no one had noticed his limp until the sun shone.” – Chizkuni

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators seem to think that Jacob’s physical injury indicates an injured soul? Do you think Jacob ever recognizes the impact of his encounter with the stranger? How might one rehabilitate an injured soul?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: A special Hannukah sale for students will take place at the Community Religious School (Congregation Shir Shalom) this Sunday, December 11th, from 9:00-11:15am. Parents will be welcome to shop from 8:30-9:30am and 11:30am-noon. It will include Judaica shops from Temple Beth Tzedek, Temple Beth Zion and Congregation Shir Shalom.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of coping with our physical limitations, it’s a marvel that Justin Verlander, nearing age 40, missed almost two years of his career to win the American League Cy Young award this year, and was just rewarded with a lucrative two-year contract with the New York Mets. Whether or not you root for him, there’s no denying Verlander’s tenacity.

Shabbat Shalom!