Torah Study Notes 2-2-13

November 2, 2013
p. 173
The preceeding portion covers the death of Abraham. This is a self contained account of Isaac.
25:19 Rebekah previously becomes pregnant due to the intercession of God. Here it is a result of Isaac’s plea. Isaac has a relationship with God and can call upon Him.
22: God speaks to Rebekah directly and tells her what will happen with her twins. “Two nations shall branch off from your womb. One people shall prevail over the other; the elder shall serve the younger.” Compare “Shakespeare in Love” where Romeo and Juliet is being performed – and the audience gasps when Romeo announces that he will die. No one in a modern audience is surprised – we all know the ending. This suggests that the birth of twins is a novelty. It is the first record of such a birth in the Torah. Other ancient cultures also imbued the birth of twins with special significance – Castor and Pollux, Romulus and Remus.
24: Esau is first and then Jacob. See footnote 25: Edom means “red” whereas Esau is “covered with a hairy mantle.” Note that Hebrew draws upon Mesopotamian, proto-Arabic, and Syrian – not Egyptian. Also, it is implied here that Abraham is still alive at the time of the birth. Ages become progressively shorter as we progress through the text.
29: Esau trades his birthright for a meal. This is clearly foreshadowing of what is to come but also an apology in the sense that Jacob’s actions would appear justified. This raises the question of the role of woman in the Bible. Is Rebekah in control because she is aware of what is to happen? She favors Jacob because she knows he will be favored by God? Also, compare the roles of Cain and Abel where the herder is preferred to the farmer. Now the farmer, personified by home-body Jacob, is preferred.
26:1 Isaac and Rebekah travel to Gerer where he identifies his wife as his sister “because she is so good looking.” A famous sociologist, Erving Goffman, has written a book on the subject of stigma. See: http://www.english.ugent.be/da/sociologyoforderininteraction See also: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. http://www.amazon.com/Presentation-Self-Everyday-Life/dp/0385094027/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384021680&sr=1-1&keywords=irving+goffman
Two examples he gives are the former mental patient and the Jew. Both of these can be encountered without knowledge of their identity. When do you reveal yourself if you are so stigmatized? This is a form of that – Isaac is the foreigner who is venturing into another culture where he and his wife are outsiders. He is trying to decide how to handle this. This later becomes resonant to Jews in the Diaspora.
26:8 Abimelech discovers the truth and proclaims that anyone who touches them will be put to death. Note that in the similar story of Sarah and Abraham there is divine intervention. This is thrice told tale starting with Abraham, Sarai and Pharaoh. Similarly they go into Gerar. Now this. Pharaoh never learns the truth but Abemelech does.

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