Torah Study Notes 11-16-13

November 16, 2013
Jacob has gone up to Haran and has been married to both Leah and Rachel
p. 219
32::4 Esau had remained on his father’s land in the Northern Negev. Jacob sends a messenger to him that he is coming back with a large entourage. Now Esau comes to see Jacob with 400 men. See map on page 15. Jacob needs his approval to return and resettle. The Apostle Paul argued that one achieves salvation by faith and not by law. He holds out Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as examples of this because they were pre-Sinai and the law had not yet been given. The Jewish view is that there was law even before Sinai but it was cultural and developing rather than universal. The law, and the creation of a just society, unfolds.
32:8 Jacob divides his flock into two camps. He asks God to protect him from Esau. Remember that Jacob has previously bargained with God over his faith. Now he is claiming the promise –“…though I am unworthy.” LL: I think that we often take these texts too literally when they should be seen through the lens of humor. To be Jewish is to have a strongly developed sense of humor. What would the listener who lived in that legal scheme of primogeniture have thought about someone giving away his rights for a bowl of pottage? They may have laughed.
32:14 Jacob gives Esau a large offering. He has gone from calling upon God to taking his own initiative with a plan. Note he is asking for a pardon for stealing Esau’s blessing.
32: 23 Jacob wrestles with a man. Yet he seeks a blessing. Note his transformation from one who is a weak stay at home to someone who is capable of holding his own in a wrestling match. Even with his hip socket wrenched he does not let go. This account also has very much of a dream quality – that we have already seen in the portion on Jacob’s Ladder. Why did Jacob send everyone away with his possessions so that he was alone? He is the only one who has had a direct experience with God.
32:28 The name Israel is very ambiguous in origin. This can be read that Jacob was made whole from his hip injury or that he was morally “straightened” or that the wrestling becomes figurative for spiritual awakening. LL: This is my favorite passage in the Torah. I love the notion of a people – the Israelites – who spend their lives “wrestling” or trying to understand, God. It is really a process of trying to understand one’s self – the intellectual/spiritual impulse within. What does it mean to “prevail” over God? It must be more than letting God go. Or perhaps it is the movement toward self-reliance.
32:31 This is still part of kashrut today. One may not eat the thigh muscle.
33:1 Esau is coming so Jacob divides up his company into ranks and he bows down to his brother seven times.
33:4 A joyous reunion. Note the dots above the letters in verse four. This is mysterious but suggests something special about the word.

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