Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Va-Yetzei: Jacob and G-d's promise.

Another installment of Amanda reading Torah. The nice thing about what I've figured out with my Torah study is that in the time it takes me to read through a portion and write these notes, I can get through my collection of tunes by "Explosions in the Sky" ... a rocking band that is instrumental and, well, rocks socks. I highly recommend them for studying purposes, be it homework or Torah. It's relaxing, but outright powerful at times. Anyhow, here's this week's chits and chats. I'm still mulling over this first one. The phrasing sort of ... well ... it makes me read and reread it. Feel free to comment, throw in ideas, etc.

+ "Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (Gen. 28:15) -- I read this phrase about 15 times. It seems impossible, implausible that this will ever be done. G-d understands (we hope) that humans are a selfish people with self-promoting motives and a thirst for war and argument over lands and who gets what. Maybe this means G-d will never leave us, ever, but that we also will never regain the land. Is G-d strong enough to fight what goes on in the Middle East right now? And always?

+ In verses 20-22, Jacob makes an "if, then" statement. This is sort of ... well, unsettling. Jacob basically says, "if g-d does this, then i'll accept him as my lord." Now, from what I've always understood, this is a poor, poor way to communicate with G-d. Growing up, I used to do this all the time. I'd pull a "if g-d helps me pass this test, i'll promise to wash the dishes when I get home." Now, I know it isn't quite the same caliber of promise, but I guess I feel like our G-d isn't a G-d of "if, then" statements. In fact, I feel that he's quite the opposite. Interestingly, the commentators say that this isn't a "promise" but rather simply part of Jacob's "prayer." The text also points out that these things have already been granted to Jacob by G-d ... already "promised" by G-d, if you will. Then what is the purpose of Jacob's vow?

+ So ... when did intrafamily marriage become uncouth? I'm serious here. In the OT, it's percieved as desirable -- you know who your family is getting involved with, you know what type of people they are, you know who to blame when something goes awry, etc. You keep it in the family, of course. Now, I'm not -- by any means -- suggesting this is a super way of going about things, but when did it become NOT okay?

+ In Gen. 31, Jacob is allowed to decieve and cheat Laban BEFORE G-d's angels come to say "whoa whoa whoa ... you have become corrupted in this land! Go home!" I find this interesting ... is it not better to prevent such things than to let them play out in full? Then again, Jacob isn't exactly punished, he's just told to high-tail it home.

+ Rachel is always mentioned before Leah in the OT and in most liturgy, despite Leah being the first wife. Nowadays, people firmly believe that love conquers all and such and such, but contractually, Leah was there first, so why isn't the mention as "Leah and Rachel." If I'm not wrong, the new Reform siddur swaps the names, so that it IS "Leah and Rachel" ... though I could be wrong. It's been a while since I saw a copy of the new siddur, which seems to be constantly pushing forward the date of production (I think the last flub up was a printing problem ...)

For more on this week's parshah, visit Chabad.org ... the source for all things Torah :D