Toldot 5777

Rebecca responds to the pains of pregnancy with an urgent prayer: she “demands God”. The answer she gets is that her womb contains two children, two nations, a painful contradiction – Jacob, timid tent-dweller, and Esau, hunter-gatherer. Easy enough, in a nationalist reading, to look for good guys and the bad guys, pretend that Jacob was better than Esau. But Jacob really only became whole in resolving these contradictions, integrating Esau’s personality within his own. With “the voice of Jacob and hands of Esau”, he learns the earthy beauty of the smell of the fields, of taking action, of truly honouring parents. Jacob is only a rôle-model in his dynamic relationship to the Other: continuously distinguishing himself from, and learning from.

 

 

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[Inspired by: Genesis 25; Meshech Chochmah Toldot; and Pianiste et joueurs d’échecs by Henri Matisse.]

 

 

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