Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4 – 36:43)

In this week’s portion, Jacob goes home.  Eventually.

We are now tying up the strands of Jacob’s story.  While he doesn’t disappear from the stage, he will soon move out of the spotlight.  First, he must deal with his brother Esau, who is coming to meet him (“hey, I was in the neighborhood – with 400 armed men – so I thought I’d drop by”).  After strategically placing his family to protect them (and make painfully clear who are his favorites), he is alone and has trouble sleeping.  He wrestles with a being, wrenching his hip, and demands a blessing and is told that his name will be changed from Jacob (the supplanter) to Israel, “for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.” (32:29)  The name change is confirmed by the Lord later, at Beth El.  The reunion with Esau goes almost too well, from Esau’s kiss to his offer to accompany Jacob.  Jacob piles on the flattery/diplomacy/soft soap/sucking up, bowing seven times, giving plenty of gifts, always referring to Esau as “my lord” and himself as”your servant.”  Nervous about his brother’s volatile moods and now an accomplished diplomat, Jacob begs off Esau’s offer, saying they’ll meet up in Seir, which of course they don’t.  Later, when Isaac dies, the two sons do meet and bury him, as Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham. Like Ishmael’s, Esau’s story ends with a list of his descendants at the end of the portion.

Meanwhile, Jacob makes his way to Canaan, settling first in Shechem.  His daughter Dinah is raped by a local prince who then wants to marry her.  There follows a nasty bit of trickery by her brothers Shimon and Levi, who demand the local men first get circumcised and then massacre them while they’re recovering.  Not surprisingly, Jacob et al. leave shortly afterwards for Beth El (OK, the Lord tells  him to) where, alone, he had dreamed all those years ago and where they now get rid of all their household gods and purify themselves.   Then they make their way to Mamre (Hebron), where Isaac still lives.  Home.  On the way, Rachel dies in childbirth (see last week’s note re: foreshadowing).  Women don’t fare well in this portion.  Dinah is raped, Rebecca’s nurse Deborah dies, Rebecca has apparently died though we read nothing of that, Rachel dies, and Bilhah is caught sleeping with Reuben.  As a prelude to the next story line, we have been introduced to Jacob’s three oldest sons, who don’t appear to be promising heirs to the heritage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Some people can move around a lot and establish a sense of home wherever they are.  Some never move but also never feel at home. My father was one of those who needed to stay put after a peripatetic childhood (mostly West Philly) and was at home as long as he was with my mother.  Since the age of about 4, my mother has called only three places home, covering a span of less than 6 miles.  I have moved a bit more than that but have lived at my current address for 29 years.  But I still have dreams set in the neighborhood I left over 40 years ago, though I haven’t been there in almost that long.  As I’ve noted here, the house is now the Church of the Living God and Miracle Healing Center.  For the past few months, my husband, now working in West Philly, has been taking the Cobbs Creek Parkway for part of his route, passing very near my old house, stirring up memories of morning drives to school with my father and sisters, first to Bartram High for them and then Longstreth Elementary for me.  Then, about 6 weeks ago, it was flooded and he was diverted down Thomas Ave., actually past my old house.  Less than a block beyond it, he saw a SWAT team storming a residence.  Intrigued, I subscribed to a free crime notification service called EveryBlock to keep track of crimes reported within a block or so of my old house.  There have been 6 since October 9.  

Shabbat shalom and Happy Thanksgiving,


A man went to the doctor complaining of insomnia. The doctor gave him a thorough examination, found absolutely nothing physically wrong with him, and then told him, “Listen, if you ever expect to cure your insomnia, you just have to stop taking your troubles to bed with you.”

“I know,” said the man, “but I can’t. My wife refuses to sleep alone.”

Top Ten Weirdest Political Parties

8. The Canadian Extreme Wrestling Party


The Canadian Extreme Wrestling Party was formed in Newfoundland in 1999 by a group of amateur and professional wrestlers. The party is known, among other things, for choosing its leader by staging an 11-man wrestling battle royale, where the last person standing was declared the winner. Despite their bizarre methods, the party’s platform was surprisingly serious, and addressed environmental and economic issues, as well as Canada’s involvement in NATO. In 2000, the Extreme Wrestling Party ran former WWF star Sailor King Moondog White for a seat in the Canadian parliament, but finished last out of the five candidates in the race.

Coming Home

One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are, when you don’t come home at night.”
 Margaret Mead quotes (American anthropologist whose great fame owed as much to the force of her personality and her outspokenness as it did to the quality of her scientific work, 19011978

Human beings are the only creatures on earth that allow their children to come back home.
 Bill Cosby quotes (American Actor, Comedian and Producer. b.1937, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)


Home is not where you live, but where they understand you
 Christian Morganstern quotes

Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to
 John Ed Pearce quotes

And my brother’s favorite on this topic:
 Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
 Robert Frost quotes (American poet, 18741963)
(sent out in 2000)

Vincent Van Gogh’s Family Reunion

After much careful research, it has been discovered that the artist Vincent Van Gogh had many relatives.

Among them were:

His obnoxious brother – Please Gogh
His dizzy aunt – Verti Gogh
The brother who ate prunes – Gotta Gogh
The constipated uncle – Cant Gogh
The brother who worked at a convenience store – Stopn Gogh
The grandfather from Yugoslavia – U Gogh
The brother who bleached his clothes white – Hue Gogh
The cousin from Illinois – Chica Gogh
His magician uncle – Wherediddy Gogh
His Mexican cousin – Amee Gogh
The Mexican cousin’s American half brother – Grin Gogh
The ballroom dancing aunt – Tan Gogh
A sister who loved disco – Go Gogh
The nephew who drove a stage coach – Wellsfar Gogh
The bird lover uncle – Flamin Gogh
His nephew psychoanalyst – E Gogh
The fruit loving cousin – Man Gogh
An aunt who taught positive thinking – Wayto Gogh
The little bouncy nephew – Poe Gogh
And his niece who travels the country in a van – Winnie Bay Gogh



Diplomats don’t have to understand something to tell you about it.
A diplomat is a person that’s being run out of town, but makes it look like he’s leading a parade.
Robert Frost–A diplomat always remembers your birthday, but never remembers your age.
Isaac Goldberg–Diplomacy is to do & say the nastiest things in the nicest way.
Oliver Herford–Diplomacy is lying in state.
Henry Wotton (English diplomat and poet 1568-1639)–An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.

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