Since we tied up Abraham’s story last week and Isaac has been married off, it is no surprise that this week’s portion begins. “These are the generations (also translated “this is the story”) of Isaac.” But there’s actually very little of Isaac in the text, especially compared to the stories of Abraham and Jacob. There are those who think that Isaac was permanently damaged emotionally and/or mentally as a result of the Akedah (binding), either by realizing his father was actually about to kill him or by the shock of a sudden view of heaven when the angel came down to halt the proceedings. In any case, Isaac appears to be a simple, passive soul, except for his successful farming activities and his persistence in digging wells three times until he and Avimelech reach accord. Like his father, he passes wife Rebecca off to Avimelech as his sister (OK, she’s his first cousin once removed, but still..), but the ruse is discovered when he and his wife are seen acting playful with each other, like, well, a husband and wife. Isaac prays for Rebecca to bear children, but Jacob and Esau are born only after 20 years of marriage, and I believe that is the point at which their marriage begins to break down. As Abraham was told of Isaac’s birth and future, so is Rebecca told that she is pregnant with twins and that the elder (Esau) will serve the younger (Jacob). Rebecca does not appear to have told Isaac this. [Interestingly, we never read of a conversation between Rebecca and Isaac, other than her informing him that she doesn’t want Jacob to marry a local girl, an excuse to get him to Laban and safety.] Or maybe she did and he dismissed it.
At any rate, this is yet another dysfunctional Biblical family. To paraphrase Tolstoy, happy families are all alike; each dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way. It is appropriate that we read this portion around Thanksgiving, which has become almost as famous for dysfunctional family gatherings as it is for turkey, parades, and football. Isaac and Rebecca emotionally divide the twins between them (cf. the Disney movie “The Parent Trap”. By the way, I’ve always been horrified by the movie’s basic premise, that divorcing parents each take one baby twin and do not tell either twin of the other’s existence until they meet by accident at camp). Jacob, the quiet, clever one, is like his mother, who favors him. Esau, the hunter, is favored by Isaac, maybe because Esau is the physical, active, independent man he could never be. And maybe Esau reminds him of his childhood with Ishmael? And Esau loves Isaac and makes stew for him. The bond between Esau and Isaac strengthens, yet Esau clearly does not want to be the spiritual heir of his father, so it is no surprise he is willing to trade his birthright, which dealt with the priestly role of the oldest son, for a bowl of Jacob’s soup.
But the blessing is another matter. Rebecca overhears Isaac tell Esau to make a nice meal of fresh game and Isaac will bestow his blessing on him. Note that he didn’t tell Rebecca about this (maybe he wasn’t so simple after all). Rebecca quickly cooks up a plan (as well as some stew) involving switching Jacob for Esau. Jacob doesn’t object that this is wrong, only that he might get caught, whence Rebecca’s addition of fake hairy arms to his disguise. And so Jacob gets both his father’s blessing and a death threat from his brother (who is nice enough to decide to wait until Isaac has died). Yes, there are those who excuse their behavior on the grounds that Jacob was divinely tapped to receive the blessing, but it’s still a miserable way to get it, lying and taking advantage of an elderly blind man. The blessing intended for Esau (27:28-29) deals with material wealth and power. The one Esau gets (27:39-40) also predicts material abundance and that he will not always serve his brother. The blessing Isaac knowingly gives Jacob (28:3-4) is the one of the three blessings that actually deals with the legacy of Abraham and the covenant. Isaac now apparently understands what Rebecca had learned all those years before about their sons’ respective destinies.
A happy Thanksgiving and an early Shabbat shalom,
You know your family is dysfunctional if Thanksgiving Dinner consists of Wild Turkey instead of roast turkey.
OPEN CASTING CALL FOR NEW REALITY SHOW, “THANKSGIVING DINNER” [abridged]
The newly launched WTF (What The ….) network is hosting an open casting call for Episode 4 (Thanksgiving Dinner) of its latest reality show, “Home for the Holidays”.
The following parts will be cast:
Host: Greying male 50 to 60 years old—Large and loud, buffoonish sense of self-importance.
Hostess: Apple-shaped female 50 to 60 years old—Passive aggressive behavior.
Daughter: Female mid-20s—Charmingly neurotic
Son: Male, mid-20s—Of ambiguous sexual orientation.
Child: either sex, 5 years old, exceptionally attractive, biracial—Must be able to read, or convincingly appear to read Shakespeare and converse moderately well in French.
Family dog—older, flatulent and drooling, unneutered.
Sister of hostess: Female 60-70 years old—Leathery skin of life-long smoker; alcoholism a plus
Sister of host: Female mid-50s—healthy, well groomed, Botoxed, Wall Streetesque demeanor. New mother of brilliant, adopted biracial child.
Niece: Female daughter of sister of host, 12 to 13 years old—Expert eye rolling and audible deep sighs necessary.
Nephew: Male son of sister of host, 14-17 years old—Must be comfortable wearing drooping cargo pants
Male 80-90 years old—Must be willing to remove hearing devices and use ear trumpet
If chosen, cast members must be immediately available to film episode, sign hold harmless document, and agree to eat mincemeat pie.
Now this is what belongs in a reality TV show: [lightly edited]
I have a small family, with just one cousin. She is about 5 years older than I. When she bought her first house and had a kiddo, she wanted to host Thanksgiving. So we went to cousin Josie’s house. Highlights of the night:
1. Cousin getting MEGA trashed and forgetting about any cooking or hosting.
2. Grandpa drunk in the corner and yelling slurs and racial epithets at any family member within range
3. Two Uncles nearly getting in a fistfight about the Presidential race (I think it was Bush v Clinton).
4. Mom yelling at me “YOU RUINED THANKSGIVING I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY.
5. One Uncle’s ex-wife sneaking smokes with me in the garage, hinting at naughty stuff. No thanks, lady!
6. Unattended baby smears poop EVVVVVVERRRYYYYWHERE
7. 100% burned turkey.
8. Fire alarms go off
9. Fire department comes. Oven is fully engulfed in flames.
10. Nobody had anything to eat or drink other than cheap wine and Ritz crackers.
11. Grandpa insisted that we take him to Old Country Buffet, his favorite place ever, ever, ever.
Dysfunctional family Thanksgiving at Old Country Buffet. I haven’t seen some of those relatives since that day.
Siamese twins from the U.S. vacation at the same resort in England every year.
The manager recognizes the conjoined brothers on one visit and asks if they keep coming back for the sights.
“Oh, no,” one of the twins says. “We’ve seen everything the city has to offer.”
“Perhaps you enjoy our many pubs?” the manager asks.
“We don’t drink,” one twin replies.
“You must fancy our fish and chips, then?” the manager asks.
“No, we prefer burgers,” one twin says.
“Then what makes you come back year after year?” the manager asks.
The left twin points to his brother and says, “It’s the only chance he gets to drive.”
Two Days In The Life Of A Deer Hunter
Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 09:28 PM
Morning: 1:00 AM: Alarm clock rings. 2:00 AM: Hunting partners arrive, drag you out of bed. 2:30 AM: Throw everything except kitchen sink into pickup. 3:00 AM: Leave for deep woods. 3:15 AM: Drive back home to pick up gun. 3:30 AM: Drive like crazy to get to the woods before daylight. 4:00 AM: Set up camp. Forgot the stupid tent. 4:30 AM: Head for the woods. 6:05 AM: See eight deer. 6:06 AM: Take aim and squeeze trigger. 6:07 AM: CLICK. 6:08 AM: Load gun while watching deer go over hill. 8:00 AM: Head back to camp. 9:00 AM: Still looking for camp. 10:00 AM: Realize that you don’t know where camp is.
Afternoon: Fire gun for help—eat wild berries. 2:15 PM: Run out of bullets—eight deer come back. 2:20 PM: Strange feeling in stomach. 2:30 PM: Realize that you ate poison berries. 2:45 PM: Rescued. 2:55 PM: Rushed to hospital to have stomach pumped, throw up instead. 3:15 PM: Arrive back at camp. 3:30 PM: Leave camp to kill deer. 4:00 PM: Return to camp for bullets. 4:01 PM: Load gun—leave camp again.
Evening: 5:00 PM: Empty gun on bug that is bugging you. 6:00 PM: Arrive at camp — see deer grazing. 6:01 PM: Load gun. 6:02 PM: Fire gun. 6:03 PM: One dead pickup. 6:05 PM: Hunting partners arrive in camp dragging deer. 6:06 PM: Repress desire to shoot hunting partners. 6:07 PM: Fall into fire. 6:10 PM: Change clothing, throw burned ones in fire. 6:15 PM: Take pickup, leave hunting partners and deer in camp. 6:25 PM: Pickup boils over due to hole shot in block. 6:26 PM: Start walking. 6:30 PM: Stumble and fall, drop gun in mud. 6:35 PM: Meet bear. 6:36 PM: Take aim. 6:37 PM: Fire gun, blow up barrel that’s plugged with mud. 6:38 PM: Mess pants. 6:39 PM: Climb tree. 11:00 PM: Bear leaves. Wrap gun around tree.
Midnight: Home at last. Fall on knees thanking Maker.
Next day: Watch football game on TV, slowly tearing up hunting license into small pieces, place in envelope, and mail to Game Warden.
http://www.boloji.com/parenting/02294.htm [from 2007]
Question: “What causes sibling rivalry?”
Answer: “Having more than one child.”