Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4 – 36:43)

Now that I am no longer consumed by the minutiae of patent law, I can be contemplative about other things.  Past meets present unexpectedly.  I visited my mother on her birthday, which always leads to reminiscing.  In my genealogical searches, I have found many distant cousins on various branches of the family.  And I recently became able to play records (vinyl) again, after many years in which mine rested in the basement. I played an old favorite today, one with Italian renaissance tunes, and it brought me back to the start of my second year of grad school when, freed from roommates, I went on an LP-buying binge.

In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob, finally on his way home, repeatedly confronts his past. He sends a suitably obsequious message to Esau, relating what he’s been doing for the past 20 years, after which Esau heads out to meet him with 400 armed men.  Jacob prays, then tries more diplomacy in the form of a lavish gift of livestock.  He tries to protect his household by division into two camps across the river.  He remains alone and, that night, wrestles with some “being,” emerging limping but with the promise of a new name, Israel.  The interpretations of that incident over the centuries vary – see  – but I believe the main point to be that Jacob has to wrestle to move forward, so that he is damaged physically but spiritually becomes whole.

The reunion goes very (too?) smoothly, and the brothers part.  Jacob comes to Beth El, where he’d slept on a stone pillow and made a vow so many years before, sets up an altar, and is given the name Israel.  His wife Rachel dies giving birth to his twelfth son, Benjamin.  Jacob finally arrives home, and years later he and Esau come together to bury their father Isaac.  The portion ends with a listing of Esau’s descendants.

We also learn of some disturbing incidents that give us inklings of the character of Jacob’s three oldest sons.  First, Dinah is raped by a Hivite prince, Shechem, who then wants to marry her, which makes father Hamor happy at the thought of absorbing Jacob’s family and its rich possessions.  Her brothers Levi and Shimon insist that the city’s males first be circumcised and, when the Hivites are still recovering, kill them all and plunder the city.  Later, Reuben, as the firstborn, feels he has the right to sleep with his father’s concubine/wife Bilhah and does so.  So far, the sons of Jacob don’t look like especially promising successors to the patriarchs.

Shabbat shalom,


Street Fighter

One night, Tim was walking home when, all of a sudden, a thief jumped on him. Tim and the thief began to wrestle. They rolled about on the ground, and Tim put up a tremendous fight. However, the thief managed to get the better of him and pinned him to the ground.

The thief then went through Tim’s pockets and searched him. All the thief could find on Tim was 25 cents.

The thief was so surprised at this that he asked Tim why he had bothered to fight so hard for a measly 25 cents.

“Was that all you wanted? I thought you were after the $500 I’ve got in my shoe!” Tim replied.


Wrestling Quotes

The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.
Marcus Aurelius

Wrestling is ballet with violence.
Jesse Ventura

I don’t understand American football at all. It looks like all-in wrestling with crash helmets.

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

———————  (from 2005)

Some Indian film-making rules concerning brothers:

Two brothers separated in childhood will always grow up on different sides of the law. The law-breaker, however, will suddenly turn over a new leaf before the end, bash up the villain (who is the *real* bad guy), and be pardoned for all his sins before the last-scene family reunion. (This is possible only if he has a heroine – see rule below).

If the number of heroes is not equal to the number of heroines, the excess heroes/heroines will a) die b) join the Red Cross and take off to Switzerland before the end of the movie.

If there are 2 heroes in a movie, they will fight each other savagely for at least 5 minutes (10 if they are brothers).

Any movie involving lost and found brothers will have a song sung by

a) the brothers

b) their blind mother (but of course, she has to be blind in order to regain her sight in the climax)

c) the family dog/cat.


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