Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4 – 36:43)

The picture below is where I grew up in West Philadelphia.  My house is the one on the corner with the yellow paint.  The bedroom my sister Miriam and I shared is behind the front bay windows on the second floor.  The sign in front of the house proclaims it “The Church of the Living God Healing and Miracle Center.”  I assume they are using my father’s office and waiting room from his GP days as their healing center.  Their website, , doesn’t seem to have been updated in years, but Rich and I drove past it one Sunday and did indeed see services letting out, so the church is functioning, which I found oddly comforting.  I might drop by someday to look inside, but I know I wouldn’t be home.

 tph 1301 front 3.jpg



Jacob is trying to go home in this week’s portion, but the journey is not a smooth one.  First, he must deal with Esau, who is approaching him with 400 men (not a good sign).  Jacob responds prudently.  He divides his entourage into two camps so that at least one might be able to escape; prays, reminding the Lord of the promise made him (offspring as numerous as the sands of the sea, etc.); and sends Esau a series of generous gifts, explicitly “from your servant Jacob.”  That night, he sleeps alone on the other side of the stream, until some being (Man? Angel? Himself in a wild dream?) wrestles with him all night to a stalemate at dawn, when the being needs to escape.  Jacob wrests a blessing from him, and the being reveal that his name will be changed from Jacob to Israel (32:29), “for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.”

The meeting with Esau seems elaborately formulaic, like Abraham’s bargaining to obtain a gravesite for his Sarah (Gen. 23:10-16).  The Hebrew word for “he (Esau) kissed him (Jacob)” has little dots on top of the letters in the text, as if the compilers couldn’t believe what he (Esau) was doing.  The reunion seems to go well, with each catching the other up on how well they’re doing.  Jacob is obsequious enough to placate Esau, referring to himself as “your servant” and to Esau as “my lord” and even saying “ to see your face is like seeing the face of God, and you have received me favorably. “ which I think is laying it on a bit thick.  Although Esau offers to accompany Jacob’s family on their way, or at least lend him some of his men, Jacob begs off, a wise precaution in light of Esau’s volatility.

Jacob does not go straight home, but settles for a time in Shechem.  Then the prince, Shechem son of Hamor, rapes daughter Dinah and afterwards wants to marry her.  Dinah’s brothers Levi and Simeon OK this but insist that all the males of Shechem be circumcised.  While they are recuperating, Levi and Simeon massacre them all.  Astonishingly, Jacob’s admonishment concerns only his own reputation.  The family moves on, to Beth El, where Jacob had seen that ladder so many years earlier.  There, after a household purification that includes getting rid of all their little household gods, Jacob is formally re-named Israel, though he’s still often called “Jacob” in the text.

But the rest of the trip home is not trouble free.  Rebecca’s nurse Deborah dies and is buried at Beth El (no, I don’t know why she was with them).  Sadly, Rachel dies giving birth to a last son, Benjamin, and is buried on the road to Ephrath, now Bethlehem.  Reuben asserts his status as eldest son by sleeping with his father’s concubine Bilhah, which totally disgusts Israel.  Finally, they arrive at Mamre and find Isaac still alive, still living where Abraham had lived.  We are not told anything about the reunion of Isaac and Jacob.  We assume Rebecca has died, though this is not in the text, unlike Sarah’s death.  Isaac dies at 180, and, together, his two sons, Jacob and Esau, bury him.  A list of Esau’s descendants closes out his story at the end of the portion.

Next week, Jacob’s sons take center stage.

Shabbat shalom,


If the US Government were run like WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)… (selections)

13 Driving your fellow Congressman into the turnbuckle now considered acceptable method of ending a filibuster.

12 President now shouts entire State of the Union address with his face 18 inches from TV camera.

10 Government becomes a charade of meaningless noises and lots of posturing by a bunch of inarticulate losers with no class or manners– Hey, wait a minute…

7 January 20: Inauguration ceremonies January 21: FDA approves over-the-counter sale of steroids.

5 During House debate, it is acceptable to yield to the gentleman wielding a folding chair.


The Doctor’s (and other health care practitioners) Names List (a small selection)

Dr Aikenhead Allergy
Dr Ether, Dr Tranquilli (veterinary), Dr Comfort Anesthesiology
Dr Love, Dr Fix, Dr Hart, Dr Valentine, Dr Everhart Cardiologists
Dr Pullen, Dr Fillmore, Dr Ken Hurt, Dr Carey, Dr Yankum, Dr Mantooth, Dr Fang, Dr De Kay, Dr Chew, Drs. Toothman, Dr Borer, Dr Filler, Dr Rensch (pronounced wrench), Dr Tusk, Dr Drewel (pronounced “drool”), Dr Root, Dr Paine/Payne/Pain (15 entries but notably Dr Daryl B Payne = “There Will Be Pain”), Dr Smiley (2) Dentists, Endodontists and Orthodontists
Dr Spot, Dr Rash, Dr Frye (burn specialist), Dr Tanner, Dr Pitts, Dr Skinner, Dr Whitehead Dermatologists
Rita Book Medical librarian
Dr Johnathan Treat Paine, Dr Megahead, Dr Brain, Dr Head Neurologist
Dr Yell, Dr Lecher, Dr Hyman, Dr C. Surgeon, Dr Love (many Loves, Dr B. Savage, Dr Pillow, Dr Popp, Dr Spoon, Dr Pap, Dr Storck, Dr Hatch., Dr Heinie, Dr Catching, Dr Born, Dr Sunshine, Dr Hatcher, Dr Nippel OB/Gyn
Dr Donald Duckles, Dr B. Softness, Dr Luke Whitesell (Pediatric hematology/oncology)., Dr Childs, Dr Small, Dr Jolly, Dr Bunny, Dr Tickles, Dr Elfman, Dr Sno White, Dr Toy, Dr Kidd (4 so far) Pediatricians


On Flattery

Knavery and flattery are blood relations.
Abraham Lincoln

Everyone likes flattery; and when you come to Royalty you should lay it on with a trowel.
Benjamin Disraeli

Flattery and insults raise the same question: What do you want?
Mason Cooley

Flattery compliment

A woman is standing looking in the bedroom mirror… She is not happy with what she sees and says to her husband, “I feel horrible; I look old, fat and ugly… I really need you to pay me a compliment.”

The husband replies, “Your eyesight’s damn near perfect.”

On Family Reunions

“Reunion after long separation is even better than one’s wedding night.” -Chinese Proverb

“Every family tree has some sap in it.” -Author Unknown

“Friends come and go, but relatives tend to accumulate.” -Author Unknown

“Human beings are the only creatures on earth that allow their children to come back home.” -Bill Cosby

———————– (from 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

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1 Response to Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4 – 36:43)

  1. een1096 says:

    I can never get over how different it looks today.


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