Lies. Deception. Cons. Cunning. Cheating. Taking advantage of the weak.
No, this isn’t about current U.S. politics. Those are the threads that run through the book of Genesis, particularly from this week’s portion onward.
Here’s a summary of Toldot (generations) from 2012, with current comments italicized and in brackets:
“This week’s portion begins after 20 years of childlessness. Isaac’s adventures echo Abraham’s: the famine, passing Rebecca off as his sister, wells, growing rich (though by farming, not shepherding), and receiving divine promises of land and many descendants. Some rabbis thought this paralleling was intended to show that, yes, Isaac was the son of Sarah and Abraham, not Sarah and Abimelech. Or maybe Isaac was just trying to prove himself (typical father/son rivalry).
Isaac still loves Rebecca – he pleads with the Lord on her behalf and is caught “playing” with her by Abimelech – but we never read of any dialogue between them. Not even after Rebecca, in labor [actually, probably during the pregnancy – see 25:22], hears a divine message (25:23), “Two nations are in your womb, two separate peoples shall issue from your body; one people shall be mightier than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” [However, either she never told Isaac about this or he didn’t want to believe her.]
“We skip to the twins’ adulthood and a description of the family dynamic that has emerged in which Isaac favors Esau, the elder, and Rebecca, Jacob. Isaac likes hunter Esau’s fresh game and Jacob is a homebody, but those seem flimsy reasons for a favoritism that destroys the family. [In a recent d’var Torah at my synagogue, Alan B. posited that Esau reminded Isaac of his older brother, Ishmael the archer, if you take the passage about Ishmael playing with Isaac at face value and omit the nastier commentaries.] Jacob doesn’t respect Esau, Rebecca doesn’t respect Isaac, Esau doesn’t care about his birthright (the priestly role to be accorded him after Isaac’s death), and Isaac is both literally and figuratively blind. Thanks to Rebecca’s and Jacob’s trickery (voice is Jacob’s, arms are deceptively hairy like Esau’s), Jacob receives the blessing meant for Esau. Isaac blesses Esau, but Jacob’s is not annulled [Why not? How can a major blessing obtained through trickery still “count”?] and in fact Isaac blesses Jacob again when he is about to leave for Paddan-Aram. Yet again, Rebecca deceives Isaac, by telling him Jacob is leaving to find a wife, not because Esau plans to kill him.
“Once Jacob reaches his Uncle Laban’s home in Paddan-Aram, in next week’s portion, he’ll see where Rebecca developed her talent for deceptive communication.”
Back to today.
I try not to lie. At times, though, throughout most of my life, I have felt I was acting, putting on whatever face was supposed to be appropriate. I was reminded of this recently when I heard a Fresh Air interview with actress Anna Kendrick in which she described singing in different styles: “And I sort of feel like I’m just doing an impression of a Broadway singer when I’m singing something from a musical and I’m doing an impression of a kind of folksy, soulful singer when I’m singing ‘Cups,’ and I’m doing an impression of a pop star when I’m singing in, you know, the movie ‘Trolls.’” I often felt I was just doing an impression, or impersonation, of whatever role I thought I was supposed to be playing in the course of my career: a chemistry graduate student, a researcher, a loyal corporate employee. And I was going to be found out (“The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”). When I actually acted in shows at college and in community theater, that was a lot less stressful than keeping up what eventually became a daily masquerade. No wonder my blood pressure went down to normal after I retired.
It’s a New “Survivor” Show (from 2008)
6 men will be dropped on an island with 1 van a set of 4 year old twins and an infant, for 6 weeks The twins each play two sports and either takes music or dance classes. There is no access to fast food. Each man must take care of his 3 kids, keep his assigned house clean, oversee all homework, complete science projects, cook meals, do laundry, grocery shop, etc. The men only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done. There is only one TV between them and there is no remote. There are only the basic channels. The men must shave their legs and wear makeup daily, which they must apply themselves either while driving or while preparing a healthy breakfast for all three children. They must attend weekly PTA meetings; clean up after their sick children at 3:00 a.m; make an Indian hut model with six toothpicks, tortilla and one marker; and get a 4 year old to eat a serving of peas. The kids vote them off based on performance. The winner gets to go back to his job.
Reader’s Digest Marriage Jokes
The party’s host paid me a great compliment. “You are a good-looking woman,” he said. “Honest—I’ve had only one beer.”
My glow was only slightly dimmed when my husband interjected, “Imagine how great she’ll look after two.”
Rosemary Tomy, Tucson, Arizona
A therapist has a theory that couples who make love once a day are the happiest. So he tests it at a seminar by asking those assembled, “How many people here make love once a day?” Half the people raise their hands, each of them grinning widely. “Once a week?” A third of the audience members raise their hands, their grins a bit less vibrant. “Once a month?” A few hands tepidly go up. Then he asks, “OK, how about once a year?”
One man in the back jumps up and down, jubilantly waving his hands. The therapist is shocked—this disproves his theory. “If you make love only once a year,” he asks, “why are you so happy?”
The man yells, “Today’s the day!”
When Siri Slips
After i-messaging back and forth with my wife, I jokingly commanded Siri to pass along this message: “You need to get back to work now; you have a husband to support.”
Here’s what Siri sent: “You need to get back to work now; you have a has-been to support.”
Quotes About Deception
“Just because something isn’t a lie does not mean that it isn’t deceptive. A liar knows that he is a liar, but one who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of destruction.”
― Criss Jami
“A lie that is half-truth is the darkest of all lies.”
― Alfred Tennyson
“Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.”
― Khaled Hosseini
From While Shepherds Washed Their Flocks, L. C. Higgs, p. 49
Jerri and her husband always told their eight-year-old son that since he was their first child he was a guinea pig, and that although they would make mistakes, they’d learn from them.
“Didn’t you take a class for this?” he asked, having watched his mother take one class after another for postgraduate studies.
“No, I didn’t.”
He looked at her very seriously. “Well, I think you should have!”
- Jerri from Indiana
The Community Theater Dictionary (selections)
Eternity The time that passes between a dropped cue and the next line
Prop A hand-carried object small enough to be lost by an actor 30 seconds before it is needed on stage
Director The individual who suffers from the delusion that he or she is responsible for every moment of brilliance cited by the critic in the local review
Blocking The art of moving actors on the stage in such a manner as not to collide with the walls, the furniture, the orchestra pit or each other. Similar to playing chess, except that the pawns want to argue with you.
Monologue That shining moment when all eyes are focused on a single actor who is desperately aware that if he forgets a line, no one can save him
Assistant Director Individual willing to undertake special projects that nobody else would take on a bet, such as working one-on-one with the brain-dead actor whom the rest of the cast has threatened to take out a contract on.