The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

Isaac and Esau – Conflict and Remembrance Sunday

with 2 comments

  1. Superficial stereotyping of people and communities seems to go hand in hand with religion: it certainly appears to permeate the Torah.
  2. Yesterday we saw Esau and Isaac enter the scene: Esau is apparently written off from his first day, and Jacob achieves saintly status within the family from the start.
  3. Rivkah appears to write Esau off as soon as God tells her that the conflict she senses in the womb is not a single split-personality child but twins: one will be good and one will be bad.
  4. Isaac appears to recognise that Esau may be more complex than that: he loved him although (secondary meaning of the Hebrew word “ki”) he appeared to place materialism first; and when Esau demands a paternal blessing at the end of the story, Isaac gives him almost exactly the same blessing as Jacob’s, but instead of putting spirituality before materialism he reverses the order – but they are both there.
  5. Who is it who appears to make Esau choose between wholly good and wholly bad?  Jacob does.  If you want this very material soup (odom odom) you must sell me the birthright “as today” – what does “as today” mean?  Rabbi Nosson Ordman explains there are two aspects to the birthright: a right to a double portion of the property inheritance and the spiritual leadership of the Jewish religion.  “As today” excludes the property since Isaac is still alive, and it includes only the spiritual inheritance.  Jacob says to Esau “you choose – you can have all the money but I want all the spirituality; you have the gashmius and I’ll take the ruchnius”.
  6. Would Esau have been more nuanced if Jacob had not forced him to choose?
  7. On Remembrance Sunday we face enemies over the trenches and together mourn the futility of conflict and count the cost in millions of lives destroyed and ruined: perhaps we should also remember that the cycle will end only when we look for and nurture the complex humanity in all people, and try to elevate each other rather than writing each other off as wholly good or wholly bad.
  8. Wishing all those who have lost loved ones in conflict the comfort of knowing that the world will try to learn some lessons about cherishing humanity so that their loss will not have been pointless.

Written by Daniel Greenberg

November 11, 2018 at 10:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Daniel, I thought I’d leave a comment on here given I note from previous threads it’s a good way to ‘request’ (!?) your thoughts on different things – which I know we all certainly enjoy reading.

    I, as a non-jew, visited Hebron in Israel just this last December – one of the few areas where you can visit Israeli land, ‘occupied’ land and Palestine. Whilst I found the tomb of Abraham nice to visit, the rest (especially the ‘occupied’ part) incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. All of the conversations I had with both sides seemed to be far more based in propaganda and who had the greatest ‘justification’ for being there and using violence, than anything else.

    I suppose I’d just like to hear your honest thoughts on the matter. It’s all left me feeling in a bit of a pickle.


    February 19, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    • Thanks very much for this – I would do a post if I could think of anything helpful to say, but I’m afraid I can’t – I completely agree with you about the conflicting emotions and the awkwardness of Hebron in particular – and about the impossibility of finding balanced opinions – but I’m afraid in order to offer a balanced opinion I would need to know much more than I do about Israeli and surrounding politics and history – really sorry not to be able to be helpful – like many Jews I feel great love for the land and State of Israel, and dearly wish it were all less complicated than it is and less troubled – my son lives there and he and his wife do their best to be part of the solution and not the problem – and if all the younger generation were able to do the same perhaps at least some of the problems would sort themselves out – like you, hoping for fair and balanced peace for the whole region – Daniel

      Daniel Greenberg

      February 19, 2019 at 5:49 pm

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