This Week’s Torah Portion – Vayishlach

This week’s Torah portion is Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43). I discuss it with Rabbi Rabbs.

Complete video.

* Artscroll (AS): Jacob did not rely on his own righteousness, but strove to ensure his safety through practical measures.

* Doing the right thing (Jacob following his mother’s instructions etc) usually makes your life simpler, but not always. I’ve learned through blogging that you can write the right thing, but if you hurt someone, even if done fairly, you will still pay a commensurate price.

* The measures Jacob take show that he thinks that Esau cares primarily about material things.

* The Torah thinks it is OK to flatter people and to buy them off?

* I’ve often wrestling with people, not knowing who they were, and was as desperate as Jacob, “Please tell me your name!” (Gen. 32:30)

* Who is Satan? What kind of power does he have?

* Who does Jacob wrestle with all night?

* 33:11 Esau does not reciprocate with a lavish gift. This is the settling of an old score.

* 35:5 A Godly terror fell upon the cities so they did not pursue Jacob’s sons. I’d rather have people (not my friends) fear me than love me. Then they will treat me better.

* Israel means struggle with God. What does that mean? If you don’t have sexual tension, that’s not good for a marriage.

* Gen. 34: Dina did not deserve to be raped but she precipitated the events by wandering around on her own. Do you criticize her for going out? Do you criticize Jacob for allowing this? The plain meaning of the Torah text is that she wanted to hang out with women. She wasn’t looking for men.

34:2 Shechem saw her, took her, lay with her by force, and made her suffer. That’s how rapes go, I guess.

34:3 Then the rapist falls in love with her. How bizarre is that? He rapes her and then he comforts her. If he comforts her, does he realize he did something wrong?

Amnon, after his rape, hates his victim. (2 Samuel 13:15). How do you feel after a rape? More loving or hating?

This happened to a girl I know. This guy she was dating, well, they got naked in bed together, and then he raped her through one entrance and when she complained, he said, “I’ll make you feel better” and proceeded to rape her through another entrance. This particular friend of mine got raped a lot, but not by me. She was into hugging guys goodbye and lying naked with them in bed and she was always appalled when they proceeded to rape her.

Is rape natural or is it produced by pornography?

A friend of mine who went to college in the early 1970s and was recently accused of date rape told me, “All the things we did for fun in college are now felonies.” Is this good or bad?

JPS: Even more terrible than the offense against the person and dignity of the girl and the assault upon the honor of the family is the pollution of the moral environment. The entire community becomes infected by such wanton deeds.

Hebrew navalah is a powerful term describing offenses of such profound abhorrence that they threaten to tear apart the fabric of Israelite society. For society’s own self-protection, such atrocities can never be tolerated or left unpunished.

Some sexual sins are far more serious than other sins.

How much money would you want to forget the rape of your daughter?

* What bothered Jacob? Was he thinking, poor Dinah? Or, was he thinking, they took one of our girls without permission?

* Shechem rapes her and then says to his dad, “Love is not blind. Love enables one to see. And now that I see what I have done…”

* 34:23 Hamor is double-dealing. (JPS) Shechem and Hamor don’t mention the real reason they want to do this deal (so Shechem can marry Dina).

* Is the Jewish custom that you ask first and then sleep with daughter, or may you sleep first, then ask?

* 35:2 Jacob tells his household to rid itself of alien gods. What was going on?

Clean clothes important to Israelite religion. There are constant injunctions to launder and to change your clothes.

* What do you think of Reuben laying his dad’s concubine Bilhah? Was this more sexual or political? (JPS)

* Why is there so much sex in our holy Torah? Surely children should not read these things.

* Would you agree that the greatest thing you can is to die for HaShem?

* Does not God’s promise to Noah mean that there will not be catastrophic climate change?

* What about the Lingerie Football League? I’m trying to work out my feelings about this. Two of my favorite things going at it. Fred emails: “Physical exercise and sport are good for the soul.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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