Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Parshat Toldot: Disabled persons on our family tree?

You can reach the basics here.

Here are some of my Toldot oldies:
Here's a new thought: Was Esau/Eisav/Esav learning disabled? He couldn't actually name the pottage/stew, calling it "that red red stuff" (ha-adom ha-adom ha-zeh), and didn't seem to have understood the value of a birthright (until later, after he'd sold it). (See B'reishit/Genesis, chapter 25, verses 30-32).

And here's an old-new thought, something that I've heard for years: Some say that Yitzchak/Isaac was developmentally disabled. There are points both in support of that theory and opposed. On the one hand, Yitzchak seems to have gone along with his father's plan to sacrifice him, he's the only patriarch who needed massive "shadchan*" intervention in order to get married, and he was deceived into misidentifying his own younger son by a simple placement of animal skins on the smooth-skinned son's arms and neck. On the other hand, he seems to have had some business sense. Your call.

*shadchan = matchmaker


Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

I think that Isaac's main issue was PTSD. I'm not sure he was deceived, just confused when Jacob showed up with fur on his arms. I believe he fully intended to use the time it would take Esau to kill, dress, and cook something to give Jacob the blessing.

As for Esau being LD? I don't know. He's pretty successful in his own right by the time Jacob gets back from Haran. As for the sale of the birthright . . . I am intrigued by the Midrash that says Esau had just killed Nimrod: Depending on how Nimrod's Comitatus reacts, Esau's either a dead man or a warlord. Either way, he doesn't need to be tied to the family farm.

Wed Nov 23, 07:09:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

So this whole "bring me some venison to eat and then I'll bless you" was actually just a ruse to get Esav out of the house, er, tent, long enough for Yitzchak to give the blessing to Yaakov? Well, that's certainly an interpretation that I've never heard before, and a very interesting one. Reform BT, did you learn it from someone else or from a text, or it yours?

It is, indeed, true that Esav seems to have developed considerable business skills by the time Yaakov returns from Lavan's home. It's possible that he was a late bloomer. It has not escaped my attention that, while Esav did not complain about the theft of his birthright when the theft occurred, he *did* complain about it after Yaakov stole the blessing.

Thu Nov 24, 03:56:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

As for that midrash, I just checked the Torah text, and all it says is that "Esau came in from the field, and he was faint." ("Ayef" actually means "tired"--personally, I wouldn't translate that word as "faint.") Sounds to me as if the ancients who "wrote" that midrash--I'm assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that midrashim were originally transmitted orally--concocted that story pretty much out of thin air just to explain why Esav didn't care about the loss of his birthright.

Thu Nov 24, 04:05:00 PM 2011  
Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

That reading is something I came up with, but I subsequently discovered that there is an "Isaac wasn't deceived" tradition out there.

The reason I think this, by the way, is that the entire story is bracketed by Isaac and Rivka's bitterness over Esau's foreign wives at the beginning, and Esau, overhearing Isaac telling Jacob to take a wife from Haran, and then taking a wife from the Ishmaelites (also mishpacha) at the end. That Jacob should receive the blessing intended at first for Esau strikes me as how this family may have dealt with Esau's exogamy.

Thu Nov 24, 05:21:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Woodrow/Conservadox said...

For some reason when I think of Esau I can't help thinking of Rick Perry (and yes, that does make Gov. Romney Jacob!)

Fri Nov 25, 11:54:00 AM 2011  
Anonymous Woodrow/Conservadox said...

Speaking of Esau-like characters, the "big dumb non-Jewish lummox vs. clever Jew" motif comes up in other contexts-

Fri Nov 25, 11:59:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Reform BT, I've been reading some of the online drashot/discussions of Parshat Toldot, and there is, indeed, a tradition that Yaakov always intended to give the blessing of the first-born to second-born Yitzchak. Good drash on your part, in any case.

"That Jacob should receive the blessing intended at first for Esau strikes me as how this family may have dealt with Esau's exogamy."

Hmm, good point.

Fri Nov 25, 02:25:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks for the URL,Woodrow. That video was hilarious!

Fri Nov 25, 02:25:00 PM 2011  
Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

A thought that came out when the wife and I were discussing the parsha last night.

Isaac loved Esau and Rivkah loved Jacob . . .

One may infer that Esau spent a lot of time with Dad and Jacob spent a lot of time with Mom.

And what's the story Dad's going to tell over and over?

The Akeidah.

And what is Mom's story? How, with the help of God, the servant of Abraham took her out of the home of her family of origin, from whom she could not get away fast enough.

So, when Esau comes it from the field, it's "What good is my birthright going to do me?" Why would he want any part of the covenant?

But Jacob learns of a God who rescues and responds to prayer, because this is Rivkah's experience.

Sat Nov 26, 07:03:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Nice interpretation. Never thought of that. Kudos to you and your wife.

Mon Nov 28, 10:29:00 AM 2011  

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