Thursday, February 02, 2012

Book review:"Esau's Blessing," by Ora Horn Prouser

I've now read "Esau's Blessing," which we discussed at Limmud a few weeks ago, and found it quite an eye-opener. As mentioned, much of Esau's/Esav's behavior can be explained if we assume that he had Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. I have also heard theories for years that Isaac/Yitchak may have been mentally retarded, which could explain why he went so docilely to his own near-sacrifice, quite possibly not understanding what was about to take place, and could also explain why his father felt it best to find for him a wife who would marry him sight unseen. But I must admit that I never thought of Joseph/Yosef as a gifted child, just a show-off who happened to be articulate. And Samson/Shimshon as a person with Conduct Disorder was also an eye-opener. The biggest surprise, though, was Dr. Horn Prouser's theory that Jacob/Yaakov, after having been injured by, er, whomever or whatever wrestled with him all night, was changed for life, and not just in name. Whatever happened to the guy who conned his brother out of his birthright and blessing, and managed to outsmart his exploitative uncle and strip him of most of his wealth? He's now hesitant to follow Esav not only because he doesn't trust him, but also because, with his newly-acquired limp, he can't keep up, and doesn't want to admit it. He says that it's the kids and the animals who'll slow him down, but it's also his injury! And what happened to that brave fellow who stood his ground against Lavan? When his daughter Dina is raped, he won't even say anything until his sons get home. And when Shim'on and Levi take their revenge against Dina's rapist and kill all the men of Shechem, Yaakov's only complaint is that they've made the neighborhood unsafe for him?!

One thought that occurred to me was that Yitzchak's difficulty in finding a new blessing for Esav--and the blessing that he finally made up, which was guaranteed to encourage enmity between the brothers--may be another indication that he had an intelligence challenge.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 update:
Another thought that occurred to me was that Yitzchak may have had Down Syndrome--having a visibly-disabled newborn could prompt an older, long-barren woman to exclaim that "everyone who hears will laugh at/with [mock] me."


Blogger Miami Al said...

The reason Judaism (and it's offshoots) have such strong staying power is the sheer ability of our mythos (Written Law, Oral Law, Midrashim, and "other stories" collectively) to speak to each generation in it's language.

Even presuming that the Jewish people following Moses (and any hangers on along the way) had an oral history of the Patriachs, the stories were strong enough to sustain two generations born in the desert.

When Ezra was "reintroducing Torah" to the Jewish people after return from exile, they too were removed from the ancient near east setting that Torah takes place in, but it had a strong enough pull to accept the yoke of heaven.

When the Romans brought Christianized Judaism to the people, it may have came across as Imperial decree, but 1600+ years later, you don't see any number of people that abandoned it for adopting Roman Paganism.

The contemporary Jew may have difficulty with the settings of the stories (as you have), but then you see Creation through the lens of Astrophysics, or the Patriarchs through modern Psychology.

Thu Feb 02, 10:48:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"The reason Judaism (and it's offshoots) have such strong staying power is the sheer ability of our mythos (Written Law, Oral Law, Midrashim, and "other stories" collectively) to speak to each generation in it's language."

Indeed, our tradition has a marvelous ability to adapt to change. There's an old rabbinical quote that the Torah has 70 faces (shiv'im panim laTorah), and another one that goes something like "Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it." In every era, we find ways to understand Torah that keep it relevant. The words of Torah "will still bring forth fruit in old age/od y'nuvun b'seyvah" (Psalm 92, verse 15).

Thu Feb 02, 12:03:00 PM 2012  

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