Saturday, December 23, 2006


Weekly Parsha Blogging: Some Questions from the Last Few Weeks

Sorry I've been derelict in my blogging (and will continue to be as I will be visiting the folks soon), but I'll just ask a few questions to keep things rolling in case people want to discuss ...

(1) The Etz Chaim finds a connection between the story of Joseph (and the general leitmotif in Genesis that we Jews are descended from the youngest or at least not the oldest kid) and the Chanukah story: the triumph of the underdog -- do y'all agree?

(2) The Maccabees: religious fundamentalist terrorists a la the Taliban (is this the real reason the Rabbis made sure the books of Maccabees were not considered canonical even as they allowed Jews to celebrate Mithra's birthday under the guise of the Maccabean victory?) or freedom fighters fighting against religious establishment? Given the history, e.g. of the Puritans, is one person's Talib another's freedom fighter? And shouldn't our diplomatic and other efforts in the "war on terror" not ignore this reality lest we make ourselves more enemies by fighting against "freedom fighters"?

(3) Judah (is rewarded for and) enables the Biblical narrative to move on by selling Joseph. Commerce is often considered amoral (although the Talmud spends a lot of time trying to establish guidelines for business to be moral ... guidelines very similar to our commercial code which some want to gut ... many of whom claim also to want to legislate morality -- so what does that mean?), but is sometimes amorality better than mistaken morality which is often immorality? And what does that indicate about the possibilities for legislating morality and how futile it might be?

(4) C.f. when thinking of oft told stories around the holiday season my comments on Hume (a similar point was made in last night's sermon, albeit in a much more intelligent manner) from Rosh Hashana ...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Spamcatcher thread

Based on an idea from cmike ... let's see if this works.

If it doesn't, we can turn this into an open discussion thread anyway ...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Yet Again: How are they any different than us?

I still have a serious issue with a lot of the coverage from Iraq: for whatever reason, the media and many others feel this need to "exoticize" Iraq as if it is such a "furrin" land. It's gotten to the point where, whenever I hear on the radio people talking about how "different" Iraq is, I'm actually agreeing with Edward Said (actually, FWIW -- I feel the same way about Said as I feel about the neo-cons: they are correct about the "problem" -- respectively "Orientalism" and "real-politic", but they are too often part of that problem rather than the solution even as they claim we who oppose them are "Orientalists" or "realists").

If we do want to be effective peace-keepers in Iraq, we really have to start understanding them. And part of understanding them is certainly knowing the ethno-religious landscape in Iraq and knowing how Iraqi mores differ from our own and being culturally sensative. But part of understanding them is actually to understand that people are people and even if Iraqis have some different mores than ours, etc., they really are not that different than us.

You hear reports of soldiers being surprised that Iraqis don't much like their homes being invaded by armed men and women? And people saying "well, we have to understand this aspect of Iraqi culture"? Come-on people! How would 'Murkins respond to such a thing? Perhaps if a few people planning the war at least thought to ask "how would we respond in a similar situation?" and thought of the Golden Rule, we wouldn't have been so broad-sided by the insurgency in Iraq and the quasi-civil war there. So where is our Mrs. Blackett to ask the Mr. Blackett's controlling our foreign policy "how are they any different than us?"?

The newsmedia could and should help perform that role. But instead they do everything to exoticize the Iraqis. My favorite bugaboo here is the translation of Jaish Al-Mahdi: why does the media translate "Jaish" (which translation I am not qualified to evaluate, but I would think "army" or "militia" is fair enough) but not "Mahdi"? While Mahdi per se does not have an exact translation into English, the concept of the Mahdi in Shi'ite Islam is equivalent enough to the concept of the Messiah in Judaism and Christianity, (and I guess "annointed one", Moshiach, isn't actually too different from "guided one", Mahdi ... of course, I am refering specifically to what de facto is the case with Twelver Shi'ite Islam: IIRC, other Muslim groups await a second coming of Jesus at which time he'll supposedly be the Messiah whereas the Mahdi would be Jesus' "guide" ... is the Mahdi then someone along the lines of John the Baptist in Christian thought or Elija? I dunno ...), that they should either leave the whole term un-translated or translate the organization as the "Army of the Messiah".

To leave Mahdi un-translated is to say that these people are fighting for a cause that has no similarity in our culture and implies that we can never understand these furriners in Iraq. However, if our nation were occupied, you could bet there would be a large militia opposing said occupation called "the Army of the Messiah". And if we act as if we cannot understand these people, we don't know them and hence cannot keep the peace and root out our enemies there (c.f. Sun-tzu). But if we allow ourselves to realize how much "they" are like us, then we'll have a fighting chance.

However, so long as empathy is seen as something for weaklings and defeato-crats, we have no chance of actually accomplishing something to prevent terror. But I guess those who care more about their bruised egos (how come nobody in the MSM called the "we have to strike back at a country in the ME in order to show our strength and recover to the blow we received on 9/11" argument in favor of invading Iraq on it's toddler level mentality? ya know if a liberal made such a "self-esteem"-based argument, everyone would be howling about how silly it was ...) than actually keeping us safe (and live in the middle of our country and hence are relatively safe themselves -- they are chickenhawks, nu?), well ... don't really care, do they? But at the least the media should call them on it rather than venerating them, c.f. Emerson and Thoureau, as the real Americans.

Friday, December 15, 2006


V'Yishlach Blogging

I should probably revisit this topic (as cmike expressed some interest) when I have more time, but last week's parsha is perhaps one of the more interesting parsha's to read if you view it as a collection of stories not about the Patriarchs but about the social organization of ancient Israel/Judea.

As I introduced my sermon on the parsha, according to Ruskin, people must answer three questions "whence did I come? what am I? and whither will I go?". The Book of Genesis in general and parsha V'yishlach in particular is the Jewish people's answer to "whence did I come?".

In this parsha and the parshios before and after this one, we see a bunch of "just-so stories" describing the social position of various tribes making up the confederacy that is Israel. Levi and Simeon are dispossed? It's because Levi and Simeon overstepped in their slaughter of the Shechemites (but the Levites are the priests -- Levi did act with righteous intentions ... moreover, untouchable priests are not un-common: consider the Osu of the Ibo peoples -- and I've mentioned the agenda of "L" in this regard on this blog before, haven't I?). Reuben has such prime land? It's because Reuben was the first born. This prime land is so peripheral to the power centers that form in Israel? It's because Reuben jumped the gun in sleeping with one of Jacob's concubines (part of the oldest son's birthright at the time was to claim one of his father's wives/concubines). Dan is a peripheral tribe? Because Dan was descended from a concubine of Israel rather than a wife. Menashe, Ephraim and Benjamin have certain political advantages? Because they were descended from Israel's favorite wife, Rachel and not Leah.

Also in this parsha you begin to see the rise of Judah as the son with the birthright (note the interplay of the Joseph and Judah traditions of E and J respectively) and even the change in name from Jacob to Israel.

But what about what we are as Jews? Are we Jacob or Israel? Some would say that we Jews should be Jacob and act exactly as anti-Semites expect us to act anyway -- clannish, over-clever, etc. But we really should be Israel, a light unto the nations.

And what about whither we go? Well, in spite of the Prophetic reading describing Edom/Esau as a plunderer, we should remember that in spite of Jacob's understandable fears of Esau, Israel and Edom were reunited in the Torah portion. And why was Edom able to plunder Judah anyway? I think Jeremiah might have an explanation, nu? So whether we are plundered by Esau, tricked by Laban, etc., can depend on whether we are Jacob or Israel, nu?


The War on Christmas

Yes ... it's that time of year again: the time in which all those dirty Jews who killed Jesus, er, all those secular liberals who want to stop people from celebrating Christmas, get to be accused of waging a war on Christmas.

But, hey, according to U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), not only should Christians petition to have creches be displayed on public property (I hope Roy Moore is against this one: don't Christians believe "Jesus is [part of the] Lord", so wouldn't a creche, displaying a graven image of Jesus be in violation, from the Christian point of view, of one of the Ten Commandments?), but we Jews (and even Muslims) should get in on the act (see the end of the article).

So I say -- "why not?" Let's see how those Christians respond if a Satanist group wants to have a plastic sculpture of Satan placed on public property? Heck ... in spite of their hiding behind the term Judeo-Christian ("you keep using that word ... I do not think it means what you think it means"), I noticed the reaction to the Hannukiah at SeaTec ("please Jews -- don't sue us" ... could there have been more bad stereotypes in that whole story?) ... something tells me that, for all that they protest this is only about their freedom to express their faith, considering their faith tells them that they should try and save us from going to hell using any resources that could possibly be available (fair enough considering what they believe, eh?), it really is about creating something tantamount to an un-Constitutional establishment of Christianity, nu?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


The Price of Progress

... is a trope you commonly hear on the media. While I generally find "utilitarian" arguments contrasting the costs and benefits of an action to be enlightening and speaking of the "price of progress" is often similarly enlightening, a real utilitarian wouldn't repeat this trope so shallowly. And I'm not even a real utilitarian, I just play one for the sake of argument.

Am I the only one who thinks that when the media talks incessantly of "the price of progress" they re-enforce the notion that all progress has high costs, so people either will tend to be callous about the costs of a particular change (as neo-cons were in Iraq or neo-liberals are about "free trade") or turn into Luddites afraid of any change because of its cost? Or at the very least that such talk tends to frame debates as those between neo-liberals and paleo-conservatives and thus marginalizes or misrepresents other points of view (c.f. the treating of the foreign policy views of people like me as if our views were the same as Kissinger's or Chamberlaine's, because we don't subscribe to a neo-liberal/neo-con point of view?)?

At what point does talking about the costs and benefits of progress cease to be constructive but rather becomes enframing?

Also -- reading debates about say "health care reform" or "social security reform", this trope also seems to degenerate into "no pain no gain" ... need I say how silly it is to suggest a particular reform because it is painful, but to hear some talk about "reforming" social security, the pain is not a bug but a feature (well, it is, in that case, 'cause in pain there is profit, nu?) -- the more pain, the more gain, some people seem to think.


Wealth Transfers

I've just skimmed it, but from what I can tell Paul Krugman has written yet another excellent piece, this time on The Great Wealth Transfer. This is an important story that deserves to be told. Alas, the media, whether populated by nominal liberals (which is actually worse than the following -- as when nominal liberals are seen as both liberals and neo-feudal, it gives traction to all the Republican spin about effete, out of touch limousine liberals ... sometimes ya gotta wonder if having liberals in the media -- having a media that is other than out of the closet conservative; i.e. having the media be populated by Faux News Democrat types rather than simply by openly conservative Mallard Fillmorons -- is not a bug but a feature for the right, if only as it allows them to so effectively work the refs) or de facto conservatives, is so wedded to the establishment and to neo-feudalism, they dismiss this sort of story as class warfare, mere politicking and such.

And such criticism gains traction because of a distinct and while often hinted at, rarely analyzed wealth transfer: "The Little Wealth Transfer" from the very poor to the struggling. One effect of places like WalMart is that they enable those of us making not so much money to have most of the goods we want to have -- at the cost of oppressed workers elsewhere that we don't see. While Joe Sixpack may worry about his job being outsourced, the fact of the matter is that he benefits greatly from the exploitation of others and at some level knows it. This is perhaps why "class warfare" hasn't been able to work for the Dems.: not only does the media represent the views of the establishment and does it make sure those views are so normative most people are afraid to think any other way as they don't want to be "outside the mainstream", but also people know on which side their bread is buttered. Indeed, being able to not exploit the most exploited -- to have enough money to buy fair trade goods, to give your girlfriend a nice diamond that's not a blood diamond, etc. -- is a luxury: the upper middle classes have the luxury to be liberal while the lower classes do not.

This dynamic started with the Vietnam war where the professional classes had the luxury to protest (of course the rich had the luxury to sit out the Vietnam war without even having to pay the cost of protesting the war) the war where the working classes did not (this is why Clinton gets a free pass on his "draft dodging": for someone of his socio-economic class to avoid 'Nam took so much gumption and cleverness that it, in and of itself, indicates his fitness to be Commander in Chief in a way that, e.g. landing a spot in TANG 'cause you come from the right kind of family does not). And changes since then, especially "free-trade" and the rise of big-box stores, have made the degree to which liberalism is a luxury even more stark: and that liberalism is seen as a luxury makes those who cannot afford it even more resentful of it and sour grapes about it: "these effete snobs claim to speak for my asperations? well, how come I can't afford to join them? I guess since I cannot, I'll say 'sour grapes' to it all and say my asperations are to rid our body politic of them!". There was always a proletarian toryism and a limousine liberalism, but Reagan and his successors in the GOP rode an unprecidently strong wave of it, as Nixon showed them they could with his "Southern Strategy" (itself suggested by the electoral results in 1964 when the luxury of protest was just become an obvious dynamic).

If we Democrats want to ride a counter-wave of populist progressivism, to address The Great Wealth Transfer, we also need to realize that the beneficiaries of "The Little Wealth Transfer", who cannot afford to give it up, have a powerful incentive not to rail against the larger, Great Wealth Transfer". Unless we can demonstrate that our policies will not result in a net loss for the beneficiaries of "The Little Wealth Transfer", we won't be able to really help those hurt by The Great Wealth Transfer, which include -- even if they don't care to realize it -- those beneficiaries of the "Little Wealth Transfer" which historically have been conservatives, even before that "Little Wealth Transfer" gave them all the more reason to side with the beneficiaries of The Great Wealth Transfer.

I.e. we need not to abandon our commitment to the rights of "icky people to do icky things", but we need to renew our commitment to the expanding the opportunities of Joe and Jane Sixpack rather than letting ourselves be perceived as wanting to undo the Little Wealth Transfer that allows Joe and Jane Sixpack to have the few comforts they have.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Who's the New JFK?

Dan Quayle may have been no JFK, but it seems Barak Obama is a JFK type. I guess those who treasure Camelot have their candidate. As for me, I think we have enough problems with the military-industrial complex that we don't need another JFK. I'm waiting for a Truman-type, but alas people are still unclear on the concept of for what Truman stood; many of the same people who venerate Truman now would have been contributing to his low approval rating when he was President as they would have accused him of being "unserious" about the Commies (see here and the comments to that post, for explication of the historical revisionism, as if I've not been over it enough on this blog already).

Also, see my comments elsewhere at MY's site (and elsewhere in left-blogostan) for my opinions on Pinochet and the coverage of his death. I've also been posting a bit at Pandagon as of late -- you can link to it from Eschaton (it's my blog and I can be too lazy to provide more links if I want to be so lazy -- even if I have some time on my hands as I am waiting for a calculation to finish: what's the deal with Matlab's apparent "variable runtime" "feature"?).

A follow up: I know many people who think Hillary Clinton's done an excellent job positioning herself for a Presidential run and will manage to continue avoiding the same sexist claptrap with which she used to be hit (and for which Nancy Pelosi now seems to be the designated target of the media heathers and misogynists). OTOH, other people I know think that Obama, as long as he waits out -- without seeming like he's too tardy in making decisions -- making an official announcement until after the circular firing squad starts taking the first few "front runners" down, has the 2008 nomination in the bag ... and could win provided he, like, JFK, has a politically well connected Southern running-mate who could "balance" Obama's youth, yadda-yadda < \ Seinfeld reference > ... so if Obama is indeed the next JFK, who's the next LBJ?

Also, c.f. The Editors, what a rascally bunch they are! 8)


More from My Inner Essentialist

... or is that OTOH, my outer Epicurean?

I recently got a new tobacco to try, Compton's of Galashiel's London SW1. It's a Canadian's recreation of a Borderer's realization of a Scotsman's idea of a Londoner's impression of what they might, or at least ought to, smoke in the Levant. By its ingredient list, I was expecting something along the lines of C&D's Bridge Mixture, except maybe more British. Indeed, I got it to assuage the Anglophilic tendancies of my Inner Essentialist.

But it came a little dry, and even when I moistened it, it was at first very peppery, especially on the match. But its room note was always nice (kinda nutty, reminded me of Amontillado, I guess appropriately enough) and the pouch note was very promising with vanilla, cavendish, leathery, chocolaty, caroby and especially nutmeg notes. Well, finally, the mixture has fully integrated the moisture and mellowed out (after not a long time at all, in the grand scheme of things) -- either that or my palate's adjusted to the mixture -- and it's living up to the promise of its pouch and room notes. My Inner Essentialist says its a perfect companion to a sherry cocktail and Handel in the evening (pretend you're sitting in the Reform Club or some such place) or a wee dram o' something and Ned Rorem at midnight.

BTW ... is it just me or is, musically at least, Ned Rorem a gay, Quaker version of Messiaen? Or is Messiaen a straight, Catholic version of Ned Rorem?

Thursday, December 07, 2006


A Follow Up to a Dead Thread

I realized this too late to post it as a comment to this, but perhaps part of the reason why we liberals would be, e.g., unlikely to change our position on universal health care if only a long lost work by Rawls called "why universal healthcare is wrong" pops up is not because of our valuing pragmatism over ideology or any such distinction (as the commenters, including myself, previously suggested) but rather because we liberals are simply non-authoritarian by both inclination and ideology.

Certainly, for a liberal like me, the opinion of a favorite philosopher or other such intellectual authority will weigh quite heavily as would all the more so an opinion based on the tropes of reasoning favored by such a philosopher: if, e.g., Rawls were to have stated or it were to be demonstrable based on Rawlsian principles, that universal health care is wrong, it would certainly cause me to rethink my position on universal health care. However, for me to abandon my previous belief simply because an authority, even one I respect, or an authoritative method (short of maybe the scientific method or first order logic or some other reasonably rock solid approach of reasoning or induction), would seem rather wrong-headed (not only from a liberal point of view, but also from a theological point of view: who says liberalism and religiosity are incompatable? ... though, cue conservatives saying "see I told you liberalism was something you had to take on faith"): I came to my belief for some good reason, I hope, and while good reason should prompt me to re-examine my belief, we liberals (unlike the simulacra that play us, e.g. on Faux News) are not that wishy-washy or effete nor do we bow down so much to any one authority (save, perhaps for some of us, Hashem), so it would take more than just a mere appeal to authority (e.g. "Rawls said this" or "Rawls' approach shows this") to make me change a belief based on multiple bases of inference.

OTOH, if some libertarian (perhaps a straw libertarian) would change his beliefs simply because some chapter and verse of Hayak said so, how is that person anything but an authoritarian who all but (vainly) worships the (merely human) authority of Hayak. How is this person anything but an idolater (see the link the Bible pushes?) and an authoritarian? Of course, this is what we liberals have been saying about the "glibertarians" all along, and I think their (lack of reaction) to Bush & CO's policies to "keep us safe" (how is this any different from a truly libertarian point of view from environmental policies perporting to do the same thing?) demonstrates that conclusively about the glibertarians.

Still, the real libertarians are a different kind of folk who have not necessarily bought the Bush & CO claims hook, line and sinker. So maybe there is hope for a collaboration? However, if it is sunk, perhaps the reason would not be one of different levels of commitment to ideology but rather different levels of commitment to authorities.


A Wee Bit O' Scottishness

I had some yesterday (too busy to blog about it -- I'm busier today, but I need to take a break). What did I have? The recipe:

Mix equal portions of Silk Nog, Drambuie and Sherry (it'll curdle a bit)
Moisten some Scottish Breakfast tea with said mixture
Seal in a plastic bag and let set overnight in a cool, dark area
Prepare as normal (for loose leaf tea) the next day

The "fermentation" of the already fruity tea with liqueur gives it a nice, almost perique like flavor.

Monday, December 04, 2006


An interesting site

I've not rooted through it yet, but I figure I'll provide y'all with a link.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Weekly Parsha Blogging

In this week's parsha, Laban's defense for tricking Jacob is that "it's not our custom to marry to youngest child before the oldest". How much evil has been done under the banner of sticking to customs? Not only Laban defended his treachery by invocation of custom, but the inhabitants of Sodom defended their desire to rape by invocation of custom and claimed Lot, as a foreigner, was wrong to judge their customs. Those who mindlessly defer to custom often forget that the orthodoxies, both religious and secular, to which they defer began as revolutionary movements whose key insight was that deference to custom hides a lot of evil. Yet today those claiming to speak for Israel and for religious morality too often are really the heirs of Laban and the Sodomites when the seek to cover evil by invocation of reactionary mores and accuse those of us who judge them based on their guile of being "foreign" to their culture, "un-American" or such.

Customs can be comforting. Customs can cement a society. But we must be careful not to follow the path of Sodom or of Laban and allow deference to custom to excuse treachery.

Update: as cmike reminds me in the comments, Jacob is also the victim of, shall we call it karma? Indeed, one of the possible Prophetic readings for this portion criticizes Israel (the northern kingdom thereof) for taking after Jacob in being deceitful. Today, such prophets would be labeled as "self-hating Jews" by AIPAC and DLC types, nu?


Health Care Economics

Just thinking about my own experiences with our dysfunctional health-care system: how can our system be efficient?

It makes no sense to have individuals purchase health insurance as there are no economies of scale that would make something as expensive as health care, which we rightly entrust to highly trained professionals who provide hopefully well tested treatments, affordable. But having your employer provide health care, while providing the necessary economies of scale, causes problems because people change jobs (or even classifications within a job -- as a grad student, just the transition between health plans going from being fellow to a graduate assistant and back again resulted in all sorts of un-necessary duplications of labor and hence costs when such transitions happened whilst I was actively receiving medical care).

It seems to me that it would simply make economic sense to have nationalized health care, nu?


The Right of Return

One thing that puzzles me about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is why there is no movement amongst Palestinians to convert to Judaism. After all, if a Palestinian wants to return to Israel, all he needs to do is convert to Judaism and then, voila, he has the right of return he wanted, nu? Throughout history members of religious minority groups have undergone pro-forma conversion in order to improve their lot in society. As a proud member of such a religious minority group, I am happy that not everyone thinks that way, but it is human nature that there will be some who do think this way. Of course, Judaism discourages pro-forma converts in ways that many other religions do not, but still, if it's so important for some to return to their homeland, you'd think a few would at least try to be pro-forma converts to Judaism. So where is the movement among Palestinians to convert to Judaism?

I'm reminded of the best response upon hearing a white whine of a particularly cloying vintage, "would you really want to suddenly become Black?" If we Jews have it so good, how come so few people are trying to become Jewish?


Gated Communities ...

... often mean someone has to guard the gates. In some places, e.g. South Florida, a considerable number of people are employed guarding gated communities, and this is an important source of employment for many people who would otherwise not have jobs. OTOH, the companies operating the gate-houses, etc, are oftentimes capricious employers who provide no benefits, no official sick-leave or even bathroom breaks, few set standards to guide their employees who work at the whim of their bosses and generally establish a workplace atmosphere rife with opportunities for abuse.

So where are the unions?

And, where is the Democratic party? We have an exploited set of workers who could be loyal Democratic voters if the Democratic party would stand up for them and push through at least some explicit workplaces standards so employees of gate-house-guard-providing companies are not working only at the mere whim of capricious employers.


Principles vs. Survival

This question was raised at Friday night Oneg relating to whether Israel even needs to follow Jewish law regarding waging war (whether it does or not is a different question), but it is also relevant to our war on terrorism (and c.f. Benjamin Franklin's version of this question): if a society abandons its basic principles in order to survive, does society's mere survival mean anything? In such a case, where the society violates its foundational principles, can the society really be said to even have survived or has the society killed itself?

Fundamentally, that's the message of the curses in Torah and the message of the Prophets, nu? Even if Israel does manage to survive, if it abandons its commitment to Jewish principles, does it really survive as Israel or as some entity that calls itself Israel? If our country abandons our principles for the sake of survival, has America really survived as the country that has become so great and mighty or has it survived as some entity calling itself and claiming the mantle of the US of A but which is really an entirely different being to which us citizens owe no patriotic loyalty?

And when the commonweal collapses, what's left? OTOH, sometimes ya gotta wonder if that is exactly what certain people want? For America as we know it to collapse and to be replaced with a manorial shell of a country. What's ironic is that too many people still call those who want to burn the village to save it "patriots" even though they are patently nothing of the sort.

Hillel dealt with a similar sort of problem in a slightly different way, through questions:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, when?

Friday, December 01, 2006


I Don't Want to Get into Why ...

... but I really am in the mood to hear some Glenn Campbell songs today

If I am still in this mood next time I have a chance to swing by the library, I think I know which CD I'll be checking out then ...

(Just a clarification: the mood is very definitely "Wichita Lineman" and very definitely not "By the Time I Get to Phoenix")


Toldoth Blogging

Last week's parsha, talking about "generations", an obvious concern of an extended origins story such as Genesis, was a microcosm of leitmotifs scattered more widely accross Genesis as a whole, nu?

The leitmotifs of Genesis include: the younger child receiving the older child's birthright, the positions of tribes in the ancient Near East being represented as personal histories, infertility and others I have to much of a cold to think about right now.

So what is the significance of these repeated tropes (pun intended)? I'll likely have more to say about some of them, especially with V'yishlach in a fornight or less, but for now, I'll remain officially agnostic. So discuss, nu?

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