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?

Can't help but to think Jacob had some treachery coming his way. If I remember correctly, twice Esau was out working and twice the slacker Jacob did him wrong - first Jacob "bought" with food the hard working but desparately hungry Esau's birthright and then Jacob went into Isaac and tricked him while Esau was out performing a task for his father.

I bring this up because it gets back to your claim that Judaism exalts work.
Thanks for reminding me ... somehow I forgot I wanted to mention the Haftarah as well.
FWIW, also, the Jewish interpretation of Jacob vs. Esau is not that Jacob (himself a hard-working shepherd) was a slacker trying to live off of the efforts of the hard working Esau (although that is the interpretation of many people ... who would say that Esau was righteous and Jacob not: of course, Esau is living off the land whereas Jacob is working to domesticate it -- and there are also gender politics involved ... there is much we could discuss here, nu?) but that Esau was a bloodthirsty hunter who lived by his strength whereas Jacob was a shepherd who lived by his wits -- it's just that Isaac liked his wild game whereas Rebecca liked the industriousness of Jacob -- and that Judaism, while extolling works, prefers working smarter to being bloodthirsty. The problem was the Esau could very well have nurished himself -- he wasn't so hungry that he would have sold his birthright if he really cared about it.
Notice the very first post here, the Spamcatcher Mark II with over 70 comments. Would that work for you, just putting a dead thread at the top of your blog?
Thank you for the tip. I guess it's worth a shot ... although, there seems to be some complicated pattern in which not all posts get spammed ... I've not figured it out, so I'm not sure if I were to post a "spamcatcher" post now if it would actually catch anything ... hmmm ...
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