Torah poem: Vayishlach
Sometimes I get lazy. Case in point: the title of this week’s blog entry. Case in point: this week’s Torah poem. I went straight for the easy pickings: Jacob’s famous wrestling match with an angel/human while he waited by the Jabbok for his brother Esau and a gang of 400 men. Agreed, this is rich poetic material, and somewhat easier reading than what follows: the strange give-and-take between the brothers and the whole terrible story of Dinah’s rape (or not)(see: The Red Tent). To be honest, I was less interested in Dinah than in her brothers’ murderous reaction: the slaughter of an entire village of men as they lay recuperating from circumcision. I felt bad about my disinterest, still do, so I avoided the whole darn mess.
Anyway, I wrote the first draft of this in the aftermath of a Hamas suicide bombing in 2003. The destruction and senselessness seemed to fit with what the angel/human tells Jacob after he wins the wrestling match: you have struggled with things divine and human – and you have prevailed! As reward, Jacob is now to be called Yisrael, God-wrestler, but I wonder if human-wrestler would have been more apt. Not just for him, but for all of us: we spend so much time trying to knock the the next person/tribe/nation/god to the ground – but we never really win. We lick our wounds, limp around, pray to the heavens, and do it all over again.