Tag Archives: Edom

Shabbat Zachor

Shabbat Zachor sig

Samuel 1    ch. 15:1 – 34

Samuel- prophet.  He anointed the nation of Israel’s first two kings- Saul and David.

Additional reading: D’varim/ Deuteronomy 25: 17-16

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Zachor- the Shabbat of Remembrance. In preparation for Purim, which falls next week, we have an additional Torah reading about the evil King Amalek. He is identified as the ancestor of Haman, the villain in the Purim story.  Amalek  instructed his army to attack the  Children of Israel, specifically the defenseless and the weak as they walked through the desert after leaving Egypt.

This Shabbat’s haftarah recounts a poignant story about King Saul and his dealings with Amalek. The prophet Samuel tells Saul that he is to remember what Amalek did to B’nei Yisrael  (the children of Israel). Saul is to go and destroy ALL the Amalekites, the young and the old, and all their possessions. King Saul gathers his warriors and they go to do what has been commanded of them.

Saul and his warriors flatten the towns, and kill the inhabitants and their cattle- but he spares Agag the Amalekite king and keeps the choicest animals to offer as sacrifices to God. When God sees what has happened He instructs Samuel to reprove Saul and take away the kingship from him.

The text is beautifully written. With short, strong phrases the human mistakes Saul makes are recounted and the heavy directive to Samuel is described. Saul, a man with a good heart, carries out most of what God told him to do. But as Samuel reminds him, “Though you are little in your own sight were you not made head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you King?…” The spirit of God is taken away from Saul and Samuel turns his back on the broken king. As Samuel walks away Saul falls to the ground and grabs Samuel’s cloak. The cloak rips in his hand, and Samuel tells Saul, “The Lord has ripped the kingdom of Israel from you this day and given it to a neighbour of yours that is better than you…”

It is a heartbreaking story of a fallen King. The most tragic element is that Saul had never wanted to be king. He wanted to live a simple life but monarchy was thrust upon him. He wasn’t a natural leader, he was a follower. In this situation he followed the desires of his nation rather than the commandment of God.

The evil of Amalek is presented in the additional reading and in the haftarah. The readings are  precursors to the story of Purim, the Jews rising against Haman- a descendant of Amalek. As we read we are reminded that in every generation there rises an enemy, and we have to have faith in God and listen to God’s teachings.

Read the story. It’s  another exciting and emotional incident in our canon. And remember it’s OUR story. Shabbat Shalom.

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VaYishlach

VaYishlach

The Book of Ovadiah

Ovadiah (prophet) –  circa 586 BCE.

Many scholars think Ovadiah wrote this book after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.

The haftarah is the entire – albeit short –  Book of Ovadiah.  Ovadiah is speaking of the ultimate destruction of Edom because of its cruelty to b’nei Yisrael.  The prophecy is unyielding and unforgiving in its condemnation.  Esau is the ancestor of Edom and both are mentioned in this haftarah.  Ovadiah speaks of how tragic it is that Esau is Jacob’s enemy. He says, “For the violence done to your brother Jacob shame shall cover you, and you will be cut off forever.”

The Book of Ovadiah ends with references to exile  in Tzarfat (France) and Sepharad (Spain).

It is  said that both Edom and Rome descended from Esau. They were formidable enemies of the Jews, striving to destroy them at different periods of history. Based on two themes- the haftarah’s description of Esau and Edom; and the concept that Esau is the ancestor of  Rome; I took  a leap and visually tied the haftarah to a haggadah from medieval Spain. “How is this all related?” you may ask.  Well, I’ll tell you.

The Rylands Haggadah was created in the 14th Century in Barcelona, Spain, possibly around 1330. Jews had been living in Spain for centuries. By the early 13th C. life for the Jews in Spain became precarious. Attacked variously by mobs, Crusaders, and the armies of certain rulers the Jews were persecuted and killed.

In the Rylands Haggadah the artist portrayed the Egyptians as Crusaders. The Catalan artist depicted the Egyptians, the enemy of the ancient Jews, as Crusaders, their contemporary enemies. Continuing that idea, the Catholic Crusaders were descendants of the Romans, who were midrashically descendants of Esau.

Crusader

Crusader (Photo credit: swimfinfan)

I took that concept and based the  painting  on a panel from the  Rylands Haggadah.  I related it to the haftarah, showing B’nei  Yisrael  as Catalan Jews  challenging Edom portrayed as  Spanish Crusaders.  (I was fascinated that the haftarah itself mentions the exile of Jews to Spain.)  Taking the idea one step  further I integrated the story of Dina,  from this week’s parsha,  into the theme.   Shimon and  Levi, Dina’s  brothers, will not ignore  how their sister has been violated. They  avenge the atrocity  and thereby, within the parsha, we read a  foreshadowing of the message in the haftarah- that Israel will  destroy Edom.

The story of the rape of Dina is a troubling one from many  perspectives, and  the  actions of Shimon and Levi are not condoned. The  reality of  war, defense, offensive action and the effects on future  generations is an area always controversial and difficult to have a single answer for.

What we can pray for is understanding, tolerance, and the ability to practise our religion in peace and free of prejudice.

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Toledot

Toledot

I’ve been away for a few weeks. My traveling partner, (Les, my husband) and I went on a wonderful trip to Uzbekistan. Attending lectures by Shalom Sabar about the Jewish cultural history there and seeing the incredible historical architecture was amazing.  I’ll be introducing some of that adventure in future blogs. 

Toldot Sig

  This week’s parsha is Toledot  (Generations). The parsha deals with the birth and sibling rivalry of Esau and Jacob- the twin sons of Rebecca and Isaac. Those babies were fighting even before they were born, to the point that Rebecca asked God what was going on with her pregnancy.

Esau loved being outside and hunting while Jacob stayed home, cooked, and according to the commentaries learned Torah. Esau traded his “birthright” for a bowl of Jacob’s soup – showing Esau’s impatience and disregard for tradition, and also showing Jacob’s desire to take advantage of his brother. The climax of the story is Rebecca and Jacob’s deception of Isaac. Rebecca convinces Jacob to masquerade as his brother in order to fool Isaac into giving Jacob the special blessing for the first born.

The story introduces all kinds of questions and puts flawed family dynamics into relief. Why did Isaac favour Esau while Rebecca favoured Jacob?  Why did Rebecca fool Isaac instead of talking to him? Was Isaac really taken in by Jacob’s deception? Maybe he suspected the truth but realized that Jacob was more suited to the blessing. Did the two brothers end up with the fates that most suited them in the long run? Esau would be a man of the field and Jacob would become the leader of the nation of Israel.

What seems to hold true is that poor family dynamics and communication skills certainly continued from generation to generation.

This picture shows the “family dynamics” of Isaac, Rebecca, Esau and Jacob. We see the blind Isaac blessing his son Jacob- having been fooled into thinking he is blessing Esau. Rebecca is delaying Esau from coming in until the blessing is complete. Rebecca is doing this because God had told her, when she was pregnant, that “the elder shall serve the younger”. She wants to ensure that the prophecy comes true.

The commentators had a very negative view of Esau because of his clashes with Jacob.

Esau settled in Edom, south of Judah and ultimately Edom was identified as the enemy of Israel and the ancestor of Rome- the bloody tyrant that destroyed the Temple and the land of Israel.

The haftarah is Malachi  1:1 -2:7. The prophet Malachi lived in Jerusalem during the 5th century B.C.E. after the return to Judah from exile in Babylonia in 538 BCE. In this haftarah Malachi is reprimanding the Jews for not observing the practices properly. He tells them that G-d loves His people- but they must stop making inferior sacrifices to God. Edom, the descendants of Esau, are mentioned as the tyrannical enemy.  I suspect that Esau was vilified through the guise of Edom and then Rome to make it easier to identify the source of Jewish oppression.

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