Student Teaching in the New Millenium

Your Family Tree (5772 Vayishlach)

In Genesis on December 15, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Family, keep you
Close, and love them, for they are
Yours, from root to leaf

Obadiah 1:1 – 1:21
Genesis 32:4 – 36:43

At this time last year, I questioned:  why record the generations of Esau?

Why record the generations of Esau?  In plain terms, Esau was Jacob’s brother, and Abraham’s descendant.  It can be said that he warrants this treatment for his part in our family tree.  At the same time, as we’ve discussed, Esau is often considered a villain.  Does the Pentateuch award villains with such treatment?  So, how did Esau merit such treatment?

Is villain a subjective term?  Was Hitler a villain?  Yes, he was.  From his perspective?  No, he wasn’t.  Is he remembered? Yes he is, in newspapers, on television, and even in video games.  So is the Torah recording Esau’s family for posterity solely that we may know the members of a villainous family?  Does this sound appropriate for an etz chaim?

To what can we liken such an interpretation? To someone who calls everyone in the room an ass, when there is only one ass in the room.

Does Hitler have any surviving family?  The last member of his immediate family, Paula, died in 1960.  Extended family?  Notably, and noticeably, they are absent.

Ramban teaches us how eager people were to attach themselves to Abraham’s descendants.  Was Esau a villain?  No.  But the wicked will be cut off from the land.  (Proverbs 2:22)  Was Esau cut off from the land?  Are his actions the actions of someone utterly evil, or merely those of a jilted family member?  What are Esau’s flaws?

Is every member of your family perfect?


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