VayetzeiBy :Ismar Schorsch Rabbi Herman Abramovitz Distinguished company Professor the Jewish history and Chancellor Emeritus post On Nov 20, 2004/ 5765 | key Commentary

Why does Jacob give up the security of his parents house in Beer-sheba? The noticeable answer is come flee indigenous the wrath of his brother Esau, who he has now cunningly stripped that his birthright and also paternal blessing. However the finish of last week’s parashah add to a 2nd motive: to protect against taking a wife from his Canaanite neighbors. The destiny that Jacob’s flight is to it is in the family of his mommy in Haran, where hopefully, prefer his father, he will uncover a lifelong mate.

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The patriarchs exhibition a strong aversion to commingling v the indigenous inhabitants of Canaan. Ishmael marries one Egyptian like his mom Hagar (Genesis 21:21). Abraham, prior to his death, looks for a wife for Isaac amongst his very own people. And also even Esau, who at period forty, greatly displeased his parental by marrying two aboriginal Hittite females (Gen. 26:34), later on tried to mollify them by acquisition the daughter of Ishmael as second wife (Gen. 28:9).

Indeed, I feeling the same aversion in the reaction of Jacob’s sons come the rape of your sister Dinah by Shechem, child of Hamor the Hivite (Gen. 34). The is the possibility of wholesale intermarriage between Jacob’s clan and also the Hivites which motivated Simeon and Levi to specific a retribution that much exceeds the crime cursed by Shechem.

How ironic that the one kid of Jacob about whom we are specifically told the he found his wife amongst the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, was none other than Judah (Gen. 38:2), who name would certainly eventually denote the progeny the Jacob that survives. The force of the verb “left” in the phrase, “About the time Judah left his brothers (Gen. 38:1)” argues not just a physical leave but additionally a violation of household mores.

The conventional upheld by the patriarchs without any kind of explicit divine exhortation got its legit formulation in the remainder of the Torah. Time and again the Israelites are warned come exterminate the seven nations that inhabit the soil promised come them. The barbarity that Canaanite culture as evinced in the therapy of Lot’s pursuits by the citizens of Sodom (Gen. 119) would surely contaminate the purity that Israel’s faith, if left in place. Deuteronomy perform the nations by name, forbids any thought of matrimony and also calls for their eradication. “You should doom them come destruction: provide them no terms and given them no quarter. Friend shall not intermarry v them… Instead…you chandelier tear under their altars, smash their pillars, cut down their spiritual posts, and also consign their pictures to the fire (Deut. 7:2-5).”

In the exact same unequivocal tone, Deuteronomy excludes indigenous “the congregation of the Lord” forever any type of descendant the the countries of Moab and also Ammon, due to the fact that of what lock did to Israel in the wilderness (Deut. 23:4-7). Much less harshly, Deuteronomy countenances the join of Edomites and Egyptians in the third generation (Deut. 23:8-9), since one to be a brothers (descended from Ishmael) and also the other held Israel on its land because that centuries.

I progressive this malevolent law not to ask whether it was ever brought out, yet rather to present how the was get over by rabbinic Judaism. That the load of biblical proof favors the check out that together genocidal policy was never enforced (see Judges 1:21-23, kings 9:20-21) would not alone have set aside the validity. In fact, a striking occurrence from the early on days the the second Temple duration reveals just exactly how potently and also painfully it remained in force. In the middle of the 5th century BCE, the priest-scribe Ezra led a contingent of exiled Jews ago from Babylonia to Jerusalem. Armed with a letter of government from the Persian king, he assumed the management of a nascent and vulnerable community anchored in a an extremely modestly reconstructed temple. To his dismay, the learned the intermarriage through the local populace was rife, especially among the elite circles that Jerusalem. His officers reported: “The world of Israel and the priests and also Levites have actually not separated themselves from the peoples of the land who abhorrent techniques are choose those that the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and also the Amorites (Ezra 9:1).”

The language indicates an development of the concept of exclude, nations. The is no ethnicity that specifies the seven initial settler countries of Israel, but cultural mores. Decadence is the usual denominator, and Ezra demands and achieves a wholesale expulsion of international wives and their kids from the community. (Judaism had actually not yet arisen the concept and also ritual of spiritual conversion by which sincere outsiders might be admitted right into the community.

By the moment the Pharisees and Rabbis, Ezra’s spirituality heirs, concerned power after the damage of the second Temple, Judaism had become a missionizing world religion, constituting as lot as one-tenth the the population of the roman inn Empire. To preserve the Deuteronomic legacy, specifically in Palestine, would have severely impeded access to Judaism because that prospective counter in a civilization turned cosmopolitan. Who might be certain that one interested gentile was not a descendant of among the proscribed nations?

Hence, in two cases of switch in the years after 70 CE, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananiah and also Rabbi Akiva individually dared to set aside the constraints of the Torah. History had overturned their relevance, castle argued. The nations listed by the Torah to be no longer identifiable because they no much longer lived top top their genealogical lands. The Assyrian King Sennacherib (705-681 BCE) had defeated and also dispersed lock in the food of his countless military campaigns throughout the productive Crescent with the result, according to Rabbi Akiva, the today, “an Ammonite guy will marry an Egyptian woman, and an Egyptian man will marry an Ammonite woman, and one that them will marry someone from any country on earth, and someone native any country on earth will marry among them.” later authorities accepted the joint view of Rabbis Yehoshua and also Akiva together normative by including the assumption that given this state of ethnic intermingling, every convert is reputed to come indigenous the nationality that dominates the region in which the or she might live (and no from among the proscribed nations).

With a solitary bold exegetical gambit, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva devalue the genocidal content of scripture. Through contextualizing the regulations pertaining to the 7 nations, lock relativized your validity. The book of Joshua, with its alleged annihilation that the seven nations, ended up being no more than a historical test, not a prescription for modern-day policy. Because in Judaism, magnificent revelation is subordinate to person interpretation, the background of Jewish exegesis documents the development of Judaism’s ethical conscience. This means that responsibility, courage and also compassion space as necessary in the examine of Torah, as room learning and also observance.

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Shabbat shalom,

Ismar Schorsch

The publication and distribution of Dr. Schorsch’s comment on Parashat Vayetzei space made feasible by a generous grant from Rita Dee and also Harold (z”l) Hassenfeld.