At Touro Synagogue December 3, 2016
Twins and Trauma
by Aaron Ginsburg
Twas Parashat Toldot, and all through the shul,
Not a tourist was present, it was far from full.
We davened with speed, it sure was a breeze.
We were done by eleven with the greatest of ease.
The Parsha, Genesis 25:19 - 28:9, was about Isaac and his family, and begins, “This is the story of Isaac, son of Abraham.”
Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau were rivals in the womb of their mother Rebecca. Rabbi Marc Mandel told us that Yaakov and Esau were engaged in a war of ideas, “Even before they were born Yaakov wanted to be closer the Beit Midrash and Esau wanted to be closer to idol worship.”
That is interpretation of course; the Torah says it more obliquely, “When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Jacob was a mild man who stayed in camp.”
Another interpretation is that the twins represent the two sides of a person. It is up to us to reconcile those tendencies, hopefully for good and for happiness.
One of the striking stories in the Parsha is how, with his mother’s help, Jacob pretended he was Esau by covering himself in skins to emulate Esau’s hair and received the blessing that should have been Esau’s, as the first born.The parsha states, "Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see." It seems a little far fetched. Rashi must have realized this, and helpfully tells us that Isaac was traumetized for life by the Akedah, his binding before G-d prohibited Abraham from sacrificing him. This would explain his poor vision, and why he was a bookworm, not a hunter.
Speaking of trauma, David Strachman commiserated with people suffering from Trump Trauma. Some people were depressed by the outcome of the election. Now there is a name for the condition. I am happy to report that people have started to recover, although there always a possibility of a relapse. This can be averted by not watching and by not listening to the news, and by never reading the newspaper.
Once after a cold I had a persistent cough. I finally caved in and went to see my doctor, David Faling. He heard me out, listened with his stethoscope, and calmly told me I had a post-viral catarrh. I was shocked to have such an elegant sounding diagnosis, and stopped coughing immediately.
Isaac was the only one of the Patriarchs who stayed in the land of Israel.
Rabbi Mandel talked about how we could help people In Israel who suffered in the recent fires. He observed that there was nothing new about pyro-terrorism. “… in this weeks Parsha, he said,”Yitzchak builds wells for water and the Philistines cover them up with dirt.” Eventually, with the help of G-d, Isaac and Abimelech, king of the Philistines, made a treaty.
Rabbi Mandel said, “Our synagogue has deep ties to Israel. Naomi Herstoff, daughter of Dr. James and Debbi Herstoff lives there-Yoni and Sasha Weiss children of Rabbi Loel and Patty live there. Rabbi Lewis z"l and Rabbi Katz z"l both moved there.”
Let’s hope, that with our-and G-d’s help, Israel will be secure and live peacefully with its neighbors, and that you will be spared a post-viral catarrh.