On Sunday, about a dozen congregants met for our “drop-in text study” session, offered through the Temple’s Adult Ed program. We were discussing the week’s Torah portion, where Jacob crosses a river to begin a new chapter in his life, hopefully leaving some of the deceit and darkness behind him. He anxiously meets his brother, Esau, who greets him with a hug and a kiss. And then Jacob promptly lies to Esau. So much for a clean slate.
Later in the portion, Jacob’s sons deceive the men of Shechem, and then massacre them and loot the town, in response to the “rape” of Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah.
And what is Jacob’s response? Outrage? Sadness? Apology? No, he castigates his sons for ruining his reputation. Beyond that, he is silent. It is one of the low points in the tragedy of Jacob, as the arc of his story nears its end. As Gunther Plaut says in his commentary: