Shtiebel Art Beit Midrash November 15, 2021

Welcome to the South Philadelphia Shtiebel's Art Beit Midrash.

Each session begins with 10-15 minutes of facilitated text study related to the Parsha (weekly Torah portion) followed by 45-50 minutes of studio time/creative interpretation.

Take a look at the sources and questions below. What do you make of it?

(כה) וַיִּוָּתֵ֥ר יַעֲקֹ֖ב לְבַדּ֑וֹ וַיֵּאָבֵ֥ק אִישׁ֙ עִמּ֔וֹ עַ֖ד עֲל֥וֹת הַשָּֽׁחַר׃ (כו) וַיַּ֗רְא כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָכֹל֙ ל֔וֹ וַיִּגַּ֖ע בְּכַף־יְרֵכ֑וֹ וַתֵּ֙קַע֙ כַּף־יֶ֣רֶךְ יַעֲקֹ֔ב בְּהֵאָֽבְק֖וֹ עִמּֽוֹ׃ (כז) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שַׁלְּחֵ֔נִי כִּ֥י עָלָ֖ה הַשָּׁ֑חַר וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אֲשַֽׁלֵּחֲךָ֔ כִּ֖י אִם־בֵּרַכְתָּֽנִי׃ (כח) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו מַה־שְּׁמֶ֑ךָ וַיֹּ֖אמֶר יַעֲקֹֽב׃ (כט) וַיֹּ֗אמֶר לֹ֤א יַעֲקֹב֙ יֵאָמֵ֥ר עוֹד֙ שִׁמְךָ֔ כִּ֖י אִם־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל כִּֽי־שָׂרִ֧יתָ עִם־אֱלֹהִ֛ים וְעִם־אֲנָשִׁ֖ים וַתּוּכָֽל׃ (ל) וַיִּשְׁאַ֣ל יַעֲקֹ֗ב וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הַגִּֽידָה־נָּ֣א שְׁמֶ֔ךָ וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה תִּשְׁאַ֣ל לִשְׁמִ֑י וַיְבָ֥רֶךְ אֹת֖וֹ שָֽׁם׃

(25) Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. (26) When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he wrenched Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the socket of his hip was strained as he wrestled with him. (27) Then he said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.” But he answered, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” (28) Said the other, “What is your name?” He replied, “Jacob.” (29) Said he, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human,-d and have prevailed.” (30) Jacob asked, “Pray tell me your name.” But he said, “You must not ask my name!” And he took leave of him there.

  • Who is the mysterious figure who wrestles with Jacob? What interpretations have you heard? What images of this scene have you seen?
  • Why does Jacob ask for a blessing?
  • What is the blessing?

אש קודש, פרשת וישלח, הרב קלונימוס קלמיש שפירא

ונבין נא למה היה צריך יעקב אבינו ששרו של עשו יברכו הלא כבר ברכו ד'...

אבל מעשה אבות סימן לבנים, ואחר שנפגש עם המלאך ויאבק עמו, וגם נגע בכף ירכו, ורצה המלאך ללכת, אמר יעקב האם כזאת יארע לבני שאחר שיסבלו צרות ופגעים תהא זאת ישועתם מה שלא יכלו שונאיהם להם, ולא נפלו בידיהם, ומעתה ישובו אל מצבם שהיו קודם שסבלו, לא כן רק "לא אשלחך כי אם ברכתני", שאחרי היסורים יושיעם ד' בישועה, לא רק שיתפטרו מצרותיהם בלבד...

Aish Kodesh, Parashat Vayishlach, by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (20 May 1889–3 November 1943)

And let us understand, why did Jacob need the officer of Esau to bless him — had God not already blessed him? ...

Rather, the actions of the forefathers are a significant sign/indicator for future generations, and after he [Jacob] encountered the angel and wrestled with him, and also was struck at his thigh -- the angel wanted to leave, and Jacob said [to himself], "Will such [a fate] befall my children? That after they suffer misfortunes and afflictions, will this be their salvation? That their enemies [merely] don’t destroy them, and they [my children] don’t fall into their hands, and from then on they return to their previous circumstances as they were before they suffered? No, it will not be so!" Rather [Jacob said], "I will not let you go, unless you bless me," that after the anguish, God should save them with [an actual] salvation, not only through an alleviation of their sufferings...

  • According to the excerpt above, why does Jacob ask for a blessing? For whom is this blessing? What does the blessing look like?
  • Consider that this was initially delivered as a sermon in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1939. How does the context inform the content?
  • What blessings do you ask for in your life?

ויעבר אברם בארץ עד מקום שכם אומר לך כלל תבין אותו בכל הפרשיות הבאות בענין אברהם יצחק ויעקב והוא ענין גדול הזכירוהו רבותינו בדרך קצרה ואמרו (תנחומא ט) כל מה שאירע לאבות סימן לבנים ולכן יאריכו הכתובים בספור המסעות וחפירת הבארות ושאר המקרים ויחשוב החושב בהם כאלו הם דברים מיותרים אין בהם תועלת וכולם באים ללמד על העתיד...

AND ABRAM PASSED THROUGH THE LAND. I will tell you a principle by which you will understand all the coming portions of Scripture concerning Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is indeed a great matter which our Rabbis mentioned briefly, saying: “Whatever has happened to the patriarchs is a sign to the children.” It is for this reason that the verses narrate at great length the account of the journeys of the patriarchs, the digging of the wells, and other events. Now someone may consider them unnecessary and of no useful purpose, but in truth they all serve as a lesson for the future..

  • “Whatever has happened to the patriarchs is a sign to the children.” — how do you understand this? Is it meant to be understood literally? Symbolically? Does it apply narrowly to the Patriarchs in Tanakh, or does it extend to all generations? Is it reassuring?
  • What events and which characters do we celebrate and aspire to emulate? Which ones do we not?
  • Are there other texts, images, and/or questions that come to mind from this study? How are they in dialogue?