TOLDOT (GEN 25.19 -28.9)
This week and last week (or 2 weeks ago I think) we're continuing with the power of naming in the torah. It feels completely in line with what is happening in my life, as just yesterday I met with my local rabbi, Rabbi Rachel, as we prepared for my Hebrew name change ceremony/blessing thing. She was telling me that it is not unusual for adults to have this ceremony done. Because I converted as an adult I actually have already had this done once, but I barely remember it. She told me it was probably just a quick prayer they said in the midst of all the other ones at the Mikveh during my conversion, which makes sense for why I don't remember it. This time should be a little more memorable, even though I don't want it to be a big deal at all.
In this week's parshah we get to see these things about Esau and Jacob and the meanings of their names, and how important that is as a part of their story- as Fox points out- “as clues to personalities and parental preference” and it just makes me think about how much thought we put into out names as trans people, how we get to pick them, even as we sort of ‘try them on’ and see what ‘fits us’.
TQ talks about Esau as a non-stereotypical male, feminine, and shirking the traditional masculinity... But honestly, I didn’t really read it that way at all. I read it that he hunts, and Jacob stays inside. Jacob tricks him out of his inheritance; He doesn’t necessarily shirk it because he doesn’t want it. He cried when he is deceived but who wouldn't?! That didn’t read feminine to me, but rather that just read as massive frustration. Here you have his brother who has lied multiple times, took the lord's name to do it, and then got rewarded. Of course Esau is frustrated! He says he’ll kill his brother, but he never does it; we often say things in anger we will never do. I think that is more the lesson- if anything I think Esau is more the character development story than Jacob, at least in the beginning. We know when they meet again the next time, that Esau hugs him, but Jacob then just leaves. Jacob still seems to not really be over it- if anything its Jacob who doesn’t develop as a character- and Esau who does.
When I looked online for more about this (sort of frustrating story) I actually looked up “Jacob in the bible is an asshole” and all the Christian sources said some variation of how this story teaches us that god loves us not because of what we do, but because of who we are blah blah blah”. I get that. I get why that is comforting to people. BUT ALSO.... I feel like that sound like a lot of excuses for people being rewarded for bad behavior. Over and over in the bible people do bad things and get rewarded for it. And the Christians justify it saying, he loves the sinner not the sin, and how we are all sinners and how comforting that is for them and they feel safe knowing they are getting into heaven etc etc But I just don’t know that that’s the point here. I think maybe it was just meant to be an exciting story? I don’t know. I’m confused. This is one of the stories in the bible I have trouble with. I have trouble not seeing this g-d as unfair, and then I can't reconcile that with the G-d I know.
So...I felt inclined to search further for some way not to be so frustrated by this passage (maybe thats the point):
From Keshetonline’s page I found a commentary by Igael Gurin-Malous that talked about how Rebecca reaches out to G-d for purpose when she feels to powerful forces fighting inside her. (That sounds pretty queer FOR SURE).
Also- that same commentary talks about how (and actually now I remember thinking this other times I've read this story) Isaac asks Jacob 3 times if he is Esau- its clear that Isaac KNOWS he isn’t Esau. Parents sometimes just see what they want to see, or pretend to see or not see things. They are complicit in their own deception, often to OUR detriment...(I think of my mom saying I gave her no signs I was trans when I came out to her - this from the kid who shaved her hair off in elementary school, wore boys clothes exclusively for to years in middle school, insisted on a male conifrmation name, and then went to Auto motive tech school? Parents sometimes just don't see whats right in front of them.
It's unclear if either parent ever really SAW Esau.
“This is a harsh lesson that the Parsha teaches us. It teaches us the lengths to which some parents will go in order to blind themselves. It tells us how far they will go, to try and make their children fit into a mold they have created for them.
How much denial will they go through, not accepting their children for who they really are, and at what cost? They need their children to be what they want them to be. Those parents can’t see their children for who they really are.”