Weekly Torah Portion: Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4 – 36:43)


In this Torah portion, God tells Jacob to return home. Worried that his brother Esau will kill him, Jacob separates his clan into two camps, so at least some will survive in case of a fight. Jacob sleeps alone in the desert and is awoken by an angel who wrestles him through the night. Jacob survives and is blessed by the angel and renamed Israel. Jacob meets his brother, and surprisingly, Esau kisses his neck and they embrace. Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, is raped by Shekhem, who then proposes to Jacob that he marry her. Shimeon and Levi murder Shekhem and his clan. Rachel has another child, whom they name Benjamin. Read an extensive summary on My Jewish Learning

Related D’var Torah

We believe that all queer Jews in the U.S. should at least consider [aliyah] as one possible way to confront the ever-increasing right-wing control of this country. – Arlan Wareham in 2004. Read the full drash

“In this challenging time of terror and war, on this eve of yet another World AIDS Day when we ask the world to remember what we still know on a daily basis- that AIDS still challenges us.” – Rabbi Lisa Edwards in 2001. Read the full drash

“Jacob models for me another role besides that of a wrestler. He is someone who lets his relationship with God grow and develop. He’s someone who keeps finding God in unexpected places, and being delighted by such finds.” – Rabbi Lisa Edwards in 1990. Read the full drash

Torah Verse of the Week*

“Esau ran to greet him. He embraced him and, falling on his neck, he kissed him; and they burst into tears.” (Genesis 33:4; Parashat Vayishlach)

Other Suggested Readings

According to the psychologist Arthur Aron, “Four minutes of contact brings people closer together than anything else.” Look Beyond Borders is a short film that was made this past year bringing Europeans and refugees together to look into each other’s eyes for four minutes. “People from different continents who have literally never set eyes on each other before come away feeling an amazing connection,” says Draginja Nadażdin, Director of Amnesty International Poland. Read from Leah Zimmerman’s Experiencing Torah blog

In Vayishlach, Jacob wrestles with the divine and for his efforts is renamed Israel. Also, the reconciliation of Jacob/Israel with Esau, the rape of Dinah, the birth of Joseph and the death of Isaac. Read from our Telephone Torah Study archive

Comforting Dina: The rape of Dina…and other horrible, contemporary acts of violence’ by Rabbi Laura Geller. Read on My Jewish Learning

Torah Queeries by Rabbi Lisa Edwards for the Jewish Mosaic Website (from Rabbi Lisa’s Hebrew Union College final drash) The Untaming Jew

*Torah Verse of the Week is chosen by the Torah class during Tuesdays’ studies with Rabbi Lisa Edwards. Check out when our next Torah Study takes place

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