Monday, December 31, 2012

The Moonlit Glade: My 24th Birthday Masquerade

It is time for my yearly birthday masquerade. The song this time is "Black Masquerade" by Rainbow (lyrics here). Enjoy.

I am turning....24.

That time of year has come again...
It is my Birthday Masquerade!
That secret night of shadows
Where the hidden things parade
And twirl, and dance, and flit about
Like innumerable Pucks in merry rout

You are invited, one and all
and welcomed to my hidden ball.

To attend, just comment below
And enjoy the lightly scattered snow.
Is it starlight you fancy, or maybe red wine?
Allow me to welcome you and invite you to dine.

We have curious fancies and delicate mixtures
Of gilded candies and chocolate liqueurs.
Tonight we celebrate my birth...
With joy, gladness and much mirth.

Walk in the garden with me, I pray...
Delightful things occur when you lose your way.

Last year's entertainment can be found  here.

The rules, as always, require you to devise an anonymous handle for yourself (comment under an assumed name, not your real one and not that of your blog), create a costume and offer me a gift. The gift does not have to be tangible. Your costumes and gifts should be creative and expressive of various aspects of your personality.

Good Evening, Ladies & Gentlemen. This evening's entertainment takes place in a moonlit glen. The glade is blanketed with velvety grass, and there are little archways, garden walks and pavilions filled with curiosities from around the world. Enjoy your wanderings. The beverages served this evening consist of pressed starlight, raspberry cordial and sparkling pressed lantern-grapes (the kind that are lit with little silver lights from within). The food consists of delicious chocolate brownies, golden apples and a cake that is made out of sugar spun by none other than the Lady of Shallot. Enjoy yourselves...and collect the little golden baubles that sparkle as a souvenir.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Threatening Encounters With Angels

I was learning with my husband and I happened upon an interesting realization. Both Yaakov and Moshe encounter angels in threatening situations, but what transpires is obviously different.

First, let's look at the texts (because, as my husband correctly notes, this is a stretch- the wording is not similar).

Text 1- Jacob

כה  וַיִּוָּתֵר יַעֲקֹב, לְבַדּוֹ; וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ, עַד עֲלוֹת הַשָּׁחַר.25 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
כו  וַיַּרְא, כִּי לֹא יָכֹל לוֹ, וַיִּגַּע, בְּכַף-יְרֵכוֹ; וַתֵּקַע כַּף-יֶרֶךְ יַעֲקֹב, בְּהֵאָבְקוֹ עִמּוֹ.26 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was strained, as he wrestled with him.
כז  וַיֹּאמֶר שַׁלְּחֵנִי, כִּי עָלָה הַשָּׁחַר; וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא אֲשַׁלֵּחֲךָ, כִּי אִם-בֵּרַכְתָּנִי.27 And he said: 'Let me go, for the day breaketh.' And he said: 'I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.'
כח  וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, מַה-שְּׁמֶךָ; וַיֹּאמֶר, יַעֲקֹב.28 And he said unto him: 'What is thy name?' And he said: 'Jacob.'
כט  וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא יַעֲקֹב יֵאָמֵר עוֹד שִׁמְךָ--כִּי, אִם-יִשְׂרָאֵל:  כִּי-שָׂרִיתָ עִם-אֱלֹהִים וְעִם-אֲנָשִׁים, וַתּוּכָל.29 And he said: 'Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed.'
ל  וַיִּשְׁאַל יַעֲקֹב, וַיֹּאמֶר הַגִּידָה-נָּא שְׁמֶךָ, וַיֹּאמֶר, לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי; וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתוֹ, שָׁם.30 And Jacob asked him, and said: 'Tell me, I pray thee, thy name.' And he said: 'Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?' And he blessed him there.

Text 2- Moshe

כד  וַיְהִי בַדֶּרֶךְ, בַּמָּלוֹן; וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁהוּ יְהוָה, וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הֲמִיתוֹ.24 And it came to pass on the way at the lodging-place, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.
כה  וַתִּקַּח צִפֹּרָה צֹר, וַתִּכְרֹת אֶת-עָרְלַת בְּנָהּ, וַתַּגַּע, לְרַגְלָיו; וַתֹּאמֶר, כִּי חֲתַן-דָּמִים אַתָּה לִי.25 Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said: 'Surely a bridegroom of blood art thou to me.'
כו  וַיִּרֶף, מִמֶּנּוּ; אָז, אָמְרָה, חֲתַן דָּמִים, לַמּוּלֹת.  {פ}26 So He let him alone. Then she said: 'A bridegroom of blood in regard of the circumcision.' {P}

This is very obviously not an exact match or parallel, because the wording is not the same. Elokim is the name of God (or the name that connotes the angel) by Yaakov, whereas Shem Havaya is used by Moshe. But if you look at it beyond the text, not as an exact literary parallel or even as an echo, but as an encounter with an angel that is threatening, it's still very interesting.

Similarities between the Encounters   Differences between the Encounters          
*Both Yaakov and Moshe are making their way back to the place they were born from a place where they have stayed-over and acquired a wife (Laban's house/ Yisro's house)

*Both Yaakov and Moshe have their wives and families with them

*In both scenarios, a threatening angel appears

*In both scenarios, the presence of the angel causes something transformative to occur (Yaakov to Yisrael, uncircumcised child to circumcised child)

*In both scenarios, the original object of the attack (Yaakov/ Moshe) departs with their life

*Per the commentaries, each encounter transpires because the protagonist failed to fulfill his responsibilities. Yaakov did not tithe appropriately and Moshe did not circumcise his child when he stopped over at the hotel.
*In Yaakov's case, he is left alone with his family safe on the other side of the river; in Moshe's case, his wife and child are with him

*In one scenario, the angel is only struggling with Yaakov; in the other, the angel desires to kill Moshe

* The first transformation takes place because Yaakov requests a blessing; the second transformation takes place because Tzipporah recognizes this angel can only be appeased by the milah taking place

*However, Yaakov's thigh is harmed (Gid HaNasheh)

What I find very interesting is that the major difference between the encounters seems to occur due to who is accompanying the protagonist. In Yaakov's case, where he is left alone, he struggles with the angel and prevails, but not totally unharmed. His thigh is touched; he is changed. From then on, he limps.

In contrast to this, because Moshe's wife was with him when this encounter occurred, he had someone else upon whom to rely, someone to help him face the foe. Tzipporah's quick-thinking and understanding of why the angel had come allowed her to save her husband's life. Moshe departs totally unscathed.

Perhaps this is the idea of an ezer k'negdo in action; when the wife appears with her husband, she is able to save him. When she is not with him, even if it is for a good reason (Yaakov wanted to protect his wives and children and therefore made sure they were all safely in camp before returning to the other side of the river), he does not have his quick-thinking other half to aid him in discerning what the angel wants and how to disarm it.

Why did the angel touch Yaakov's thigh vs any other part of his body?

I haven't researched this, but I wonder if perhaps it is an allusion to (as the commentators say) the promise that Yaakov had not fulfilled to tithe his property. In Genesis 24:9 we read:

ט  וַיָּשֶׂם הָעֶבֶד אֶת-יָדוֹ, תַּחַת יֶרֶךְ אַבְרָהָם אֲדֹנָיו; וַיִּשָּׁבַע לוֹ, עַל-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה.9 And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.

We generally understand this to mean that the servant swore on a sacred object (in the same way that we take oaths and swear on the Bible), Avraham's milah.

I wonder if perhaps the angel touching Yaakov's thigh was an allusion to promises made and not kept? (Obviously, this doesn't entirely work, because then it would be more appropriate for the angel to have touched Yaakov's milah rather than his thigh).

What I was thinking, though, was that perhaps if Yaakov's wife had been with him, she would have been able to discern the fact that the angel was there because Yaakov had not fulfilled the tithe, could have informed the angel that they would do it right then and perhaps Yaakov's thigh would not have to be harmed. I don't have textual support for this idea, but just thought it might be interesting.