In parashat Vayishlach, Jacob sees Esau after many years of
estrangement. On the surface, the text states
that the two make up. But a closer look leaves the reader unclear as to how things are left between the two brothers – The
Hebrew word saying that they embraced, vayishakehu, is famously marked, leading many commentators to ask if this was a hug of love or an embittered entanglement, not so unlike the angel (God?)
with whom Jacob wrestled earlier in the parsha. This reconciliation is further questioned when Jacob ultimately does not continue to journey with his brother, heading instead in the opposite direction.
Later, Rachel gives birth to her second, and ultimately youngest, child. Rachel dies in childbirth, but not before she has a chance to name him Ben-oni, son of my suffering. Jacob, however, calls him Ben-yamin, son of my right hand, perhaps, as is taught in “The Torah: A Women’s Commentary,” challenging Rachel’s perception that her life was futile. (more…)