Parshat Vayishlach

Vayishlach

Scene: Esav’s return after his meeting and reconciliation with his brother Jacob at Peniel, where the two concluded peace after an absence of many years. The strong, bluff, but often obtuse Edomite leader asks for some time alone, while his armed followers move on to Mt. Seir, their stronghold, without him. He offers the following soliloquy.

 

[The following verse is in the style of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), “Locksley Hall” (1842)]

 

Brothers, this has been a day of reconciling; leave me here—

Leave me: I’ve my bow and arrows, and my sword, so, never fear.

Meeting Jacob! I recall how all those many years ago

He had tricked me, ta’en my birthright,

And my father’s boon, also.

How I hated him! But hatred is a dish best served-up hot:

As the years passed, faster, faster

Memories faded—I forgot.

Father Isaac’s God had blessed me! Fruit of earth, and kine of land,

I became a tribal chieftain,

 Troops of men at my command.

Hunting, slaying, feasting, wenching,

All life’s joys before me lay—

While that rascal trickster Jacob

From Mother’s tent had crept away.

Many years passed; who could count them?

(Counting’s not a strength for me.)

Messengers brought word from far off:

“Your brother nears you—come and see!”

I had mixed feelings—should I kill him?

Destroy and burn all he possessed?

Harsh thoughts were flitting through my humours,

Warriors waited on my request.

I drank some wine to help my thinking—

(This habit’s helped me in the past)

I drank again, and took a slave-girl

To reach a proper judgment fast—

Intent in tent, my dilemma I told her,

And fell asleep—the wine was strong—

And dreamed a dream, in which my Gram-

Pa Abe appeared (his beard was long).

 Gramps said, “My Esav—make me proud, Son—

Lay not your hand upon the lad.”

–And vanished. I had questions for him;

His sudden exit made me sad.

I then awoke. (The girl was snoring.)

I rose, splashed water on my face,

And left my tent: the sun was shining,

Like a runner glad to start his race.

I called my men: they gathered ‘round me,

And told them my plans to compel

A peace with Brother Jacob, starting

In the place called Peniel.

 David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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