Hey, Aaron: I've been thinking about the Torah portion, Toldot, which tells the story of Jacob and Esau, two brothers who are destined from the womb to be perceived in a certain way. Esau: the hunter (read: bad guy). Jacob: the scholar (read: good guy). How did the preconceived notions affect their actual lives? Is there something in here about breaking out of preconceived notions of ourselves or others? Let me know what you think. --Shira
Hi Shira- I am really excited for Friday night, and I think there is definitely something here about preconceived notions of ourselves and where we get them from. Especially when we look at who Esau marries at the end of the Torah portion. "Esau realized that the Canaanite women displeased his father Isaac. So Esau went to Ishmael and took to wife…” Seriously- the only thing it seems Esau looked for in a spouse was someone that would his dad happy. That’s kind of crazy, right? Esau has me wondering- How much of our lives are determined by other people’s expectations of us? Whose expectations are we living out? How much should we let other people’s expectations of our lives dictate the decisions we make? --Aaron
Hey, Aaron: First of all, you have to check out this study. Yes, it’s incredibly sexist. (Chalk it up to “things a female rabbi can say but a male rabbi can’t.”) But it makes clear that we’re affected by other people’s expectations, whether we like it or not. Sometimes we can extricate ourselves (see this amazing Facebook post by Elizabeth Gilbert about “tribal shaming”), but not always. Nor, perhaps, do we even want to separate ourselves from our family, community, role models. The iconic image of the American cowboy going at it alone strikes me as lonely and even dangerous. --Shira
Haha! I'm glad you found that first study and not me. Do you think I could get away with describing it from the bima? Science based on rating women's attractiveness on a scale of 1-10- not offensive at all, right? :)
Thinking about that study though, there is definitely something pervasive about how we respond to other people's expectations of us- not just our tribes of origin. Esau seems to wrestle with others' expectations his entire life. I know it's not in this week's parasha, but Esau wasn't just worried about his parents' expectations. He spends most of his adulthood roaming the countryside with this rough-and-tumble band of soldiers (think Sons of Anarchy). I'm trying to imagine what kind of person did they expected him to be. What's the opposite of "mensch"?