In this week's Bible portion, Jacob actually wrestles an angel, and suffers only a hip injury, but reconciles with his long-lost brother, and then stops making deals with overly-shrewd foreign tribes.
Yup, that's right. He actually wrestles with an angel, and his name is formally changed from Jacob to Israel, in recognition of the fact that he can throw it down with both human and divine beings and live to tell the tale. Not bad for the younger brother who stole what belonged to his older brother.
But even more striking than an encounter with someone even more feared than an MMA fighter, was his encounter with an old nemesis. He all but apologized to Esau, and presented him with a huge amount of livestock to gain his favor. Esau was more than willing to turn it down, and let bygones be bygones, but Israel insisted that he accept the gift, which he did.
But then when Israel is setting up camp in Schechem, a Canaanite town, the son of a king rapes his daughter. He and his father BS about it, claiming that he wants to marry her. Knowing full well what happened, Israel and his 12 sons explain that the Schechemites would all need to be circumcised in order for the wedding to happen. So after they do, they slaughter them all and rescue their sister. Israel was not happy with this, thinking he's now got a bad reputation, but his sons tell him that they did it for their sister's honor.
Looks like a major shift, huh? The trend is now broken! Now that Jacob came face to face with a divine being, he's changed his tune. Instead of continuing the deception of the past, he successfully reconciled with his duped brother. And his sons? They not only supported each other, but they came in like heroes to rescue their sister and to execute justice against those who raped her and refused to take responsibility for it. This is the first time in Genesis we see an example of chivalry! And yeah, they did BS the Schechemites so they wouldn't expect consequences, but if that wasn't justified, I don't know what is! Although I didn't touch upon it so much in the prior summaries, Abraham and Jacob had prior dealings with shady characters of foreign nations. But this time the 12 sons of Israel showed them that the dealing was done!
My take is as follows: Just because someone who came before you "always did it this way," that doesn't mean you're stuck with doing likewise. If it's not working, and there's a way to do it differently, by all means do it! Instead of deceiving people and keeping your ill-gotten gains, reconcile with them and offer to make restitution. Instead of treating women like possessions to bargain over, stand up for them and punish those who dishonor them!
"The system" is not always right just because it's "the system." Granted, you may not be in the best position to make changes yourself, but you can at least make your case for why it can and should change. Don't just march in lockstep if it's not right to do so. Where would we all be if Israel & Sons hadn't made this shift, and started to demonstrate a little bit of decency? Finally some responsibility and some honor -- borrow some for yourselves, k?
I EXIST. I MATTER. I BELONG. I DESERVE.