Below is a collection of Parashat Vayishlah resources created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
This is a growing collection. Check back soon or write to us at email@example.com if you didn’t find what you’re looking for.
DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Question #1: What is the power of a name? Are you called different names, by your parents, friends, or teammates? What’s the significance of these differences? Before Jacob’s fateful meeting with Esau, he battles with a man. Despite being injured, Jacob wins the battle and the man changes his name from Jacob to Israel. These names will be used interchangeably throughout the Torah, but each comes with its own meaning. What do you think the significance of these different names is?
Look inside the text (Bereshit 32:28-30),
וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו מַה שְּׁמֶךָ וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב – He said to him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Jacob.”
וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא יַעֲקֹב יֵאָמֵר עוֹד שִׁמְךָ כִּי אִם יִשְׂרָאֵל – He said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel”
וַיִּשְׁאַל יַעֲקֹב וַיֹּאמֶר הַגִּידָה נָּא שְׁמֶךָ וַיֹּאמֶר לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתוֹ שָׁם – Jacob asked, “Please, tell me your name.” But he said, “You must not ask my name!” And he left him there.
Question #2: Nowadays, so much information is shared on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media. If publicizing an event can cause pain and embarrassment, is it better to keep silent? How do you balance wanting to share news and also being sensitive? In Parashat Vayishlah, we read about the death of Rebecca’s nurse; the place she was buried was called “the tree of cries” (plural). The commentators were puzzled about the inclusion of this detail, and why there would be so much crying over the death of an elderly nursemaid. The commentators Rashi (and Maimonides) cite a Midrash that Rebecca also died at this time and the tears were for her. But the text did not mention it because people would have spoken badly of her as the mother of Esau.
Look inside the text (Bereshit 35:8),
וַתָּמָת דְּבֹרָה מֵינֶקֶת רִבְקָה וַתִּקָּבֵר מִתַּחַת לְבֵית אֵל תַּחַת הָאַלּוֹן וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ אַלּוֹן בָּכוּת – Deborah, Rebecca’s nurse, died, and was buried under the oak below Bet El; so it was named Alon Becut
Question #3: The Torah describes that Reuben slept with his father’s concubine, Bilhah. Jacob doesn’t react immediately, but years later, when giving blessings to his sons, Jacob cites this as a key reason that Reuben lost his prominent role as the leading son. Most children, at some point, will do things that anger, embarrass, or harm their parents. Is there a red line that, if crossed, makes it appropriate for a parent to disown a child? Should a parent support their child even if s/he turns out to be an abuser, a thief, or worse? Where do we draw those red lines – ethically lines, ideologically, religiously? How do we manage relationships between parents and children while encouraging children to become independent adults who will make their own decisions?
Question #4: Following the decimation of the city of Shechem by Simon and Levi there is a debate between them and Jacob. Jacob, the statesman, was outraged by their actions while they, as idealistic activists, defended it. Similar debates have been held throughout history between young idealists and seasoned diplomats, sometimes resulting in important and successful social revolutions and other times resulting in disaster. How does one judge the “correctness” of a revolutionary movement?
LESSON PLANS AND ARTICLES
Perspectives on the Avot and Imahot – This article analyzes the correct approach to take with students when presenting Biblical figures to our students.
Face to Face: An Exercise in Theme Words – This article reviews some theme words that appear in the story of Jacob and Esau’s meeting that takes place in Parashat Vayishlah.