12/27/2007

Esav's Head

There's a famous Midrash  (Bereishit Rabbah 97:21) on Parshat Vayechi that when the brothers came to bury Yaakov at the Me'arat ha-Machpela, Esav barred their entry, claiming the site belonged to him. As the fleet-footed Naphtali ran back to Egypt for the deed, Dan's deaf son, Chushim, saw the fight and intuited that Esav was the bad guy, and so chopped of his great uncle's head. The Midrash continues that Esav's head rolled onto Yaakov's bier. Thus, Rivkah's prophecy that she would be bereft of both of her sons on the same day was fulfilled.

A few years ago, I visited Me'arat ha-Machpela. It was a Chol ha-Mo'ed, so the place was a mob scene. At one point, in one of the halls, I was a bunch of people gathered around a small structure. I was curious. I got in line, and when I got close enough, I saw that it was just a small opening where you could see and smell down into the cave. It was pure rubbernecking - one person must have thought it looked interesting, so a crowd developed.

As I was walking away from that spot, somebody stopped me and asked me what was over there. I told him it was the marker for where Esav's head it buried. I thought the guy would laugh, as I intended it as a joke, but no. He thought I was dead serious. Far be it from me to burst his bubble; he seemed fascinated.

So why bring this up now? Aside from being related to last week's parsha, it seems that cruel practical jokes relating to fictitious graves has hit the news. It's pretty funny, too. I would daven at 'Kever Unkelos ha-Ger' (who knew that he was a Vizhnitzer?) just to appeal to God's sense of humor.

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