Vayishlach: Something to Notice

The following excerpt, based in part on this week’s portion, is from “Godwrestling: Jacob and Esau,” the first chapter in Arthur Waskow‘s 1978 book, Godwrestling.*

I first learned of Fabrangen** through this book, recommended by Chuck Fager, a Quaker writer who thought Fabrangen had some things in common with unprogrammed Friends. More than a decade after joining Fabrangen in real life, I now find that Arthur’s words capture an aspect of my own experience: “My deepest learning was precisely the process of wrestling itself, not particular conclusions,” and, although I don’t generally write about Fabrangen — or Temple Micah or the Jewish Study Center, I do struggle with how and where to include fellow Godwrestlers in writing they might not necessarily endorse.***

I think this excerpt, and this weekly portion, offer a great reminder for each of us to take note of those who struggle with us to glimpse the “outlines of God’s Face”:

I was learning to grapple with Torah in the midst of a community of Jews….

The community of Jews was, is, called Fabrangen* — the Yiddish for “coming together.” In it people come together around the effort, the hope–sometimes bright, sometimes flickering–to create a modern path of life that draws authentically from Jewish tradition but is expressed in new ways… (pp. 2-3)

We have no rabbi and no rebbe….

From our many different life experiences, we wrestle with each other. And we wrestle with Torah and all of Jewish tradition…. (p.4)

By telling stories about Fabrangen I give Fabrangen a shape. Because the stories are my stories, the shape Fabrangen takes on is, of necessity, the shape I see…

Perhaps I could avoid this problem by simply writing down the result of the process….Leave Fabrangen to an honorable footnote. But that would be unfaithful to my sense that my deepest learning was precisely the process of wrestling itself, not particular conclusions.

…for now this is one of the many struggles in which we are still straining our eyes in the dark before daybreak, straining to see —

…I welcome wrestling partners to this book. Together may we be able to begin to see the outlines of God’s Face. And of each other’s. (p.12)
— from Godwrestling, Arthur Waskow. NY: Schocken, 1978.

* I believe the 1978 version is out of print. A later edition, God Wrestling-Round 2: Ancient Wisdom, Future Paths, was published in 1998.

** “Farbrangen” is a Yiddish word that means “coming together,” as for a meeting. “Fabrangen” — with no “r” — is the name of a Washington, DC, havurah founded in 1971 and focusing on “coming together in joy.” The name might have been a simple misspelling, the result of translating a Bostoner’s pronunciation, or an indication that Fabrangen has no rabbi.

** Now, footnotes — endangered species though they be — are actually among the most exciting spots in some reading material….Did you ever notice, for example, the footnote in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Grammar that begins “Compare the joke”? (I’ve hit the jackpot and he wants to give me lessons) [hypernote]

The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.

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Virginia hosts "Conversations Toward Repair" on We Act Radio, manages, blogs on general stuff a and more Jewish topics at and

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