Esav and the New Modern Family

The closest we get to soap opera in Chumash is Esav’s family tree in Bereishis 36, replete with many intimations of incest and other illicit relationships (see Mizrachi 36:2). According to the New York Times, a new modern relational structure is reshaping the way people think about family. It reminded Dr Arnold Lustiger of the escapades of Esav’s progeny. I have to agree.

As the composition of families changes, so too has the notion of who gets a branch on the family tree.
Some families now organize their family tree into two separate histories: genetic and emotional. Some schools, where charting family history has traditionally been a classroom project, are now skipping the exercise altogether.
“You have to be ready to have that conversation about surrogates, sperm donors and same-sex parents if you are going to teach the family tree in the classroom,” Ms. Cohen said.

For the last six years, according to United States census data, there have been more unmarried households than married ones. And more same-sex couples are having children using surrogates or sperm donors or by adoption. The California Cryobank, one of the nation’s largest sperm banks, said that about one-third of its clients in 2009 were lesbian couples, compared with 7 percent a decade earlier. Even birth certificate reporting is catching up. New questions are being phased in nationally on the standard birth certificate questionnaire about whether, and what type of, reproductive technology was used, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the real-life examples that sparked this discussion, you will have to go back to the article. I could try to paraphrase a few of them, but if we are going to spend so much mental energy addressing so much complexity, we might as well learn a few mishnayos in Kinnim instead.

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9 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    I wonder if we’re capable of living in America in sufficient isolation from its escalating societal disintegration.

  2. Raymond says:

    Make no mistake about it: this country is falling apart, from the inside out. It really is ending not with a bang, but a whimper.

  3. Aliyah Now says:

    “I wonder if we’re capable of living in America in sufficient isolation from its escalating societal disintegration.” (Bob Miller)

    “Just open up a Chumash and read and you will see that Ratzon HaShem is that Jews should live in Eretz Yisrael.” (HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, as quoted by Rabbi Shalom Gold in “Eretz Yisrael: The Passion of Our Time,” Viewpoint Magazine Vol.52/No.3)

    Could it be that America’s moral disintegration is a sign from Heaven that Rav Shlomo Zalman’s observation is more compelling than ever? Or will American Jews, — choosing “isolation” in chutz l’Aretz — continue to stubbornly cling to their disintegrating Diaspora instead of letting Rav Shlomo Zalman’s obvious truth fully (and finally) sink in?

  4. H. Newman says:

    The simple meaning of the seemingly contradictory pesukim describing Eisav’s family is that there were multiple people sharing the same names. This is how the Zilberman chadarim teach these Pesukim.

    Oh, and I believe Maseches Kerisos is more relevant, and perhaps even more intricate!

  5. Bob Miller says:


    Rabbi Nachman concluded by saying that it is said that before the Mashiach comes,there will be a flood. It will not be a flood of water, but of immorality. It will cover all the high mountains, even in the Holy Land, where the original flood did not reach. But this time, it will come with such strength that the water will splash over the land. This means that it will have an effect even in virtuous hearts. There will be no way to combat this with sophistication. All the royal ministers will be scattered, and the entire kingdom will not be firm on its foundation. The only ones who will uphold it will be the simple Jews who recite Psalms in simplicity. Therefore, when the Mashiach comes, they will be the ones to place the crown on his
    head”. (Rabbi Nachman’s Stories #21)
    “It will be very difficult to remain firm in faith, and not be misled by everyone’s mistaken beliefs in the pre Messianic era. At that time, many who call themselves religious leaders will preach falsehood. A group like ours, where people gather together, thirsting for G-d’s word, will no longer exist. There will be some truly religious individuals, but they will be very few and far between. Rabbi Nachman then quoted the verse: “Write this as a record in a book” (Exodus 17:14). In days to come let people know that there was someone who already predicted this. Then they will know and be encouraged in their faith”
    (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov [1772-1810], Sichot HaRan 126)

  6. Sender says:

    It’s often said that Judaism and the Torah are on the side of life. Allowing people to have children who couldn’t otherwise do so is a good thing. Unless the act that produced an offspring was one of issur, I can’t see what’s wrong with it.

    As to the complexity, we’ll learn to deal with it. For complexity regarding family trees, it’s hard to outdo Tractate Yevamot. See also the country song, “I’m My Own Grandpa”

  7. Moshe Schorr says:

    I really really fear for America. It was a “Medina shel chesed” for many Jews for many years. But its insistance on embracing and validating “alternate lifestyles” will, I’m afraid, cause it to lose the Divine Protection it had.

    I wonder if there is any corrrolation between the retreat from “Family” and the retreat, on the part of the Administration at least, in support of Israel?

  8. art says:

    Don’t be foolish — Israel has been far ahead of America and most of Europe in legitimizing these lifestyles. It is one of world’s most tolerant countries with regard to zimah and to’eivah, and it is teh land least spritiually hospitabile to them.

    It may be time to become a chossid of the Divrei Yoel of Satmar.

  9. Charlie Hall says:

    “New questions are being phased in nationally on the standard birth certificate questionnaire about whether, and what type of, reproductive technology was used”

    Most of the people I know who have conceived children through assisted reproductive technology are frum Jews. And the power of the Orthodox lobby is so strong in New York that it is now a mandated coverage for all health insurers and is also covered under Medicaid.

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