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Did the Torah’s Patriarchs Follow Jewish Law?

Xtranormal has helped users create close to 10 million projects by turning their words into funny animated movies. User “krumbagel” has created a hilarious Xtranormal animation that successfully (and humorously) critiques the ultra-Orthodox notion that the Avot (patriarchs) in the Torah not only followed the Halachah (Jewish law) as outlined in the Torah, but even observed the mitzvot (commandments) that were set forth by the sages thousands of years later through the debates of the Talmud and the explanations of the Mishnah Berurah.

The video begins with the yeshivah bucher asking, “Can I say over a vort that I heard by my rebbe’s house last Shabbos?” His interlocutor challenges him when he claims that, in the Torah, Jacob gave his brother Esau bread with the red lentl stew because there is a debate in the Talmud as to which blessing one says before eating lentls, and thus Jacob gave Esau the bread so he would perform the ritual hand-washing(!) and say Hamotzi (the blessing over the bread) without worrying if he was uttering the correct blessing.

I enjoy a fanciful midrash (homiletical explication of the text), but find it problematic when later rabbinic rulings of Jewish law are applied to the actions of the characters in the Torah’s narrative. A great example of this is when I was putting my first-grade son to bed a few weeks ago on a Friday night. It’s long been my custom to tell a Torah story to my children on Friday nights during our bedtime ritual. I was talking about the differences between the twin brothers Jacob and Esau when my son interrupted to tell me that his teacher at school taught him that Esau was bad because he would hunt and kill animals that weren’t kosher. Really?! When I asked my son how it would have been possible for Esau to know which animals were kosher, he just shot me a blank stare. Oh well!

Anyway, here’s krumbagel’s video:

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |