A billion Chinese can't be wrong

The Chinese translate the word "Judaism" in a unique way taken from this week's Torah reading.

Sivan Rahav-Meir ,

Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-Meir
Eyal ben Ayish

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

How do the Chinese translate the word "Judaism?" This is how they write it in Chinese: 挑筋教. The translation reads: "Religion of the removed sinew." Interesting, instead of calling us "the people of the book" or "the nation that left Egypt," the Chinese define us otherwise.

The origin of this designation is found in this week's Torah portion. Yaakov Avinu wrestles at night with a mysterious figure who gives him the name of Yisrael. This adversary injures the thigh of Yaakov, who becomes lame. Therefore, as it is spelled out in the Torah (Genesis 32:32), from then until today we do not eat this portion, known as the hip sinew.

In other words, a nighttime wrestling match between good and evil, an historical event in which Yaakov receives the name of Yisrael, influences the laws of kashrut and is ultimately associated with the steaks we eat.

Instead of holding a ceremony memorializing Yaakov's struggle with the angel, we endow it with a practical application to our diet. The Chinese definition of Judaism reminds us of something very deep: Judaism survives not only because of beliefs, ideas, or philosophy, but rather because of what we do, including what we eat.

After that, Jacob meets his brother and teaches us another life lesson which Rashi calls "With gentleness":

A mother of several small children wrote me the following concerning this week's Torah portion.

"In parashat Vayishlach, Yaakov Avinu refuses the offer of Esau to proceed together with him, and this is his reason: 'and I will move at my own slow pace, according to the pace of the work before me and according to the pace of the children.'

"Yaakov does not hasten forward in life alongside his brother Esau. This is because Yaakov has his own family to raise, a different world view, and moves at a different pace. When small children are involved, movement is slow. Whoever is responsible for soft and tender youngsters is obligated to advance slowly and proceed with caution.

"In the ancient world there were many types of work that demanded a leisurely approach. For example, working the earth meant that a person would sow, wait, and then just allow nature to take its course. Many other types of work required patience, and the successful person was often the relaxed one, not the harried one.

"In the digital world, there are many kinds of work that demand efficiency and speed and quickness. The successful person is the one who carefully watches the clock in order to shrink the time needed to complete a task. We are used to this and therefore find it difficult to fit ourselves into the rhythm of whoever is slower than us, such as small children. In a world in which it is difficult to wait 20 seconds to download an attachment, it's not easy to wait 5 minutes for a toddler who stubbornly insists he wants to take off his socks and shoes by himself.

"During so many moments of each day, it is as though our child is talking to us without words: 'Abba, Ima, a little slower.' At such moments, it would be worthwhile to be reminded of this verse: 'And I will move at my own slow pace.' When Rashi explains 'at my own slow place' he writes 'with gentleness.'

This is a magical way of moving forward and living and it would be worthwhile to repeat it to ourselves now and again: with gentleness."



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