Deception and Compassion

I have not finished writing the part of my book about Isaac’s blessings of his two sons, deceitful Jacob and straightforward Esau.  I realized that deception occurs throughout the book of Genesis, and deserves special treatment.  So I rewrote the questions I am addressing in my book on moral psychology in Genesis, and now deception gets its own heading.  So does controlling others, an important though less frequent theme.

In another day or two I expect to finish rewriting essays in earlier chapters of my book to reflect my new focus.  Then I can dive back into discussing both deception and control in the Torah portion Toledot, where I left old, blind Isaac struggling to give the right blessings.

Meanwhile, this week’s Torah reading is the portion Vayigash, which opens with Judah stepping forward to offer himself as a slave to the viceroy of Egypt in place of his little brother Benjamin.  The viceroy is actually their brother Joseph, who has been deceiving them…  You can read about it here: Vayigash: Compassion.

It’s one of my earliest blog posts, and in it I point out that although compassion is neither necessary nor sufficient for ethical behavior, the feeling of compassion does sometimes move people to step outside their usual habits and act with more kindness or generosity.

I pray that in the year 2021 all of us will be open to compassion.

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