The Encounter: A Biblical Vampire Tale
November 12, 2017

By Rabbi Royi Shaffin

Based on the film “Interview With The Vampire”, Parashat Toldot, and Parashat Vayishlach.
A skilled hunter, he went out into the field to hunt game. He expected this to be an easy catch, but was not prepared for what awaited him in the middle of the field behind trees and bushes, an ambush.
This was no ordinary ambush. Esau was seized by two powerful arms with hands as powerful as metal clamps. The face before him was pale, lifeless, and apathetic to his fear. Esau trembled. Never before had he, as strong and athletic as he was, been so easily overpowered by another person. He wondered if he was indeed in the presence of a human being or some other creature. The eyes had no color but were entirely black and his face had the expression of a carnivorous animal on the hunt. The face of the creature had the color of a man on his death bed. It was an odd and disconcerting sight.
Yet, this creature was far from dead. It moved toward him and opened its mouth. The front of the mouth contained large, shiny, sharp white fangs. They were a beautiful pearly white except for a few spots of red upon them. The creature closed its mouth upon Esau’s bare neck and Esau fell to the ground. He could feel the blood dripping from the side of his neck.
The creature came down upon Esau and placed his mouth upon Esau’s wound. He sucked on the blood and then sucked blood out of Esau’s body. Esau grew weaker and weaker and every time he tried to get up, the creature kept him down easily with his enormous power.
On the brink of death, Esau cried for his father. “Isaac,” he cried out. Then he called out, “God of my father Isaac and my grandfather Abraham, please help me.” Frightened, the creature withdrew his mouth from Esau. He stood up and observed his victim, close to death.
“You will not die,” the creature spoke, “for you are the son of prophets.  You should have been protected from me but your deeds must have diminished the power and shield of prophecy with which you were born. You must have done evil in the eyes of God. Nevertheless, you will not die. I cannot make you live either. You will be one like me, a man who exists in a different realm of existence in between life and death. Just as you were born a hairy wild animal, so will you continue to hunt and devour prey. Just as you have spilled blood, so will you continue to thirst for blood.”
Esau fell into a deep sleep. When he awoke, he felt like he was no longer himself. His sight had changed. It was sharper and he was better able to perceive spiritual beings from the other world. He was now one of them. He had not only gained back his strength but doubled it or perhaps even tripped it. Yet, he did not feel alive.
Esau returned home from the field. He was famished. He did not crave food, but blood.
Jacob was preparing his brew in his caldron and concocting his plot. Looking into his book for direction, ingredients went into the pot one by one.
“Are you going to give me some of that blood or aren’t you?” Esau screamed at Jacob.
“It isn’t for you,” answered Jacob. “It is a potion. It does contain blood so you are not permitted to eat it. Remember the laws of Noah.”
“They no longer apply to me. I am no longer among the living,” Esau replied.
Jacob thought for a moment. “I will give it to you in exchange for the birthright.”
“I am half-dead,” said Esau. “What use is the birthright to me now?”
“Swear!” Jacob insisted.
Esau placed his hand on his chest and swore.
Jacob took his ladle and scooped up some of his concoction into a bowl for Esau.
Esau placed his spoon inside the bowl and scooped out the adashim, the cows eye balls that Jacob had placed inside.
Esau ate and slurped the bloody concoction. He was satisfied. He left without saying another word.
Years later, the brothers met again as Jacob was returning home. Jacob had fled from his brother’s wrath for he felt that his life was in danger. Indeed it was.
As he was returning, Esau came toward him with hundreds of troops. Jacob sent gifts of livestock in front of him to appease his angry brother. His brother met him and it appeared as if he was going to kiss him on the cheek. As Esau got closer, however, two fangs appeared and pierced through Jacob’s cheek. Esau moved away quickly. He knew that Jacob was off limits but Jacob understood the meaning of what had just happened. He knew that he and Esau could never live together again and he must move as far away from Esau as possible. Esau hungered for blood. His brother, Esau, was a vampire.

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WISDOM FROM THE SOURCE: There Are Angels Among Us     
May 14, 2017

By Royi Shaffin

Originally published in “City Beat Magazine”.

There are angels among us

They are inconspicuous
They do not call attention to themselves
But they are there nonetheless
There are angels among us
They help us out when we are carrying huge loads by ourselves
They save us when we are in danger
They show us the way home when we are lost
They speak words of comfort when we are distressed
There are angels among us
They might not have wings
At least not that are visible to us
They do not necessarily have halos
But they walk among us
They bring light where there is darkness
Hope when there is none
Faith to those who find it hard to believe
There are angels among us
They are black
They are white
They are brown
The next time someone comes out of nowhere to help you
Your prayers are answered through a stranger
You sit next to someone on the bus who just seems to illuminate the world
Look closely and remember
There are angels among us
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Murder At The Hair Salon
October 10, 2016

Rabbi Royi Shaffin

Meir was feeling hot and heavy during the summer months as his hair and beard grew and grew and he didn’t bother to get a haircut and beard trim.  Some said that it was for religious reasons because of the various Jewish periods of mourning at this time and others declared him simply lazy.  Whatever his reason, his family and friends finally got to him.  The young strapping lad, a student of the great Sages of Judea, walked into the Roman hair salon to get a haircut and beard trim. His teachers in the Academy had warned him not to go to the Romans, but he thought that this was stupid.  The rabbis only said this, he thought, because they did not want to give business to the occupiers- the ones subduing Judea. 

He sat down in the chair and asked for a haircut and a beard trim.  Of course, he mentioned that the beard should only be trimmed and the razor should not actually touch the skin, a prohibition from the holy Torah.  The barber took out his scissors and started to cut one inch, two inches, perfect.  Then came time for the beard trim.  Snip, snip…and then underneath the beard, the part that it is permitted to shave close to the skin according to the scriptures, to make it nice and straight and presentable to both Jews and Romans – wherever Meir may travel.  The barber took out the straight edge razor and started to scrape off the hair.  Up and down went the razor, hair coming off at every stroke and then… there was a change…all off a sudden, the razor did not go up and down but rather from side to side upon Meir’s bare neck.  The blood came gushing out. 

Meir toppled over from his seat into the clumps of blood stained hair on the floor.  The barber looked down on the floor at his victim, then at his fellow barbers.  They smiled at each other, left the body on the floor, and went on to the next clients.

While the story I just told is gruesome and terrible, it is nevertheless a true story – a depiction and imagined circumstances of events which really took place –  and it is the reason why Tractate Avoda Zara of the Talmud forbids Jews from getting hair cuts from non-Jewish barbers. 

You may point out that today you see many religious Jews going into regular salons and getting haircuts.  Yes, that is because the prohibition no longer applies in our society…and that is the point.

In this week’s Torah portion, VaEtchanan, we find the Ten Commandments.  One of these commandments is:

“LO TIRTZACH”

“THOU SHALT NOT MURDER”

The idea that murder is wrong – that one may not make sport of a fellow human being and that bloodshed is gruesome has spread from the Ten Commandments – from Judaism to Christianity to Islam – to the entire world.  Today, everyone knows that it is wrong to kill someone…but imagine a world without Christians, without Muslims, without anyone else besides the small Jewish people who believe in one God – God who demands and commands justice and morality.  This was the world that once existed and to fully understand Judaism’s enormous impact on the world and on human civilization all one has to do is go ahead and get a haircut at a local Supercuts.

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