Original Pods

As we emerge from Covid I have been thinking about the long term psychological impact of what did to survive this medical ordeal. One of the more interesting thing we did was to pod. The practice of podding involves one or more households getting together in-person regularly at each other’s homes for small educational groups with agreed-upon measures to try and manage COVID-19 exposure risks. Pods are mostly considered for elementary-age children to preserve social benefits and mitigate risk.

I was thinking about podding this week when reading the end of Vayeitzei, this week’s Torah portion. Yaakov is on his way to reconnect with his estranged brother Esav. There we read: When he saw them, Yaakov said, “This is God’s camp.” So he named that place Machanayim.”  (Genesis 32:2)

The commentators note that the correct grammatical form of multiple camps is machanot, rather than machanayim, and wonder what we can learn from this differing conjugation in the text. Rashi explains that Yaakov uses the word machanayim to signify two different types of camps, one outside the land of Israel and one within it. Others believe it references a “pair of connected camps.”

This foreshadows what we will see in next week’s Torah portion. There we read:

Yaakov was greatly frightened; in his anxiety, he divided the people with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, the other camp may yet escape.

Genesis 32:8-9

So why two camps? In many ways Yaakov was trying to move forward and mitigate his exposure to risk in confronting his brother. In the end his fear of Esav was misguided. It turned out there was no physical risks. It is interesting to see how this division into two camps might have seeded the division between his children and eventually the tribes. Similar to the long term impact of Covid- while podding might save us physically, we need to keep our eye on the our psychological wellbeing.


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