The Kiss of Dot
In the English language, we have italics, either to draw attention to or to
hint at an otherwise homonymic meaning. Sometimes, a word is placed in
bold face or ensconced in quotation marks to achieve the same end. The
Torah, on the other hand, seldom has extraneous enhancements of its
words. Instead, in rare occasions, it leaves out letters, hinting to the
On even rarer occasions, the Torah adds symbols, tiny ones, dots placed
above the word. They tell us to look deeper, to search beyond the
words. And this week, in the narrative detailing the encounter between
Yaakov and his brother Esav, the Torah uses those dots.
They appear during an emotional encounter, Yaakov lifting his eyes and
seeing "Esau was coming, and with him were four hundred men. Fear and
trepidation seized him as he positioned the women and children in
safety. Then he himself went on ahead of them and bowed earthward seven
times until he reached his brother" (Genesis 33:2). The Torah tells us
that Yaakov's fears seemed to be tenuous. "Esau ran toward him, embraced
him, fell upon his neck, and he kissed him; then they wept."
The word that means "and he kissed him" has small dots above it. It means
that there is some something going on, in this case above the kiss.
Rashi quotes various opinions in the Medrash, each stating its
interpretation of the dots. The Medrash tells us a fascinating reason for
the dots. Esav's intent was to bite Yaakov on the neck, miraculously
Yaakov's neck hardened and the pain in Esav's teeth caused him to cry.
But, if that is the case, why does the Torah highlight the word, "and he
kissed him" with dots? Let it just say and he tried to bite him. Just
state what happened!
After the Munich Conference had ended on September 30, 1938, English Prime
Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact with German leader
Adolf Hitler. The pact acceded to Hitler’s demands for cession of the
Sudetenland, a German-speaking region of Czechoslovakia, to Germany.
Chamberlain was excited. He returned to England and on the steps of 10
Downing Street declared, "This morning I had another talk with the German
Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon
it as well as mine." Shouts of excitement erupted from the gathered crowd.
To the cheering crowd he read the statement.
"We, the German Führer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have
had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question
of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries
and for Europe.
"We regard the agreement signed last night, and the Anglo-German Naval
Agreement, as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war
with one another again."
Wild cheers broke out, the crowd reiterating the last syllables of the
Prime Minister's statement. Chamberlain continued. "We are resolved that
the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any
other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined
to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus
to contribute to assure the peace of Europe."
He ended his short statement with the following words that would haunt him
and his memory until this day.
"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime
Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it
is peace for our time... Go home and get a nice quiet sleep."
Eleven months later, England was thrust into its bloodiest war, with the
partner that was to bring "peace with honor."
Perhaps, in its cryptic coding, the Torah is telling us a message for
eternity. The kiss, the pact, the embrace and even the handshake of our
enemy, must be looked upon with dire caution. Behind the ultimate kiss may
lay the desire to bite. And though he ends up kissing you, you may never
know what his original intent was and what made him change his mind. Esav
kissed Yaakov, but his intent to harm was changed ; all Yaakov felt was a
kiss. But the Torah warns us to watch the dots. Because the kiss of dot
may just be the kiss of death.
Dedicated by Drs. Irving and Vivian Skolnick in honor of the 15th Wedding
Anniversary of Dr. Blair and Andrea Tuttie Skolnick 15 Kislev
Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.
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