v’yeeshlahh – Yaaqov becomes Yisrael

In order for him to fulfill his archetypal role as a person’s grabbing at what comes around so as to investigate, Yaaqov1 took from Esau2 (his patrolling experience, grabbing at things noticed in being stirred up by them) the first thing that Esau’s hunting acquired from experience. Esau’s birthright, from the root BaKhaR (בכר) which means to well up first, symbolized this first thing. In order for Yaaqov to further his role as investigator of experience, it also became necessary for him to excel (in his ability to investigate things) while subduing the distractions coming forth from Esau, in his taking notice of any stirring thing. To achieve that, he took for himself the blessing of his father. Since the verb /aBhaH (אבה), the source of the word father (/aBh – אב), means to give forth of oneself in Hebrew and to take notice of things in Arabic, allegorically the blessing of his father means the excelling of his taking notice of things (in giving forth to experience). Later in parshat v’yaetsae, Yaaqov acknowledges that G-d’s bringing forth of existence (YHWH) and G-d’s Guidance being presented in experience (Elohim) can be seen in the place. The word maqom (מקום), meaning place, represents all places and all situations. Since G-d’s guidance suffuses everything, even what sticks out prominently in experience is too complex to process (the stone was large upon the mouth of the well).3 Therefore, he learns from Lavan4 how to stratify the things in experience that are prodding and how to remain firm with what sticks out in experience most prominently.

Having learned to prioritize what is encountered in experience, Yaaqov is ready to deal with Esau, his patrolling experience and grabbing at things noticed in being stirred up by them. Yaaqov sends forth messengers to Esau to act as probes that engage with the many things that Esau sees. He tells them to relay to Esau: “There is to me oxen (being of fixed sights) and donkey (an ability to conscientiously load up details), flocks (consideration of experience) and servants (an ability to devote attention) and maid servants (an ability to spread out-pour forth into experience).”5 The purported reason for these things is: למצא חן בעיניך  “to find grace in your eyes.” But since the word HhaeN (חן – grace, favor, charm) literally means presence, allegorically he was seeking to establish a mental presence (with experience) through his eyeings or making of observations. Not surprisingly, his patrolling experience and grabbing at things noticed in being stirred up by them (Esau) approaches him with an overwhelming amount of things represented by four hundred men. And Yaaqov is very afraid.

Twice in close proximity to each other, the text indicates that Yaaqov (and those with him) were divided into two camps. The first time this is suggested after Yaaqov leaves Lavan at MaHhaNaiM (מחנים, two camps) and not much later just before encountering Esau, Yaaqov divides into two camps. The word for camp, (MaHhaNeH – מחנה), represents presence. Etymologically, it can be found between the words HaeN (הן – here) and HhaNaN (חנן – to deal with graciously, gracefully, be charming). Allegorically, it refers to a person’s ability to be attentive to and mentally present with experience. In both cases, the two camps represent not two separate places, but rather attending mindfully to the same experience in two different ways, with two different mental orientations. One part of his attention would be allowed to take notice of stirring things (Esau), while another part of his attention would be available to do more in depth investigation (Yaaqov).

Yaaqov prepares a gift for Esau and puts each drove (\edeR – עדר) into the hands of his servants, into the reach of his devoting attention to experience.6 The word \edeR (עדר) means sequestered grouping. Each one represents a repository for the information attained from experience through the actions of his servants, his acts of devoting attention to experience. In order to avoid becoming distracted by or overwhelmed by too much information, Yaaqov makes clear that there needs to be distance (ReWaHh – רוח) between each one. Concerned that the method represented by Esau will intrude and interrupt him, the distance placed between each drove enables Yaaqov to process experience one piece at a time, so as to preclude Esau’s frantic nature from undermining him.

Later that night, after Yaaqov has lodged in the camp, lodged into the act of attending to experience, he gets up so as to cross over the banks of the river Yaboq. Although, the etymology of the word Yaboq (יבק) is not at all certain, it likely comes from the root BaQaH (בקה) suggesting the existence of deep holes within the river. However, the Yaboq also represents his deep search of experience given that this root also means to get deeply into something and to search deeply. After passing those that were with him across the river, the text says that Yaaqov remained by himself. This niphal form of the verb YaTaR (יתר) not only means remain, but also means in excess. From the fact that the piel form can mean “to do in excess” can be inferred that in his role as a person’s grabbing at what comes around so as to investigate, he was performing to excess.

It is at this point, when he was excessively investigating experience that he was becoming entangled (wresting) with a man. The word /eeSh (איש – man) initially meant husband. Since it literally means one who persists, it is used allegorically to refer to a person’s being mentally persistent with experience.7 Yaaqov and his ability to be mentally persistent with the many things in experience with which he intends to investigate had become entangled, until the ascending of dawn or the breaking through of light.8 However, Yaaqov’s ability to be mentally persistent was seeing that it could not prevail and so it was striking upon the underside of his thigh such that the underside of the thigh of Yaaqov was becoming spasmed. The word KaPh (כף) means underside and palm, but its associated verb means to force and compel. The word for thigh, YeReKh (ירך) comes from the word /aRaKh (ארך) meaning long, prolong and enduring. The word TaQa\ (תקע), meaning to spasm, is more often used to mean to thrust forward and to fasten. Because Yaaqov’s ability to be mentally persistent was unable to prevail, it became necessary for him to thrust forward and fasten (make permanent) the force of the endurance of his ability to make an investigation. In so doing, he became able to fully investigate the many things that were advancing forward in experience. Since each character’s name indicates an archetypal ability, this augmentation of his ability necessitated a name change. The text says: כי שרית עם אלהים ועם אנשים ותוכל “Because you have wrestled-fixed (ever presently) with Elohim (G-d’s guidance being presented in experience)9 and (ever present) with men (many acts of apply oneself in experience) and you were prevailing-capable.10 The verb used here for wrestle is entirely different than the one used earlier in the story. This word SaRaH (שרה) means to fix on something physically, as in wrestle, or visually, as in SaR (שר) an overseer. This is related to the words ShoWR (שור – (to hold firmly in one’s sights) to get a fix on (to see)), ShaRaR (שׁרר – (to hold firm in intention / direction) to direct (Jb37:3)) and ShaRiR (שׁריר – (to hold firm) muscle (Jb40:16)). So although on the peshat, Yisrael means “one who wrestles with G-d,” allegorically it means “one’s visually fixing on the many things of G-d’s advancing forward experience.” Yaaqov was calling the place where this occurred P’ni’ael (פניאל) “the many faces or presentations of G-d’s advancing forward experience.”

Now that Yaaqov was seeing the many presentations of G-d’s bringing forth of experience, the archetype represented by Esau – his patrolling experience and grabbing at things noticed in being stirred up by them – must come in to him. Yaaqov says the same when he tells Esau: ראיתי פניך כראות פני אלהים “I have seen your face as the seeing of the face of Elohim” or allegorically “I have seen the many things being presented by you as the seeing of the many things being presented by G-d’s guidance found in experience.”

After much discussion about receiving gifts and exchanging possessions, signifying an exchanging of things encountered by each of their methods of acquiring from experience, Esau returns to Sae\ir, his taking notice of stirring things. And Yaaqov moves on to Sukkot. The sukkot, or thatched huts, that he built were named for the s’khakh (סכך – thatching) material used to make its roof. However, the etymologically unrelated verb SaKaH (סכה) means to look out and gaze, to hope for and to foresee. This implies that Yaaqov had acquired the ability to see the future possibilities intrinsic in experience. Thereafter, Yaaqov was coming in shalaem, complete, the city of Shekhem (שכם), indicating that he had completed his task of investigating experience. The noun shekhem means shoulder. Although the verb is readily translated as “to awaken early,” it also means “to shoulder something, to make an effort, to prepare and to venture forth,” indicating that he was ready to make preparations to venture forth so as to engage with something in experience.

Allegorically, Yaaqov stands poised to make a decision about which particular thing in experience should be engaged. To this end, his daughter Dina (דינה)11 – his ability to form an opinion based on contemplation – goes out to look at the many possible ways of endeavoring (daughters)12 into experience. However, Shekhem, his making preparations to venture forth with a particular thing, is overzealous. Before any contemplation occurs, in his excitement, he overwhelms it (rape of Dina). He asks his father, Hhamor the Hhivite, whose responsibility it is to conscientiously load up on the details (HhaMoR – חמר) and point the way (Hhivi, חוה > חוי), to give some direction. But when Yaaqov’s sons (behaviors)12 come in “the men were tormenting themselves.” Allegorically this means that the acts of applying oneself in experience (אנשים – men) were wrangling with one another. “They were very incited because a disgraceful performance had been done with Yisrael,” a person’s ability to visually fixate upon the many things advancing forward in experience.13 So Hhamor (חמור), his conscientiously loading up on the details of a particular thing, suggests that the families enter into a relationship of marriage. In the Tanakh, the word to get married (hitChaTaeN – התחתן) occurs between male members of two families. The word evolved from ChaTaM (חתם), to seal a contract, and also implies pressing down and subduing. Therefore, the suggestion is for Yaaqov’s many behaviors of grabbing at what comes around so as to investigate to be subdued so that a decision can be made, in order for the person to venture forth with a particular activity (Shekhem).

Yaaqov and his sons propose אם תהיו כמנו להמל לכם כל זכר “If you were to be as us, to be circumcised for yourselves, each male.” The word to be circumcised (hiMoL – המול) is the niphil form of the verb MuL (מול) meaning to make a frayed edge. Were the verb MaLaL (מלל – to engage in conversation) to have a niphil form it would be the same. The word ZaKhaR (זכר) means male because it literally means “what is readily clear or clearly manifest,” for obvious reasons. So Yaaqov’s solution for them was that they too should engage each and every thing that is clearly manifest in experience, before venturing forth with any one particular thing. In principle this is a good idea. This is precisely the metaphorical reason for our being circumcised – so that we can have a B’RiT (ברית – a clear understanding)14 with G-d’s bringing forth of existence (YHWH) by engaging with what is clearly manifest in experience. However, to do so with every available option before making any decisions is untenable in its being most definitely overwhelming.

After the mass circumcision, Levi and Shimon come in and kill (HaRaG – הרג) all of the males. This word only means to kill in Ugaritic and Hebrew, whereas in Syriac and Arabic it means to muse over and to blur the mind, respectively. Levi and Shimon are two means of investigating a scene that involve taking on a massive amount of information at once. Shimon (שמעון) from the verb ShaMa\ (שמע) means “one’s feeling imposed upon by G-d’s bringing forth of existence and thus repetitively shifting attention from one overbearingly apparent thing to the next,” and Levi (לוי) from the verb LaWaH (לוה) means “one’s clinging upon a scene with mental persistence, generating an awareness of many startling things.” Both of these are brothers (אחים)15 of Dina, indicating that their role is as “those pointing things out regarding experience, for his forming an opinion based on contemplation.” But in response to Yaaqov’s chastisement, they correctly point out: הכזונה יעשה את אחותנו “As a prostitute, shall one treat our sister?” Allegorically this means: “Should a person be as one who flails about in experience (Zonah – זונה), when dealing with a subduing amount of things? (sister > חת > אחות)”16

It was precisely after these events that G-d instructs Yaaqov to return to BaeT El symbolizing what comes in (בא > בית) of G-d’s advancing forward existence.17 Yaaqov then instructs those (the things) with him: “Remove the G-d’s of foreigners in your midst and be purified(טהר) and exchange(חלף) your clothing.” While the word Elohim literally means counselors or escorts from the root LaWaH (לוה),9 the word NaeKhaR (נכר) literally means “one barely recognized.” Before Yaaqov can ascend to engage with G-d’s chosen activity, he must first remove all distractions, the things barely recognized. They (the things from experience that are with him) must be perfectly clear (טהר)(in mind) and they must train through (חלף) their options (vestments, the things with which a person invests their time). After doing so, Yaaqov comes in toward Luza, meaning what is captivating and crams in from experience, which is BaeT El, meaning what comes in of G-d’s advancing forward experience.

Luz was in the land of Canaan18, with the being subdued by the many things drawing in from experience. After building an altar, symbolizing his exuding forth to what he finds in experience (ZaBhaH > ZaBhaHh; זבה > זבח), Yaaqov declares the name of the place “What advances forward in experience is of what comes in of G-d’s advancing forward experience (G-d is of Baet EL) – because there G-d’s guidance (haElohim) were revealed (plural) to him….” This is one of the rare occurrences in Torah where a verb that applies to the one G-d utilizes a plural verb. The point in all cases is to show that although there is only one G-d who creates and guides, we experience and perceive that creation and that guidance as multifactorial. When Elohim appears to him, He reiterates, you are no longer Yaaqov, a person’s grabbing at what comes around so as to investigate, instead you are Yisrael, a person’s visually fixing upon the many things G-d advances forward in experience. Furthermore, G-d states “I am El Shaddai,” G-d’s advancing forward experience that tugs at and throws a person back and forth.19

The text explains that Elohim was lifting off from being upon him in the place (מקום) that He spoke with him. This indicates that instead of experiencing the totality of G-d’s guidance, he was experiencing the one particular thing that was being directed at him. The word for place (maQoM – מקום) allegorically means a situation firmly established, arising and confronting from the verb QuWM (קום) which means to be fixed in place, to establish, and to arise. Furthermore, the verb DaBaeR (דבר) doesn’t only mean “to speak.” Its essential meaning “to drive directly forward” can be seen in other Semitic languages and when it is utilized in Hebrew to mean “to drive over, barrel down, and to kill” (CrII22:10) and “to cause to drive under” (Ps18:48;47:4). Now that G-d has directed a particular thing in experience at him, it is up to Yaaqov to engage with that particular thing. To that end, Yaaqov sets up a pillar of stone. In Arabic, the verb NaTsaBh (נצב – to set firmly) also means “to exert oneself.” Additionally, the word for stone (/eBheN – אבן) literally means “what sticks out prominently in experience,” from the verb BuWN (בון – to push between). Yaaqov then recognizes that the guidance that a person encounters in experience comes from G-d, calling the place Elohim Baet El – G-d’s Guidance is what comes in of G-d’s advancing forward experience.

Yaaqov then travels on from Baet El, (from the specific encounter established for him by G-d), where upon the text states: ”and there was still a Kibhrat-ha’arets (כברת הארץ) to come in toward Ephrat.” Usually translated as “a little way to go,” the word k’bharah (כברה) means sieve from the verb meaning to force through. So the phrase actually means “a forcing through of the land.” Based upon the related word /aRTsuT (ארצות), allegorically, the word for land, /eReTs (ארץ), means “one’s disposing oneself.” Therefore, the phrase means that there was yet a pushing-forcing through of one’s disposing of oneself to experience in order to come to Ephrat (אפרת). From the root /aPhaR (אפר), meaning to cover the face or surface of something, it signifies a person’s ability to mindfully engage with everything that one encounters in experience.

Here on the road to Ephrat is where Rachel, his exploring while roaming about, works hard in her laboring (to bear a child) and then dies. Despite the relative ineffectiveness of exploring while roaming about, the breadth of ground covered in roaming about makes it an ideal method for exploring all that covers the surface of experience, Ephrat (אפרת). However, in order to achieve that goal a person must labor diligently, with full spirit, until their efforts are completely drawn out. With Rachel’s spirit (fully) coming out and thus manifesting her full potential, she bears a child that she names Ben-Oni, “the son my capacity,” but his father called him Binyamin (בנימין), the behavior of my being ever present (mindful). In Biblical Hebrew, a person’s yamin (ימין) signifies not their right side, but their dominant or ever present side. The word evolved from the root /aMaN (אמן) meaning to be ever presently true and reliable. The text calls Ephrat, the seeing of what covers the surface and before one’s face, Baet Lehhem, what comes in as a result of one’s being intimately close and engaged with experience.20

The parsha concludes with two rather large and elaborate lists of first Yaaqov’s wives and children and then those of Esau. Although to large to discuss here, each wife represents the subsidiary behaviors that supplement the archetype in performing their roles. While child represents the behavior that results from the joining of the archetype with its subsidiary behavior.

1 – Yaaqov (יעקב) from the root \aQaBh (עקב) which essentially means “to twist around.” Across the Semitic languages, this root is used to mean “to constrain, to follow, to come after, to trace, to approach closely, to investigate, to criticize, and to grab the heel (supplant).”
2 – Esau (עשו) comes from the root \aSaH (עשה). It literally means “to persist at,” but it is used to mean to wander and patrol (at night)(Arabic & Ugaritic), to do and perform, and to grope and grab at something (piel). Furthermore, the related words \uSh (make haste – עוש) and \aShaN (be volatile, flare up – עשן) suggest an impulsive quality as well. The text describes him having much hair (Sae\aR – שער) which is related to a similar Arabic root meaning to take notice of things (in being stirred up)
3 – the stone was large upon the mouth of the well (האבן גדולה על פי הבאר) from parshat wayaetsae, indicating that “what sticks out prominently in experience” is not one thing, but rather an interwoven tapestry of complexity.
4 – LaBhaN (לבן) means both white and brick. The verb means to layer bricks. A comparison of related words indicate that this root means to layer out and stratify things such as LaBhaSh (to layer clothing – לבש), LaBhaBh (to layer a cake – לבב), ShaLaBh (to join layers, rungs of a ladder – שלב), HhaLaBh (milk, what layers out – חלב) and L’BhoNah (frankincense, what layers out – לבונה). In Arabic it means undertaking, enterprise, wish, aim, and goal.
5 – oxen (שור, related to the verb > being of fixed sights) and donkey (חמר, an ability to conscientiously load up details, related to the verb meaning to load up and to be stringent), flocks (צאן, consideration of experience; from an Arabic cognate) and servants (עבד, an ability to devote attention, from the verb meaning to devote) and maid servants (שפחות, an ability to spread out-pour forth into experience, from the verb to pour)
6 – servants (עבדים – \aBhaDim) from the verb \eBheD (עבד). Originally meaning slave, the verb evolved to mean to work, serve, worship and devote.
7 – man / husband (איש – /eeSh). Originally meaning husband, meaning one who persists, it evolved to mean man. It is related to /aeSh (אש – fire) meaning persistent existence. Allegorically, it means (mental) persistence.
8 – ShaChaR (שחר – dawn). This word evolved from one of the related Ch-R roots (חור חרה חרר) all essentially meaning (to prod) to poke through, make a hole, puncture. It represents the breaking through of first light at dawn.
9 – Most derive Eloah (אלוה) / Elohim (אלהים) from אל. But the word evolved from LaWaH (לוה) meaning to escort and guide. Hence, initially the word Elohim (אלהים) referred to the pantheon of gods, whose purported purpose was to guide and escort humanity. With the advent of monotheism, the word was used with a singular verb to represent G-d, but continued to be used to represent the pantheons of others, a council of judges and people of similar purpose.
10 – Men (/aNaShim – אנשים) from the noun /eNoSh (אנוש), evolved from the root /aNaH (אנה) meaning to impose or apply oneself. Therefore the meaning is those applying-imposing themselves in experience.
11 – Dinah (דינה) from DYN (דין) to judge, form an opinion of (Jastro)
12 – sons / daughters (בן – בנות) The Hebrew word for daughters (BaNot – בנות) is the feminine plural of the word for son, Ben (בן). It is derived from the root BooN (בון) meaning to squeeze through, making ben (בן) to literally mean “one squeezed through.” Sometimes the word is used to mean “worthy or deserving of.” It can also be used to describe a characteristic of a person or indicate belonging, such as in the phrase describing one’s age. This can be seen further in phrases such as ben laylah (belonging to the night), ben hakot (worthy of being struck down) and ben rega\ (immeditely, at once). Allegorically, ben (בן) means a person’s characteristic activities or behaviors. Similarly, the word for daughters, banot (בנות), allegorically means “one’s acts of endeavoring (squeezing through) into experience.”
13 – Yisrael (ישראל) from the verb Sarah (שרה), from which comes the name Yisrael (ישראל). It does not exactly mean to wrestle, nor does its associated noun exactly mean princess. It means to fix on something either visually or physically. When to fix on something physically, it could be used to mean wrestle. When to fix on something visually, its male counterpart, Sar (שר), means an overseer, a member of the court. Additionally, El (אל) G-d, meaning one advancing forward with initiative such as in el (אל) to, toward; ayil (איל) ram forward; Ya/aL (יאל) to endeavor to advance forward allegorically can be used to mean “what advances forward” and “one’s advancing forward.”
14 – BriT (ברית) Usually translated covenant, technically it means “clear agreement.” Most of the roots with BaR (בר) literally mean to make a clearing, to clear away, or to go clear through, hence בור (clearing > pit), באר (clearing > well, to clearly elucidate), בער (to clear away > clear a field, burn), ברר (to clear away > sift), ברא (to clear away > to sculpt, create, carve, cut down), ברח (to go clear through > escape, bar), ברך (to go clear through > to excel, be / declare excellent; to make a clearing > kneel, pool), ברק (to go clear through > lightening)
15 – brother (אח – /aCh) most probably was derived from the root ChaWaH (חוה) which in Arabic means to join someone and to join the company of. Usually the allegorical meaning of a word is based on this type of etymological connection. However, sometimes the Torah makes up an artificial folk etymology. Because Hebrew uses the same letter symbol, ח, for two different consonantal sounds (Hhet and Chet), there is another חוה in Hebrew, (HhaWaH) which means to point out and instruct. Based on context, the allegorical meaning of the word brother (אח) comes from the similarly spelled root HhaWaH (חוה) and not the etymologically correct root ChaWaH (חוה). Allegorically, a brother is one who points something out or points the way.
16 – sister (אחות – /aChoT) technically derived from (אח – /aCh, brother). However, the allegorical use is not related to this etymology. Instead, it is based on the root ChaTaT (חתת) meaning to press down upon, to subdue, and to frighten. Therefore, the allegory means “what subdues in experience.”
17 – El (אל) G-d, meaning one advancing forward with initiative such as in el (אל) to, toward; ayil (איל) ram forward; Ya/aL (יאל) to endeavor to advance forward allegorically can be used to mean “what advances forward” and “one’s advancing forward.”
18 – Canaan comes from the root KaNa\ (כנע) meaning to subdue. But related roots such as KaNaS (כנס to enter), KaNaPh (כנף wing, (what is drawn in), KaNaN (כנן to wind around), and KineReT (כנרת the lake, ?drawn into) suggest that literally it means to draw in upon.
19 – Shadai (שדי) related to the verb SaDaD (שדד – (drag behind) to level / harrow ground) which in turn is related to ShaDaD (שדד – (to drag) > to overpower, plunder, ruin, destroy). The idea of going back and forth can be seen in the related verbs ShaDaKh (שדך – haggle, negotiate) and ShaDaPh (שדף – to make swing back and forth, to blast)
20 – Baet LeHheM (בית לחם – Bethlehem). The word Baet (בית – house) is derived from the root BoW/ (בוא) meaning to come in. techically it means “the place of coming in.” However, allegorically it appears to be used as “the coming in of “ or “what comes in from experience.” The word for bread (לחם – LeHheM) is related to the word MiLHhaMah (מלחמה – to engage in battle). Both words derive from LaWaHh (לוח – to join together and to be well joined). In Arabic, לחם means to cling, join, solder, get stuck, engage in battle.

A.F.L Beeston, M.A. Ghul, W.W. Muller, J. Ryckmans (1982) Sabaic Dictionary. Publication of the University of Sanaa, Yar

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Hans Wehr. Ed by J Milton Cowan (1979) Hans Wehr A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Ithaca, NY: Published in the United States by Spoken Languages Services, Inc with permission of Otto Harrassowitz

Jeremy Black, Andrew George, Nicholas Postgate, eds., A Concise Dictionary ofAkkadian, 2nd corrected printing (Santag Arbeiten und Untersuchungen Zur Keilschriftkunde, 5; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2000)

Marcus Jastrow (1996) A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushlami, and the Midrashic Literature.New York: The Judaica Press

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David Kantrowitz (1991 – 2009) Judaic Classics version 3.4. Institute for Computers in Jewish Life, Davka Corp., and/or Judaica Press, Inc.

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About the Author
David Kolinsky is a retired physician born and raised in Monsey, New York. While living in Monterey California, David initially lived as a secular, agnostic Jew. However, in his spare time, he delved into twenty years of daily study of Hebrew etymology and Torah study culminating in the writing of an etymological dictionary of Biblical Hebrew and a metaphorical translation of Torah. Abandoning his agnostic views, David was simultaneously a spiritual leader of the world's smallest conservative synagogue, a teacher in his local reform synagogue, and a gabbai at Chabad. He is currently sheltering in place with his family in his new home in Plano, Texas.
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