Passion Plays in Shul
I am sure it is heresy to say, but I just don't buy into the whole midrashic caricatures of these characters. Every possible character flaw has been heaped on these poor souls - idolaters, incestuous rapists, murderers. However, reading the text, none of this is even remotely suggested. In the pshat, they are all multi-dimensional human beings. The years of allegorizing had transformed them from normal families to some kind of soap operas - cue the bad organ music.
I am reminded of the time when the European authorities decided to assign names to Jews for census purposes. Often they would come up with demeaning or silly names - if a person was tall they would give him the last name of Klein (small), etc. Yaacov is supposed to represent Emes - truth. Yet if I had to pick one patriarch who uses deceit as a strategy, it would be him.
How far do we need to stretch the pshat? Is the benefit of this technique really so great. Do we need to make the "Other" as bad as possible to the point of absurdity?