Monday, December 1, 2008

Weekly E*TORAH

by RABBI A. ALTEIN

THE VOICE OF JACOB:
This Shabbat's Portion of Toldot describes the stark differences in the personalities of Jacob and his twin brother Esau. The Torah states that Jacob, the ancestor of Jewry, was a sincere and honest person. Conversely, Esau was cunning and brutal. Jacob's power was in his mouth, "The voice is the voice of Jacob," a reference to the words of prayer and Torah study. Esau's strength lies in violence, "He lives by his sword."

Esau almost succeeded with deceit and cunning to obtain his father's blessings. Jacob was forced to adopt Esau's cunning in order to win back the blessings that were rightfully his own. And when Isaac realized that it was Jacob whom he had blessed, Isaac acceded to the blessings and ascertained that it would be Jacob that would be his true heir.

There is a powerful lesson to us in this about Jewish survival. At times, we Jews are forced to take up arms to protect ourselves. We should not hesitate even one second from using brute force to save lives from terrorist killers. Sweet and peaceful talk is totally misplaced when dealing with cruel murderers. We can only deal with them using their own destructive tools.

But a Jew can never feel comfortable with violence; it is only a necessary tool of survival in a cruel world. The real Jew underneath is a mild and compassionate human being. His true strength is prayer and Torah. Jews always find solace in times of their distress in voicing the psalms and donating to a charity.

Many nations have swept to power with brute force and terror. They oppressed Jews and the righteous. But the glory of those nations was always short-lived. Despite all that we have suffered, we Jews have outlived every one of our enemies.

We await the era of the "Redemption" when all humanity will come to understand the beauty of "The voice of Jacob" and live together in harmony.


WEEKLY SMILE:
Yom Kippur we beseech G-d to forgive our sins. That's why it's a Mitzvah to forgive and forget on Yom Kippur.

One year a rabbi asked if there was anyone in the congregation that had not forgiven their enemies. An elderly lady of 98 years stood up. "Why won't you forgive your enemies?" the rabbi asked. She replied very sweetly that she had no enemies.

"Amazing!" the rabbi remarked. "Tell me, how can it be that a person can live 98 years and not have enemies?"

"Simple," the old lady explained. "I outlived them all!"

1 comment:

  1. Hi rabbi,

    I am bewildered at how we can conclude that in the parsha of Toldot, Esau was ploting to obtain his own blessing from his father. He had no reason to plot as the blessing was always intended for him. Perhaps Esau can be accused of many things but ploting is definitely Rebekah and Jacobs terrain. I personally believe that we all make choices and that our choices have consequences. Esau had skills he used to please his father in a way that Jacob could not. While Jacob's characteristics helped him to bond a stronger relationship with his mother. While it is a nice thought to believe that Jacob is flawless, it would be a distortion of the Torah's message and a form of idealization. What Jacob felt he needed to do was a clear act of darkness (selfishness) and not light. The result was the destruction of the relationship he had with his brother and the beginning of a family feud. If Hashem intended for Jacob's line to be a great nation then it would be. What is the message? The importance of acting in a moral fashion or of acquiring birthrights and blessings for oneself? Help me out on this one?

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