19 November 2010

Timely Torah

13 Kislev 5771
/19-20 November 2010


"He selected a minchah for his brother Esau from what he had with him.These he gave to his servents. He said to his servants: When my brother Esau encounters you, he will ask to whom does it belong? You must reply: It belongs to your servant Jacob, It is a minchah to my master Esau. Jacob said to himself, I will win him over with the minchah that is being sent ahead". (Gen. 32)

The question that must be asked is: Was Jacob's conduct proper? Was it fitting for Jacob, the man of truth, to call his evil brother Esau master, bow down to him countless times and offer up such a large gift?

We certainly see an admonishment of Jacob's actions in the teachings of our holy rabbis. The Midrash brings down the following: "As a muddied fountain and a polluted spring, so is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked. G-d said to Jacob: 'Esau was walking on his way and you sent him a message, saying "your servant Jacob says". You degraded yourself and called Esau 'my lord' eight times. I swear that I shall make eight of his offspring precede yours as king."

The Rashbam, on his commentery to the Bible, writes that "Jacob was smitten and ended up with a limp, because G-d had made a promise to him while he was fleeing that He would be with him. So, too, all who refuse to take G-d's path, or who take an opposing path, are punished."

Rabbi Kahane HY"D brings down in his work the Jewish Idea that "Jacob took the minchah, our gift to G-d, representing man's lowliness before his Maker and his faith and truth in Him, and he transferred these sentiments to Esau. This reflected great lack of faith in G-d."

Even though as a rule we are forbidden to flatter an evil person, as the Talmud teaches us: "Every individual in whom there is flattery will fall into Hell," and "Whoever flatters the wicked will eventually fall into his hand" - there is an exception, as Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish ruled from a statement made by Jacob to Esau (Genesis 33: 10): "For therefore I have seen your face, and it is as though I had seen the face of an angel." Tosafos explains this apparent contradiction by asserting that it is permitted to flatter the wicked in a dangerous, life-threatening situation.

Jacob's life was certainly in danger from the evil one, Esau, and he felt he had to overwhelm him with gifts, in spite of the fact that Esau's intent was to kill Jacob. For as Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish taught us: It is a well-known law that Easu hates Jacob.

Throughout history, the conflict between the two brothers continues. Esau, the red one, represented by Rome, Amalek, the west, Russia and the U.S., has always set its goal to annihilate the descendents of Jacob, one way or another. So we find it interesting that it is now Esau who is giving over a minchah gift to Jacob! It was reported this week that the U.S. wants to give Israel 20 fighter jets for free, a three billion dollar deal! These are the same jet fighters which Israel had ordered from the US a long time ago and that have been held up time and time again, and are now being given to the Jewish state free of charge... Has Esau finally found his brotherly love? Has he done teshuva and wants to make right by his brother, Jacob? Undoubtedly not!

Rather, as we all know, there are no free lunches; with this minchah gift of Esau there come strings attached, many strings, strings to choke the life out of the state of Israel. Make Israel consent to permanent borders with the Palestinians and thus cut right through the heartland of Israel, thereby causing her destruction. Without proper borders to defend the Land, what use will the fighter planes serve? [Note: Delivery is to take place ten years from now.] It is important for us to remember that no matter how essential the planes are for the security of the country, the bottom line is that "some come with chariots and some with horses, but we come with the Name of the Living G-d."

Levi Hazan