30 August 2009

"THOUGHTS ON GUILT AND INNOCENCE"

By Roy S. Neuberger

It is the season of teshuva.

One of the tragic phenomena of the last year has been public accusations against many Jews. I have no ability or desire to judge, but I think it is important to understand the implications of these accusations.

For one thing, these incidents should strengthen us in our determination to adhere to the law of the land if it does not conflict with our Torah obligations. I learned from my father, whose career in Wall Street spanned over seventy years, the beauty and greatness of a "shaim tov." Everyone knew they could trust my father with their life and their fortune. He never would dream of using the trust of others for personal gain or in some devious manner. People knew this, and for this reason he was (and still is!) beloved and trusted. This type of behavior constitutes a tremendous Kiddush Hashem, bringing honor and glory to the Jewish People and to the Ribono shel Olam.

We are not living this way for public relations purposes. We should act correctly because we are children of the Al-Mighty and that is what is expected of us. We should not expect approbation or appreciation from the nations of the world, because we are not going to get it.

When twins were born to our parents Yitzchak and Rivka, Esav appeared first, covered with red hair "like a mantle." Yaakov Avinu emerged afterwards, grasping Esav's foot.

Ma'ase avos siman l'bonim.

The history of the ensuing millennia is a history of a world dominated by Esav, a hairy man whose entire being is consumed by his obsession for gashmius. Neither his perception nor his desire go beyond the material. His pious face is a fa├žade. The lip service he pays to "religion" is only an attempt to fool his father. "In G-d we trust" is reserved for the dollar bill! Meanwhile, he tries - G-d forbid! - to destroy his brother Yaakov, whose entire life is dedicated to the service of the Ribono shel Olam.

"Esav sone es Yaakov." Esav cannot tolerate the goodness and the truth embodied in the life of Yaakov Avinu. He cannot tolerate a man whose every thought and action is based on emes. The "mitzvah" at which Esav excels is kibud av, because it embodies his attempt to fool his father. Meanwhile, Yaakov Avinu is covered in blood because at every moment Esav seeks his life. Such is the history of the past thirty six hundred years.

In a world dominated by Esav, Yaakov Avinu struggles to stay alive and serve the Ribono shel Olam. He is forced to "purchase" his right to the yerusha from Esav for food. And then, he apparently must resort to deception to receive his father's blessing.

The history of the world since the birth of Yaakov Avinu and Esav is a history in which the Children of Israel are constantly being accused of deception. Everything we do is viewed with suspicion and hatred. Of course, the more successful we are, the more the hatred increases. Our very acceptance of the Torah is associated with Sinai/sina, jealousy. At every moment, Esav waits for the opportunity to accuse. He acts the pious part, and we are constantly deemed worthy of shame in his eyes.

My friends, look at the history of Am Yisroel! Anyone who contemplates the Kinnos we say on Tisha B'Av cannot fail to wonder in awe how it is that we have survived! How did we do it? How did any nation -- let alone the smallest and apparently most defenseless nation -- emerge alive from the continuous holocaust that has enveloped us since the simultaneous birth of our eternal antagonist, Esav?

Truly, the existence of Am Yisroel is a challenge to the logic of Esav. According to his logic, after all his efforts to bring about "the final solution," we should not exist today. And yet, here we are! And we are still living our Holy Torah! It is a continuous challenge to Esav!

We should know, my friends, that in a world dominated by Esav, there will never be a day, a minute, a second, when we are innocent in his eyes. We will always be the deceiver, the one who "tried to steal his inheritance." It is a world as mixed up as the world of Sodom, where right is wrong and wrong is right. Our success and very existence is a testimony only to the continuous providence of the Ribono shel Olam, Who continuously protects us from Esav's constant attempts to destroy us. We are walking through a midbar of fire, snakes and scorpions, existing only on miraculous protection and food from heaven. We may not always realize it, but it is there constantly.

Esav marvels at this. How do the Jews survive? How do the Jews prosper? How could they be so clever? How do they continue to cling to their G-d and His Torah? They cannot understand, because their world stops at the border where gashmius ends. And so they MUST believe, or at least claim, that all of our blessings, even the gashmius by which we exist in this material world, come to us through deception and connivance. They must believe that "Israel lives by trickery, theft and deception." Otherwise what can account for our continued existence? And so, my friends, they view our every action with suspicion.

IN A WORLD DOMINATED BY ESAV, WE WILL ALWAYS APPEAR GUILTY!

What are we to do? This is the season of teshuva, and our answer is clear. Nothing has changed! "What can a person do to be spared the travail of the Moshiach? One should occupy himself in Torah and Gemilus chassadim...." [1]

Just as the Torah indicates that Esav will dominate for a time, so it indicates clearly that there will come a day when the rule of Esav will end and the words of the Prophet will be fulfilled. ""Was not Esav a brother of Jacob - the words of Hashem - yet I loved Jacob. But I hated Esau and I made his mountains a desolation, and his heritage for the desert serpents.... They may build but I will tear down.... Your eyes shall see and you shall say, ‘Hashem is great beyond the boundary of Israel."' [2]

Rashi tells us that "[Esav] will not have a chance to end his rule before the other [Yaakov Avinu] arises and takes it from him." [3]

Nothing has changed, my friends. It seems quite clear that we are not far from the day when "saviors will ascend Mount Zion to judge the Mountain of Esau, and the Kingdom will be Hashem's!" [4]

May we see it this year!
___________________________
[1] Sanhedrin 98b

[2] Malachi 1:2-5 (Haftaras Toldos)

[3] Rashi on Beraishis 25:26

[4] Ovadiah 1:21

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