A Thought for the Week
VayishlachBad enough for Yaakov to have to struggle with Esav and constantly have to watch his back. In this weeks Parsha we find a new struggle. Yaakov has to struggle with Esav's Malach also. Its a bizarre story. Yaakov meets up with an Angel and gets into a fight. He struggled and wrestled valiantly with this angel all through the night. Yaakov would not to be vanquished. At long last, as the sun rose Yaakov emerged victorious but injured. He walks away limping. Therefore we dont eat T-bone or sirloin stake!
The fight that Yaakov had with Esav was for his own personal survival. The fight Yaakov had with the Malach was on behalf of Yaakov's children. It wasnt Yaakov fighting but Yisroel. Long after both Yaakov and Esav will leave this world there will still be a presence of Esav in this world and he will always battle Yaakovs children, Klal Yisroel. This fight will take place all through a long galus, until the sun rises, until the final Geula.
What did this Malach look like? Some say he appeared as a bandit with weapon in hand. Another says he appeared as a Talmid Chochom, a philosopher and a sage. A third Rabbi said he appeared as a pagan. Yet another Rabbi said he appeared as a shepherd.
The truth is that there have been many faces to Esav. There were times that the Jews were attacked by an Esav who murdered and robbed. There were times when Jews had to resist the lure of pagan glamour. There were times when Esav came with scholarship and with ministerial robes and there were times that Esav spoke of love, caring and a yearning to show us a better way to heaven. All the Esav's of history had one thing in common. They endeavored to stop the Jews from leading their own unique spiritual life and have them abandon their nationalistic aspirations. Somehow we have survived them all.
What face does Esav wear today? What is the guise of Esav in the United States of America? Thank G-d, by and large we are living in a time of opportunity, equality and friendship. We are well placed in government, in business and in the professions. So where is Esav?
I have a feeling that today Esav is dressed as a friend. In fact he is a friend. Today Esav wants to marry us instead of kill us. Esav is doing no evil. Esav wishes with us that the taboo of Judaism be removed, so that we can integrate into the rest of society. Perhaps for the first time in history we can be just one of the guys.
Thank G-d we live when we live and where we live. But with the removal of a taboo also comes the removal of an identity. We are not one of the guys. We, Jews have to realize that being one of the guys will detract from our uniqueness. Today we have an opportunity to be a cut above the rest and take a leadership role.
We must take the lead in business ethics setting a new benchmark for proper business conduct.
We must lead by example in the way that we dress, always with modesty. If Jews were known for their Tzniut the world would follow. The billboards on the Joe Dimagio Highway would change.
We must lead in the way we speak and in the way we practice medicine.
Throughout history, against all odds and logic, we have been world leaders in Tikun Olam. Esav tried to stop us. The final battle is the battle of identity, so that we never become just one of the guys.
Rabbi Yaacov Haber
Rabbi Haber is the OU's National Director of Jewish Education and the spiritual leader of the OU's Pardes Program
Comments and questions are very welcome
"A tree of life for those who embrace it"