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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Toldot

The Struggle Continues

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The Torah reading tells us of the birth of twin sons to Yitzchak and Rivka. The elder son, Eisav, comes forth fully formed, ruddy and strong. The younger twin is named Yaakov. The Torah tells us that he is holding on to Eisav’s heel. In effect he is holding Eisav back from accomplishing his desires and wants. The Hebrew word for heel - aikev - is embedded into the name of Yaakov. It is as though his destiny in all of history is to hold Eisav back, to be his moral conscience, to be the silent disapproving witness to all of the excesses of behavior and violence that so characterize Eisav. Yaakov is always younger, smaller. Weaker than Eisav but try as he does Eisav cannot shake free from Yaakov’s hold on his heel. Christianity and Islam over all of the centuries of their existence have attempted to humiliate, persecute and even eliminate Yaakov from their societies and from the world generally. They have never completely succeeded but they keep on trying. Yaakov is the thorn in the side of Eisav, the denier of his beliefs and goals, the one who holds on to the heel and psychologically and emotionally impedes his desired hegemony over others. The Catholic Church currently has regressed once more into its traditional anti-Jewish, anti-Israel stance and policies. Pope John Paul II had elevated Judaism to being the "elder brother" of the Church. But now we are back again to being the young brother holding on to the heel of the Church, the silent disapproving witness to its problems, venality and malevolence. It is therefore no surprise that a leading Catholic prelate, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Meridiaga of Honduras, categorically states that the Jews are the cause of the current sexual scandals rocking the Catholic Church worldwide. Or that Cardinal Joseph Glemp of Poland (which is pretty well cleansed of Jews generally) regularly preaches anti-Semitism as part of his spiritual teachings. The Church cannot let go of its poisonous past to Jews and Judaism since in turn Yaakov has not loosed his grip on the heel of Eisav. Judaism’s crime is that it exists thorough the Jewish people and that the Jewish people have had the temerity to build and defend successfully their own independent state in the Holy Land only adds insult to the Church’s paranoid injury.

Islam is also aggrieved by Yaakov’s hold on its heel. To many in the Moslem world and to its immans and leaders, the existence of a Jewish state in territories that the Moslems feel is theirs - a wakf given to them by Allah himself - is a theological impossibility. If Yaakov’s hand cannot be loosed from their heel then that hand - like the hand of a thief under Sharia law - is to be severed. This stark fact lies at the root of the so-called Arab-Israeli dispute. It is not territory, borders, water rights and the other issues that we are allegedly negotiating over that are the main issues. It is now and has been for over a century the mere existence of a Jewish state in the midst of the Middle East that is the issue. And this issue is then enlarged into a question as to whether Jews or Judaism itself should be allowed to exist. You will note that the Yemeni Islamist terrorists sent their bomb laden packages to Jewish synagogues and institutions in Chicago, not to Tel Aviv. Islam wishes to be freed of Yaakov’s hold on its heel so then it can turn its full attention to Christianity and the West. There are many in the Jewish world who are befuddled, misguided and frightened of their own identity when looking at themselves in the mirror of Jewish history and destiny, who therefore also resent their fate at having to hold on to Eisav’s heel. So they assuage themselves with high-sounding phrases of goodness and peace and compassion for others coupled with disdain and even hatred for their own kind and people. Jews fool themselves bitterly if they think that Eisav differentiates between Haaretz and Arutz Sheva. The continuing existence of Jews means that, wish it or not, we are all still engaged in holding on to the heel of Eisav.

Judaism does not desire triumph or rule over others. It is more than satisfied in maintaining itself as a necessary moral force in the world and the survival and well being of the Jewish people and its state. This struggle, millennia old, continues in full force today. Recognizing this truth will strengthen our hand and spirit in this struggle.
Rabbi Dov Berl Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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