The book or the sword - Toldot

Thursday, 28 November, 2019 - 7:41 am

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Adapted from Rabbi Goldman

Who are we? Who were we? Who will we become?

We are called the people of Israel and this comes from the second name of our forefather Jacob.

In this week’s Parsha Toldot, we read about the great blessings that Isaak wanted to give to his children. Isaac was blind and did not know that Esav, the oldest of his twin boys, did not behave properly and therefore, he wanted to give him the blessings.

His wife Rebbeka though, who could see and knew the truth, intervened. She sent Jacob, dressed up as Esav, to be blessed by Isaac. Thus, Isaac said in bewilderment: “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esav!”.

This sentence summarizes the characteristics of our people.

The voice of Jacob symbolizes the voice of Torah study, prayer, and generally, the people pf the Book. On the other hand, the hands of Esav symbolize the fist, the hand holding a sword and generally, the violence, the war and the strength of the body.

The question is where do we belong and where do we want to belong. In which world do we grow our children? Have we forgotten who we are and what is the true culture of our people?

Our modern world is the world of Esav. There is endless violence on television, in movies, in the various video games. How many murders will an average child see before his becomes Bar Mitsvah? 7-year-old children kill entire armies in front of their screen.

But violence does not concern only children. What about boxing? Whoever beats the other up gets the big prize. There is a paradox here: If someone takes your parking space and you beat him up, you go to jail. But if you beat him up in front of 25,000 spectators, you become rich and famous.

Naturally, this excludes cases where we use violence as self-defense. That is, either personal self-defense or military defense of the country.

But the point is, what do we admire and respect? Who are our heroes and our ideals?

All this violence around us destroys our sensitivity and transforms us into an Esav generation.

The Talmud tells us that when there are books, there are no swords and when there are swords, there are no books. We cannot be at the same time the people of the Book and play with swords. A Jew should want his children to hold the book and not the sword.

And the best? Our Sages tell us that when the voice we follow is the voice of Jacob, then no hand of Esav can harm us.

Shabbat Shalom,


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