In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Toldot, we read the story of the blessing mishap. Isaac decides that the time has come for him to bless his children because he has grown old and he doesn’t know how much time he has left. He calls for Esau, his elder son, and tells him to prepare a meal for him and then he will bestow the blessings intended for the eldest child upon him. Esau leaves in a hurry to prepare the meal for his father and from there we hear of the deceptive actions of Rebecca and Jacob as they conspire to hijack the blessing of Esau for Jacob.
Upon hearing about the deception on part of his mother and brother, Esau flies into a rage. Fearing for his life, Rebecca tells Jacob to run away to her father’s house to avoid the wrath of Esau.
As an observer of the modern world, this sequence of events always troubled me. Prior to this story, we learn of the barbaric nature of Esau, who frivolously sells the precious birthright to his brother for a simple bowl of soup. This appears to be a binding contract, meaning Jacob is now entitled to any and all benefits attributed to the eldest child status. So why does Jacob run? Why does his mother insist he run? His father, after realizing what happens gives him more blessings instead of punishment for his supposed trickery before sending him on his way so what is it that Jacob is running from?
Our sages spend a lot of time coming up with excuses for Jacob and Rebecca in an attempt to comfort themselves against this negative stain on the seemingly perfect records of our forefathers and mothers. They twist Jacob’s words of “I am Esau, your firstborn son” using different grammatical symbols to make the sentence seem less glaringly false. This is all in vain and is seemingly a waste of time because as I see it, there is nothing to apologize or excuse. Jacob was correct and completely justified in his actions.
Every history class I have ever taken always open with the same question: Why do we study history? What is the purpose of rehashing the minute details of the last century? What real purpose does it serve us to learn about how people functioned in a world that is seemingly so different than our own? Every teacher, whether it was in elementary school, high school or college, answers the same way: History has the propensity to repeat itself.
The Jewish people have fallen into a pattern. Throughout history we have run from our problems, problems brought on by our enemies. Beginning with Avraham, who makes a peace treaty with Abimelech instead of fighting for the land that was rightfully bestowed on him by God. We see Hashem’s displeasure when He then proceeds to “test” Abraham with the Akeida (the binding of Isaac) in response. Isaac, his son, follows the same pattern of behavior and makes a treaty with Abimelech whose citizens were destroying his wells out of anger and hatred. Yitzchak accepted that this was the norm, and instead of fighting back against the enemy, he compromised and left. This pattern of behavior follows through to this story with Yaakov, who, instead of staying to confront the raging Esau, accepts that this imposition of terror is acceptable, and runs away to Haran despite his absolutely just interception of the blessings meant for the eldest child.
The Jewish people continue to follow this trend to present day. Whether it was accepting the basic lack of human rights in the Spanish inquisition or the imposed ghettoization and labor during the Holocaust, the Jews have shrunk back in trepidation and complied when forced to face those who impose their rules upon us.
In the state of Israel, we are no less guilty of this tragic mistake. In 1948, the Jewish people finally stood up and took what was rightfully bestowed to us. Like Jacob, we acknowledged that this was our birthright and took the necessary steps to ensure the blessing would be bestowed on the right people. We held strong for a long time with the blessings of the UN to back us. But slowly we came to the face of the rage of our neighbors and the support of the international community has slowly faded.
We face hatred in the form of terrorist attacks and rockets from our neighbors. We have attempted to console them in every way possible, be it the building freezes, land concessions, the continued “peace talks” or the release of murderers with Jewish blood on their hands. We even gave up basic control of our most sacred site, the temple mount, handing over the keys to pacify the Waqf. Jews face highly limited and restricted access to the very location where our temple stood for hundred of years.
Instead of fighting back we console, pacify, and apologize in an misplaced attempt to appease those who are trying to take what is ours, not just on a historic level but also on the internationally legal level. We were granted this land by God, by the UN and by the basic rules of war in which we conquered this land, paying for it in the blood of our soldiers.
The Jewish people must take a lesson out of our own history books. Abraham and Isaac tried to negotiate with their enemies. Jacob ran from the rage of his brother. While these responses seemed to work, their effects were temporary and ended in repeated conflict. Our attempts to repeat those actions ended in expulsion, mass destruction and massacre of our people.
There is no need for excuses. There is no need for concessions. There is no need for excuses. We are merely taking what is rightfully ours. We, as a people, need to stand strong against our enemies, take pride in the birthright that has been bestowed upon us and never waiver in our belief that we have the right to be here, in the holy land of Israel.
It is my hope that the Jewish people once again find their national pride and gather together as one to fight against the attempts to delegitimize our right to this land and recognize the greatness we have when we act as one. It is in this way will we succeed in fighting back and defending what is ours.