This week’s Parsha, Toldos, discusses the birth of the twin sons of Isaac & Rebecca. From within the womb, Yaakov and Esav (Esau & Jacob) had an interesting relationship. Yaakov would fidget when Rebecca would approach a house of Torah, Esav when she passed a house of idolatry. In that same spirit, Yaakov, almost immediately after birth, preferred Torah study while his brother took a liking to hunting and a wild life.
At risk of making Isaac and Rebecca sound like they played favorites, the Torah relates that Yitzchak in fact fancied the wilder Esav, while Rivka favored the more spiritual Yaakov. Further down the road in this Torah portion, we see Esav arrive from the field one day. After a day’s work in the field, hunting and the like, he was hungry. Yaakov had a fresh prepared stew.
Yaakov negotiates a trade stranger than the 2002 player-for-manager deal that sent Seattle Mariners manager, Lou Piniella to the Tampa Bay Rays for outfielder Randy Winn: Pipin’ hot, fresh, home-made Red Lentil soup in exchange for Esav’s birthright as Yitzchak’s firstborn son.
Another incident between the two, perhaps not as well known, sees Yaakov fool his father into giving him Esav’s blessing (which he technically deserved after bartering hot soup for his birthright). Yaakov even paid a visit to the costume shop to complete the scheme. Hairy arms and all. He succeeded. And whats more? His mother coordinated the con!
You think Yaakov wished to parade past his blind father in effort to fool him? Yaakov, one of the founders of our people, was not the type. He actually felt to a degree, that the blessing was not for him. The blessing was worldly; he was a man of the books. However, it was the wish of his mother that had him standing there, g’d up from the feet up!
His mother foresaw the importance it would make to the entire world, then and well into the future.
On Sunday, the world will observe a commemoration. A Yahrtzeit. An anniversary. Rabbi Gavriel and Rivky Holtzberg, the Chabad couple that was stationed in Mumbai, India were taken from the world on that day, in 2008. They, the four guests at their Chabad House and 158 other innocent people lost their lives at the hands of cowardly terrorists.
Do you think Rabbi Gavriel and Rivky Holtzberg truly wished to settle in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, India? Were they the type to take interest in the Southeast Asian cultures and activities? Not by a long shot.
Why were they there? Because their mother requested it. Well, to be more accurate, because their rabbi, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson (“The Lubavitcher Rebbe”), requested it. The Rebbe wanted the Holtzbergs in Mumbai. He foresaw the importance of it.
The Holtzbergs manned their posts faithfully just as the 4000+ Chabad emissaries (“Shluchim”), that will gather this week in Brooklyn for the annual Convention of Chabad Rabbis (the “Kinus Hashluchim”) do around the globe. They don’t necessarily feel “at home” or 100% comfortable with the surroundings and cultures of their locale, but still, they remain.
Their Rebbe asked them to. It’s for greater cause.
Sunday is Rosh Chodesh (beginning of the new Jewish month). As the Jewish calendar revolves around the moon, I’d like to borrow a lesson from it.
Every 15 days the moon goes through a cycle. From full to hidden. Every month, the same pattern. The Jewish people have found themselves following this pattern for most of their existence. We hit a low spot, with G-d seemingly hidden. Just wait, that full, bright moment awaits us, just around the corner.
With the Mumbai attacks and the murder of so many innocent people, including the Chabad Emissaries, that could easily be considered a low. An “empty moon” moment. But the response taken in its aftermath is certainly the full blossom that was meant to follow.
Even more Chabad Houses, even more Torah classes. More Jewish identity.
Every day before the morning service we recite, “Ashreinu, Ma Tov Chelkeinu, U’ma Noim Goroleinu, U’ma Yofo Y’rushoseinu.” – Fortunate are we! How good is our portion, how pleasant our lot and how beautiful our heritage.” What a nation we are! Throughout oppression and cruelty, we always rise to the top.
When our enemy wages war on us, we will always prevail. We fight back – but not with bomb straps or semi-automatics.
Our return fire is instilling goodness and kindness around the world. This thwarts the enemy’s mission more than any act of violence can ever hope to! We answer the voids left by the 164 victims of the Mumbai attacks – but especially that left by the Holtzbergs and their guests, as people targeted in the attack solely based on their being Jewish – with tens of thousands of acts light.
Truly, U’ma Yofo Y’rushoseinu – How beautiful is our heritage.
As the Haftarah of this week states (I-Samuel, 20:18) “Tomorrow is the new moon,” may we soon merit the ultimate full moon, a time when righteousness will reign and evil will expire.
May it indeed be tomorrow.