Saturday, November 21, 2009

Esau and Jacob

And Yitzchak loved Esau... but Rivkah loved Yaakov."


(Genesis 25:28)
Kislev 2, 5770/November 19, 2009
Parents naturally tend to love all their children. No doubt this was also the case for Yitzchak, (Isaac), and Rivkah, (Rebecca). So why does Torah imply otherwise? Yitzchak and Rivkah were presented with a challenge that Avraham and Sara weren't confronted with. Avraham and Sara had but one child, and G-d's promise for the future was assuredly with Yitzchak. But Yitzchak and Rivkah had two sons and each one's character and personality traits were so different from the other. Yitzchak saw his son Esau, "a man who understood hunting, a man of the field," (ibid 25:27), and saw in his worldly, outgoing, take-charge personality, the qualities needed to lead the next generation. Esau's "game was in his mouth" (ibid 25:28), he was able to pursue and achieve via his gift of speech, his oratory skills. He was born for leadership.


Yaakov, on the other hand, is described in somewhat mysterious terms: "an innocent man, dwelling in tents," (ibid 25:27). "Innocent," naive, perhaps, even simple. All qualities which may serve him well in life, but evincing no outward inclination to leadership.


There were, however, qualities that Esau possessed that Yitzchak didn't see, but were crystal clear to Rivkah: "And Esau said to Yaakov, "Pour into [me] some of this red, red [pottage], for I am faint"; he was therefore named Edom." (ibid 25:30) Yes, Esau possessed great social skills and leadership qualities, but, even at the height of his worldly powers, he professed a great life weariness. Skills he had, but vision to inspire and drive and direct those skills were sorely lacking in him. Most crucially, the "Avrahamic" grasp of G-d's presence on earth, and man's responsibility to his fellow man, were missing from Esau's jaded perspective on life: "'Behold, I am going to die; so why do I need this birthright?'" (ibid 25:32) What greater self-indictment could possibly come forth from Esau's lips? He sees his own role in humanity as insignificant, and his historical impact as negligible. This is not the expression of a man from whose loins a great and holy nation is to emerge.


Yaakov, however, despite his handicaps vis-a-vis his talented brother Esau, readily grasped from the start what was at stake, and why it was imperative for him to not relent, but to gain possession, first of the birthright, and later of their father's blessing. For with the birthright and the blessing Yaakov knew that he could father and shape the great nation that G-d had promised to Avraham. He may not have had what it takes to be a great general, a celebrated statesman, or an accomplished politician, but the "innocent" Yaakov embodied the truth and the faith necessary to realize G-d's promise for him and his offspring.


What was so clear to Rivkah, eventually becomes clear to all. Whereas Esau grew faint, and as a result "scorned" and sold his birthright, Yaakov, later in his dramatic life, would lay down his head to sleep, and dream an awesome vision of heaven and earth united at the place of the Holy Temple.


The nation of Israel today faces the very same leadership challenge that vexed Yitzchak and Rivkah. The younger generation has served up the same two candidates. One the one hand, Israel has produced many young men and women whose worldly skills are unassailable: international finance, diplomacy, global relations, popular culture are all being impacted by up-and-coming Israelis. But do these young people of ambition and accomplishment possess the vision and the faith necessary to lead their own people, let alone the world?


On the other hand, there is a generation in the land of Israel that, like their forefather Yaakov, literally "dwell in tents:" In tents, in makeshift plywood shacks, and even in caves. These are the determined young men and women who make the very stones of the land of Israel their pillows, who are taking possession of the land, and whose vision for their people soars from the earth to the heavens, just like their father Yaakov. And like their father Yaakov, they do, indeed, lack the acceptance and worldly connections of Esau. But like their father Yaakov, they will not grow faint nor despise their birthright. A new generation is rising to the challenge.


Temple TalkTune in to this week's Temple Talk as Yitzchak Reuven and special guest host Yosef Adest, (filling in for Rabbi Chaim Richman who has just returned from the USA), discuss the uncanny resemblance that Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov each bear to Adam HaRishon, Yaakov playing his part in rectifying Adam's mistake of eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and Yitzchak, the consummate keeper of the land of Israel. Modern day similarities to the the jealous Plishtim of Gerar, and Yosef reveals behind-the-scenes secrets of a soon-to-be released Temple Institute video all about the manufacture of the bigdei kehuna - priestly garments.


The Temple Institute, long recognized in Israel as a tax-deductible non-profit organization, is pleased to announce that it has now been granted tax-exempt status by the IRS as a 501 (C) 3 non-profit organization for income tax purposes in the USA. All donations made by U.S. citizens are now tax deductible. To learn more about how to make a US tax-deductible donation directly to the Temple Institute, click here.


The Temple and Moshiach, Part IIThis week features the new Light to the Nations teaching by Rabbi Chaim Richman, entitled, "The Temple and Moshiach, Part II : We long for moshiach, and anxiously anticipate his arrival. But building the Holy Temple is the responsibility of the nation of Israel, and need not be delayed until moshiach has arrived." Click here to view.


Parashat HashavuaYour curse be upon me, my son… “ (Genesis 27:13) What is really going on behind the scenes when Rivkah convinces Yaakov to take on the outer visage of Esau, and receive the blessing from his father? It seems that Rivkah is righting an ancient wrong. Click here to view Rabbi Richman's short teaching on parashat Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9).



Blessings from the holy city of Jerusalem,
Yitzchak Reuven
PO Box 31876
Jerusalem, Israel 97500


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