THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
YAAKOV'S YERIDA (downhill departure from the only Holy Land)
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PREFACE-- EAST AND WEST
Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet
Rudyard Kipling, The Ballad of East and West, contrasting European and Asian civilizations
Rav Mordecai Gafni delivers an exciting spiritual-psychological exploration of the weekly Torah reading each Sunday night, 8:30 PM, at the Ezrat Yisroel Synagogue, Hildeshimer 17-- repeated Monday in Hebrew. This week he noted Genesis' connection of sin, regression, departure from the face or inward presence of God, with eastward orientation. After Adam and Eve sin, they're sent east of Eden (Genesis 3:24; YF: but a careful reading of the verse shows that God just stationed the Cherubim east of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life, with no indication of which direction Adam and Eve headed; Gen. Raba 21, however, quoted by Rashi on 4:16, assumes that Adam also went East). After Cayin killed Havel, he left "the face of the eternal" and abode in Nod, east of Eden (4:16). After the flood, united universal mankind journeyed "from the east" to the land of Shinar, usually identified with Sumar, a land toward the Persian Gulf (11:2); The Shemites, at least the Yuktanites, had lived between Meshah (Mecca, per Saadya) and Sepher (possibly Medina, per Saadya), on the Eastern Mountain (Alakdar in eastern Arabia, on the Indian Ocean, per Kesseth HaSofer; 10:30).
But after the sin of the Tower Generation, the sinners are not sent back to "Go", eastward, but scattered all over the earth (11:8-9). Terach and Avraham journey west, toward Canaan; later Avraham goes down south to Egypt and returns. Gafni concludes that Yaakov's journey eastward indicates that he sinned in deceiving his father and hurting his brother, a sign of his immature I-It relationship to other people, whom he uses them to achieve his own, howbeit holy, ends; after exile and suffering, Yaakov develops I-Thou relationships. Gafni similarly analyzes Avraham; please note my protests in both cases.
"My heart is in the East,/ and I am in the ends of the West./ How then can I taste what I eat,/ And how can food to me be sweet? (Yehuda Halevi, Poems, ed. Harkavy, ii. 7); My heart is in the East, tho in the West I live,/ The sweet of human life, no happiness can give.../ No joy in sunny Spain, mine eyes can ever see,/ for Zion, desolate, alone has charms for me (Y.H., Zionides, tr H. Pereira Mendes); "Go West, Young Man!" (Horace Greeley)
EAST naturally suggests regression to the past, as the sun rises and shines (zoraach) in the east, starting our day -- see Joshua 13:5, Ps. 113:3, Ex. 27:13, I Ch 6:63, 2 Ch 29:4; Tamid 4:1, 6:1; so WEST suggests progress, as the sun sets in the west; in the U.S., opportunity lay in the undeveloped West. But Biblical Jewish days begin at night! Indeed, in our days, East symbolized a "return-forward" to European and North African Jews, who had a Mizrach plaque on their eastern walls, in the direction of Israel and Jerusalem; a seat on the East Side of the shul, toward which all faced in prayer (see IK8), conveyed honor, while Hatikva expressed their yearning for a quick return to the good old East. Those exiled east of Israel faced West, symbols reversed; if they nevertheless faced east, they were suspected of weorshipping the sun (see Daniel 6:11, Ber. 28b, B.B. 25a; S.A. Y.D. 4:7, Bet Hillel 2; Chatam Sofer Y.D. 127); but some, used to being west of Israel, also faced east when they moved here (e.g. the congregants in the Sanz shul, in their Netyanya hotel, face Mecca!). As Jews began their recent exiles, they often wound up on the old East Sides of London and NYC, perhaps a hint of their true destination.
"The sun shines east, the sun shines west, but I know where the sun shines best-- on my, ma-a-ammy..." (sung by Al Jolson, in The Jazz Singer; did he unconsciously echo his ancestor Yaakov's deepest feelings in this reading?-- cf. N-Na-Nachman). When I couldn't completely recall this ditty, I tried to find the correct words, amidst many other last minute things I had to do to get this sheet out by Shabbat; I thought of one very musical person who might just know them-- my mother-in-law, Hilda Freeman; sure enough, she did! To confirm it, I called ebullient Menachem Kuchar of Automated Office, our typesetters-- sure enough, he had the record. Both sang it with great gusto! God bless Alexander Graham Bell!
A. THE BACKGROUND, & AN OVERVIEW, OF VAYETZE
No life, without a wife! (Levi, Genesis Raba 17:2)
Yitchak sent Yaakov from Israel to Padan Aram, to find a wife-- he may not marry an obnoxious Canaanite, e.g. Esav's earthy wenches, "daughters of THE LAND". Rivka also had two other motives-- 1) that Yaakov flee from Esav, about to murder him-- she didn't inform (and thus alarm) Yitzchak, or show him how he misjudged Esav; she left him to draw that conclusion himself, after he saw that he could be fooled by Yaakov (Hirsch). 2) that Yaakov, master of Torah, also master the world's blessings, actively guiding the universe toward its Divine destiny and essence; he mustn't remain a kollel innocent, supported by a bit of the exploitative earnings of Esav, guest of honor at Yaakov's Mussar Yeshiva's annual red lentil black tie glatt-orgiastic dinner. After learning the ropes with Lavan, Yaakov will be able to shape the world and deal with all on their own terms, even Esav and his guardian angel (cf. Entebbe w/Kishenov, Yonaton Netanyahu w/Bunche Schveig). He must be a full participant in life to be an example of how to live. Judaism is to sanctify life, not replace it.
The helpless broken Jews of the old Yishuv and Diaspora ghettos couldn't even protect and support their families; despite their holiness and devotion to Torah (sometimes an escape from reality-- cf. the upsurge in mysticism and messianism in Safad and Turkey following the expulsion from Spain), they were primitive and backward in worldly realms, in the eyes of early secular Zionist leaders; but the latter cast out the baby-- Jerusalem and Judaism-- with the bathwater, the terrible physical state of the Old Yishuv; their profane false source of salvation was Tel Aviv, the Temple of the New Jew (cf. Yamit). For a glimpse of how it really was in the horrible "good old days" in Jerusalem, romanticized by Gerlitz, see Famous Travellers to the Holy Land-- their personal impressions and reflections-- compiled by Linda Osband. A sample--
James Finn was British Consul 1845-63. A devoted friend of the Jews, he often protected them from the Ottoman authorities; tho an early Zionist, he was also a devoted missionary-- see his Stirring Times and Byeways in Palestine. He describes the condition of the Jews in Jerusalem in 1854:
"The stagnation of trade, caused by the (Crimean) war and the scarcity caused by the corn supplies being kept back out of the market, caused distress to all classes... But now special causes were at work and produced so great an amount of distress, as we had never known before in Jerusalem. The Christian poor were relived by the communities to which they severally belonged; the great convents opened for their aid some of the stores of grain, always in reserve for time of need. The Moslems, to some extent, aided each other. The laws of hospitality are held so sacred (Ishmael's inheritence from Avraham), that even a wealthy Moslem, who might be keeping, locked up, a supply of corn, which ought to have been available for supply in the open market, and who was thus helping to produce famine among the poor, would scarcely venture to turn from his door a hungry brother, who might present himself at supper-time among the guests or among the retainers of the house.
"THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM ALONE there were no reserve stores, no helpers, no richer brethren, from whose table so much as a crumb might be picked up, were the Jews. For them, there was absolutely no provision in this time of dire distress. Worse still, the fund from which some among them had been in the habit of receiving a pittance... was now exhausted... there is then (from February) no fear of water being scarce for those who have cisterns... but in the Jewish 1/4, it's always scarce, first because of the crowded state of the houses, in each of which several families live (I live in one today, a former missionary hospital); secondly, because the Moslem landlords have allowed the cisterns to fall into disrepair (I found one in our Jewish Information Center!), so that the greatest number of them hold little or no water. Hence the poor Jews have always to buy water, which they obtain from the peasantry, who bring it into the city in skins on their asses, from the springs of Siloam, Lifta, etc. When the rain has been abundant, the Jews have to pay less; but when the rains are delayed, exorbitant prices are charged, and the misery and suffering endured by men, women and children in the Jewish 1/4, for want of water to drink, are grievous to witness.
The state of poverty among the Jews, at this time, exceeded anything we had before known. Parents were said to be selling their children to Moslems, as the only way of preserving their lives. Some were found dead in their rooms. Among those whom we personally knew, there was scarcely a family that was not in the deepest distress... (Poverty is no virtue. The Talmud notes that a poor man, w/o options, is considered a dead man; we pray for a life of wealth and honor; sophisticated worldly Western Jews began to help their benighted brethren in this period, founding hospitals, building the windmill,etc.).
"A small ladies' (Christian) society was formed for the purpose of raising funds and for visiting the Jewish 1/4. The amount of squalid poverty discovered there was truly appalling... for the most serious part of the matter was this, that the wretchedness was to be found to be anything but temporary-- not mere passing distress, caused by the war, by the price of corn or fuel, or the diminution of funds, but a chronic state of hopeless pauperism was found to be at all times the condition of the great majority of Jews in the Holy City... (this may explain the frequent hostility and mental and spiritual constipation of many of their descendants to this day).
"Worst of all, they never had employment, whereby they might have received, if only bare bread and water... the Jews were not only able to work, but were thankful and eager to be employed (cf. Mea Shearim today). But there was no work for them (except from the few English Christians). Oriental Christians have so great a prejudice and superstitious hatred of Jews, that they'd on no account have dealings with them. The Moslems had artisans of their own, and even when they needed and employed the superior skill or knowledge of some Jewish workman, it was long before the poor Jew could get the money due to him for his work, and in but too many cases, he was too timid to press for payment, and thus never got it at all. All this led my wife and myself to make increased exertions for carrying out our long projected design of relieving the Jewish condition of chronic poverty, by means of employment of an agricultural character-- a plot of land had been purchased in 1852... and some of the poor had been set to work. We were not so sanguine as to expect pallid creatures, weakened by hunger and disease, to perform the labors of healthy robust peasants of the villages, but at least... they could learn to do other things.
"It might have been dangerous in those days for weak defenceless Jews to go alone, even so far from Jerusalem... but there was no risk while the work was known to be under the supervision... of a consul... I one day rode out towards the plantation, to see the men return from labor... a ragged troop, very ragged but very happy, singing a chorus in Hebrew: 'We are laborers in the field of Avraham, our father'. My eyes filled to tears, as the words came to recollection: 'They shall return to Zion with singing and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads', taking this as a very small indication of the better days to come for their nation...". Laurence Oliphant tells similar tales of Safad.
YF: Under such conditions the Jews clearly should have left Jerusalem and, if necessary, Palestine; some, who had money or relatives abroad, probably did so. So Rambam left Israel for Egypt when conditions here were impossible, e.g. during wars; there were then scarcely 1000 impoverished Jewish families in the land; yet he ordained that the day of his arrival in Eretz Yisroel be kept as a feast to all generations; he always questioned his being forced to remain in Egypt (he was the Caliph's chief physician); he writes (Code, Kings 5:9-11): "It's always forbidden to leave Eretz Yisroel for the Diaspora, save to study Torah (better), to take a (better) wife, and rescuing someone from the heathen, after which he must return. Likewise, he may visit the Diaspora for business. But it's forbidden to RESIDE outside the land, unless there's a severe famine, in which a dinar's worth of wheat (not a car!) has jumped to 2 dinars. When does this apply?-- when money is to be had, but produce is dear. However, if produce is cheap, but money is not to be had, and there's no way of earning one's bread and there's not a pruta in the purse, he may go wherever he may earn a livelihood. Tho in such a case, it's permitted to leave the Holy Land, it savours of no piety-- for behold Machlon and Kilion, who were leaders of their age and who left Israel out of great distress, rendered themselves liable to destruction by the Omnipotent (YF: but many scholars think that they left because they didn't want to share their wealth with their poor brethren).
"Our most distinguished sages were wont to kiss the boundaries of Eretz Yisroel, kiss its stones, and linger in its dust, fulfilling Ps. 102:15: 'For your servants take pleasure in her stones and favor the dust thereof'. Our sages said: 'Whoever resides in Eretz Yisroel, his sins are forgiven (Baruch Goldstein, Yigal Amir and Shulamit Aloni too?)'-- 'The people who live there shall be forgiven their iniquity (Is. 33:24)'; even if he only walked 4 cubits therein, he thus merits life in the Hereafter (but other acts may negate this). Likewise, he who's buried in its soil receives atonement, and his burial place is reckoned as the altar of atonement. A punishment is: 'He'll die in an unclean land (Amos 7:17)'. But being received by Eretz Yisroel alive isn't the same as being received there dead. Nevertheless, our most distinguished sages were wont to bring their dead to the Holy Land (Rambam himself is buried in Tiberias; but some sages deemed it a profanation of the land!). Take an example from Patriarch Yaakov and righteous Yosef (who couldn't return here alive!).
"At all times, one should reside in Eretz Yisroel, even in a city inhabited mostly by heathens (e.g. Bethlehem), and one should not reside outside the land, even in a city inhabited mostly by Jews (e.g. Boro Park, Manchester, Fairfax), for TO LEAVE Eretz Yisroel for the diaspora is tantamount to committing idolatry" (a voluntary diaspora Jew "has no Lord"-- see Ket. 110b; but Mendelovitz in Siberia may be more "in Israel", than a Tel Avivian, whose heart's in L.A.).
In Sefer Hamitzvot, Rambam asserts that God's promised us that there will always be some Jews in Israel (e.g. P'keiin), and that the calendar can only be determined by Israeli courts-- "a great and fundamental principle of faith, only to be properly understood and appreciated by one of profound mind". Rambam concludes that the Torah as a whole could only be fully and satisfactorily observed in Israel (M.T., Bet Habechira, 7:12,14); one who wanted to make aliya could compel his/her spouse to come along or grant a divorce.
"Sanctity has never departed from Jerusalem and the Temple, since it's derived from the Divine Presence, which never ceases to radiate, as written: 'I'll make desolate your holy places'-- tho they stand desolate, their holiness remains" (ibid, 6:16; these passages are from 6 Talks on Maimonides, Aryeh Newman, $5 from TOP)".
Many Yeminites made aliya around the turn of the century; the embittered old Yerushalmis refused to recognize them as Jewish, or to share their charity funds with them. Luckily, non-Jews helped them settle in Silwan, until kinder national Zionist institutions arose, who were often far closer to Avraham's just and kind ways, than were their "pious" brethren. But awesome, kind, wise and tolerant Rav Chaim Hirschenson, father of Rabbanit De Sola Pool, whom I would love to have known, moved from Palestine to Turkey to Hoboken.
March forward, Jews of all lands! Your ancient fatherland is calling you... March forward, you noble hearts! The day on which the Jewish tribes return to their fatherland will be epoch-making in the history of humanity. Oh, how will the East tremble at your coming! How quickly, under the influence of labor and industry, will the enervation of the people vanish, in the land where voluptuousness, idleness and robbery have held sway for thousands of years (Hess, Rome and Jerusalem, 1862, p. 158f).
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B. YAAKOV, LONELY MAN OF FAITH
A little hurt from a kin is worse than a big hurt from a stranger (Zohar, Genesis, 151b).
Vayetze REPEATS the tale of Yitchak sending Yaakov away (28:5); there the Torah stresses his filial obedience, here his beginning his lonely exile, in a hostile environment. His independence, soon to be suspended by Lavan, is necessary for the next stage in his Divine Development-- founding his own family: "Thus a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife... (Gen. 2:24)". Jewish tradition sees the family as the natural venue to develop man's divine image, depth in feeling and ethics, bringing him/her close to God (see Judaism Confronts Contemporary Issues, Alex Goldman-- Birth Control and Pre-Marital Sex). But Greek-Roman tradition sustituted aesthetics and culture as the road to human perfection (cf. the family life and the few, if any, children of most highly creative artists, and the unnaturally late child-bearing of Western secular women).
All Yaakov has now are his strong body and personality, and his connection to God (Hirsch)-- "Tho my father and mother WILL forsake me, God shall gather me in" (Ps. 27:10). Everyone's ultimately alone-- the best parents eventually desert their kids, even against their own will, e.g. via sickness, poverty, and death. Love for parents is tested when they become a responsibility, not a support. Marriage or friendship also can't solve all problems or cure all weaknesses. God's man's only ultimate hope and companion. So He appears to Yaakov, when he must flee Esav and his cherished home. Yaakov may be terribly disappointed, even angry, at the results of his beloved mother's scheme. They'll never see each other again. Rivka now leaves the Bible, covenantal history, her role finished (due to her deceiving and shocking Yitzchak?).
Yet Yaakov, not Esav, may be chosen to lead Israel's covenantal mission BECAUSE he was closer to Rivka than to Yitzchak; she had bina, female intuition and could see radically different possibilities for her sons (cf. the MOTHER of invention); only she received God's prophecies of their future (25:28; per Rav M. Weinberg, who claims that every wife's a mother to her husband, just as Rivka replaces Sara-- 24:67; per Freud and Ber. 57a, curious questors of truth, intellectuals, seek intimacy with their mothers and are likely to relate to their wives as mothers, especially luftmenschen-- cf. Roshei Yeshiva and professors; see Masie Mosco's epic novel, Almonds and Raisins, where she explores the multi-generational assimilation of East European Jewish immigrants to England, despite their powerful dedicated mothers).
Tho Yaakov now leaves the holy land, he descends for a greater ascent on God's heavenly ladder, a paradigm for his exiled descendants. Avraham had to leave Charan for Israel, to develop great individual role models for humanity; so Yaakov has to return to Israel from Charan to begin the next stage-- building a model family, all to become tribes of Israel; Avraham and Yitzchak didn't achieve this; each lost that son most like him to alien values. The rest of Genesis, the book of creation and Israeli re-creation, depicts the slow painful physical and spiritual growth of Yaakov and his family.
Yaakov's family must later leave Israel for another advanced civilization, Egypt; there they acquire wealth and know-how, to build a Jewish model holy nation back in Israel, to transform mankind from Zion-- the theme of Exodus. So U.S. immigrants enrich Israel with their creative and open striving for both excellence and efficiency, all Torah values. Vibrant creativity, well-rewarded, must replace stagnant socialist job security; the Torah protects and respects one's earnings and property. Rav Schubert Spiro applied Mordecai's message to Esther to U.S. Jews today-- "WHO KNOWS IF BUT FOR THIS MOMENT (to come and build Israel) YOU'VE ACHIEVED MAJESTY (wealth, education, and know-how). Yaakov, not holy Yitzchak, who never leaves Israel, lays the family foundations for God's Chosen Folk, named after his highest potential state/State-- Israel. He's always learning and growing; God changes his name, as Avram's (unlike Yitzchak's), to reflect this. Recent immigrants may build a better Israel than those here for centuries, but only due to the latter's unique pioneering, hard work and sacrifice-- see Herman Wouk's gripping account of Israel's birth, The Hope.
Hirsch: Yitzchak's only a transitional link between Avraham and Yaakov; but Rav J. Soloveichik, his historic protagonist, claims that such introspective and disciplined personalities consolidate, deepen and define past action, a prerequisite for new leaps forward; Yitzchak can revive Avraham's wells, stopped up by Philistines; later he adds wells, tho avoiding direct conflict with idolators (should Habad come to Israel or fight blacks in Crown Heights?). Sometimes the alien culture stops up our wells of Torah (e.g. Stalinist Russia); other times, it claims they're its own creation (e.g. other monotheistic faiths, who should learn from us, not teach us, once we shape up, per Isaiah 2).
In the future, Israel will be subject to the yoke of no man (Eleazer ben Yaakov, Songs Raba 1:5)
C. A SYNOPSIS OF VAYETZE
Lighter than bran is a son-in-law who lives in the house of his father-in-law (B.B. 98b).
YAAKOV LEFT BEERSHEVA AND HEADED TOWARD CHARAN (28:10). He was 77 (P.D.E. 35)-- he was 130, Yosef 39, when he arrived in Egypt (47:9). Thus he was 91 at Yosef's birth, after serving Lavan 14 years. Per Rav Chiya, however, he left at 63 (PD'RE, Radal; Meg. 16-17), first spending 14 years in Aver's Yeshiva U. (cf. Rav J. Soloveichik in Berlin, The Lubavitcher Rebbe at the Sorbonne). This would temporarily fulfill Yitzchak's dream for Yaakov-- to remain "ish tam", a whole person, in tents of Torah; Yitzchak saw what happened to Avraham's #1 disciple, Lot, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple S'dom, after he left Avraham's Yeshiva to explore the big World Wide Web.
Why tell us: "Yaakov left Beersheva"-- how else could he reach Charan?-- But God's telling us that Beersheva isn't the same w/o Yaakov-- its glory and beauty depart with him (Rashi). Yet Yitzchak remained!-- but he was inactive, ill and blind. Yaakov's departure may indeed be noticed only by Yitzchak & Co., other citizens ignoring it (Klei Yakar). So the seemingly superfluous words, "he headed toward Charan", imply an upcoming metamorphosis of Charan-- holy Yaakov's on his way; cf. Chabad's sanctification of Crown Heights-- but surely now, with the Rebbe gone, there's no reason for Lubavitch not to pull up stakes, as it did in Russia, and finally leave exile for the Holy Land, turning Kfar Chabad into a great spiritual center; will Brooklyn's chabadniks continue to suffer a Diaspora Lubotomy, or will they remember that Dvarim's worst curse is exile from our land, that it's not enough to mourn and pray for our return when we can do it, that this is the only place where we can fulfill God's Torah, per Ramban? Per Ramban, "Yaakov left (from) Beersheva" teaches that he detoured there to pray for permission to leave Israel, as Yitzchak had done; it was "the gate to heaven", where Avraham prayed (on 28:17)-- Ramban assumes that Yitzchak's family lived in Chevron; but Jews (and Arabs, not Christians) go to Chevron, not Beersheva, today, when they really want to pray!
The late great Lubavitcher Rebbe translates: "Yaakov departed from 'Beershevian mentality'". The city was named for the non-aggression pacts convened there by Avimelech, Avraham and Yitzchak. Yaakov leaves their subservient attitude; he'll dictate his own terms of Israeli conquest to Esav-- Esav indeed slinks away after meeting the strong new Yaakov-Yisroel 20 years later (if Israel truly becomes Yisroel, the Arabs may admire and join it, w/o land for peace). But the Rebbe's view is difficult-- Yaakov is indeed about to bite the dust, virtually a slave with Lavan. Maybe that's basic training for the war with Esav. The verse may simply reflect Yaakov's dual motives-- HE LEFT BEERSHEVA, running anywhere from Esav, and HE HEADED TOWARD CHARAN, to marry. So some come to Israel to run away from something, others to find themselves, God, and Messianic destiny-- but the former may turn into the latter. The Lord works in mysterious ways-- Meshiach is being conceived when Lot sleeps with his older daughter, and when Yehuda takes Tamar, his daughter-in-law, thinking that she was a prostitute (today too? Will he be a returnee Messiah?); so his coming may be advanced when a U.S. Jew loses his L.A. job and makes aliya!
Yaakov journeys on: HE CHANCED UPON THE PLACE AND SPENT THE NIGHT THERE, FOR THE SUN HAD SET; HE TOOK OF THE STONES OF THE PLACE... ARRANGED THEM ABOUT HIS HEAD, AND LAY DOWN TO SLEEP IN THAT PLACE (28:11-- the 3 "place" settings refer to 3 Temples, on the site of the Akedah, per Abarbanel (cf. 22:3,4,9,14); but others claim that the third temple will be 5-56 miles north of Jerusalem-- see Artscrolls Ezekiel 40,45,48; Malbim ibid claims that Jerusalem will move 45 mil south of the 3rd Temple. Yaakov's peaceful sleep, connected by Abarbanel to the 3rd Temple, may reflect the fact that it will only be built with the peaceful consent of all mankind, like Yitzchak's 3rd well, Rechovot, per Ramban (26:20-2).
HE DREAMT AND BEHOLD A LADDER (sulam= 130= Sinai, notes Abarbanel) SET UP TOWARD EARTH-- AND ITS TOP REACHED TOWARD HEAVEN; AND, BEHOLD, ANGELS (work-agents) OF GOD WERE ASCENDING AND DESCENDING AGAINST HIM (Hirsch). BEHOLD GOD WAS STANDING OVER HIM (or IT) AND SAID: "I'M GOD, LORD OF AVRAHAM YOUR FATHER, AND LORD OF YITZCHAK-- THE LAND UPON WHICH YOU LIE-- I'LL GIVE YOU AND YOUR SEED (28:12-3). God calls Avraham, not Yitzchak, Yaakov's father-- AT THIS POINT, Yaakov primarily identifies with his activist missionary grandfather, rather than his contemplative father, who prefers tough Esav, the silent man of nature. God verifies that Yaakov is Avraham's true "son", to continue His universally redemptive covenant; neither Yishmael nor Esav, Islam nor Christianity, can do so.
YOUR SEED WILL BE AS DUST OF THE EARTH (stept upon, i.e. exiled and persecuted-- Abarbanel), BUT YOU'LL BURST FORTH (or BECOME STRONG, per Rashi; "faratzta" = 770, Habad's capital on Eastern Parkway)-- WEST (or "SEAWARD"), EAST, NORTH, AND SOUTH (28:14-- to the 4 corners of the earth, with West placed first, tho the Jews first were exiled to the South and East of Israel-- perhaps this refers to high impact Jewish messianic achievement, which starts in the basically democratic and monotheistic Western world, spreading to the spiritual East, then to the cool North, and, finally, to the sensuous South; it may refer to Jewish impact on Greek culture; cf. the 4 camps, each of 3 tribes, in the desert; they reflect the 4 basic elements of the universe, per Abarbanel; 4 X "faratzta" = 3080, JTS's capital on Broadway), AND ALL FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED THRU YOU AND YOUR SEED (Jews elevate their host nations, and will eventually redeem all mankind from Israel) ...FOR I'LL NOT LEAVE YOU UNTIL I'VE DONE THAT WHICH I SAID TO YOU (28:15)-- Israel won't NEED special protection, once humanity acknowledges The Chosen Folk's Divine teaching role. YAAKOV WOKE AND SAID: "INDEED GOD'S IN THIS PLACE AND I WAS UNAWARE". AWESTRUCK, HE SAID: "HOW AWESOME IS THIS PLACE, IT CAN ONLY BE THE HOUSE OF GOD AND THIS IS THE ENTRANCE TO HEAVEN (16-7)"-- prayer in Jerusalem resembles prayer before the Throne of Glory (a local call); the gate of heaven opens here to receive Israel's prayer (Ramban, 28:17).
Yaakov had put 12 stones from the altar of Isaac's sacrifice about his head (protection from snakes or symbolic of the main danger of the diaspora-- "head-contamination"). He awoke and found them fused into one stone, as the 12 tribes will form one nation (Rashi). He made it a pillar and poured oil upon it; God made it the keystone of the earth and Temple, Even Hashesiya, The Foundation Stone. Yaakov called this place, formerly Luz, Beth El (House of God). Ramban says that Beth El here refers to Jerusalem, not the usual Beth El (Vilna Gaon, Joshua 16:2, notes 3 Beth Els; if the third Temple will be 45 mil north of Jerusalem, per Rashash B.B. 122a, winding roads may place it "at the head of mountains", Baal Hatzor, near Bet El-- see Is. 2). "Luz" also denotes an almond (cf. Yaakov's sticks-- 30:37), and a small indestructible bone in the back, the basis of Divine resurrection of the dead; thus it's an appropriate name for Jerusalem (Lev. Raba 18, Sot. 46a). So Jerusalem brings existential resurrection to all mankind (R. Bachye)-- see Ezek. 48:35; Sporno says that Jerusalem's daily life will reflect the highest human holiness and integrity, far more so than the sacrificial Temple service; thus the Third Temple will be elsewhere, in second place. God won't dwell in Jerusalem in heaven until He dwells in Jerusalem on earth (Taanit 1:5, subject of F. Bono's mural in our center; we're on the way!).
Alfonso V of Portugal's Jewish treasurer also held important posts in Spain and Italy; he divides our portion into 3 parts: Yaakov's journey, his family and business formation in Aram, and his return. Only Yaakov dreams of a ladder connecting heaven and earth-- so it must relate to his own unique situation-- in exile, fleeing from Esav, poor and alone, as so many of his descendants; he's not sure of realizing his father's blessings, after deceiving him. So God assures him of His protection, of his return to Israel, and that he'll receive Avraham's convenant-- his seed will multiply, inherit Israel, and bring God's Presence and blessings back to mankind from Jerusalem (otherwise they can lose Israel); this may be an assurance only that Yaakov will survive to receive the holy blessings of Avraham and The Land, which Yitzchak originally intended for him, not those of wealth and power, which Yitzchak intended for Esav, until deceived by Yaakov.
The Torah Treasurer compares his words with 8 earlier expositions, e.g. those of Rashi and Midrash; he rejects them-- they don't relate the dream to Yaakov's own unique situation. Per Maimonides (Guide), the dream teaches Yaakov metaphysical realities-- but, if so, God would educate Yaakov awake, in a comfortable setting. Dreams only enlighten imagination and prophecy, not intellect (joy brings prophecy, sorrow wisdom-- Rav Y. Poupko; his TOP video wisdom brought him his bride Chana); R. Yehuda says that nights are made for sleeping (Eruv. 65a; but Resh Lakish says that the moon is made for learning-- cf. Torah, called silver, with the light of the silvery moon, a symbol of Israel; cf. "It's a grand night for singing, the stars are out above; and somewhere a bird is rehearsing a word, it seems to be speaking of love-- falling, falling in love"). Perhaps R. Yehuda posits that daytime is best suited for clear systematic intellectual pursuits, obscure night for imagination exercises. The Treasurer was great statesman-scholar Don Yitzchak Abarbanel; may Kissinger and Israeli rabbis and politicians emulate him! (hear Lenny Solomon of Shlock Rock's deep ditty-- ba-ba-barbanel).
YAAKOV VOWED, SAYING: IF THE LORD WILL BE WITH ME AND GUARD ME IN THIS PATH I'M TAKING, AND GIVE ME BREAD TO EAT AND CLOTHES TO WEAR-- AND I RETURN IN PEACE TO MY FATHER'S HOUSE, AND IF (or THEN) GOD WILL BE LORD TO ME (20-1), THIS STONE... WILL BE THE LORD'S HOUSE, AND I'LL SURELY TITHE ALL YOU GIVE ME (22). Yaakov doesn't ask for Yitzchak's blessings of wealth and power, obtained by deceit-- only for sheer survival. He is not saying that God will be his Lord only if He helps; this is part of the condition-- IF I still retain faith in You; he doubts himself, not God. He may lose touch with God in unclean exile! IF he'll still believe when he returns, he'll build a shul; why build a temple w/o worshippers? Yaakov's survival and return (as that of Jews today) will prove that the transcendant GOD of love is also to be found in the impersonal judgmental aspect of the LORD of nature; so we proclaim on Yom Kippur-- GOD, HE'S (ALSO) THE LORD, and in Sh'ma-- GOD'S OUR LORD (Hirsch). God may choose Yaakov over Esav because of his total pure commitment to Avraham's mission, so great that even alienated terrible sinners among his descendants will be stirred to repentence, e.g. the Jew who helped Rome destroy the Temple, and some of today's pagan returnees (Rav M. Weinberg; read such tales in Those Who Returned, by Yisrael Klapholts). Perhaps God can't fully be Yaakov's Lord UNLESS he returns to Israel (See Rambam above, Ket. 110b); The Land is called Israel, Yaakov's higher name, to honor his attachment to it. Perhaps his faith's now at its nadir, his beautiful world of tents shattered in his first venture into the world of deceit.
Heading EAST (see preface), Yaakov came to a well, but it was covered by a giant stone, a sign of water shortage and communal distrust-- Hirsch; Meor Anayim deduces that the wells of the soul wait for a Yaakov to liberate them; was his own soul recently "liberated" by the Catholic Paulist Press, who translated his work into English? Haran shepherds pointed out cousin Rachel, approaching with her sheep (Rachel means "sheep" or "ewe"). Yaakov urged them to water the sheep and go on pasturing, as it was early. He later works for Lavan with similar zeal. The righteous don't just set an example-- they also try to improve everything and everyone; they protest misdeeds, don't say: "This is none of my business" (Lekach Tov)* But perhaps Yaakov just wanted to get rid of them to be alone with Rachel! The shepherds claim that they can't remove the stone. When Yaakov saw Rachel, who resembled Rivkeh, and his family's flocks, he rolled off the stone alone-- YAAKOV KISSED (lit. KISSED TOWARD) Rachel, LIFTED UP HIS VOICE, AND CRIED (because he kissed her? 29:11). The verbs "to kiss" and "to water" (animals) both share two root letters, Shin and Kuf. Hirsch posits a non-sensual kiss-- he cried! Per Ibn Ezra, Rachel's an indirect object here, indicating a mere social kiss-- some rabbis shake women's hands, etc. Some say relatives may be kissed w/o erotic connotation (see Kid. 82a). Sephardi rabbis often kiss women whom they bless, who kiss their hands. An Italian commentator adds-- "and if he really kissed her, what can I do?" (heard from Nechama Leibowitz).
* Should folks have protested and disrupted the Jewish-Christian service in the Jewish 1/4's Crusader Garden last Friday night? Some of them have been distributing a disgustingly perverse little missionary booklet about a haredi Rabbi Waxman, who's condemned to eternal damnation because he didn't accept their vengeful alleged humanoid god of love, a sad substitute for the One Living God, who has no physical properties.
Yaakov settled down with Lavan and worked his sheep; he gladly offered 7 years' work for Lavan's beautiful younger daughter, Rachel; Lavan consented and Yaakov demanded Rachel after (Ralbag-- before) 7 years, "THAT I COME TO HER". Such direct sexual language reflects his urgency to have children at 84-- Rashi. Abarbanel says that Yaakov means "to COME HOME TO a home of my own" (one's wife is one's only true home-- see Almonds and Raisins); Abarbanel praises Ramban's view-- Yaakov stressed that he wouldn't take her away from her Aramian family, but would "COME TO HER" in Aram (a non-Zionist?). But later, after much abuse from Lavan, Joseph's birth, and, possibly, a message from Rivka (see 27:45 and Sefer Hayashar), Yaakov prepares to return to Israel; following hints of impending anti-semitism and a Divine message (31:1f), Yaakov took off.
Lavan gathered all the men of the place for the wedding, substituting Leah for Rachel at the last moment, giving her Zilpah as her maidservant. These seemingly irrelevant facts may indicate that Yaakov knew he was being tricked; wouldn't he recognize Leah the whole night? The maidsevants' personalities probably resembled those of their mistresses (Yaakov put his bed in Bilhah's tent, not Leah's, after Rachel's death-- see Shabbat 55a-b); if Zilpah's given to the bride, Yaakov would know that she's Leah. Should he protest, however, ALL THE MEN would kill him-- a wild drunken bunch (Hindy). Better marry Leah than die-- history's first shotgun wedding?
Per Abarbanel, ALL THE MEN were invited as it's harder to divorce after a grand wedding. A talmudic view (Meg. 13b, on 29:25) assumes that Yaakov didn't know it was Leah until dawn; the rabbis so taught a moral message-- Rachel delivered prearranged identifying signs to Leah, giving up Yaakov, that Leah not be embarrassed; some say that Rachel hid under the marriage bed, using her voice for Leah's replies to Yaakov, history's first ventriloquist! But this deceit of Yaakov is morally ?able (he so deceived Yitzchak)! Despite the moral messages against embarrassment, I'm sure that the rabbis themselves didn't believe that all this really happened; the charming story was just a way to get their moral message into the genre of the weekly torah discourse, the Midrash, during the only time when they had their communities assembled (Rav Y. Hadari). The next morning Yaakov realized how unhappy he was with the same old Leah, who had not changed, despite her presumably enchanting night (perhaps she was encumbered by guilt feelings)-- BEHOLD SHE'S Leah (23:25; we, the readers, know this already; the text doesn't say that Yaakov discovered that she's Leah, only that she is still Leah).
Lavan worked out a deal-- Yaakov marries Rachel too, giving an IOU for 7 more years of work. See Almonds & Raisins for good insights into the conflict between practical and romantic considerations in choosing and staying with a mate. David marries Bessie the boss' daughter, who shares his love for wealth and power, to fulfill his ambitious dreams; Miriam, his true love, doesn't identify with his aspirations, leading to constant quarrels; she later marries his lame peaceful brother Sammy. Which is the better match?-- cf. "God said: 'It is not good for man to be alone; I'll make a helpmate, opposite him'" (Gen. 2:18).
Once Yaakov lived with Rachel, he loved her more than Leah, who felt rejected or hated. But tough politician Abarbanel says that deceived Yaakov really hated her! God saw and pitied barren Leah; He OPENED HER WOMB, to give her Yaakov's firstborn son, Reuven, easing her affliction and ending Yaakov's open acts of hatred, e.g. not sleeping with her (Abarbanel). Reuven loses his firstborn leadership, when he tries to get Dad to sleep with Leah, not Bilha, after Rachel's death. Leah named her 2nd son Shimon-- God heard she was hated (now only via harsh words-- Abarbanel). Her 3rd son's called Levi, "uniting" her with Yaakov, removing even hateful thoughts toward her (bad communication?); this is also Levi's future role with God and His "wife", Israel (cf. S. of S.). Who knows what can come of small beginnings? Leah has no complaints whatsoever when her 4th son is born; she calls him Yehuda, for: "THIS TIME I'LL THANK GOD (AND SHE STOPPED BEARING"-- 29:35). So Yehuda's eventual descendant, the Davidic Messiah, will cement good relations bewteen both Man and God and man and man-- even, possibly harder, between man and woman; before him, Eliyahu will turn children's and parents' hearts back to each other, perhaps a prelude to marital harmony, disturbed by early parental relationships of the respective spouses (see Getting The Love You Want).
Abarbanel: Leah wants no more pain from children, once her husband treats her OK!-- enough kids. Statesmen tend toward Machieveilian analysis. Conversely, women may lose interest in husbands, once they have a real child-- see our Tazria study. Abarbanel, as Mendel Hirsch, claims that even David's family (from Yehuda) suffered the corruption of all monarchy-- see our Chaye Sara study.
A sign of Leah's marital success is Rachel's sudden jealousy-- even Moshe could become jealous! (Deut. Raba 8); she tells Yaakov: "GIVE ME CHILDREN OR ELSE I DIE!" (30:1). Yaakov is angry, possibly because her ultimatum treats prayer as a way of getting around God's Will, assuming that Yaakov has a magical mystical Bilaam-like skill to change reality; prayer is but a means of inner transformation, resulting in a change of God's harsh decision; thus she, not Yaakov, should pray first; but Yaakov should not be harsh and angry in telling her that it's all her problem in such a harsh way (Rav Azriel Ariel, in B'Ahava U'b'Emunah). YF: but she probably had already prayed herself out; Yaakov doesn't even tell her to pray; Yaakov then demands that she act as Sara did, giving Avraham Hagar (Mid. Raba 71). Rachel then gives Yaakov Bilhah, who bears them Dan and Naftali (considered Rachel's kids-- she raises them). Leah's matching grant is Zilpah, who bears Gad and Asher.
Leah trades mandrakes, a gift of Reuven, for Rachel's turn to sleep with Yaakov; he meekly acquiesces (just for peace?). Perhaps he was again spending more time with Rachel; Reuven trys to get Yaakov to favor his mother via the fertility plant-- Abarbanbel. Ibn Ezra doubts the fertility effect. Per Ramban, Rachel wanted them for their pleasant odor. In the far east, the fruit's considered a love-charm. Leah went out to greet Yaakov and bore him Yissachar (meaning "a reward", something undeserved or extra) from their union; she then bore Z'vulun (meaning "dwelling together"), implying that Yaakov would really be linked to her via 6 of his 12 sons; she then bore Dinah, the only recorded daughter of the patriarchs. God remembered Rachel, cured her barrenness (her punishment for not easing Leah's situation-- Abarbanel), and gave her Yosef-- his name implies both removal (of her reproach) and (her prayer for) addition (i.e. more children)-- she later died giving birth to Benyamin.
Yaakov now asked Lavan to let him return to Canaan, together with his wives and children. He reminds Lavan that he worked hard and enriched him. He asks only that subsequently born speckled, spotted and dark sheep, and speckled and spotted goats, be his-- after removing all such from the flocks; Lavan happily agrees, sending all such animals 3 day's journey away. Yaakov took rods of fresh almond, poplar, and plane-tree and exposed their white interior; he set them before the flocks in the watering troughs, that they conceive streaked, speckled and spotted offspring. He only did this with the stronger sheep; he prospered greatly, arousing the jealousy and ill-will of Lavan & Sons (as Avimelech's reaction to Yitzchak); this happens to hard-working clever Jews everywhere. Perhaps he used the sticks only after the first year, to ensure that the many animals born to him, with God's blessing, would continue to multiply after their kind (Ramban). Others say that he didn't need this, for God revealed in a dream that all would be born as Yaakov specified, even per Lavan's constantly changing criteria. R. Bachye claims that Yaakov took the sticks only to CONCEAL God's miracle, to make it appear natural, using then contemporary science; he didn't want to benefit from an open miracle-- blessing only comes to things "concealed from the eye"; so Elisha tells the poor widow of the prophet to close her door, while God miraculously gave her oil. Prof. Yehuda Felix (Nature, Man and The Bible) suggests a scientific genetic explanation of Yaakov's sheep selection.
R. Bachye adds: If sheep are affected by their thoughts or visions at the moment of conception, how much more must human beings focus on holiness at that moment of parental potential (cf. Ned. 20a)! God now told Yaakov to return to Canaan with his wealth; his wives agreed, feeling Lavan cheated them of all the wealth earned by Yaakov. Yaakov & Co. stole away, Lavan unaware until the third day. Rachel stole his idols, terafim; she sat on them to conceal them, when Lavan finally caught up with them at Mt. Gil'ad; he accused Yaakov of ingratitude, deceit and theft. She apologized for being unable to rise to greet her dad, as she was menstruant (no pads then?). Yaakov, who didn't know that she took the idols, cursed the thief with death. Perhaps crafty Lavan suspected Rachel, but feared that zealot Yaakov would kill her-- Lavan's a swindler, but not a murderer (from an Israel TV drama)! God warned Lavan to leave Yaakov alone; he didn't find his idols; they finally conclude a peace treaty, after telling each other off. Lavan makes a last try to bring Yaakov back to the fold of Nachor's family religion and "destroy everything" (Hagada).
After 20 years with Lavan, man of action, Yaakov now appreciates the quiet depth and integrity of his father Yitzchak, and his unique relationship with God (31:42-53). Lavan returns to his place (stagnant) and Yaakov to his path (ever progessing). He's welcomed back by Israeli angels (and customs check? El Al used to greet arrivals with "hevanu shalom aleichem"). God didn't appear to Yaakov all his years in exile-- cf. Crown Heights and Boro Park.
In thy Presence is fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11).
D. THE HAFTARA, HOSEA, 12:13-15, 13:1-14:10
He who works deceit shall not dwell in My House (Ps. 101:7).
Hosea stresses Yaakov's modest beginnings; he fled from Lavan, surviving only with God's help; so modest Moshe, God's prophet, w/o might and eloquence, saved the Jews in Egypt. Ephraim is castigated for ignoring Jewish history, trusting in his own abilities, vain corrupt leaders, and allies for his salvation, scorning God's prophets (cf. Peres and Sharon). Just before this, God laments (12:1-4): "Efrayim surrounds Me with lies, the house of Israel with deceit... God has a controversy with Yehuda, and will judge Yaakov, according to his ways; according to his doings, will He recompense him. In the womb, he took his brother by the heel, and by his strength, he strove with the Lord." Hosea may be reminding Israel that Yaakov was repaid by Him for deceiving Esav; Jewish ends don't always justify Jewish means, even when dealing with enemies. Perhaps deceit has natural consequences, even when one MUST deceive (so X, rescuing Y from a burning bus, may die; cf. Israel and Tzahal today). Lev. Raba (27:6) takes these verses as a mock judgement upon Israel, turned by God into their praise. Malbim reads them as perverse self-justification by Israel, who claim that their deceit (and fighting God?) apes Yaakov, and that their idolatry, the need for intermediaries between Man and God, reflects Moshe's role (cf. Hassidic beliefs that one only reaches God via the Tzadik of the age, who is, unlike Moshe, always right).
It is forbidden to deceive anyone, Jew or heathen (Chulin 94a).
E. YAAKOV, DETERMINED MAN OF ACTION
Lord, be Thou neither against us, nor for us! (Bar Kochba, attrib. to TJ Taanit, 4:6).
Yaakov begins his career as an activist by obtaining the firstborn priesthood and Yitzchak's blessing; he no longer just learns and prays (R. Hadari; if someone claims to rely on God, w/o fighting evil, take $10 from him-- see what he does; cf. Tzahal & Satmar). Yitzchak may have sent Yaakov off w/o money (Mid. Raba), to force him to prove his claims to equal Esav in self-reliance, deserving thereby the physical blessings.
PRAISE THE LORD AND PASS THE AMMUNITION: Rav Yehuda Henkin posits that Yaakov's placing colored sticks before the flocks illustrates a basic Jewish belief-- God helps those who help themselves. Yaakov followed contemporary science of prenatal influence; man must first do everything legitimate in his power to achieve his goals; only then, if his cause be just, tho his efforts inadequate, God may make miracles (I also heard this from Rav JBS). Yaakov attributes his breeding success to God; he proclaims to his wives: "God rescued the flocks of your father and gave them to me" (31:9). The Torah devotes 6 verses to details of his animal husbandry techniques-- prayer and faith aren't enough. Even a demonstrative act of faith is sometimes necessary-- e.g. entering the Red Sea before it was split (Ex. 15:15); Elisha made a miracle for the poor prophet's widow-- all her borrowed jars were filled with oil-- but she first had to borrow jars and pour her bit of oil into them (IIK4). But man may never claim: "My strength and the force of my hand has gained for me all this wealth" (Deut. 8:17).
KAD HAKEMACH (Trust In God) cites Ps. 37:3-- TRUST IN THE ETERNAL AND DO GOOD; DWELL IN THE LAND AND CHERISH FAITH; tho one must cherish faith, he must also dwell in the land (of livelihood). WHEN THERE'S NO FLOUR (basic food, not luxuries-- Midrash Shmuel), THERE'S NO TORAH (Avot 3:17). Wisdom can't exist w/o sustenance-- the Table of the Showbread faces the Menora of Light in the tabernacle. David adds that one must cherish faith EVEN when dwelling in the land-- no underhanded means may be used, even to earn a livelihood (or get votes-- cf. Bnei Brak). Trust in God means no mortal can benefit or save anyone contrary to His Will... trouble itself comes from God... Nothing's impossible for Him. "One who has bread in his basket and asks 'What shall we eat tomorrow?' lacks faith" (Sot. 48b; cf. the manna). Plan and save for the future, but don't worry about it. Insurance too? A father must teach his son a respectable profession. R. Yishmael and Rava urged their pupils to take off for the harvest, to learn securely the rest of the year (but see Rava, Eruvin 22). Those who followed Rashby's opposite advice self-destructed (Ber. 35b; cf. professionless pietists today; bless those who try to bless you at the Wall, that they be able to support themselves; see our 12/92 study).
BULLETS, BABIES, AND EDUCATION: Everyday, Arab masses plot and attempt the destruction of Israel. Tho superior in weapons, we cannot long perpetuate a nation as a minority. Military defense falls primarily on the male; the greatest female contribution is large Jewish Israeli families. Yeshiva students must sacrifice some study for military service; so women may have to cut down on careers and "the good life", to raise many children with love. If secular women fear a charedi Israel, they must revolutionize their society, become family oriented (thereby also narrowing the secular-religious rift). Israel must not mimic Western aesthetics, over-stressing external beauty, e.g. clothes, house, and car. Divine Human Internal Beauty should be it's ideal. A weekend article on a beautiful family is far more meaningful than the latest fashions or abstract paintings. Raise women to be women, if they and Israel are to survive. Greater aid must be given to help Jews raise many children. National service, both military and fecundatory, must be encouraged in every way. Knesset archivist Shulamit Catane, mother of 11, grandmother of 120, will speak (in Hebrew) Wed. 11/27/96, 8 PM, at the Ezrat Israel Synagogue, Hildesheimer 17, German Colony (10 IS; for info, call Shoshana Koginsky, 563-3217).
F. JEWISH BEAUTY, THE QUALITY OF LIFE
R. Bachye cites Prov. 11:11 for his weekly message-- Tzadikim are a city's star attraction. BY THE BLESSING OF THE UPRIGHT, A CITY IS RAISED, BUT BY THE MOUTH OF THE WICKED, IT'S OVERTHROWN. Besides always speaking positively, the tzadik dedicates all his blessings to the common weal-- e.g. tz'daka and Tzahal. The wicked contribute nothing; they even attempt to destroy the good of others, with mocking speech. Solomon doesn't call those who do no good "THE WICKED", only they who oppose it. So "THE UPRIGHT" aren't those who just refrain from evil, but they who also pursue good. Rav Nachman of Breslav speaks of evil, tho erudite, Torah scholars, whose motivation is self-aggrandizement (L. M. 1:12-- cf. the laws of evil speech; but if it's a mitzva to warn someone of a store which sells rotten vegetables, how much more so to warn him of a bad teacher). The world will only cross Jordan into the Promised Land when both non-Jews, and those Jews who are detached from Torah, abandon their distorted lifestyles (described in Agada as: "filling the Jordan with their excrement"!). Yaakov brought blessing wherever he went, as did his true son-- Yosef; this good ceased with his departure. Esav and Yaakov are BOTH strong ardent activists, howbeit for opposite ends; neither is petite bourgois, "balabatish".
Lot chose to live in beautiful S'dom, ultimately destroyed, together with its wicked populace. A truly beautiful city, tho run down, is one populated by beautiful people, radiating awareness of God and Man's Divine Image. Skin-deep physical beauty, Peyton Place, will eventually be destroyed. A "scheiner yid", a beautiful Jew, didn't refer to the glamorous, but to unique human beings, permeated with kindness, love, and refinement. Live near such people; in Jerusalem, God's your Neighbor (Ps. 135:21)! He only mantains offices abroad ("His Glory"-- Is. 6:3), tho He still dwells among those forced to remain in exile (e.g. Syria & Siberia-- Monsey, Manchester & Manhattan too?).
True, the Shtetel lacked the fine art and music of Germany and Austria's "beautiful people". Yet just those societies sunk below the lowest animal level. A society which LACKS basic deep human feelings seeks to replace them with symbolic substitutes; they TALK of peace and love, e.g. The 9th Symphony, Ode de Friede, of angry Beethoven; so those who have sex as a snack, ignoring Nature's associated reproduction, substitute Granola and jogging to feel "natural". A society permeated with holiness of God and Man doesn't need tawdry substitutes of "culture"; improvised tunes of a fiddler on the roof suffice to express its moods. God didn't want the wonderful hot springs of Tiberias and sweet fruits of Kinneret to be found naturally in Jerusalem-- the pleasure seeking hedonist shouldn't live there, nor should such things be the praise of Jerusalem (Ber. 44a; cf. The Jerusalem Festival & Teddy Stadium).
On Chanuka, Jews reject the ultimate Greek value-- 'THE BEAUTIFUL IS GOOD'-- and proclaim: 'THE GOOD IS BEAUTIFUL!'. The beauty of Yefet SHOULD flourish, but only insofar as it enhances and serves the holy values of Shem (cf. Shlomo Carlebach songs-- Gen. 9:27). Then, it itself is holy-- Betzalel's filled with the Spirit of God in all kinds of workmanship (Ex. 31:3). Everything associated with religious activity should be beautiful-- THIS IS MY GOD (first) and I shall (then) GLORIFY HIM (Ex. 15:2, Shab. 133b). Yet Torah must never be a mere vehicle for art (e.g. stylized cantatorial music, irrelevant to the words, and cheerful ditties about the Sabbath sacrifices!). Bodily beautification can contribute to the joy of marriage (Tos. Nid. 7:1, cf. MK 1:7, 9b, Shab. 64b, 65a-- vs. halitosis); but its negative, when it leads to immorality (Shab. 62b, Ezek. 23:40). In the Messianic era, outer and inner beauty won't clash-- all will be good; thus the cohen in the temple service, who must portray what man was, could, and will be, must have no BODILY defects. So everything should be first rate in Israel, e.g. good winter heating and summer A.C., patient and careful bus drivers, reasonably priced goods.
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