Yaakov and Eisav Go Separate Ways
Eisav said to his father, "Is there only one blessing that you have, my
father? Bless me too." (Bereishis 27:38)
What is the origin of the following joke:
God is sitting in Heaven when a scientist says to Him, "Lord, we don't need
you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of
nothing. In other words, we can now do what you did in the `beginning'."
"Oh, is that so? Tell me..." replies God.
"Well", says the scientist, "we can take dirt and form it into the likeness
of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man."
"Well, that's interesting. Show Me."
So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil.
"Oh no, no, no...." interrupts God, "Get your own dirt."
It's this week's parshah! What, you don't believe me? You're right, and
wrong. The joke is not over 3,500 years old. But, it is based on something
in this week's parshah, for, in this week's parshah Ya'akov and Eisav go
separate ways, Eisav in one that will eventually produce scientists who will
deny the reality of God, and Ya'akov in one that is supposed to prevent
Eisav from doing that.
I am God; I called you for righteousness and I will strengthen your hand;
and I formed you, and I made you for a people's covenant, for a light to
nations. (Yeshayahu 42:6)
This means teaching the world the truth about life in this world. It means
making it clear to everyone, and not just to ourselves, that God is not only
here, but that He runs the world, every last detail of it, and that if He
stops doing so for a moment, everything goes poof!
Now, I'm not into self-flagellation, but whenever the world becomes Godless,
any part of it, it is the Jewish people's responsibility. We were the ones
who were miraculously redeemed from Egypt, we were the ones for whom God
split the sea, and we were the ones who received the Torah, to live by and
to teach from it. If we don't do it, no one else will.
And, it's not just that the world remains spiritually uneducated, as history
proves. Man is inherently smart, street smart, and innately ambitious, not
to mention very talented. Furthermore, the world in which he lives is so
packed full of potential, a virtual R & D Department in which man can
experiment with just about everything under the sun, and just about has.
Judging by who's on top these days, and how they are using Creation in
pretty much self-fulfilling ways, it would be safe to say that the blessing
of Yitzchak in this week's parshah has been fulfilled, in the negative:
Eisav said to his father, "Is there only one blessing that you have, my
father? Bless me too."
Eisav raised his voice and cried.
Yitzchak his father answered and said to him, "Your settlements will be in
fat places of the earth, and [you will also have] from the dew of heaven
above. You shall live by your sword, and serve your brother. But when the
time comes that you feel justified to complain, you will break his yolk from
off your neck." (Bereishis 27:38-40)
Yolk? Which yolk?
The rabbis point out that a yolk is a positive thing, as in, the yoke of
Heaven. The point of a yolk is not to imprison, but to channel energy in a
positive and meaningful way. For example, when it comes to an ox, a yolk is
for harnessing its power and energy in order to plow a field for planting so
that everyone can eat, live, and prosper. Remove the yolk, and the ox does
very little else but graze and sleep.
Likewise, the yolk that Ya'akov was supposed to implement with respect to
his brother Eisav, and all of his descendants, was to provide them with
"binding" information that would "obligate" them, by their own logic and
reason, to use their lives and the world in a meaningful way. It was, is, to
give them a means to participate in the fulfillment of God's master plan for
Creation. Otherwise, they just use the world in whatever way it suits them.
Some people are different. They may not Jewish, but they act like it. They
have observed the Jewish people and their Torah, and as a result, they have
made conscious decisions to leave behind their backgrounds, and at the very
least, become Bnei Noach. They are a phenomenon, especially since they have
done so even as the world becomes increasingly hostile to the Jewish people.
They support Israel, and are not pulled into the insanity of the rest of the
world to which they still, technically, belong.
There were people like this in Shlomo HaMelech's time as well, in fact, many
more of them. In Shlomo's time, the fame of the Jewish people and their
Torah was known far and wide, and people traveled many miles just to see
what they were about. According to the Talmud, they did not leave disappointed.
But that was in Shlomo HaMelech's time. Since then, thousands of years have
passed, and the Jewish people are now dangling at the end of the political
chain. In spite of many miraculous accomplishments and countless
contributions to the benefit of all of mankind, the Jewish nation is being
treated like a pariah, and being asked to meet unreasonable demands, or
else. The Goldstone Report, and the U.N.'s reaction to it is just one more
indication of how unimportant the Jewish people have become in the eyes of
One might call it ironic that the very people whom the secular leaders of
the modern State of Israel tried to imitate and join are now the ones
joining forces against them today. However, that is only if one has not read
this week's parshah, during which Yitzchak warned Ya'akov that should he try
and make it in life without God, he himself will unleash Eisav on the world,
and once that happens, it will not be easy to reverse the situation.
Practically-speaking, that means a Godless world. Yitzchak also alluded to
this in his blessing, for when he blessed Eisav, God is not mentioned.
Rather, Eisav's success, Yitzchak indicated, though it will come from God,
it will not be recognizable to him as such. He'll use the dirt that God
created, so-to-speak, but only pay attention to what he is able to do with
it, and pat himself on the back for doing so.
But then again, when his own brother, who is supposed to be Godfearing and
the teacher of mankind acts in very much the same way, what more can be
expected from Eisav himself? And, we're not only talking about secular Jews,
but religious Jews as well, who, through their attitudes and actions, have
also nudged God out of the picture somewhat as well.
The balance between hishtadalus, the effort we actually make to succeed in
the life, and bitachon, the trust in God were supposed to have when it comes
to survival, has never been an easy one to strike, and certainly an even
harder one to maintain. This is certainly so if a person makes a point of
growing spiritually on a daily basis.
As a person matures physically, he should mature spiritually as well, and
not necessarily at the same rate. Rather, a person should grow spiritually
as quickly as he can, in a healthy way. When it comes to physical maturity,
there is little we can do to speed up the body clock, not that we
necessarily want to.
However, spiritual growth is less limited. You can find children with the
spiritual maturity of an adult, and vice-versa. There are limits to how much
one can push themselves physically, based upon the rules of nature. This is
not necessarily the case when it comes to spiritual growth.
For example, a person can have little faith in God one day, learn about the
need to fully trust God the next day, and then within a short time live on
such a level. True, old habits are hard to break, and there are usually
lapses. Nevertheless, with consistent follow-up, a person can come to
integrate sophisticated spiritual concepts into their consciousness within a
I didn't say that it is easy to do so. I just said that it can happen
relatively quickly. Besides, what is the alternative? Intellectual
blindness. Spiritual shortcomings. A lifestyle that bears an uncanny
resemblance to that of Eisav, one that seems to say that a Jew can and
should earn a living just like the rest of the world, and therefore, become
as embroiled in the physical world as Eisav has become.
I'm not saying a Jew doesn't have to work hard to survive. I'm just saying
that the work is, first and foremost, spiritual. For, if a person wants to
strengthen himself physically, all he needs to do is change his eating
habits, and spend considerable time in the gym working out. But, if we wants
to enhance himself spiritually, then he has come to terms with many
important spiritual concepts, many of which are counter-intuitive, and that
is where the work begins, at least for a Jew.
And, when enough of us have done the work, so that when the nations of the
world look at us they say, "Wow. There must be a God. Torah must be true.
Why else would so many intelligent people live in such a way, and succeed at
doing so? How can we get a piece of this spiritual action?" It will be the
ultimate Kiddush Hashem, the ultimate sanctification of God's Name.
When that happens, not only will the scientists not try and usurp God's role
within Creation, but they will even thank him for the very "dirt" with which
they work. Then the joke will no longer be on us, but it will be one that we
will all share, God included, as the Talmud says:
Then each of the proselytes will throw aside his religious token and get
away, as it says, "Let us break their bands asunder," and the Holy One,
Blessed is He, will sit and laugh, as it says, "He that sits in Heaven
laughs." [It was on this that] Rebi Yitzchak remarked that there is no
laughter for the Holy One, Blessed is He, except on that day. (Avodah Zarah
Which day? On the day that the truth about God, Torah, and life in this
world becomes clear to everyone.
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.