Divrei Torah

PARSHAS TOLDOS 5780

In this week’s parsha, we meet one of the villains in the Tanach and enemy of the Jewish people – Eisav. Eisav is a difficult character to understand. He was the twin brother of Ya’akov, yet you could not find twin brothers so different one from another. They were different in appearance, character and behavior. Ya’akov was smooth-skinned while Eisav was hairy. Ya’akov loved to study while Eisav hunted. Ya’akov was straight and honest while Eisav was a man of deception. Ya’akov was righteous while Eisav was evil.

What makes Eisav more difficult to understand is that he was the son of two righteous parents – Yitzchak and Rivka. Perhaps you would want to blame his uncle – Rivka’s brother Lavan who was as evil as they come. However, Ya’akov’s children were all righteous people and Lavan was their grandfather. So, it is hard to assign the blame in that direction.

As strange as it sounds, there are other examples in the Tanach and Jewish history where righteous people produced evil children. Moshe Rabbeinu’s own grandson was a priest to idolatry. The great Judge, Gidone had a son Avimelech who had no redeeming features. The greatest king of the Davidic Dynasty – King Hezkiyahu, who was married to the daughter of the prophet Isaiah – produced the evilest of the Davidic Kings – King Menashe, who executed his own grandfather among the many others that he put to death and filled the streets of Jerusalem with blood. The righteous King Yoshiyahu had an evil son Yehoyakim – who was so evil that the Prophet Yirmiyahu prophesied that he would not come to burial – which he did not.

But, Eisav is the example of evil. He was the ancestor of Amalek whose goal has always been the eradication of the Jewish people. In the 18th century, the Vilna Gaon said that the German people are descended from Amalek.  During the 20th century, the truth of those words of the Vilna Gaon became very apparent. Eisav has never let up against us.

Eisav was also the ancestor of the Romans who destroyed the second Bais Hamikdash and were most cruel to the Jewish people through torture, slavery, exile and executions.

Eisav – the son of his holy parents Yitzchak and Rivka and the brother of  the holy Ya’akov - could be best described as a non-Jewish Jew – a Jew who denies his Jewish roots and does his utmost to harm his own people.  

One should be disappointed and saddened with such behavior. However, one should not be shocked or surprised that such people do exist. We read in the Book of the Isaiah, “those who trample you and destroy you come from your midst.” We have had plenty such examples throughout our history and, unfortunately, we continue to see such Jews today.

Shortly before the historical period of Chanuka, we find Hellenists – Jews who aligned with the Syrian- Greeks and Greek culture – attempting to undermine Jewish life in Israel. We find in the Talmud cases of Jews turning other Jews over to foreign governments for punishment and execution. In the Middle Ages, many of the leading anti-Semites in Christian Europe were Jews who converted to Christianity. In Russia, four of the original seven members of Lenin’s Politburo were Jewish: Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev -   Hirsch Apfelbaum, Lev Borisovich Kamenev - born Leo Rosenfeld, Grigori Yakovlevich Sokolnikov - born Girsh Yankelevich Brilliant, and Lev Bronstein – born Leon Trotsky.

We still see Jews who do whatever they can to ingratiate themselves to the non-Jewish world – especially to the Palestinian’s and Arab worlds - in an attempt to undermine Israel. Many of the leaders of the movement to economically strangle Israel — the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement — are left-wing Jews.

Dennis Prager wrote an article about the damage done to the Jewish people by self-hating jews. He wrote: “In 1920, when Trotsky was head of the Red Army, Moscow's chief rabbi, Rabbi Jacob Mazeh, asked him to use the army to protect the Jews from pogromist attacks in which tens thousands of Jews were murdered.

Trotsky is reported to have responded: “Why do you come to me? I am not a Jew,” to which Rabbi Mazeh answered: “That's the tragedy. It's the Trotskys who make revolutions, and it's the Bronsteins who pay the price.” That is the story of the many Jewish leftists to this day: Jewish leftists make revolutions, and all the Jews - among millions of others - pay the price.

That is Eisav and that is the legacy that he has left us. But Eisav will not last. The Book of Ovadiah prophecises the details of Eisav’s end. The Jewish people have outlived all our enemies and we will also survive Eisav. G-d willing, our troubles – from both within and without – will soon end.