We Jews are understandably jumpy these days. Yet another act of violent hatred against our People in Jersey City is deeply unsettling, and it is natural for us to be frightened.
Our ancestor Ya’akov also had good reason to be anxious at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlah. He hasn’t seen his twin brother, Esav, for 20 years, and now an encounter is inevitable. What’s more, Ya’akov is no longer responsible solely for himself; he has a large family to try to protect. So he sends messengers to Esav in anticipation of this meeting.
What are the first words of Ya’akov’s message to Esav? “Thus says your servant Ya’akov: I stayed with Lavan (‘im Lavan garti), and remained until now” (Genesis 32:5). Rashi, the great 11th-century commentator, offers two interpretations to explain why he begins this way. These interpretations represent two models of behavior for a minority in a potentially hostile environment. We’ll look at Rashi’s thoughts on Shabbat morning, and try to apply them to possible Jewish responses to the current realities of America.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,