Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why do we like to imitate the nations?

One of the principals of our faith in Torah is that whatever happened to the Avois – our fathers, happened later to Klal Yisroel. In other words, the events and experiences of the Patriarch’s lives have prophetic meaning in understanding the history of the Jewish people, past, present and future. The traits of character of the Fathers can be recognized in their descendents. The traits of other prominent figures described in the parshios of Sefer Bereishis – the book of Origins, can also be recognized in their descendents and in the history of mankind in general.
Examples of these connections between events described in the stories of Avraham, Yitschok and Yaakov describing their encounters with their contemporaries and the events of later Jewish history are countless. Some of them are described already by early Chazal and others are deciphered as history goes on.
I will write about some of these connections which are more popular and known to the general public but I will also try to bring some chidushim – new nuances discovered while studying this subject at length B-H. These thoughts are based on Chazal and are expressed with great clarity in the commentaries by Rav S. R. Hirsch. Some of them were posted previously on my blog.

“Man recognized that he is naked” “ Hashem Elokim made them clothes out of “Ohr” skin.  As result of his sin Adam HaRishon – the first man, recognized his nakedness, the animalistic nature that prevailed in him and it became imperative for him and his wife to cover themselves with fig leaves. He felt separated from his Creator and soon the Creator himself manufactured for them new clothes to cover their bodies. This remnant of the sinful nature of man is called by Chazal as “begged haohr” - the clothes of light and “begged cohanim” – priestly clothes. The fact that we need the cohannim as intermediaries to help us to establish a better connection with HY is a stark reminder of the separation between us and G-d.

The Torah is using the two names of G-d in this verse; the first is - Hashem – the name of Creator which expresses his love and compassion. HBH did not sever the relationship with his fallen creations permanently. However the use of his other name – Elokim, suggests that din – judgment, must be carried out. Clothes seem to symbolize this ‘separating connection’ but they will stay in our consciousness forever as sign of sin.

Nimrod was the first man to establish an oppressive government. He built his capital and said to the people – You don’t have to worry anymore about nations or people stronger than you! I’m the strongest of all and I will protect you! What I want from you in return is that you become my subjects; you will pay me taxes and give me honor. The heaven is far away, now I will be your king, and we will build a tower to make a name for ourselves.
They say “name for ourselves” as they are still dreaming that they are a community of free people under the G-d and not subjects of King Nimrod. Or perhaps he is saying this to them to give them an impression of still being free, to deceive them and make them became even more dependent on his military force and power which  he just introduced to history of mankind.
Nimrod built not only a city but an entire kingdom! He conquered land after land, tribe after tribe, family after family and individual after individual.  As a proof of his superiority he used the clothes of the “first man” which he had in his possession. Nimrod owned the very clothes which Hashem Elokim gave to the first man.

One man and his family discovered the deception of false religions and the suppression of the freedom of individuals. For approximately four hundred years humanity had a opportunity to build a new civilization based on the service of the Creator by the mutual collaboration of free people, the opportunity to see in other individuals the creation of G-d and His image. Collaboration based not on power, force and subjugation but on love, understanding of their differences and respecting others.. The man who understood the fallacy of Nimrod’s mode of civilization was Avraham our father.
The Talmud in mesechtas Avoida Zurah divides history of the mankind in to three periods. “Two thousand years of nothingness, two thousand years of Torah and two thousand years of Mashiach, but Mashiach didn’t come because of our sins” – states the Gemurah.  The tefillah of Musaf of Shelosh Regulim says that not only did we delay the coming of Mashiach but we were expelled from our land because of our sins. We didn’t do our mission in our land now we must to do it in Golus – exile! We didn’t learn humility in an environment created for this task, now we have to learn it in harsher environment.
Avraham was born 1948 years from the creation of the world. When he was three years old he recognized the Creator and it took him several decades to develop his discovery to become a prophet of G-d and later father of G-d’s chosen nation, The Gemura states that with Avraham began the age of Torah. The glimmer of hope shined for humanity, that the day will come, when people will learn again the truth of God’s requirements for humanity – they should live separately but be united at the same time, united in their recognition and service of the Creator. They will learn this from Avraham as well as from his descendents.
However, one of Avraham’s descendents had something else on his mind from the very beginning of his life. Avraham’s grandson Esaw. Esaw to a certain extent recognized the righteous ways of his grandfather and father but he was influenced by something else in his life which was more important than the humble training in the self-control of his thoughts, words and acts. He was impressed by Nimrods power! He liked the idea of a kingdom and saw himself perhaps as the ruler, as the lord over other people regardless if they liked it or not. He couldn’t understand his grandfather serving unknown wayfarers and giving, giving and giving. Esaw desired to conquer! But one thing was blocking his desires, Nimrod himself. Esaw was a “hunter by his words” deceiving his father with his words and causing him to believe that he Esaw is the man worthy of continuing the legacy of Avraham. What he really was, was a hunter –a strong man taking by force what he wanted.
One day, Esaw went to kill the king of Buvel. He defeated Nimrod and as his trophy he took from him the very clothes given to the “first man”. The clothes of separation, the clothes which he believed would give him even more power, clothes which will assure his domination forever.
He didn’t care anymore about being firstborn to Yitschok, he found an alternative. He did desire however his father’s blessing, a blessing giving him spiritual power as well. He saw himself and his descendents and followers as eternal rulers of the nations and the world, including the nation descending from his brother Yaakov.
Their mother Rivka was better able to recognize the true colors of her older son. She convinced Yakkov to go and receive his father’s blessing instead of Esaw. Perhaps she recognized the danger of the powers connected in Esaw where spirituality would be subjugated to physicality.
Bookshelves are filled with commentaries about what happened that day when Yaakov came to his father dressed in the clothes of Esaw. The very same clothes which were worn previously by Adam after his sin and then worn by Nimrod as the sign of his military power and subsequently taken from Nimrod by his brother Esaw so as to get these powers of conquest and domination.
Yitschok not only recognized the deceit of Yaakov but also the truth about the future of his sons and their descendents.
Kol – kol Yaakov Vyadaim yadei Esaw says Yitschok at probably the most important moment in the history of mankind. The domain of my son Yaakov is his voice! – he will build civilization of thought, ideas and ideals. It will be nation of learning, teaching and discussion. A nation divided within themselves but united in their service of G-d. A nation restraining themselves from power by force preferring rather the power of their conviction and knowledge.
Yaakov’s descendents by their own example will bring humanity back to peace with the Creator and will foster Shuloim - peace among the descendents of Adam. Jewish success will be the cause of the lamb and lion lying together as Yeshayahu Hanuvi predicts it. Jews will teach other nations by their example, to build a reality where nations “will beat their swords in to plowshares”. In the future, killing other human being will be so ridiculous in their eyes, as ridiculous as feelings of subservience to pieces of wood or metal considering them as expression of divine powers, as Rav Nachman from Bratslav puts it in Likutey Moharan.
We are still waiting for this time, we still have much work to do. Meanwhile something else is happening.

Esaw got his power of dominance “He will live by sword” states the Torah.
Cherev - Sword which was prohibited even to carve the stones of the Jewish Altar, a tool which can not be used to take the life of animals to serve us as food. It is our tradition to remove the knife from the Shabbos table when we say kidush or the blessings after the meal. We are prohibited with certain exceptions to trade weapons, or even to sell it to people of other nations. The only exceptions for us to use it is in self-defense and in the times of existence of Jewish government in Eretz Yisruel we were allowed to go to the war after permission from prophet as given to the king.
Through the ages the civilization of Esaw- Edom was always busy with domination, conquering and bloodshed. Many times it was blood of his brother Yaakov but it was always Yaakow who was the winner in the end. One dominating nation of Edom civilization was falling after another, kingdoms known to us only from the history books. The nation of “voice” however, not only survived but after many years of education conquered some of the great minds to this progressive mode of civilization.

For one day, maybe for less than hour, Yaakow was playing Esaw. He dressed himself in the clothes of his brother Esaw.
This one event was fatal not only for his relationship with his brother but also left a deep imprint in the soul of his descendents. Since then we are always looking what they eat in Tokyo, how they dress in Paris, what they are performing in Vienna, what they drive in Los Angeles, how do they live in New York …!

The Bnai Yaakov inherited this hidden desire to be like Esaw. Just like Nimrod impressed Esaw, in a similar way the children of Yisrael are attracted to the ways of goim. Already in Egypt they filled up theaters and circuses as they were looking in those places for entertainment. That is what Chazal is telling us. Even if Mitzraim is the descendent of Cham, the Jews followed the ways of the goim because of the susceptibility of Klal Yisroel to want to follow the goim!

Later in the time of Judges they came to the prophet Shmuel and asked him – give us a king like all other nations. All other nations have kings to represent them in their affairs. They forgot that the task of a Jewish king was not to represent them to other nations. The task of a Jewish king was to make it possible for the Jewish nation to keep the Torah and perform the mitzvois. It was not the task of the Jewish kings to be like “other nations” and it ended with catastrophe with the first Exile.
After coming back from exile it was only a short time when misyavnim – Jewish Hellenists desired to become Greeks. Not only for themselves, they convinced Antioch to transform all Jews to become goim. After a short time of the dominance of the Torah spirit under the rule of the Chashmonuim, we were attracted once again to the Roman-Edom ways of building a civilization. Once more we wanted to be like them, like the goim.
It was again necessary to destroy our Temple, to expel us from our land to enable us to head back on the track of learning of who we are supposed to be. After the devastation of the Beitar and the Bar Kochba uprising, our true leaders told us for then and for all time. 
Never again! See Talmud Kesuvos 111a.

If only Yaakov wouldn’t have worn the clothe… If only …

Matys Weiser

P.S. Thanks to my new editor but old friend and havruso - Menachem.

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