Sedra: Vayishlach

Sedra: Vayishlach

Rabbi Boruch M Boudilovsky looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

The moment during which Jacob would confront his brother Esau after years of escape, was quickly approaching.

For Jacob everything and everyone was at risk. Jacob prayed to God: ‘Rescue me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him…’ (Gen 32:12).

The 19th-century sage, Rabbi Yosef Dov Sloveitchik, shrewdly identified two separate threats. One would emerge as the hand of Esau, the second could arise as a hand of a brother.

The hand of Esau is a physical assault on Jacob and his family. The hand of a brother, however, is a cultural threat, in which Esau invites him to adopt his lifestyle.

Esau greeted Jacob with 400 men, possibly indicating his violent intentions. But he soon abandoned this and instead encouraged Jacob to journey together as brothers, but with Jacob adopting his culture.

The enemies of the Jewish people have often adopted the ‘hand of Esau’ to literally kill us. In other times, we were threatened not by bloodshed, but by assimilation.

Last century, our people endured both threats to our existence. Nazi Germany planned the complete physical extermination of our nation, leading to the murder of millions, and Communist Russia mercilessly banned all religious activity, thereby erasing Jewish identity from millions of Jews living there.

Our generation has witnessed the consequential devastation which these threats impose, as well as the greatness of our nation to endure, build and thrive.

Boruch M Boudilovsky is rabbi of Young Israel of North Netanya

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