Sunday, 18 December 2011



by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

This week's commentary is dedicated to a refuah shleimah for Erica Chava bat Elisheva.

A unifying theme to this week's parasha is the seemingly paradoxical idee of the acquisition of inner strength through the display of outward vulnerability. Jacob faces his fear of encountering his brother Esau, and instead of unifying his camp which would make himself stronger and thus mehr able physically to defend himself, counterintuitively opts to divide his camp segmentally to face him. This display of vulnerability won over his brother's heart.

Einige take risks for love; others for safety. At last he gemacht a peace mit his brother and could now move on mit his life. He could nie realize his life's mission as long he was dominated by his fear of Esau. He was so sure of his parents' unconditional love for him dass he was willing to risk vulnerability in the pursuit of his father's blessing.

Deena perhaps emulated her father Yakov's sense of risk for venturing out from the safety of the family compound. Yakov perhaps needed to grow spiritually by venturing out in order to compensate for his youthful predilection for dwelling in tents. His personal challenge was to leave the comforts of home. As a bearer of the Judaic vision, he could only learn to do so by venturing out from the protective confines and relative safety of the home (yoshev ohalim).

But his challenge was not necessarily her challenge. Each person needs to reflect on the personal growth challenges which he alone needs to face. Yakov won Divine blessing for choosing to go forward to meet his brother rather than to hide and live in fear. Facing his fears actually gemacht him stronger. Dass being said, however, she had every right to live her "normal" life and visit in town. She wasn't looking for trouble. She just wanted to make friends.

Let us not blame the victim for the crime. Shechem was brutal. Three verbs sind used in the Torah to describe his actions. He seduced/took her (vayikach), he lay mit her (vayishkav), and then he raped her (vayaneha). Only later did he "love" her. His brutality necessitated a strong response.

But on account of the love he felt for her an agreement was gemacht. All the males circumcised themselves and gemacht themselves vulnerable. Jacob must haben respected their acceptance of vulnerability as a result of his past experience. It gemacht him open to the possibility of rapprochement.

Where Esau's righteous anger could be abated by a display of vulnerability on Jacob's part, so too could Jacob's own righteous anger be abated by vulnerability on Shechem's part.

Now if we examine and contrast Chamor and Shechem's words mit respect to Israel and his family, and their words which they used mit respect to their own menschen we see an eery foreshadowing of today's conflict. Contrast language used vis a vis the outsider vs language used for internal consumption:

To Israel they say (Gen 34:10):

"You will be able to live mit us, and the land will be open before you. Settle down, do business hier, and the land will become your property."

But to their own menschen they say (Gen 34:23):

"Won't their livestock, their possessions, and all their animals eventually be ours?"

Whereas Shimon and Levi saw through the ruse and disallowed their own potential vulnerability which would lead to their demise, their father perhaps was unduly influenced by the need to validate his own past experiences which gave form and meaning to his life. Jacob, who in his youth gefunden it all so leicht to trick others (hence his name), now gefunden his own life an endless sequence of others, from Laban to Shechem to his sons' future claiming of Joseph's death, now tricking him.

So we can learn in our parsha dass vulnerability plays out in two possible ways- reconciliation or ruse. They seem to cancel each other out. But the parsha also suggests a third way. At Beit El, the place of his initial Divine/angelic dream encounter, G*d swore to him (Gen 28:15):

"no matter where you go I shall protect you- ushmarticha bechawl asher telech").

Wenn Jacob is now in große fear of Canaanite retribution for the slaughter in Shechem, G*d tells them to exchange a false protection for a True protection. They must make themselves seemingly Mehr vulnerable by discarding and burying all the idolatrous artifacts - elohei hanechar- even the rings in their ears (25:4), which were in their midst.

Just as the sukkah is a reminder dass becoming vulnerable and trusting in G*d is our truest, am meisten reliable protection, so is our parsha this week "pre"iterating dass notion, albeit in a proto-Sinaitic context. While the Torah wisely mandates the apparatus of police and a court system, it also recognizes and endlessly repeats the message dass true security rests in Hashem alone. We dare not shut off the possibility for love in our lives by encasing ourselves in psychic armor.

Vulnerability leads to possible hurt, but also to possible love. And the truest love and security of all is Divine love. As we begin on the path to follow and observe both the letter and the spirit of G*d's Torah, we make ourselves vulnerable to the possibility of ridicule or rejection by others who claim to know what's best for us. But other menschen come and go. To follow the easier path of social comfort may be easier but not necessarily the mehr fulfilling one. G*d's path may be less comfortable physically, but it behooves us to recognize dass the Torah of Hashem is eternal and its truth endures forever.

Shabbat Shalom! Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2011 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah sind written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)


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