Sunday, 20 November 2011

First Gaza smuggling tunnel was dug 10 years before "blockade"

First Gaza smuggling tunnel was dug 10 years before "blockade"

Palestine Press Agency has a long article about the tunnel trade between Gaza and Egypt based on an Egyptian report.

Some parts of interest:
Relieving the siege of Gaza is not the reason for creating the idea of ​​tunnels "but profit only and nothing else" says Abumahmod, owner of a tunnel that collapsed for no apparent reason. He said that the proof is that drilling of the first tunnel was in in 1994 by one of the most famous families in Rafah, a Palestinian family, "in order to smuggle goods across the border as it happens on the borders between many countries in the world."

Abusaúb says sources of goods that enter Palestine are between three countries, namely China, South Korea and Turkey, as well as Egyptian goods. Palestinian merchants travel to those countries, and transfer the goods to Egypt to then be transferred into Gaza through tunnels...

[Another] revealed that the tunnels are used to transport all goods, regular and non regular, including forbidden items such as drugs and weapons, and noted that some tunnel owners recently had started transporting Israeli goods to be sold in Egypt through the tunnels, "as some Egyptians prefer." Many of the Gazans who sell them boast about Israeli products in their shops.

First Gaza smuggling tunnel was dug 10 years before "blockade"

Egyptian feminism, Salafi-style

Egyptian feminism, Salafi-style

Translating Jihad brings us an article from Donia Al Watan:

Female Salafi Candidate for Egyptian Parliament: "Women Are Deficient in Intelligence and Religion, and It Is Not Permissible for Them to Be in Authority"

A female salafi candidate for Egyptian Parliament, Muna Salah, said to al-Sharq al-Awsat that women are deficient in intelligence and religion, and it is not permissible for them to be in authority or to occupy the office of the presidency. She defended her candidacy for the People's Council, saying that acting as a representative in the Council only partial authority and not complete authority, such as the presidency of the republic. She added that she seeks to apply the Islamic shari'a, including cutting off the hands of thieves, preventing the mingling of men and women, and specifying black clothes for women and white clothes for men.

While just one of thousands of candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections, Muna Salah--president of the Manabir al-Noor Charity Association in Egypt--continues to provoke controversy. She is one of two veiled candidates in the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in two weeks.

There's other stuff in the article. For example, even though Muna sent her daughter to a mixed non-religious school, she would want to introduce legislation to keep all schools separated between boys and girls.

But you've got to admit, she looks really hot for a 53 year old.

Egyptian feminism, Salafi-style

Israel Matzav: Keeping Iran afloat

Keeping Iran afloat

One of the leaders of Europe's drive to keep Iran afloat and
ready for nuclear warfare is Austria.
“In the first eight months of this year, Austrian firms supplied goods and services worth a total of 189 million euros to the Islamic Republic, more than, for example, to Israel, Thailand or Ireland,” the Vienna daily Die Presse reported recently.

Austrian energy giant OMV continues to refuel Iran Air planes, in contrast to many fuel suppliers across Europe.

“While top-ranking British, European politicians are quite vocal about new Iran sanctions, Austria remains silent,” Dr. Diana Gregor, a Vienna-based specialist who has written and lectured on Austrian-Iran relations, wrote to The Jerusalem Post by e-mail on Friday.

“In recent years, Austria has strongly contributed to keeping the Iranian regime from international isolation, and has not taken any steps toward destroying the economic basis of the dictatorship of the ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Guards,” Gregor wrote.

Yacov Stiassny, from the Israel-based Central Committee for Jews in Austria, told the Post by phone from Bat Yam on Friday, “Yes, it is obvious what they [the government in Vienna] should be doing, but they are not doing it. Business is more important to Austria than its commitment to the Jewish people and Israel. It is a pity.

“Instead of taking care of the Jews who fled Austria, the Austrians are doing business with Iran,” he said.
But why should anyone be surprised at that? This is what went on at OMV's shareholders' meeting in May 2008.
Was the company's investment in Iran a "miscalculation" because of the Islamic Republic's nuclear program and the sanctions imposed for violating United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for the regime to halt enrichment of uranium, asked Dr. Hava Bugajer, an OMV shareholder and president of the Women's International Zionist Organization in Austria.

"The details are to be negotiated" and there is "no foreseeable result" regarding the implementation of the deal, replied CEO Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer to a packed auditorium at the Austrian Center Vienna.

OMV sees time as an ally and is waiting for "political change in the USA," Ruttenstorfer said in response to questions about sanctions against Iran at the stockholder meeting. [Think they're expecting Barack Hussein Obama to be the next President of the United States? CiJ]

He declined to comment on whether OMV's gas deal would violate the US Iran Sanctions Act, which prohibits large energy investments in Iran and spells out penalties for conducting more than $20 million of annual business in Iran's energy sector.

OMV spokesman Thomas Huemer told the The Jerusalem Post that "OMV as a company does not have a moral responsibility toward a particular state."

Bugajer told thePost that Ruttenstorfer' responses were "not really answers."
The problem, as I described at length in that post, is that the Austrians see themselves as victims of the Nazis, when in fact Hitler sprung from among the Austrians and much of the hierarchy of the World War II German army came from Austria. The Austrians feel no sympathy and no empathy for Israel or Jews. And don't expect that to change.

Israel Matzav: Keeping Iran afloat

Israel Matzav: I'll see you 100 and raise you 20

I'll see you 100 and raise you 20

With the Euro and the entire Eurozone on the verge of collapse as a result of financial crises in Greece and Italy, the European Union has made its financial priorities perfectly clear: It is increasing its financial assistance to the 'Palestinian Authority' (which will soon include Hamas) by 100 million Euros, making a total of about 600 million Euros ($814,560,000 based upon Friday's exchange rate).

But the Belgians have decided that even that is not enough. They are adding another 20 million Euros on their own (link in Dutch) in addition to other contributions made by other individual European governments, and in addition to the 50 million Euros that the Belgians normally give the 'Palestinians.' (Google translation here). So the Belgians are giving an additional 70 million Euros in all.

With Europe falling apart financially (and in many other ways), the European Union has made its priorities clear. Forget about saving Europe. It's much more important to destroy the Jews.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: I'll see you 100 and raise you 20

A Soldier's Mother: Israel vs. Iran - the movie?

A Soldier's Mother: Israel vs. Iran - the movie?: I am always amazed by people who can create videos...that say so much. This one is an example -

A Soldier's Mother: Israel's Secret Weapon Against Iran

Israel's Secret Weapon Against Iran

I love how people ask me what Israel will do - as if I would know. I am a citizen of Israel; I have my opinion. But I would guess that you can count on a very few hands how many people KNOW what Israel will do and I sincerely doubt (and hope) the President of the United States is one of them. I would guess that you could count on less than one hand how many people KNOW the timing of when Israel might do, and I KNOW that the President of the United States is not one of them.

And yet, I know the weapon, the true weapon, Israel will use if and when it attacks Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Some will dismiss this as whimsical. If you are of that type, you can stop reading right here because you are probably right and oh, so wrong. Some will say that God Himself will avenge, in advance, anyone who would dare to attack His people. Sadly, we know that is not true. Even today, there remain survivors who can tell you of a time when God allowed His people to suffer. If you are expecting me to say that God will handle Iran, here too you may want to stop.

So let me tell anyone who has continued past the previous comments what I believe, what I know, about what will happen. I believe that if the world will not stop Iran - and I believe with all its talk, it won't - then yes, Israel will attack Iran and, if it does, it will, most definitely, use a secret weapon. It isn't so much secret as one that is denied. We've used it in the past, in the distant past and in the recent past.

There was a meeting once at West Point in which an American general spoke to new cadets. I have heard his name, but can't remember it - so perhaps someone can help me with  more of the details of the speech he gave. What I remember from the story was that the general cited many different battles in history as examples of great historical military strategies. One cadet raised his hand and asked why the general did not include any of Israel's battles. The general refused to answer, telling the cadet to see him after the speech. When the cadet approached the general quietly at the end and asked his question again, the general explained that he could not use Israel's military strategy because they were, from a military point of view, impossible. He told the cadet that what Israel had accomplished was physically, historically, militarily impossible. No, he didn't deny that Israel had done it - only that, essentially, without God (and I would add our secret weapon), we could never have done what we did. That cadet chose to leave West Point. He came to live in Israel and joined the army here.

As for our secret weapon - it is a combination of two great forces - determination and desperation. That simple - and that impossible to duplicate. In 1948, a nation of vastly outnumbered, under-armed, badly trained, and with the added weight of tens of thousands of half-starved, empty-handed refugees from hell - defeated five standing armies. In battles to great to count, victory by the weak was delivered - by God and by  the knowledge that there was no other place, no other land. The Arab threat to push the Jews into the sea was both dramatic and accurate - that was the only real place they had left.

On Yom Kippur (October 6, 1973), when Israelis were in the synagogues praying, Egypt and Syria launched a war against them. About 1,400 Syrian tanks faced off against 170 Israeli tanks. Within three days, scores of Syrian tanks had been destroyed, at the cost of almost 3/4 of the Israeli tanks. By October 9th, the third day of the war, Israel was down to just 6 tanks. In a valley that has since been called the Valley of Tears, a young Israeli named Avigdor Kahalani was facing impossible odds. He had only a handful of tanks and defeat was certain. Kahalani called his situation in, and was ordered to withdraw. He wanted help - that's why he called, and he was told to retreat.

Kahalani refused - he complained to command that he couldn't hear them and that he was going on. In a battle that could only be described as half mad, he ordered his tanks to spread out and fire wildly in all directions. The Syrians believed that reinforcements had arrived and fell back. Determination and desperation. Kahalani knew that if the Syrians came down off the Golan Heights, all of Israel lay before them.

Will Israel attack Iran? When will it happen? Will it happen? I could enter the pool of guessing games; I could tell you what I believe, which has no basis in reality. But rather, I'll say something else.

We did not come to this land to be taken from it. I do not believe God will ever allow us to be exiled again. Elie is organizing his passport to travel with his future wife to visit her family. His passports are all expired - all of ours are expired. People keep saying we should get them renewed and I know they are right and yet I hesitate. I will not leave this land. The Iranians will not succeed, nor will the Syrians or the Palestinians.

Our secret weapon is that we have no where else to go, no other land that is ours. There are more than 20 other Arab countries; there is only one Jewish one. We would like to live in peace with our neighbors and as soon as they agree, we might actually have a shot at it someday.

In the meantime, Israel may have to attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure because we may not have a choice. If we do, I believe with complete faith, that we go with God as our Pilot. We will succeed - because we are determined, because we are desperate, because ultimately, our secret weapon is that we don't have 19 other lands from which to choose from...only Israel, always Israel.

A Soldier's Mother: Israel's Secret Weapon Against Iran: I love how people ask me what Israel will do - as if I would know. I am a citizen of Israel; I have my opinion. But I would guess that you c...

RubinReports: Brothers in Arms: The Muslim Brotherhood Takes Over the (Sunni) Arab World

Brothers in Arms: The Muslim Brotherhood Takes Over the (Sunni) Arab World

By Barry Rubin

On November 28, Egyptians will vote for a parliament which will also write the country’s new constitution. The Western media at first told us that the Muslim Brotherhood was weak and unimportant as well as moderate. Now, when it’s too late, the Western media is admitting they are strong and radical. But the Obama Administration insists they are strong and moderate.

The last time I read an article in the Atlantic on the Brotherhood, it claimed that the group was a joke and only had 13 percent support. Now it is publishing an article that takes for granted that the Brotherhood will win the election.

There’s a new poll out that I don’t think is accurate but keep reading and I’ll tell you why it is misleading in a moment.

According to the poll, 38 percent of Egyptians would vote for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. (Remember when we were told that this was a moderate split-off from the Brotherhood?) and 12 percent would vote for the even more radical al-Nour Party.

Why, then, do I think this poll isn’t accurate?

Read it all

RubinReports: Brothers in Arms: The Muslim Brotherhood Takes Over the (Sunni) Arab World

RubinReports: Why Do Western Elites Minimize Radical Threats in the Middle East?

Why Do Western Elites Minimize Radical Threats in the Middle East?

By Barry Rubin

A leading journalist heard my analysis on the rise of the radical Islamists in the Middle East, how U.S. policy is helping them, and why this is a disaster. His response? How could I say that Hamas was radical and wanted to wipe out Israel since it had not continually attacked Israel from the Gaza Strip?

Although this remark was about a very specific issue, I understood the general concept underlying it. To be a radical or extremist, many Westerners seem to believe, means you are a drooling loony, a caricature of a bomb-throwing revolutionary, like a rabid dog unable to stop himself from biting anyone within reach.
If you wear a tie and jacket, or just a jacket, or speak patiently and protest your moderation, or have patience you cannot be a radical.

Oh, yes, you are also not a radical if you claim not to be one, even if that’s only done in English while you are calling for Islamist revolution, Sharia law, genocide against the Jews, and anti-Western hate in Arabic. Yet radicals have used strategy for many decades. Lenin wrote a short book, Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Malady, to ridicule the mindless extremists in his movement. The Muslim Brotherhood took a similar view of al-Qaida as being a one-note terrorist group. The whole Turkish model of revolutionary Islamism is based on  a patient strategy of hiding their true objectives and maneuvering into total control.

Why cannot Western elites see this kind of lightly camoflauged extremism, used by thoroughly by the Communists and also, though this has been largely forgotten, by Nazi and fascist movements.

Here are two examples among hundreds.

Read it all

RubinReports: Why Do Western Elites Minimize Radical Threats in the Middle East?

RubinReports: Why Don’t Western Elites Get the Middle East? Because They Think It’s Just Like Them (Sort of)

Why Don’t Western Elites Get the Middle East? Because They Think It’s Just Like Them (Sort of)

note: I do propose a solution to this problem at the end of the article!

By Barry Rubin

I’ve come to realize a hitherto hidden dimension of why it is so hard for Western establishment figures (policymakers, journalists, and academics) to understand the Middle East.  It is the conflict between the thirst for good news and the reality of bad news.

Being optimists (based on the relatively good course of their own societies?) and believing that positive change is really easy if people only put their minds to making it happen (ditto and also liberal thinking), they exaggerate any sign that things are getting better.

Moreover, contemporary thinking trembles in horror about saying anything critical about Third World peoples (racism, Islamophobia)  while it is considered noble to criticize “ourselves.”  On top of that is the assumption that no one can really be radical. They are just responding to past mistreatment and will revert to being moderate the minute the oppression is corrected.

So constantly we are led to an artificial optimism that ignores threats or even converts them into benefits.
How many examples I see every day!

A group of young Palestinians in Fatah, who explicitly say they want to wipe out Israel, form a new group and--hocus-pocus--we are informed that this is the long-awaited Palestinian equivalent of the dovish Israeli Peace Now movement!

Read it all

RubinReports: Why Don’t Western Elites Get the Middle East? Because They Think It’s Just Like Them (Sort of)

RubinReports: Syria: No Longer Revolution, It is A Civil War, A Guide to the Battle

Syria: No Longer Revolution, It is A Civil War, A Guide to the Battle

Another version of this article is published in the Jerusalem Post. I own the copyright, this version is better, and I ask you to read and link to this one. 

By Barry Rubin
The only honest answer to the question of what will happen in Syria is: No one knows. After an eight-month-long battle in which more than 3500 people have been killed, there’s no telling who will be ruling Syria when the dust settles, or even when the dust will settle. A regime victory is quite possible—perhaps most likely—and its overthrow might--but not necessarily--bring an Islamist regime.
But what do we know about Syria? Here’s a guide.
1.   1. Don’t overrate Iran’s role.
Despite wild rumors, the Syrian regime doesn’t need Iranians to help it repress the people. Iran is important as a source of financing for the government, but this is President Bashar al-Asad’s battle to win or lose. Tehran is definitely going to be a secondary factor.
2. Syria’s other ally is Hizballah but the killing of so many Sunni Muslims, including Muslim Brotherhood people, has lost it Hamas. There is a sort of Sunni-Shia version of the Spanish Civil War going on now. But when it comes to the radical and Islamist forces on both sides there’s no good guy.
2.    3. And Turkey isn’t the good guy
The Turkish Islamist regime isn’t motivated by some love of democracy in opposing the Syrian regime. The Ankara government wants a fellow Sunni Islamist dictatorship in Damascus, preferably under its influence. In this situation, Turkey is just as bad as Iran.
3.   4.  Will the two sides make a deal?
No, this is a war to the death. The regime cannot make a deal and yield power because the elite would lose everything it has. Moreover, the government elite would face death, exile, or long-term imprisonment if it loses. Similarly, the dominant Alawite community and large portions of the Christian one (together roughly 25 percent of the population) risks massacre if the government falls.
4.   5 . Will the army bring down the regime or change sides?
No, see point 3. While some are defecting (see below), the high command cannot survive a change of power. Unlike in Egypt and Tunisia, the armed forces cannot usher in a new regime that would continue its economic privileges.  
5.   6.  Is this now an inter-communal war?
Net yet. There are hints of small-scale communal killings but if and when such a blood bath begins you’ll know and it will be terrible indeed.  This outcome might be avoidable but the situation is very dangerous.
6.   7. Is Syria now in a civil war?
This is beginning. Defectors from the military have formed a Free Syrian Army. A nine-member Military Council has been formed including five colonels. Note the lack of generals (see Point Four) and all of them appear to be Sunni Muslim Arabs (see Point Five). They say they are going to fight the regime and defend the populace. But from where will they get arms?
8.      Will economic collapse bring down the regime?
No. See Points 1, 3, and 5. Nobody is going to quit because they get hungry. This is a kill-or-be-killed situation.
9. Is Syria going to encourage a war against Israel?
No. Historically, Middle Eastern dictatorships have provoked war against Israel to distract attention from problems at home. The most likely scenario would be a Hizballah-Israel war, as happened in 2006. But we’re past that point for the Syrian regime (though a radical Egypt might try this tactic after 2013.) In addition, Hizballah is trying to consolidate power in Lebanon and a war would be very much against its interests.
10. Who is the opposition leadership?
Ah, that’s a very interesting question. The best-known group is the Syrian National Council (SNC). It has announced its 19-member leadership group which includes 15 Sunni Muslims, two Christians, and 2 Kurds.  Note that there are no Alawites or Druze. The SNC has an advantage because it was assembled by the United States using the Islamist regime in Turkey.
Given Western backing the SNC is surprisingly dominated by Islamists. Ten of the 19 are identifiable as such (both Muslim Brothers and independent—Salafist?—Islamists) and a couple of those who are nominally leftists are apparently Islamist puppets. The fact that U.S. policy is backing an Islamist-dominated group indicates the profound problems with Obama Administration policy.
It should be stressed, though, that the SNC’s popular support is totally untested. Many oppositionists—especially Kurds—are disgusted by the group’s Islamist coloration and refuse to participate.
The National Coordination Committee (NCC) is a leftist-dominated alternative. The Antalya Group is liberal. There is also a Salafist council organized by Adnan Arour, a popular religious figure; a Kurdish National Council and a Secular Democratic Coalition (both angry at the SNC’s Islamism);
It is hard to overestimate how disastrous Obama Administration policy has been. Not only has it promoted an Islamist-dominated leadership (which might be pushed into power by monopolizing Western aid) but this mistake has fractured the opposition, ensuring there would be several anti-SNC groups. This strategy has also angered the Kurds and Turkmen minorities who view the SNC as antagonistic to their hopes for some autonomy. As a result, these two groups have reduced their revolutionary activities.
The best source on these events is the exiled democrat Ammar Abdulhamid whose daily Syrian Revolution Digest is indispensable to understand what’s going on in the country. He writes that, despite U.S. and Turkish support, nobody will recognize the SNC as the “legitimate representative of the Syrian people” because of its “overrepresentation of certain currents and underrepresentation of others, as well as lack of transparency in the selection and decision-making processes, not to mention lack of clear political vision and transitional plans.”
Again, it should be stressed that in terms of actually directing the rebellion, there is no leadership.   
10. So who do we want to win?
Despite the threat of a Sunni Islamist regime, I hope that Asad will be overthrown. Why? If the regime survives we know it will continue to be a ferociously repressive dictatorship, allied with Iran, and dedicated to the destruction of U.S. and Western interests, the imperialist domination of Lebanon, wiping Israel off the map, and subverting Jordan.
With a revolution, there is a chance—especially if U.S. policy doesn’t mess it up—for a real democracy that is higher than in Egypt. In Syria only 60 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim and thus might be potential recruits to be Islamist. The minorities—Alawite, Christian, Druze, and Kurdish—don’t want an Arab Sunni Islamist regime.
As for the Sunnis themselves, they are proportionately more urban, more middle class, and more moderate than in Egypt. Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular have never been as strong in Syria as in Egypt. In Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, the Islamists face what is largely a political vacuum; in Syria they have real, determined opposition.
Today, the Syrian people have two major enemies blocking the way to a moderate stable democracy. One is the regime itself; the other is the U.S.-Turkish policy that is determined—naively for the former; deviously deceitful from the latter—to force a new repressive Islamist regime on the Syrians.

RubinReports: Syria: No Longer Revolution, It is A Civil War, A Guide to the Battle

Por Terras de Sefarad: Pode não ser o politicamente correcto, mas é a rea...

Por Terras de Sefarad: Pode não ser o politicamente correcto, mas é a rea...: Pode não ser o politicamente correcto, mas é a realidade actual desta Europa Fonte: ""


By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
Torah Reading: Gen. 25:19-28:9
In the holy structure built by the patriarchs to reveal HaShem to the world, Abraham is the initial thesis: expansive energy, revelation, kindness -- CHESSED. Isaac is the antithesis: restriction, control -- GEVURAH, while Jacob, who enters the stage in our parshah, is the synthesis: balance, order, beauty -- TIFERET. Jacob, the most "perfect" (SHALEM) of the patriarchs, came to complete the holy House -- the House of Israel, to whom all the nations will turn at the end of history in order to find HaShem: "And many nations will go and say, 'Go, let us ascend to the mountain of HaShem, to the HOUSE of the G-d of Jacob'" (Isaiah 2:3).
As thesis and antithesis, Abraham and Isaac represent two opposite tendencies, each of which has an extreme aspect, an aspect of excess, that must be transmuted and directed to the holy in order for perfect balance and harmony to reign. Thus Abraham and Isaac each had a "first-born" (the aspect of excess) who was rejected from the holy structure. The last section of the previous parshah, CHAYEY SARAH, completed the story of Abraham's "first-born", Ishmael, the son of Hagar, and his descendants, who embody the "excess" aspect of Abraham: religious fanaticism -- "before all his brothers he fell" (Gen. 25:18, closing words of CHAYEH SARAH). In introducing Jacob, the perfect patriarch, our parshah of TOLDOS also introduces Jacob's challenger, his twin brother Esau, who embodies the excess aspect of Isaac: power and domination used arrogantly for the benefit of self instead of for G-d. The story of Esau is told partly in our parshah, left aside in next week's parshah of VAYETZE, which focusses exclusively on Jacob, and taken up again in the following parshah of VAYISHLACH. There the story of Esau and his generations will be concluded with the account of the "Seven kings who ruled in Edom before a king ruled over the children of Israel" (Gen. 36:31). Kabbalistically, the Seven Kings who "ruled and died" represent the World of Devastation (TOHU) produced by the "Breaking of the Vessels" for the purpose of bringing evil into the world. From the following parshah, VEYESHEV, until the end of Genesis, the Torah concentrates on Jacob and his generations, who represent the World of Rectification (TIKKUN), in which evil is eventually vanquished completely through the House of Israel. The vicissitudes of Joseph and his brothers are paradigmatic of the vicissitudes leading to the eventual revelation of Messiah.
Historically, the descendants of Ishmael and of Abraham's other sons from Keturah brought certain aspects of the monotheism of Abraham to many parts of the world, especially to the east and south, including the Arab lands and many parts of Africa and Asia (the descendants of Noah's son Ham), through Islam. The descendants of Esau brought other aspects of the tradition of Abraham to the north and west -- to Europe, Russia and America (descendants of Japheth) as well as many other parts of the world through Christianity. (See Rambam, Hilchos Melochim 11:4 uncensored version). Although the land given specifically to Esau is Mount Seir, which is south east of the Land of Israel, Esau-Edom is particularly associated with Rome (see Rashi on Gen. 36:43 and also on Gen. 27:39). Rome put its unique stamp upon western culture and its influence is felt until today. (Thus the U.S. Senate is named after the Roman Senate.)
* * *
The holy structure to be built by Jacob was to be constructed only through struggle and effort: Jacob's struggle is the struggle to elevate Isaac's power (GEVURAH) through its use not for the benefit of self, but in order to bring the spirituality of Abraham (CHESSED) to rule over the fallen GEVUROS, the refractory material world of practical action as represented in the figure of Esau (from the Hebrew root ASO, "doing"). Only through the struggle to sift and clarify truth and goodness from falsehood and evil IN THE REAL WORLD is the light of truth revealed in all its beauty and perfection.
The history of mankind has indeed been the history of the clash of cultures and civilizations. It may appear cyclical and pointless, but as revealed in our parshah, it has a purpose and an end goal. It is to reveal G-d's unity out of the intergenerational war between good and evil in all shapes and forms. The struggle has been protracted and painful, just as the struggle of the twins in Rebecca's womb was painful to her to the point of desperation. Yet the very pain itself forced Rebecca to "go to search out HaShem" (Gen. 45:22). Similarly, the many pains and troubles later suffered by Jacob (as a result of the hatred and envy of Esau and Laban and family tragedy with Dinah and Jacob) brought him time after time to turn to G-d for help. The way to G-d's truth is indeed often painful and riddled with conflicts -- with others and within our very selves. However, it is possible to give meaning to our pain, struggle and hardship and to actually grow through them when we learn to turn our very pains and trials into a springboard to seek out G-d.
* * *
The two twins early showed their different traits. Esau, "man of the field", took after Isaac, who "went out to the field" (Gen. 24:63, last week's parshah). Esau the hunter exemplifies the extreme and unholy distortion of Isaac's holy GEVURAH. Esau's is the cunning brute force of the mighty over the weak and unsuspecting. (Esau wears the clothes of Nimrod.) Jacob, on the other hand, "dwelled in tents" -- not one tent but two: the "tents" of learning of his two teachers, the tent of his grandfather Abraham Man of Kindness (Abraham was still alive until Jacob was 13) and the tent of Jacob's own father Isaac, Man of Power. Jacob's mission was to synthesize the two "tents" and build out of them a "house": to combine the differing paths of the first two patriarchs (Abraham, the paradigm convert and Isaac, the paradigm case of one born into religion) into a unitary tradition capable of constant self-renewal. Jacob, the TAM, possessing the quality of simple honesty, sincerity and the search for truth, was able to do this. Esau was not: he knew only to ensnare -- for he himself was ensnared in the mesh of evil.
According to the Midrash, the episode of Jacob's "purchase" of the birthright from Esau for a cup of soup took place on the day that Abraham died. Jacob cooked the soup as the SEUDAT HAVRA'AH, the "meal of comfort and invigoration" prepared for the immediate mourners after the funeral. As Rashi teaches (on Gen. 25:30), Jacob's lentil soup was intended to convey a profound message to his father Isaac, who was mourning the loss of his father. "The lentil is similar to a wheel, and so too death and mourning are part of the cycle of the world." It is impossible to explain the meaning of death rationally -- the lentil "has no mouth", the mourner has nothing to say. We have no option but to accept death and mourning as an inevitable part of the cycle of destiny.
Jacob's ability to use a material object, the lentil, in order to teach a spiritual lesson, is what gave him power over ASIYAH as represented in ESAU. Esau was preoccupied with the material externality of the soup. Esau, the twin brother with whom Jacob was locked in perpetual struggle, was in and of the material world. Esau was exhausted from a day of "hunting". He was hungry. He wanted the tasty, filling soup. He had no time for spiritual meanings. Esau, locked in the time-bound material realm, knew only that he was going to die -- so eat, drink and be merry now! What need did Esau have for a spirituality that brought no immediate gratification? Esau was thus unfitted for the BECHORA, the choice first-born portion that was "acquired" by Jacob through his superior wisdom. The superior wisdom of the Torah is itself the choice portion, as indicated in the opening word of the Torah: BE-REISHIS, "for the sake of the first."
One of the deep mysteries of the Torah is that the natural, apparent first-born are repeatedly rejected in favor of the true, "spiritual" first-born. Cain was rejected while Abel's sacrifice was accepted. Japheth was made subordinate to his younger brother, Shem (Rashi on Gen.10:28) -- Shem and his descendants were the "high priests" who brought knowledge of HaShem to the world. Ishmael and Esau were rejected in favor of Isaac and Jacob respectively. Later on, Jacob's first-born Reuven was rejected in favor of Levi, Judah and Joseph. Ephraim was given precedence over Menashe. Kehas, the son of Levi, was given precedence over Levi's first-born, Gerhson... and Moses attained kingship over the firstborn Aaron, who was three years his senior. Yet through Aaron's humble, joyous submission to his younger brother Moses, whose spokesman he became, Aaron earned the priesthood. Through the balance between the lawgiver and the priest, the transgenerational struggle between brothers that started with Cain and Abel was brought to a satisfactory conclusion: religious service (as represented in Aaron) must be subject to religious law (Moses). Otherwise service turns into excess.
* * *
History repeats itself because lessons learned by one generation are forgotten by the next and have to be relearned. Just as the generation of Abraham had been afflicted by famine, so too was the generation of Isaac. Just as Abraham had been forced into exile, so was Isaac. Abraham dwelled among the Philistines in Gerar, and so did Isaac.
The popular association of "philistinism" with barbarity is fitting, for the Philistines represent the very opposite of the CHESED that is the driving force of the religion of Abraham. The numerical value of the Hebrew letters of PhiLiShTYM (Phe 80, Lamed 30, Shin 300, Tav 400, Yud 10, Mem 40) is 860. 86 is the numerical value of the letters of the divine name ELoKiM, alluding to GEVURAH, might, power, limitation and concealment. The Philistines (= 10 x 86) represent the forces of limitation and concealment in full array. In each generation their king, AVIMELECH (= "I want to rule") wants to steal the Shechinah (represented by Sarah and Rebeccah) for his own selfish pleasure. In each generation the patriarchs had to teach the lesson that the law of G-d must prevail. The kidnapping of a married woman is a crime against the universal law of the children of Noah. Abraham had taught the lesson in his generation, but it had been forgotten, and it had to be taught again in the generation of Isaac. This is because the forces of evil constantly conceal lessons learned by earlier generations. "And all the wells that the servants of his father [Abraham] had dug, the Philistines had stopped up, and they filled them with earth." (Gen. 26:15). The mission of the patriarchs was to uncover the waters of spirituality and bring them to the world, but the Philistines closed up the very sources of the living waters of spirituality with earthliness and gross materialism. Rashi (ad loc.) points out that the Targum of the word "closed up" has the connotation of "closing up the heart" with insensitivity and foolishness. Accordingly Isaac had to start all over again, re-digging the very wells that Abraham had dug.
Isaac's very success -- which so aroused the ire and envy of the Philistines -- came about because he loyally followed in the ways of charity, generosity and kindness taught by his father Abraham. (Thus Rashi points out Isaac was careful to assess the lands he sowed with a view to how much they could produce in tithes for charity, see Rashi on Gen. 26:12). Isaac was blessed because he wanted to share his blessings. Faced with the threat of military might from the Philistines, Isaac's response was to call upon the name of G-d. Instead of fighting his enemies, Isaac made peace with them. He practiced the ways of peace: "And he made a feast for them and they ate and drank... and they went from him in peace" (Gen. 26:30-31).
* * *
G-d "made the earth blossom forth every kind of tree pleasant to the eye and good to eat" and bestowed rich blessings upon man to enable him to come to know and attach himself to his Maker. Adam had been tricked by the serpent -- his own pride and arrogance -- into eating of the very tree from which he was forbidden to eat, thereby separating himself from his Maker. Being too clever for his own good, man mixed up good and evil. As a result Adam's descendants were condemned to a multi-generational struggle against that selfsame serpent of pride and arrogance, struggling repeatedly through history to sort out the confusion.
The confusion was so great that the Blind Isaac was apparently ready to hand over the power of blessing he had received from G-d (Gen.25:11) to the seeming first-born, Esau, even though Esau was in fact the very incarnation of the serpent (see Targum on Gen. 25:27, where "knowing hunting" is translated as NACHASHIRCHAN, having the connotation of NACHASH, serpentine).
The ultimate joke (Yitzchak means "he will laugh") is that Isaac, embodiment of GEVURAH, is overpowered and outwitted by his wife, Rebecca, who turns out to be his match in that attribute. Isaac's GEVURAH lay in the fact that he had been "born in" to the religion and brought up to a life of discipline, as symbolized in his being bound to the altar in the AKEIDAH that left his eyes blinded by the "tears of the angels" that dropped into them at that supreme moment. Rebecca's GEVURAH lay in the fact that even as a child, she had separated herself from the totally sinful environment in which she had been brought up -- she was the archetypal BAALAS TESHUVAH. Thus she knew the world better than "blind" Isaac -- and she knew that for the good of the entire world, it was vital that the blessings should go to Jacob. Since the serpent caused Adam's downfall by outwitting him and working on his wife, it was necessary for a woman, Rebecca, to outwit the serpent in order to restore Adam, incarnated in Jacob, to his true greatness. Thus Rebecca took Esau's beautiful clothes -- which he had stolen from Nimrod, who had stolen them from Adam -- and dressed Jacob with them.
"And [Isaac] smelled the scent of his clothes and he blessed him and said: See the scent of my son is as the scent of the field that HaShem has blessed. And G-d will give you of the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the earth and an abundance of grain and wine. The nations will serve you and the peoples will prostrate to you..." (Gen. 27:27-8).
Shabbat Shalom!
Avraham Yehushua Greenbaum
PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...