Sunday, 4 December 2011

RubinReports: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta Shows How the Obama Administration Is Selling Out Israel...And U.S. Interests

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta Shows How the Obama Administration Is Selling Out Israel...And U.S. Interests


Tax-deductible donation by PayPal or credit card: click Donate button: Checks: "American Friends of IDC.” “For GLORIA Center” on memo line. Mail: American Friends of IDC, 116 East 16th St., 11th Fl., NY, NY 10003.

Please be subscriber 28,540. Put email address in upper right-hand box:

Charlie:: “You coulda been another Billy Conn, and that skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast."

Terry: “It wasn't him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, `Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson.’….I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit….”  --Budd Schulberg, “On the Waterfront”

By Barry Rubin
Let me state this in undiplomatic language: U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is a clown. True, this will not be the kind of thing written about in the mainstream media but it is true nonetheless. Panetta has no knowledge of the Middle East, no experience in grand strategy, no concept of Islamist politics, no awareness of Israel’s defense needs, and doesn’t know much about military issues generally.

All that would be forgivable if it weren’t for one more problem:  He has no understanding of what has happened in the last year either.
Panetta has now bashed Israel based on a premise. Here it is:

"I understand the view that this is not the time to pursue peace, and that the Arab awakening further imperils the dream of a safe and secure, Jewish and democratic Israel. But I disagree with that view." Nevertheless, Israel needs to take risks and particularly, "The problem right now is we can't get them to the damn table, to at least sit down and begin to discuss their differences."

First, there is a peculiar phrase that I have not seen used even once to describe what’s going on now. How did that phrase get into Panetta’s vocabulary? Obviously, from a briefing and I don’t believe it came from anyone at the Defense Department. That phrase is “Arab awakening” instead of “Arab Spring.”

Every Middle East historian—well, every Middle East historian who knows something about the Middle East—knows that The Arab Awakening was the famous book written by George Antonius (subsidized by a U.S foundation to do so, by the way) advocating Arab nationalism and opposition to Zionism in 1938. I can’t prove it but it gives me an idea of the views of whoever wrote those talking points.

This phrase also gives Panetta’s statement a strangely contradictory tone. If The Arab Awakening began a half-century pan-Arab struggle against Israel’s creation or existence might this not give us a hint of what the new “Arab Awakening” is going to do?  Oh, and 1938 marks the year when Great Britain desperately tried to sell out the Jews in order to gain Arab support (for the coming war with Germany and Italy). Interesting parallels.

But there are three major questions raised in Panetta’s silly statement....

To read this entire article click here

RubinReports: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta Shows How the Obama Administration Is Selling Out Israel...And U.S. Interests

RubinReports: The Middle East Policy Twilight Zone: Four Examples

The Middle East Policy Twilight Zone: Four Examples

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Twilight Zone—Rod Serling

By Barry Rubin

Ah, the gap between Middle East reality and official U.S. government-approved reality. Here are four examples:

--“Here is the next challenge for the citizen movements that are advancing from Tunisia to Syria — and eventually, surely, to repressive non-Arab states such as Iran and China. Once they have toppled the secret police, the revolutionaries need to draft constitutions affirming the rights of the individual.” --David Ignatius, Washington Post

Yes, on the way to the Middle East utopia do stop off and adopt a Bill of Rights. It made such a nice adornment to the Soviet Constitution. Who says the secret police have been toppled? Any really democratic state will need them to deal with Salafist terrorists, while the Islamist-ruled regimes to come will need them to suppress democrats, secularists, Christians, feminists, and those who will be called Zionist and imperialist agents.

How much faith these people have in elections! One balloting won by anti-democratic forces and you’re home free.

--“There are many ways the Arab Awakening might veer off track, and religion-inspired constriction of freedom is one. But so far in Egypt, the greatest threat to democracy has come from the military rulers. In any true Arab democracy, Islamist parties will win a lot of votes. As long as they are willing to play by the rules, those parties should not be treated as a specter to be feared.” --Editorial, Washington Post

Here’s an interesting question. Other than the arrest of some bloggers and moderates who have been accused of criticizing the army and also the army’s terrible behavior toward the Christian demonstration at Maspero in which about 30 were killed, where’s this big threat to democracy from the military?

click here to read the entire article

RubinReports: The Middle East Policy Twilight Zone: Four Examples

RubinReports: Hope and Change in Egypt; Naiveté and Wishful Thinking in the West

Hope and Change in Egypt; Naiveté and Wishful Thinking in the West

By Barry Rubin

Much of the mass media seems to be saying, to paraphrase John Lennon and Yoko Ono, “All we are saying is give the Muslim Brotherhood a chance.”

There are three arguments supporting this policy that are worth discussing in large part because the Muslim Brotherhood’s advocates don’t have any others.

The first,which one hears everywhere, is that the Muslim Brotherhood is full of factions that are moderate and hip young people who want real democracy.  If this were true it should be easy to prove. Here are some of the ways to do that:

Who are the leaders of these factions? What is their composition? Where have the put forward alternative positions? What posts do they hold in the movement? Was there a battle among factions on choosing the Brotherhood’s parliamentary or presidential candidates? How have they reinterpreted in a more liberal way Sharia law? Do their opponents in Egypt recognize the existence of these factions? Do those who defected from the Brotherhood say that the movement they formerly thought to be irredeemably radical  has changed?

At the same time, the Brotherhood’s leadership continues to come up, without contradiction in the ranks, with the most extreme, intolerant, and bloodthirsty positions. Even if it were to be established that other factions exist one would have to show that these factions had some chance of directing policy.
And the young hip people in Turkey’s old fogey Islamist movement have now been running the country for almost a decade, carrying out the work of fundamental transformation in that once secular polity toward being an Islamist state. They are far from finished.

Click this link to read the entire article

RubinReports: Hope and Change in Egypt; Naiveté and Wishful Thinking in the West

RubinReports: Flash: What, Me Pessimistic? Egyptian Election Outcome is Worse Than I Expected

Flash: What, Me Pessimistic? Egyptian Election Outcome is Worse Than I Expected


Tax-deductible donation by PayPal or credit card: click Donate button: Checks: "American Friends of IDC.” “For GLORIA Center” on memo line. Mail: American Friends of IDC, 116 East 16th St., 11th Fl., NY, NY 10003.

Please be subscriber 28,514. Put email address in upper right-hand box:

These are actual New York Times headlines used in covering the 1932 German and 2011 Egyptian elections. It is not meant to suggest that these two events are exactly the same but to suggest that people should take seriously the immense importance of what is taking place in Egypt. Graphic by Martin Berman-Gorvine  


By Barry Rubin

Since last February I have predicted that the Muslim Brotherhood would win elections in Egypt. People have thought me very pessimistic. I have warned and warned that this is a disaster for Western interests, Israel, and ultimately the Egyptian people themselves. I have detailed why this was going to happen and how it was going to change the history of the Middle East.  

Now the votes are starting to come in and…it’s much worse than I thought. But my prediction that the Brotherhood and the other Islamists would gain a slight majority seems to have been fulfilled and then some. According to most reports the Brotherhood is scoring at just below 40 percent all by itself.

Why worse? For two reasons:

First, the votes we now have come from the most urban areas of the country. If there are Facebook sophisticates they’re going to be in Cairo and Alexandria. If the moderates do that bad in the big cities, what’s going to happen in the villages up the Nile? If the fascist party came in first in some European countries Social Democratic districts you know you are in trouble.

The Brotherhood came in first in Cairo and Alexandria. Think about that. Of course there are millions of migrants from rural areas in those places but that’s also where the middle class, such as it is, lives.

Second, the moderate parties didn’t even come in second they came in third or close to it. The Salafists—that is people who are even more radical than the Muslim Brotherhood—came in second. That they did that well is a surprise. That they did that well without bumping the Brotherhood down a notch is really shocking.

Click on this to read the entire article 

RubinReports: Flash: What, Me Pessimistic? Egyptian Election Outcome is Worse Than I Expected



by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman
This week's commentary is dedicated to a refuah shleimah for Erica Chava bat Elisheva.

Just as Esav "lifted his voice and wept"- (Gen 27:38), so too does Yaaqov when he meets Rachel (Gen 29:11): "Vayisa et qolo vayevk."

Identical language! What can we learn from this?

We all have a "low" voice, which we use in our material pursuits. But we also have a "high," or raised voice which we use in our deepest spiritual moments. Not high in volume, but high in spiritual vibration.

With Esav it was a plaintive cry of sorrow. But with Yaaqov it was a cry of joy. But just as Yaaqov is identified by his voice- his "qol," by lifting up his voice, Esav was finding his Yaaqovness within, that holy spark within himself, however late, that was worthy of a blessing from his father. And on the deepest level, by his words, he was "lifting up" his brother Yaaqov, euphemistically praying to heaven for Yaaqov to marry. By thus blessing his brother and wishing him joy, he merited blessing from his father, Yitzhaq, who found in his quiver of blessings one more left forEsav.

So just as Rachel looked for a soulmate for her sister, Leah, and ended up finding one for herself as well, so too did Esav pray on behalf of his brother Yaaqov, and benefited himself in the process. This is the deepest meaning of vayisa et kolo vayevk.

Now Rachel was *also* Yaaqov's soulmate. She was the "outer" soulmate, while Leah could actually be considered the "inner" soulmate. Just as Sarah was characterized by her outer beauty, which was actually merely a reflection and expression of her inner beauty, so too was mother Rachel- yefat toar viyfat mareh (Gen 29:17).

When Yaaqov meets Rachel he kisses her, which is actually a clever play on words with giving water- vayashaq vs. vayishaq (Gen 29:10,11).

This really is saying that when you give someone water, i.e., when you teach him Torah, you're touching the innermost soul part of that person. As water nourishes on the physical level, Torah nourishes and gives life on the soul level. Later we see kissing to be intrinsic to reunions of those who were separated and then reunited. Esav and Yaaqov weep when they later meet again. Similarly Yosef and his brothers weep when they reunite as Yosef reveals his true identity in Pharaoh's palace.

"Vayishaq" (and he kissed) also alludes to a kind of death, in the sense of passing from one state to another. A neshiqah, a kiss, is really a drawing out of the soul to encounter its soulmate. A nesheq, or a gun, in modern Hebrew, is really the means by which to draw out the soul of a person from THIS life and enable him to cross over into the next life.

Both Rachel and her sister Leah may have been destined to be Yaaqov's wives. How? We see it from what comes later, and we see it from what comes earlier- from after and from before.

We see it in that twelve tribes descended from them and from their respective handmaidens. All twelve were beneficiaries of the Abrahamic blessing. As Ishmael had twelve descended entities, so too did Yitzhaq achieve parallel blessing through his son, Yaaqov, both blessed "seed descendants" of Avraham. This is the argument from "later."And we see it in the argument from "sooner," in the earlier Cain and Abel narrative, where the three sons of Adam and Eve (Cain, Abel and Seth) parallel and foreshadow the three patriarchs.

Abraham is asked to kill Yitzhaq, but doesn't, thus achieving a tiqun, or a fixing for Cain's killing of Abel (first born killing the second born). Lamech had two wives (Gen 4:23), Adah and Tzillah. Chazal teach us that one was for beauty; the other, for procreation. Similarly, one of Yaaqov's wives was more loved (Rachel); the other was more for procreation (Leah). Indeed, Lamech says to them , shma'an qoli- listen to my voice. Qol, or voice, is always associated with Ya'aqov (haqol qol Ya'aqov).

There is a strong connection between the earliest Hebrews and the earliest humans, even relating specifically to the love between Yaaqov and his wives. Here is a hint:

Lamech says, (Gen 4:23): "I have killed a MAN by wounding, and a CHILD by bruising."

This is an allusion to Yaaqov's future deceit and clever trickery. First against his brother (the child)- when he cajoles and buys the birthrite from Esau in a famished state when he was out of his mind from hunger, while still a youth. And later on, years later when he tricks his father Yitzchaq (the man) by gaining the actual birthrite blessing via gross deception.

The final touch is when he then says "If Cain shall be revenged seven times, then for Lemech it shall be seventy seven times." That is, if someone were to seek vengeance for my misdeeds, the price shall be seven/seven. Esav sought to kill Ya'aqov. The result is now seven/seven. Seventy seven is also written as seven and seven. Seven years for Rachel and seven years for Leah!

The story of Lemech may be only a literary prefiguration for Yaaqov and the other Avoth. But it may also hint of a reincarnative/metempsychotic connection between the first humans and the first Hebrews!

Now that we understand that both Rachel and Leah were destined soulmates for Ya'aqov, we see in the text four hints of Leah's special connection toYa'aqov. The first hint is in Leah's name, and in the previous parsha's description of Ya'aqov as an "ish tam yoshev ohalim...a "perfect" man (Targum) who dwelled in tents. Why is ohel, or tent, expressed in the plural? The text could have said "yoshev ba'ohel,"i.e., in the singular. This plural expression may hint to his future association with Leah, for ohel in Hebrew, is an acronym of Leah!

One ohel so as referring to his actual proclivity for dwelling in tents, the other ohel suggestive of his soul's proclivity for reuniting with Leah. A second hint of Leah's special soul connection to Yaaqov was in the Torah's description of Leah, referring to her eyes:(Gen29:17) ve'eynei Leah rakot...and Leah's eyes were "lovely," or "soft."

Traditionally, we usually associate eyes with the inner, soul level, while beauty and good looks, are usually associated with the outside level (or at times as a manifestation or expression of an inner beauty). Leah's description focuses exclusively on her eyes, the proverbial windows to the soul.

The third example is based on a comparison with other Biblical women who conceived and had children before their "competetive" wives or concubines. Hagar mocks and ridicules Sarah. Likewise in Judges, Peninah mocks and ridicules Hannah, who remained barren for many years. Not so Leah!

Although she outpaces Rachel many times over before she (Rachel) could have children, nevertheless the text gives no indication of any scorn or mockery on her part towards her sister. This is quite laudatory, and is so valorized by the text. As a result, she partakes in the blessing of fulfilling the Abrahamic line and blessing through *her* children as well. Her experience lies outside the typical pattern, whereby usually the woman who remains barren for many years and subsequently gives birth has exclusive claims to blessings of her lineage. This was not the case with Leah, and so is further evidence of a soul connection with Yaaqov and bearer of the seed of Abraham (zera Avraham).

The fourth hint of Leah's special soul relationship with Yaaqov is in a class all by itself, worthy of its own careful treatment. The four sons of Leah reenact in miniature the struggle of merit versus birth order that is played out in many Biblical fraternal conflict scenarios- Yitzhak and Ishmael, Ya'akov and Esav, to name just two. Here the first two by birth order, Reuven and Shimon, are played against Leah's second pair- Levi and Yehudah. Each of the first two are eventually cursed by their father,whereas the last two are held out for special blessings. Each pair of brothers correlates to the traditional single brothers in their birthrite primogenitural struggles.

With regard to the first pair of Leah's sons, Reuven is cursed for allegedly moving his father's bed; Shimon is cursed for his wanton, gratuitous unrepentant violence committed against Shechem.

And with regard to the second pair of Leah's sons, "Levi" does teshuvah on the tribal level for partaking in the same act as Shimon, by rechanneling his passion at the Golden Calf episode. He goes on to wear the mantle and robes of Israel's priesthood. Yehudah initially fails by his actions in the sale of Yosef, then redeems himself through his actions with regard to Binyamin later in the Joseph narrative. He subsequently wins his father's blessing and would later wear the mantle and crown of Israel's future monarchy. As this struggle is played out with Leah's sons, but not with the sons of Rachel, it suggests a special kind of relationship between Ya'akov and Leah, akin to that of the other patriarchal marital units. Hence they all similarly share burial privileges in Machpelah- the cave of the "couples."

While we all seek our soulmates in life, we should understand that our truest soulmates are staring back at us in the mirror. We need to look forward to that day when we reunite with our true selves, and become the righteous person each of us was meant to become when we took the angelic oath upon leaving the womb (BT Niddah). As long as we keep standing near the well of Torah, we increase our chances of discovering that true-self soulmate.

We may break many hearts when we go through life. And our hearts similarly may become broken many times. Our expectations may be dashed, our hopes may be shattered. But then we realize that all the doors we go through are but ladders to ascend up to the next level of experience, where we may hope to achieve a healing.

Indeed, we also learn that to heal ourselves, we best start with first healing others. And in the process we move beyond our own pain and bring healing and blessing to everyone. May the weeping and crying we experience from sadness, become soon a weeping and crying that we experience from joy. As the psalmist says, "Hazorim bedimah berinah yiktzoru - may they who sow in sorrow, soon come to reap in gladness." May our tears of sadness become tears of joy! Amen.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2011 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are 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



By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
Torah reading: Gen. 32.4-36.43. Haftara: Obadiah 1.1-21 (Optional substitution: Hosea 11.7-12.12).
At the end of the previous parshah, VAYEITZEI, we saw Jacob at MOUNT Gil'ad in his final encounter with Laban, who represents the evil husk in its spiritual manifestation, fake CHESSED-kindness. At Mount Gil'ad, Jacob made a "treaty" with Laban demarcating the boundaries which they and their descendants were to observe: these are the boundaries that neither good nor evil may overstep in the unfolding drama of human history. In prevailing over Laban, Jacob demonstrated that he had made a complete acquisition of Abraham's quality of CHESSED. As discussed in connection with previous parshahs, it was Abraham who went to the MOUNTAIN, and thus Jacob's "treaty" with Laban was struck at MOUNT Gil'ad.
In the present parshah, VAYISHLACH, we see Jacob struggling with the evil husk in its material manifestation, the "fallen" GEVUROS, worldly power and strength, as embodied in Esau, man of the FIELD. Thus at the beginning of the parshah, Jacob, who is about to enter the Promised Land, sends emissaries ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the FIELD of Edom (Gen. 32:4).
Esau was called the "man of the field" (Gen. 25:27), having received the trait of GEVURAH, power and strength, from Isaac, who, as the embodiment of holy GEVURAH, self-discipline, "went out to the field" (Gen. 24:63). However, the aspect of GEVURAH which Esau received from Isaac was the excess, unholy aspect: Esau's "field" was the wild outdoors. Thus later on, the Torah writes: "And if IN THE FIELD the man finds the engaged girl and the man takes hold of her and lies with her, that man that lay with her shall die, he alone... for as a man rises up against his neighbor and murders him, so is this matter" (Deut. 22:25). This FIELD of rape and murder is the field of idolatrous slaughter: "the sacrifices that they slaughter on the face of the FIELD... their sacrifices to the GOAT-demons (SE'IRIM) that they lust after them..." (Leviticus 17:5-7). According to the Rabbis, on the day when Esau came in "from the field" (Gen. 25:29) and sold his birth-right to Jacob, Esau was "tired" from the three cardinal sins of idolatry, sexual immorality and murder.
In order for Jacob to complete his acquisition of the birth-right and enter and acquire the Promised Land, he had to demonstrate that together with the CHESSED he had inherited from his grandfather Abraham, he had also made a complete acquisition of the trait of holy GEVURAH embodied in his father Isaac. Jacob demonstrated this in his struggle with Esau, where he prevailed through applying his consummate wisdom and humility. Thus we find in our parshah that Jacob also made a treaty of boundaries and separation with Esau. This boundary will prevail "... until I will come to my lord to Seir" (Gen. 33:14) -- "And when will he go? In the days of Mashiach, as it says, And the saviors will go up on Mount Zion to judge the house of Esau" (Ovadiah 1:21, in our haftara, see Rashi on Gen. 33:14). A substantial portion of our parshah is devoted to Esau, including the concluding section, which traces all the generations of Esau, including Amalek (Gen. 36:12) the historical counterfeit of Israel, and Rome (Gen. 36:43, "Magdiel", see Rashi ad loc.).
Jacob was first characterized as "a dweller of tents" (Gen. 25:27) -- the "tent" of Abraham (CHESSED) and the "tent" of Isaac (GEVURAH). "Planting" tents in a field turns the FIELD into a place of residence. Jacob's mission was to join and synthesize the holy traits of his fathers and teachers, CHESSED and GEVURAH, in order to build TIFERES, truth, beauty and balance. This is the HOUSE, the House of Jacob -- the HOUSE, family and people of Israel, and also the archetypal, model physical HOUSE that is to serve to guide all mankind to return to G-d, the "House of Prayer for all the Nations", the "HOME" of G-d: the HOLY TEMPLE. In the course of our parshah, we see Jacob busy building houses. He travels to Succos, "TABERNACLES" -- temporary homes. There Jacob built himself a HOUSE while making booths for his livestock.
Jacob then came "COMPLETE" to SheCheM (Gen. 33:18). The Hebrew word for "complete" is ShaLeM -- made up of the letters Shin, signifying fire, GEVUROS, Mem signifying water, CHASADIM, and the transcendent center-column Lamed, that shoots upwards exactly like the Vav on top of the Kaf from which the Lamed is formed. SheKheM signifies SHAFEL, the lowly material world, KOCHAVIM, the stars and constellations that direct what happens here, and the MALACHIM, the angels or the spiritual forces which "drive" the stars and planets (Likutey Moharan I:9). In Shechem, Jacob "acquired the lot of the FIELD in which he PLANTED HIS TENT..." (Gen. 33:17-19). Finally, at the climax of our parshah, "And Jacob said to his HOUSE and to all that were with him, remove the strange gods that are in you and purify yourselves and change your garments. And let us arise and go up to the HOUSE of G-d..." (Gen. 35:2-3). And then the House of Jacob was complete: "And the sons of Jacob were twelve" (Gen. 35:22).
Jacob could only succeed in building this HOUSE, the House of Israel and its center HOUSE, the Holy Temple, after having won a complete victory over Esau, representing ASIYAH, the world of material action, with its many traps and dangers. When the Temple stands, order prevails, and atonement is brought to Israel and the world through sending the SEIR-goat of atonement away to die in the wilderness (Lev. 16:21-22).
* * *
Esau came against Jacob with the implacable envy and enmity of the serpent towards Adam, for "he will stamp on you on the head and you will bite him at the heel (AKEV)" (Gen. 3:15). Even when Esau kissed, he really came to bite (see Baal HaTurim on "and he kissed him" Gen. 33:4 -- "in gematria, 'and he came to bite him'"). Jacob, YaAKOV, was so named because he "gripped the heel (AKEV)" of Esau (Gen. 25:26). This was how Jacob reclaimed Adam's greatness, the REISHIS, "head" or "birth-right", thereby stamping on and crushing the serpent's head.
Esau came with 400 men, the legions of death. 400 corresponds to the Hebrew letter Tav, last letter of the Aleph Beis, the ultimate in multiplicity. 400 signifies a complete array of numbers -- 10 x 10 -- on all four sides: number, measurement and limitation everywhere. This multiplicity stands counter to G-d's unity, represented by Jacob and his twelve sons (the twelve constellations and twelve hours, time and space), arranged in order in a square (= perfect balance) around the House, the Sanctuary, the BAYIS (from BereishYS), which ends in the letter TAV. The House of Jacob comes to overcome death, MAVES, which also ends with the letter TAV. For "her feet go down to death" (Proverbs 5:5) -- plurality, the worship of many gods.
Esau's GEVURAH was BRAWN, the power of physical force. ("I have abundance" Gen. 33:9). But Jacob overcame Esau's brawn through BRAIN, ROSH, ("kopf"), the wisdom gained from Jacob's synthesis: this is the TIFERES-DAAS center-column, the faculty of "putting things together" (CHOCHMAH and BINAH, CHESSED and GEVURAH). This is achieved through GIVE AND TAKE. Thus Jacob is the ultimate in humility: "I am too SMALL for all Your kindnesses" (Gen. 32:11). "Say they belong to YOUR SERVANT Jacob, a gift sent to MY LORD Esau" (ibid. v. 19). "And he PROSTRATED to the ground seven times until he approached his brother..." (33:3).
For Jacob is Ya-AKOV, the one who grasps the heel, and "the HEEL (AKEV) of humility is FEAR OF G-D" (Proverbs 22:4) -- "how AWESOME is this Place" (Gen. 28:17). The fear of G-d is the "beginning" of wisdom, the REISHIS, the birth-right (the Hebrew letters of the word REISHIS include the letters of the word YA-RE, "he is in awe"). For "the BEGINNING of wisdom, CHOCHMAH, is FEAR OF G-D" (Psalms 111:10) and "what wisdom made her crown, humility made the sandle on her heel (AKEV)" (Midrash).
Jacob knows that this world is but the heel of an entire system of worlds, and this is what gives him his mastery over this world. He is able to use this world to serve G-d by configuring and ordering the world properly. Jacob understands that there has to be give and take with Esau. He understands that Esau has chosen This World. Jacob thus "bribes" Esau with the "goat for Azazel", the gift of material wealth, which Jacob, as the source of all blessings, has the power to draw down and channel to the world.
The abundant gifts of livestock that Jacob sends to Esau contain a message. Rashi on Gen. 32:15 brings a midrash showing how the varying ratio of males to females among the different kinds of live-stock alludes to the appropriate ONAH or time of conjugal union for people in different walks of life (see Rashi there). In other words, the same Jacob who sent messages to Isaac in the "lentil soup" is now teaching the sexually wild Esau a lesson in how to tame and direct animal lust for the sake of good breeding. In this way, Jacob's material "gift" to Esau brings order and rectification to the world of ASIYAH.
Jacob offers peace and gifts (CHESED), but he is prepared for war to the very end (GEVURAH). Yet in his humility, Jacob knows that all the gifts and all the might of ASIYAH will not prevail against Esau without the help of G-d. "He prepared himself for three things: for a gift, for PRAYER and for war" (Rashi on Gen. 32:9). Prayer is at the center, in between CHESSED (gifts) and GEVURAH (war). "And Jacob said: G-d of my father Abraham and G-d of my father Isaac...." (Gen. 32:10).
Jacob struggled with Esau's root -- his SAR ("guardian angel") -- and it was his success against the angel that enabled him to prevail over Esau himself. Jacob's success was WIN/WIN, for even Esau gained what he really wanted: the material glory of this world. While Esau takes the material wealth, Jacob struggles to find the inner "face", the roots and inner meaning of the wealth and glory of this world. Thus Jacob calls the place of his struggle with the angel PENI-EL, "for I saw G-d FACE TO FACE" (Gen. 32:31). Yet in order for the world to continue to exist after we uncover the inner face, there has to be give and take. Jacob gets injured "in the leg" -- HOD. In this world, KULO OMER KAVOD, "everything cries out glory". In the very outcry of worldly glory, G-d's glory becomes concealed! As a result, Jacob's children -- "the legs" -- "do not eat from the slipped tendon" (GID HANASHEH). The Children of Israel are unable to eat all the material blessings of this world because of the blemished glory. In this world the glory is taken by Esau, for if Jacob's glory, the glory of Israel, were fully revealed, there would be no free will.
* * *
The integrity of the House -- the family -- of Jacob depends upon family PURITY, observance of the laws of sexual decency and restraint. "Shall our sister be treated like a prostitute?" (Gen. 34:31). Moral purity is the very foundation of the Covenant of Abraham, which is sealed in the flesh of the male Children of Israel on the organ of procreation, indicating the need to restrain animal lust and elevate it in the service of G-d in order to breed righteous children to "guard the way of HaShem" (Gen. 18:19).
The rape of Dinah was a violation of this integrity by Shechem the son of Hamor (= donkey, physical animality) the Chivi (Chivia in Aramaic is "serpent" see Targum on Gen. 3:1). Shechem is the opposite of Joseph "the Tzaddik", the archetype of sexual discipline, who restrains himself with Potiphar's wife and eventually receives SheKheM (the three worlds, the lowly world, that of the stars and that of the angels, as discussed above) as well as -- according to the midrash -- marrying Dinah's daughter = Osnath.
Dinah's urge to go out and about "to see the daughters of the land" (a trait unbefitting the daughter of Jacob) exposed her to danger in a world that was still untamed. Abraham and Isaac had both faced trials because of the fallen morality of the Egyptians and the Philistines. Now Jacob's own daughter is raped by Shechem the Hittite, descendant of the accursed Canaan, son of Ham.
According to Torah law, Dinah, as a PENUYAH, "unmarried", was not forbidden to Shechem. What was forbidden was the manner in which he "saw her... and he TOOK her and lay with her": Shechem kidnapped Dinah. His crime was the violation of the Noachide Law against stealing, which prohibits the unlawful taking not only of goods but of people. The crime of the men of Shechem who were sitting "in the gate of their city" (Gen. 34:20) -- i.e. they were the judges of the city -- was that they watched this violation of Noachide law and did nothing.
In the words of Rambam (Maimonides) Laws of Kings 9:14: "In what way are they (the Children of Noah) commanded with regard to the rule of law? They are obliged to establish judges and magistrates in every region to judge cases relating to the other six commandments, and to warn the population. And any of the Children of Noah who violates one of these seven commandments is to be killed by the sword. AND FOR THIS REASON THE RULERS OF SHECHEM WERE LIABLE TO EXECUTION, for Shechem STOLE and they saw and they knew and they did not bring him to justice..."
The zeal of Levy and Shimon in perpetrating justice did not escape Jacob's censure, both in our parshah (Gen. 34:30) and in his blessings to his sons before his death (Gen. 49:5, "Shimon and Levi are brothers, weapons of might are their swords... Accursed is their anger... I will divide them among Jacob and scatter them among Israel...") Zeal is necessary yet dangerous. It is controlled when the zealots are divided and scattered. Levi was "scattered" by having to go around to all the farms to collect the Levitical tithes. This honorable scattering was the reward for the zeal showed by the tribe later on, at the time of the sin of the golden calf. However, Shimon's zeal was not so pure, and led to excess, as when the Zimri, Prince of the tribe of Shimon, took Kozbi the Midianite and challenged Moses. (Zimri was killed by Pinchas, son of Aaron from the tribe of Levi, exemplar of Holy Zeal). To rectify the challenge to Moses by the Prince of the House of Shimon, members of the tribe of Shimon were "scattered" by having to become scribes and teachers of Moses' Torah (see Rashi on Gen. 49:7).
* * *
The significance of the section of the parshah describing Jacob's "pilgrimage" with his family to Beth El, the HOUSE of G-d, has been discussed above. At Beth El, Jacob's acquisition of the birthright and the Promised Land was sealed, and he attained his name of greatness -- Israel -- from the mouth of G-d.
The House of Jacob was completed by the birth of Benjamin, who was the only one of Jacob's twelve sons to be born in the Land of Israel and who founded the tribe that was to contribute the first king of Israel, Saul, who was "head and shoulders above all the men of Israel" in his outstanding modesty and righteousness. Shamai, the Mishnaic Tanna and Av Beis Din ("father of the court") in the time of Hillel the Elder, was a descendant of King Saul, while Hillel, who was the Nasi or Prince (and as such, the highest in rank) was a descendant of King David. Thus the MACHLOKES (controversy) throughout the SHAS (6 orders of Mishneh), between BEIS SHAMAI and BEIS HILLEL is bound up with the struggle between Judah (son of Leah) and Benjamin (son of Rachel). This struggle is resolved through the process of clarifying the halachah, which practically always follows the opinion of Beis Hillel.
Conflict and its resolution is the theme of all the remaining parshiyos in the book of Genesis from next week (VAYESHEV) until the end of Genesis (VAYECHI). This is the story of the rectification of the world, which comes about through Mashiach son of David (who is from the tribe of Judah, son of Leah) and Mashiach son of Joseph (son of Rachel). In order to clear the way for the story of rectification, namely the story of Joseph and his brothers (in which the bond between Judah and Benjamin plays a central part), the Torah concludes our parshah of VAYISHLACH with an account of the generations of Esau. The theme of sexual immorality recurs in this account, for several of Esau's children and grandchildren were MAMZERIM (bastards -- see Rashi on Gen. 36:2 and 36:12 etc.)
This account ends with the account of the Seven Kings who ruled over Edom -- and died -- before there was a king in Israel. It is well known that these Seven Kings allude to the seven "fallen" Sefiros of the World of TOHU (devastation), while the last-mentioned king -- the eighth, of whom it does not say "and he died" -- is Hadar = Abraham, father of the World of Rectification.
This throws light on the meaning of Rashi's first comment on next week's parshah (on Gen. 37:1): "After the Torah writes for you the dwellings of Esau and his generations in brief, since they were not sufficiently important to tell in detail... the Torah now comes to the dwellings of Jacob and his generations at length and all the cycles (GILGULIM) of causes, for they are important before G-d... It can be compared to a jewel that fell in the sand. A person feels through and sieves all the sand until he finds the jewel. And when he finds the jewel, he throws away the pebbles and takes the jewel."
Shabbat Shalom!
Avraham Yehushua Greenbaum
PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel


By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
Torah reading: Gen. 28:10-32:3. Haftara: Hosea 12.13-14.10 (Optional addition: Micah 7.18) (Sephardi ritual: Hosea 11.7-12.12).
Last weeks parshah, TOLDOS, completed the story of Isaac, which concluded with Isaac's giving the blessings to Jacob and sending him away from home to find his wife. In our present parshah of VAYEITZEI, Jacob, the "perfect" or "compete" patriarch (since he incorporated the best of both Abraham and Isaac) now takes center stage, and the story of his life and that of his twelve sons occupies the remainder of the book of Genesis.
Jacob's departure from his parental home into exile in Padan Aram and his return from there with a complete family and laden with wealth are paradigmatic for the subsequent history of Jacob's descendants, Israel and the Jewish people. Historically the Israelites were repeatedly forced to leave the ancestral Land of Israel, yet always returned in increased numbers, together with the wealth acquired in exile: the souls of the proselytes and actual material wealth.
* * *
While Jacob's journey of exile to Padan Aram is paradigmatic of all later Jewish exile, his detour on the way there to "THE PLACE" (Gen. 28:11) -- Mount Moriah, "THE PLACE that G-d said to Abraham" (Gen. 22:9), that same FIELD where Isaac went to pray -- is paradigmatic of the GIVING OF THE TORAH. Thus the numerical value of the Hebrew letters of SuLaM, the "ladder" of Jacob's dream (Samech 60, Lamed 30, Mem 40) = 130 = SINaI, where the Torah was given (Samech 60, Yud 10, Nun 50, Yud 10). The Torah itself was given "in exile", in the wilderness. The dream of the ladder and Jacob's actions in response to G-d's promise of protection -- his laying the Temple foundation and his vow to tithe all he acquires for G-d -- are Torah. They are the very essence of the Torah, the GIVING OF THE TORAH for all Jacob's descendants. Jacob's eventual return to this PLACE where he "received the Torah" (see next week's parshah, Gen. ch. 35) is paradigmatic of the return of the Jewish people after exile to build the Holy Temple. The Temple and the Giving of the Torah are one concept.
The PLACE that Jacob "hit" (like you hit a target with an arrow or with a prayer) while on his way to Padan Aram was none other than the spot from which Adam was created: the place destined to bring atonement to all the Children of Adam in all generations through the sacrifical altar that is to stand there in the House of Prayer for all the Nations. This was the place where Noah sacrificed after the flood and this was where Abraham bound Isaac on the Altar. This was the field to which Isaac would return to pray. This place is alluded to in the opening word of the Torah, BeRAiSHIS, the Hebrew letters of which can be rearranged to form the words BAYIS ROSH, "the House that is the Head". As discussed in connection with the parshiyos of the last two weeks, Abraham had conceived of this place as a lofty -- and almost daunting -- MOUNTAIN of spiritual achievement. Isaac had brought the idea nearer to ordinary people by conceiving of it as a FIELD of regular endeavor. It was the innovation of Jacob, the "perfect patriarch", to bring the idea within reach of everyone (for fields, in which Jacob was expert, are still not accessible to everyone): Jacob conceived of the place as a HOUSE. "This is none other than the HOUSE of God" (Genesis 28:17; see Likutey Moharan I, 10).
In the words of the Talmud (Pesachim 88a): Said Rabbi Elazar: What does Isaiah mean when he says, "And many peoples will go and say, 'Come let us go up to the Mountain of G-d to the HOUSE of the G-d of Jacob!'" ? Why the G-d of Jacob and not the G-d of Abraham and Isaac? The answer is: Not like Abraham, who saw it as a Mountain ("as it is said this day, On the Mountain HaVaYaH is seen" -- Genesis 22:14). And not like Isaac, for whom it was a Field ("And Isaac went out to meditate in the Field" -- Genesis 24:63). But like Jacob, who called it a House: "And he called the name of that place Beth El, the House of G-d" (Genesis 28:19).
This passage comes to teach that at the consummation of human history, when "many peoples will go" in search of G-d's truth, the idea through which G-d will be understood by the peoples will be Jacob's idea: the idea of the House -- the Holy Temple. The conception of the Temple as a House brings the idea of devotion to G-d right into the house and home. The Temple is the epitome of all houses. Thus it has a kitchen (the AZARA or central courtyard) and oven (the Altar), a "living room" (the Sanctuary), with its "lamp" (the Menorah) and table (the Showbread Table), and a "bedroom", the Holy of Holies, place of the ZIVUG of the Holy One and the Shechinah (Divine Presence).
The Temple is the universal paradigm of what all of our homes should be, a place for the dwelling of the Divine Presence. At the very center of the Temple vision is the "ladder" that has angels "ascending and descending" on it. This is the ladder of devotion. Our prayers, blessings and simple, everyday "homely" mitzvos and acts of devotion send "angels" ASCENDING upwards to realms that are beyond our comprehension. The ascending angels in turn elicit angels of blessing who DESCEND into this world and into our very lives (such as the angels who accompany us from the synagogue to the home on Shabbos night and who, on seeing that we have made everything ready for Shabbos, bless our table, which is like the Temple altar.) The vow Jacob made upon inaugurating the House of G-d is the paradigm of all the different "vows" or commitments we make involving some kind of self-restraint and sacrifice in order to elevate ourselves spiritually and elicit G-d's protection. These acts of self-sacrifice send up ascending angels, drawing down descending angels of blessing. The foundation of devotion is our COMMITMENT (but without actual vows).
* * *
Given that Jacob conceived of divine service using the metaphor of the HOUSE, it is fitting that the central focus of the story of his life is on how he built his house, namely the household of wives and children who made up the House of Jacob, and how he faced all their subsequent domestic problems -- the kidnap of Dinah, the quarrels and hatred among the twelve brothers, the sale of Joseph and all that followed from it.
The building of Jacob's House could be accomplished only through struggles of many kinds -- for truth, Jacob's quality, is born out of struggle on all levels, material and spiritual. In order to build his House, Jacob had to struggle with two major antagonists: Esau and Laban. Esau embodies the threat to the Holy House from the forces of excess and evil in the material world, ASIYAH. The encounter with Esau is a central theme in next week's parshah: VAYISHLACH. In this week's parshah of VAYEITZEI, the focus is on Jacob's encounter with Laban, whose threat to the Holy House is from the forces of excess in the spiritual worlds. Thus while Esau is portrayed as a HUNTER-WARRIOR, Laban is portrayed as a PRIEST (Rashi on Gen. 24:21, Gen. 31:30ff).
To build his House, Jacob had to rescue the sparks of holiness that were still to be find in the land of the Sons of the East (Gen. 29:19), literally the "Sons of OLD". These sparks of holiness were embodied in Rachel and Leah and their handmaidens, who were to mother the Souls of Israel. In order to rescue them, Jacob had to struggle with Laban, the High Priest of the "Old World", the unrectified World of TOHU (confusion) created by G-d to spawn the realm of evil with which man has to struggle in order to attain his destiny. Laban was the father of Be'or who was the father of Bilaam, also called Bela. Bela the son of Be'or is the first of the Seven Kings of Edom who ruled "before there was a king in Israel" (Gen. 36:31 ff.). These "Seven Kings" allude to the seven sefiros in their "fallen" manifestation as a result of the "breaking of the vessels". Kabbalistically, Bela corresponds to DAAS of the SITRA ACHRA, the evil consciousness that is the opposite of G-dly knowledge and awareness, the root of all the other sefiros. The ARI states that Bilaam-Bela was the incarnation of Laban, who is the very brain of the realm of evil, as indicated by his name, which consists of the letters Lamed (30) Beis (2) corresponding to the 32 Pathways of Wisdom, and Nun (50), corresponding to the 50 Gates of Understanding. Jacob's conflict with Laban continued in Moses fight against Bilaam and his pernicious spiritual influence.
Laban is the arch swindler and deceiver, symbolizing the force in creation that conceals G-dliness through our querks of false-consciousness that make evil seem like good and good seem like evil. Laban TRANSLATES one thing into another (we find an example of Laban as a translator in Gen. 31:47), distorting the entire meaning in the process. Time and time again, it turns out that Laban actually means something entirely different from what he appears on the surface to be saying. White-appearing Laban (Lavan in Hebrew = "white") is actually filthy black.
Since the devotions of Jacob (the Children of Israel) are accomplished by using the homely objects of this world to create the House of G-d through which the Divine Presence may dwell in the world, it is essential to cleanse the world of the mental distortions (the deceptions of idolatrous Laban) that could undermine the entire message of the Holy House.
Each one of us has the personal work of using Jacob's honesty to cleanse ourselves of the inner Labans that have us working for years chasing after phantoms, only to find ourselves sadly deceived...
* * *
Jacob followed the example of Abraham's servant Eliezer (Gen. 24:11) in going to the WELL in order to find his ZIVUG (soul-mate). As father of the people who were to bring the spiritual waters of Torah to all mankind, Jacob expected to find the appropriate soul-mate at the place of the "water-drawers". There Jacob saw his first love, Rachel, whose beauty was visible also on the exterior, as opposed to Leah, whose spiritual greatness was more concealed. The swindle by which Laban motivated Jacob to work for seven years for Rachel but actually gave him Leah, forcing him to work another seven years to get Rachel too, was a harsh lesson in how life may give us what we didn't bank on.
The implicit message in Jacob's deals with Laban, whereby Jacob worked for everything he gained -- his wives, his children and his flocks -- is that honest work is good, even when swindlers lurk. The heavens and earth were made "to do" (Gen. 2:3). "For six days, work shall be done..." (Exodus 35:2): Work is a good thing! Jacob had received rich blessings from Isaac, but that did not mean he had what he gained through sitting back and doing nothing. It was his very conscientiousness in working to earn the promised good that made him deserve the blessings.
The repeated seven-fold cycles in our parshah (seven years of work for Rachel and Leah, the seven days of the marriage celebrations) are bound up with the underlying six-day/Shabbos cycle of creation which comes to rectify the seven fallen sefiros of the world of TOHU spawned by Bilaam-Laban. The holy sparks rescued by Jacob through his "work" -- Rachel, Leah, the handmaidens, their children, and the "flocks", namely the holy souls -- are all reordered in the world of TIKUN (Rectification, the sefiros in their holy manifestation) in the House of Jacob. Here Jacob (corresponding to Zeir Anpin, the unity of G-d) is joined and unified with his wives, Rachel (the revealed world) and Leah (the concealed world).
Jacob's main work and that of his wives was that of BREEDING -- the breeding of children and the breeding of "flocks". This comes to emphasize the centrality of family, education and good breeding in true civilization. The House about which Jacob's Temple comes to teach is not a far-off concept. It is the actual house and home in which we live, where our work must be to educate ourselves and our children to see and manifest G-d in our mundane, everyday activities.
Jacob is the archetype of the faithful employee. He starts off with nothing (according to the Midrash, Jacob was stripped of all his possessions by Esau's son Eliphaz as he set off for Padan Aram). He works conscientiously to benefit and enrich his employer, with scrupulous honesty and devotedness (as expressed in Jacob's eloquent self-defense Gen. 31:38 ff.). Jacob is pitted against a slick liar who keeps on changing the terms of agreements, who sells his own daughters, who watches his nephew work for his wives, children and flocks for 20 years and still says, "They are all mine...."
The practical teaching about the work ethic that emerges from this section of our parshah telling of Jacob's way of working applies to all mankind. It is an important aspect of the universal law against stealing:
"Just as the employer is cautioned not to steal or withhold the wages of the poor man, so the poor man (the employee) is cautioned not to steal the work of the employer by wasting a little time here and a little there so that he spends the entire day cheating his employer. The worker is obliged to be strict with himself in the time he devotes to his employer's work... and he is obliged to work with all his strength. For the righteous Jacob said 'For WITH ALL MY STRENGTH I worked for your father...'. And therefore he took the reward for this even in this world..." (Rambam, Laws of Hiring 13:7)
Those who are inclined to pass the working hours drinking tea and coffee, chatting, making irrelevant phone calls, etc. should take note.
Shabbat Shalom!
Avraham Yehushua Greenbaum
PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...