VAYISHLACH -- A tale of two brothers
GENESIS 32:4-36:43

A short summary


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Preface-- Know Yourself, Know Your Teachers

Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control, These three alone lead life to sovereign power (Enone, Tennyson, Stanza 12).

We struggle to understand what Biblical figures, such as Yaakov and Esav, were really like, using the tools at our disposal-- our traditional texts, our oral traditions, and our own God-given imagination and intelligence, enhanced and awakened by our own worldly experience and knowledge. We all attend U.U. (Uterus University) and receive a Y.U. (Yeshiva University) style education in the womb, learning the whole Torah and exploring the whole universe (see Nida 30b; I imagine that the two realms are far better integrated there, where a Divine Teacher teaches both). Tho we're made to forget this awesome education at birth, we retain a preset for it; this may be the basis of our deepest dreams, desires and intuitions, of our frequent sense that something rings true or false, tho we don't understand why. A baby, a recent U.U. grad, still retains so much of its charm and beauty, perhaps having much deeper knowledge of the sweet mystery of love and life than an adult; but he lacks self-respect, a product of self-sufficiency, of knowledge and accomplishment earned by one's own efforts, rather than by a Divine or parental gift (from an impromptu dvar torah at Gavriel Shlomo Persky's beautiful brit-- mazal tov to Josh, Steffie and their families-- may Steffie, as Rivka, be a mother of myriads).

But "people who need people are the luckiest people in the world" (Avraham's descendant, Barbara Streisand, vs. gloomy Guses, e.g. Satre and Paul Ehrlich, who proclaim "Hell is other people"). We must recognize the limits of our self-sufficiency, that we inherit so much knowledge and experience, that we grow thru learning from, and teaching others. We must also relate to those who help us in our search, parents, teachers, collegues and pupils; one major aspect of our search for truth is an ardent, respectful, yet critical pursuit of the depths of our teachers' lives and thought. Rav A. Kook stressed the need to be especially critical (inwardly) of one's own teachers, lest one also emulate their faults and mistakes-- everyone, even rebbes and roshei yeshiva, has some; we must also simultaneously stress both their and our own uniqueness-- not everything appropriate for my parents or teachers is appropriate for me; a great rebbe long ago, in his own unique situation, may have felt that he should not sleep in a sukka, perhaps because it was too cold; he may have sought a spiritual dimension to his experience, trying to find God also in not sleeping in a sukka; but that in no way implies that a Jew in warm 20th century Israel should ignore the law and emulate him. One often discovers previously unknown aspects of his/her (after this, "his" will include both) favorite writer or teacher, via the probing questions of a skilled interviewer. How much easier would our task of really knowing Yaakov be if we had interviews and videos of him (see TOP's video library and hear TOP's audio library and read In The Service of God to get to know today's teachers!).

B. A SYNOPSIS OF VAYISHLACH, WITH MANY CITES & INSIGHTS (maybe some oversights too!-- let us know).


Everyone entrusted with a mission is an "angel" (malach)... All forces that reside in the body are angels (Rambam, Guide to The Perplexed, 1190, 2:6)

With God's help, Yaakov escaped from his 20 year exile in Lavan's Aramian gilded cage, his refuge from Esav's sword; he's eager to return home to his father, with his wives, children, and entourage. MESSENGERS OF THE LORD, special Israeli angels (per Rashi-- 32:2), come to greet and honor him; he saw them only in a dream, when he left Israel. Per Abarbanel, God's "messengers" are human-- merchants who tell Yaakov that they just met Esav; we often meet perfect strangers at just the right moment, especially in Jerusalem! Some are truly angels, who guide and help us; see Who By Fire, $17 from TOP-- seasoned returnee Chaya Malka Abramson vividly and movingly describes all those who welcomed her to Israel and its religious community, changing and deepening her life course; they and others later prayed for her and aided her, when she nearly died, after rescuing her grandmother and children from a sudden fire.

Yaakov still lives in dread of Esav-- God's promises to protect him might have lapsed, due to either his lack of merit or Esav's merits (Rashi-- 32:11, Shab. 32, Gen. Rab. 76:2). Ramban and Abarbanel disagree with Rashi-- Yaakov has just been promised that God will be with him (31:3). Per Abarbanel, tho Yaakov's soul indeed has no lack of faith, even he suffers normal human bodily animal fear when facing annihilation. But, per Jerusalem's haredi Chief Rabbi Kulitz, we can't view even Rashi, leave alone Yaakov, as a human being! Great Torah scholars, e.g. A. Kutler (in ON LEARNING TORAH) and J.B. Soloveichik, differ as to whether our illustrious ancestors had human emotions and frailties; most great commentators felt that they did.

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THE WINNER-- YAAKOV! Yaakov's life hasn't been easy since he listened to his mother and left the limited, but secure, lifestyle of one "who dwells in tents", to fully partake of the world (those haredim who lose, or never acquire, true faith in God and Torah are in a bind-- often they just can't leave their insular world; they simply can't function elsewhere-- see Sotah, by Naomi Regen); as he grew older, Yaakov appreciated his dad Yitzchak's quiet non-combative depths of faith and insight. Yet Yaakov now achieves greatness amidst his tribulations-- he's crowned Yisrael, a successful combatant in both sublime and mundane worlds, a saint who also masters nature and has high impact on society; he defeats the "Esav Principle", the "angel of Esav", found in Everyman, amidst our post-Edenic defective pseudo-reality.

Later Yaakov overcomes Esav himself, who has awe of the new Yaakov-Yisrael, master of heaven and earth, citizen of this world and the next. An underlying theme of Genesis is "gam zoo l'tova", all's well in the end. Yaakov's flight ends in his greatness; Lavan's shotgun wedding of Yaakov to Leah gives us 8 tribes of Israel and David's Messianic line. Finally, Yosef's sale and jail are birthpangs of the birth of the Jewish nation. With Israel's rebirth at our Messianic dawn, may Yaakov's spirit and success inspire Israel's 20th Century encounters with Esav's heirs. May modern Israel too eventually overcome both external opposition and internal dissension-- God first grants his people power (State & Tzahal), a sad necessity, rather than a blessing; only later does He bless them, with peace, as His messianic process gradually unfolds in our days (Ps. 29:11).

When Yaakov defeats the "angel of Esav", the spirit of evil, within himself, Esav's hatred of Yaakov turns to admiration. Those who persecute Jews are, ipso facto, God's enemies and objects of His vengence; yet suffering Jews always examined their own lives and deeds, to see what faults and lacks engendered their woes-- "When God is pleased with man's ways, He'll cause even his enemies to make peace with him" (Prov. 16:7; cf. today)-- Ohel Moshe; he claims that Yaakov's subserviance to Esav is a polite way to avoid social contact-- masters don't mingle with servants! Uncle Esav's a bad influence on Yaakov's children (cf. Israel TV).

Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle (Shakespeare, Richard II, Act II, Sc. 3, line 87).


It is just as wrong to rob Esav as to rob Yisroel (Ramban on Deut. 2:10).

YAAKOV SENT "MESSENGERS" (angels per Rashi, men per Abarbanel) BEFORE HIM TO ESAV HIS BROTHER, EDOM FIELD, SEIR COUNTRY (90 miles away-- A. Kaplan). HE INSTRUCTED THEM SAYING: "SO SAY TO MY MASTER, TO ESAV: `SO SAID YOUR SERVANT YAAKOV-- I'VE SOJOURNED (garti) WITH LAVAN AND WAS HELD THERE UNTIL NOW. I HAVE OXEN AND DONKEYS (lit. AN OX AND A DONKEY), FLOCKS, AND MALE AND FEMALE SERVANTS; I'VE SENT THIS MESSAGE TO MY LORD, TO FIND FAVOR IN YOUR EYES'" (32:4-6). SOJOURNED, "garti", = 613; Yaakov hints that he kept the Torah's 613 commandments, tho living with Lavan (Rashi)! This isn't just a numerical hint, but innate in "garti", literally "I sojourned as a stranger"--

Tho Yaakov lived over 20 years with Lavan, acquiring wives, children, and possessions, he felt himself a stranger, exiled from Israel (cf. Israelis in LA & NY). Why?-- because the 613 mitzvos, the Torah, set forth Israel's irrepressible mission, to be performed in Israel; every Jew, as Avraham, is an existential stranger elsewhere, no matter how successful and integrated he appears-- cf. "I'm a stranger and a settler with you", Avraham's response to the alien Hittite culture of Israel (Gen. 23:4; cf. Eilat). We can't-- and shouldn't-- avoid contact with the rest of mankind, both the friendly and the hostile; but we must never lose sight of our unique nature and mission. After imbibing Shabat's messages, a U.S. Jew eats lox at Sunday breakfast on a bagel, a cycle-symbol; he may thus unconsciously identify with the salmon's amazing return home, far far away, tho gone so long, to perpetuate its kind (see James Michner's Creatures of Nature).

Esav now painfully realizes that only the new Yaakov-Yisroel and his descendants can carry out God's patriarchal mission, to create a model Jewish State in Israel, blending heaven and earth, body and soul; only Yaakov could still feel a stranger, however successful, in Aram; Esav's perfectly at home in Seir. The land of Israel, to which only Yaakov is so intimately connected, is the sole soul setting for Man's return to Eden. Either the Jewish body or the Jewish soul must atrophy elsewhere: "How can we sing God's song in an alien land? (cf. Pirchei Miami)... If I forget you, O' Jerusalem, let my right hand (Jewish power and impact) be forgotten, let my tongue (the Jewish message) cleave to the roof of my mouth if I don't remember you... (Ps. 137)". "Rejoice not, O Israel, among the nations (Hos. 9:1)". This led many to ban all music, even singing, in the diaspora; but Leon of Modena, who denounced the Zohar, viewed music as a sine qua non for religious joy. He banned only self-indulgent vocal singing, amidst drinking bashes-- he claims that Ps. 137 refers only to the Levites' Temple Songs (see Git. 7a; San. 101a; Sota 48a; Tur O.H. 338, 560; S.A., O.H. 560:3; Yad-- Fasting 5:14, Rif. Ber., Ch. 5). Modena also permitted and practiced casual social gambling and had a tragic life. So only sensual female talking and singing may be forbidden to males, other than their husbands (see our Vayera study).

REALPOLITIK: Astute politician Abarbanel explains Yaakov's message to Esav, a wealthy highly respected leader; before Yaakov can face him, he must alleviate Esav's two fears-- 1) that Yaakov's riff-raff travelling companions of the last 20 years will embarrass him, or 2) that his poor twin will beg his support; thus, before attempting gifts and conciliation, Yaakov sends a message-- 1) I was with respectable Uncle Lavan all the time and 2) I'm independently wealthy-- owning oxen, donkeys, etc. Per Midrash Tanchuma (see Rashi), Yaakov tells Esav that he indeed never realized Yitzchak's material blessing, originally intended for Esav, for his wealth consists only of oxen and donkeys-- neither of "the dew of heaven" nor of the "fat places of the earth" (32:5-6; see 27:28)! Abarbanel rejects this midrash-- oxen and donkeys also come from blessings of "heaven and earth"! Perhaps the hard work associated with livestock precludes their being considered such a blessing. Klie Yakar defends Rashi-- in using the singular, AN OX AND A DONKEY, Yaakov tells Esav that he never received the SPECIAL blessings of God, which Yitzchak gave Yaakov instead of Esav-- they multiply all one's efforts a thousandfold; all Yaakov has are limited flocks, from long hard work; he thus had to remain so long with Lavan in Aram, tho he felt so alienated there.

Per Rashi & Abarbanel, such seemingly singular nouns as "shor" and "chamor", an ox and a donkey, may describe a species in Biblical Hebrew-- cf. "fish", "deer"-- see R. Nechemiah, Gen. Rab. 70:1; R. Yehudah says that God's blessing greatly multiplied Yaakov's 1 ox (as the prophet's widow's 1 jar of oil-- man begins, God takes over)! OX also refers to Yosef (Deut. 33:17), whose Messiah will conduct the final Jewish war against Esav's arrogant descendants-- WITH THEM (HIS HORNS) HE'LL GORE NATIONS (Deut. 33:17; ibid). DONKEY refers to the subsequent great Messianic teacher of David-- LOWLY AND RIDING UPON A DONKEY (Zech. 9:9). Yet in Daniel 7:13, Messiah's said to come ON HEAVEN'S CLOUDS. The Talmud (San. 98a) explains: the latter scenerio will occur only if the Jews are pure or worthy; otherwise, he'll come on a donkey! Rashi notes that Meshiach will also come before his due date, if Israel's worthy.

HOLY IMPURITY: The Lubavitcher Rebbe (happy 19th of Kislev, a precedent for even greater Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim), however, says the opposite-- if Jews are TOO PURE, too aloof from earthly affairs, Messiah's arrival will remain but an esoteric cloudy heavenly concept; if, however, they're truly great, less pure (!), and sully themselves with earthly problems, then Messiah himself will ride a donkey-- "chamor", infusing material life (chomer) with spirit, achieving universal redemption (so Moshe sought and got a greater experience of God AFTER leaving Sinai, The Kollel of Kollels, to clean up The Golden Calf Disco). Avraham only used his "donkey", i.e. materialism, to carry wood; Moshe brought his a step closer to holy integration, using it to carry his family; but, unlike Messiah, neither personally "rode it". Yaakov thus delivers a secret message to Esav-- his two Messianic descendants ("ox" and "donkey") will bring world redemption, the culmination of Yaakov's integration of this world with the next.

R. Bachye cites Prov. 25:26: A RIGHTEOUS MAN FALLING BEFORE THE WICKED IS LIKE A MUDDIED FOUNTAIN AND A POLLUTED SPRING-- downfall of the righteous before the wicked is only temporary, as contamination of living waters. Dina's rape, Rachel's premature death and Yosef's sale, are Yaakov's 3 terrible experiences, after escaping Esav, allegedly due to his 3 (unclear) sins.

Should Esav not be peacefully at home (IN SEIR COUNTRY), but on the way to Yaakov, the emissaries are NOT to deliver the message (Abarbanel); Esav might seize them. They thus reply only that: WE'VE COME TO OUR BROTHER, TO ESAV, AND HE'S ALSO COMING TO GREET YOU WITH 400 MEN (7)-- no conversation with Esav is reported, tho they may view the 400 as a friendly parade to greet Yaakov. YAAKOV WAS REALLY SCARED (by what might happen to him and his) AND DISTRESSED (32:8-- he might have to kill Esav and his men (Mid. Rab. 76:2; so Israelis accept war as sad necessity, Arabs as the Joy of Jihid; this theme is explored in Israel, a panoramic novel by Fred Lawrence, where the Irgun's aversion to bloodshed is contrasted with the attitude of the Lechi; the book is not recommended for children, as it contains explicit sexual material, tho no themes as shocking as Lot and his daughters, the men of Sodom's attempted homosexual gang rape, or pilegesh b'giva; should the Bible be censored for kids?). Yaakov divides his people and possessions into 2 camps, hoping one will escape, if the other is smitten; when one regime, e.g. medieval Poland, was temporarily kind to the Jews, another, e.g. the Catholic Crusaders, was slaughtering them. Abarbanel: ALL of Yaakov's family were in one camp! The second camp, only servants and possessions, was left as a decoy across the river, where Esav was expected. Yaakov then prayed for God's salvation. Per Rav Yaakov Ariel (in B'ahava U'b'emuna), he prayed that God guide him about when to attack, when to appease, Israel's enemies; Achia HaShiloni compared Israel to the reed, which knows when to bend and when to stand upright. Per Ramban, he merely expresses his feelings of unworthiness for God's promises of great kindness, already guaranteed.

Yaakov first prepares for war, THEN tries to placate Esav by sending a gift of animals, herd by herd (cf. Oslo); Yaakov's descendants similarly averted many a pogrom by gifts to local princes or bishops. Early Zionists paid off Turkish officials to ignore their efforts. The animals given Esav total 580 = Seir, the goat, sacrified to AZAZEL, the devil, personification of Esavian evil, every Yom Kippur (Ohr Hachayim based on Ramban). Rav J. B. Soloveichik explains this "sacrifice to the devil"-- one might forsake a sacrifical Torah life of constant growth for a life of seemingly non-sacrificial easy Esavian abandon, stemming from Esav's self-perception and deception as OK, complete. The Yom Kippur Temple rites teach that ALL life is sacrificial, either positive, to God, or a waste, a MEANINGLESS sacrifice "to the devil", by one sunk in existential bankruptcy, after a wasted life; yet, that very feeling of failure may return him to God. Thus even the "devil's" scapegoat is first presented before God in the Temple.

STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT: Yaakov remained alone (as upon his departure for Haran) after sending his family & goods across the Yabok. Per Abarbanel, he personally escorted those near and dear to him over the river; he then returned to set up the decoy camp of his material wealth, secondary to him, called mere "small cups" in the Midrash. A mysterious man appeared and "raised dust" with him until dawn (i.e. fought, for combatants raise dust; per Menachem b. Saruk, Yaakov's enemy covered himself with dust; there is no real evil in God's perfect world, only a good essence, covered by "shells" of dust and dirt-- cf. Gen. 1:31, Deut. 32:4, Mid. Rab. 77:3).

When the stranger saw that he could not completely destroy Yaakov, he struck and dislocated Yaakov's hip joint. Mr. X wanted to end the fight, but Yaakov refused to let him go until he blessed Yaakov! The stranger tells him he'll be called Yisrael at some future point, indicating that he's reached a new level of greatness and victory in his struggles within BOTH Divine and human realms. Mr. X wouldn't give his name, but blessed Yaakov, who sensed he'd encountered a Divine force; he names the place Divine Face, P'neal. Tho the sun rose upon him to heal him (Ber. Rab. 78:5), he was still limping. In commemoration, Jews abandon, don't eat, animals' sciatic nerve or muscle to this day.

This is the only mitvza learnt from this portion, per Sefer Hachinuch. Rambam (Mishna Hulin 7, end) stresses that Yaakov had no authority to institute this command-- as all Jewish law, it began at Sinai; it's only mentioned here for its symbolic origin and message-- that the Jew will never be completely destroyed, tho crippled (Sefer Hachinuch). Only the inner sinew near the bone is prohibited by Torah law; the outer one near the flesh is a rabbinic addition; the ban does not apply to fowl; custom also prohibits the surrounding fat (see Chulin 101b).

This fight symbolizes that of Yaakov's descendants with sinister Esavian forces, throughout the dark night of history (S. R. Hirsch, Abarbanel). Midrashim posit a divine spiritual representative, angel, for each national spirit-- they all have their ups and downs in history, played out on Yaakov's ladder. Indeed, each post-Babel language reflects a particular culture. P. Peterson develops amazing numerical word parallels in ENGLISH IS GEMATRIA ($12 from TOP), e. g. lock = 41 = key; summer = 89 = winter; he notes that English, as opposed to Holy Hebrew, tends to produce Christological messages; it is the lingua franca of Esavian (Roman) based Christian Civilization. All languages are distorted variations of God's holy tongue of Creation, Hebrew; all retain some Hebrew and reflect its eternal universal truths (Scholem on Abulafia, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, P. 132; see THE WORD, Mozeson, a TOP video-- is cognate Arabic also "holy"?). The angel of Esav, progenitor of Rome and its Church, is out to destroy Israel's identity; he attempts to supercede the mission of God's kingdom of priests-- to bring the world back to itself and God, as it was so long ago in Eden (Ber. Rab. 77:3, 78:3; Tan. 8; S.S. Rab. 3:10).

Tho badly crippled, Jews gladly accept their historic sacrificial role, forsaking the sciatic nerve, which would enable them to walk upright. It was much harder to have faith in the Jewish mission during the barbaric Crusades and pogroms than today, when Israel's reborn; secular Zionism, of limited vision, would not have survived such trials. Messianic dawn will eventually arise; Esav's forces of evil will finally leave the State of Israel alone. Yaakov prays: SAVE ME FROM MY BROTHER'S HAND, FROM ESAV'S HAND (32:12)-- from two dangers of Esavian power-- that he neither harm him (acting as ESAV), nor try to assimilate him (acting as MY BROTHER). So assimilated U.S. German and Sephardic Jews tried to de-Judaize their poor Russian cousins around the turn of the century, to fit the American mold. Israeli secularists did the same to pious Sephardim, to westernize Israel. The Israeli result, Sephardic deterioration, led to the opposite backlash, questionable Shasian restoration.

Yaakov, however, is NOT content just to be finally left alone by Esav's descendants; all his learning and observance, his historical limp, is to serve a grand purpose-- to save mankind from itself; thus he asks the angel of Esav, the personification of evil, to BLESS him, before Yaakov will let him go-- i.e. to acknowledge Yaakov as the source of his blessings of family and Divine civilization, to learn from Israel; so we "bless" God, acknowledge Him as our teacher, the source of all our experiences and blessings. Abarbanel cites Michah 4: IN THE END OF DAYS, THE MOUNTAIN OF GOD'S HOUSE SHALL BE SET AS HEAD OF THE MOUNTAINS ...AND PEOPLE SHALL FLOW TO IT ...FOR OUT OF ZION SHALL GO FORTH TORAH AND THE WORD OF GOD FROM JERUSALEM... IN THAT DAY, THE WORD OF GOD, I WILL GATHER SHE WHO LIMPS... (cf. Is. 2-- which comes from which?)

RATIONAL MAIMONIDES claims that Yaakov's fight with the angel of Esav is only a dream, after his vision of the angels; so he only dreams of the 3 angels visiting him in Vayera (32:3)! Ramban disagrees-- Yaakov limps after the encounter! Abarbanel agrees with Ramban, tho limping could be a psychosomatic consequence of the dream! (Freud discovered true paralysis could indeed be engendered by unconscious mechanisms). Abarbanel compares ejaculation resulting from erotic dreams, and bodily thrashing when one dreams of falling or fighting. Ralbag has the opposite view-- excess semen CAUSES erotic dreams; so Yaakov's all night "moving job" really dislocates his thigh, CAUSING him to dream of a fight, in which his thigh is injured!

Yaakov then saw Esav and his 400 men approach from an unexpected direction-- on his family's side of the river, rather than the side of the decoy camp (Abarbanel); he bowed down to Esav 7 times, after separating his wives and children into groups. This seems to contradict the Lubavitcher Rebbe's contention that Yaakov left the Beershevian placating approach of Avraham and Yitzchak, to fight Esav head-on, for a Greater Israel; perhaps that was Yaakov's youthful dream, now tempered by maturity and experience. So the rebbe fought black groups who would destroy his Crown Heights community, after the USSR exiled and destroyed his father. Would building up and defending Kfar Chabad be a better choice, especially today? Yaakov's family also bows to Esav, who finally accepts Yaakov's gifts, while gazing first at the women, then the children! Abarbanel: Yaakov only introduced his kids, not his harem of 4 wives, as he was ashamed of appearing hedonistic to dirty-minded Esav! (cf. unhappily polygamous R. Gershom's subsequent ban on polygamy; but Abrabanel couldn't possibly know the attitude toward polygomy back then, given the lack of archeological and anthropological knowledge in his day; would he have known of polyandry among the Himilayans?). Others note that Yaakov stresses, in addressing Esav, his wives' roles as mothers, and his many children, subtly rejecting Esav's Playboy Philosophy (33:5). So groups of nursing haredi mothers, with 5-10 kids in tow, might shock Eilat's beach crowd back into wholesome reality.

Esav suddenly runs forward and kisses and hugs Yaakov, both weeping! Rashby, Hirsch, & Abarbanel interpret this as a sincere moment of good behavior, expressing heartfelt emotion; others doubt Esav's sincerity (hinted at by the dots above the words "he kissed him"); Esav may now fear Yaakov and/or hope to get his wealth. The letters of Esav's name total 376, as do those of shalom, peace-- true peace will only come when Esav reforms (Baal Haturim). Yaakov rejects Esav's offer to accompany him; he gears his pace to his children and flocks, much slower than Esav's fast jetset lifestyle. He also refuses Esav's offer of escort, promising to meet him in Seir. This will occur only in the Messianic judgment of Esav's "mountain", his pretense to Divine choice and revelation.

Esav returns to Seir (lit. "goat") and Yaakov settles in Sukkot, where he builds shelters (sukkot) for his livestock (33:16-7); Ohr Hachayim notes that the name of this settlement commemorates Yaakov's unprecedented concern for his animals, that they not be disturbed by the elements. Both Yaakov and Esav thereby become models for their descendants-- Roman Christianity is heir to Esav, and Judaism to Yaakov (E. Munk). The former sees the essence of religion in the sacrificial goat of Yom Kippur, self-affliction and atonement for sin, via Divine absolution, sin being borne by another (see Christianity in Perspective, R. Wolfe); the Jews sees this YK goat as only a prelude to festive Sukkot-- the highest Divine service is the sacred joy of a united heaven and earth (cf. hassidut, Shlomo). Yaakov purchased land and erected an altar at Sh'chem. The locals then visited his family-- Abarbanel.

Yaakov's well-being was again short-lived. Dina went out to meet the local girls (who frequented discos?); she was raped by Prince Sh'chem, who fell madly in love with her. She's called DAUGHTER OF LEAH, 34:1, to compare her to her similarly immodest mother, who went out to inform Yaakov that he was her's that evening (AS THE MOTHER, SO HER DAUGHTER-- Ezek. 16:44; Rashi, Gen. Rab. 80:1); but 15th Century Abarbanel rejects his predecessors blaming the victim-- Dina just innocently went to the DAUGHTERS of the land to see the latest fashions. Yet he sums up: THIS TALE IS WRITTEN TO TEACH US HOW TROUBLESOME IS A DAUGHTER-- YAAKOV HAS 12 SONS, FROM WHOM HE DIDN'T RECEIVE THE SHAME, DISGRACE, AND DANGER WHICH HE RECEIVED FROM THE ONE DAUGHTER BORN AMONG THEM... HONORABLE WOMEN SHOULD BE CAREFUL IN LEAVING THE DOORS OF THEIR HOMES... AS WRITTEN: "ALL THE HONOR OF A KING'S DAUGHTER IS INWARD" (he also limits Gen. 1:27 to the male-- see our B'reshit study).

Shchem's father, chief Chamor, requested Dina's intermarriage, offering Israel great opportunities. Yaakov's sons tricked him by making Shchemite circumcision (sexual sanctity) a pre-condition to a pact-- the foundation of Yaakov's house must be holiness, not Schem's Playboy philosophy, "sex as a snack". Per Abarbanel, their request itself was the deceit-- they really just wanted to give Shchem an excuse to give her back. The town's leaders, however, unexpectedly talked their people into circumcision; the next day (the 3rd day after taking her), Shimon & Levi quietly killed them, weak from circumcision, one by one; they took Dina back and plundered the small town (Dina was then 8).

MORALITY & PRACTICALITY: Yaakov was terribly upset; he had only wanted Dina back and, possibly, to execute Shchem himself. He NOW told angry Shimon & Levi only that they put them all in danger from neighboring cities-- a practical, not a moral, problem (cf. some extreme right-wing reactions to Dr. B. Goldstein and Y. Amir); in fact, nothing happened-- all feared Yaakov. Yet, on his death bed, Yaakov curses Shimon and Levi's anger as a moral problem, and disperses them in Israel (49:5-7; Num. 35:2,7). As many "righteous zealots", they later copied those whom they condemned! Both try to kill radical dreamer Yosef. Shimon's tribe is decimated by Levi, after its prince led wild Midianite orgies (far lower than Sh'chem, who loved Dina and wanted to marry her). So Levite Korach leads a rebellion against Moshe and Aharon, ridiculing their holiness. Zealots start with infidels, then get other Jews who aren't true "party liners" (e.g. Rabin), and finally go at each other (see Emma Goldman's diary and The False Messiah, R. Friedman)!

Rav Yehuda Henkin: Yaakov's first concern was survival. Moral judgments are suspended during the crisis of Dina. Shimon and Levi said: "Will he make our sister like a whore?"-- Forget both practical consequences and ethical criteria. Better to die with honor than live with shame. Their unbridled anger and revenge are alien both to the moral voice of Jacob and the practical hands of Esav. Anger mustn't determine policy, tho it can be useful (Ex. 2:12, Num. 25:7-8). Jewish law has a place for the zealot, but woe to the society whose leaders are zealots (Kahane's group got no seats in the 1993 Jerusalem election)! Immediately after the murders, God said to Yaakov, "Go up to Beth El and dwell there and build an altar there..." (35:1)-- elevate yourselves in My worship. They gave up idolatry and did so. THAT is why Canaanites didn't attack, as Yaakov feared they would (see Ohel Moshe above).

Rambam and Abarbanel justify the brothers' act-- Noachides must execute justice on wrongdoers; Ramban disagrees-- Yaakov condemns his sons; Noachides only incur a death penalty for sins of commission, e.g. murder, not for omitting justice. They might indeed have repented and been influenced by Yaakov's family (cf. Ninveh). So some commentators attribute Dina's rape to Yaakov's keeping her AWAY from Esav! The little Beit Yaakov girl might have brought out her uncle's better side. Yes, it's equally dangerous to be too open or too closed with kids (Catch 22?). Rav M. Sheinberger: our portion balances correct generous Jewish relations with non-Jews, e.g. Esav, with the danger of close cultural and personal contacts with them, e.g. Dina.

Yaakov finally returns to Bet El (Jerusalem, formerly Luz-- Ramban), and fulfills his promise to build an altar there (perhaps the site of the 3rd Temple, 5-56 miles north of Jerusalem-- see Artscrolls Ezekiel 40, 45, 48); he now knows that his original dream was prophetic-- Abarbanel. Rivka's nurse D'vorah, their present mother-figure (Abarbanel), dies at Weeping Oak; Rikveh also died then, without seeing Yaakov again-- Ber. Rab. 81:8. God re-blesses Yaakov with Avraham's land, prosperity and influence, calling him Israel.

Rachel died at 36 (Seder Olam 2), as she gave birth to Ben-oni, renamed Benyamin. See Israel, Fred Lawrence for the tale of such a father's ambivalence toward the son who deprived him of his beloved wife; is this why Yosef, rather than Benyamin, becomes Yaakov's "son of his old age" (Rambam's father despised both him, as a child, and his mother, who died bearing him-- see Shalshelet HaKabala)? Yaakov's death sentence upon whoever stole Lavan's idols may be the cause of her death (per Rashi, Zohar, 32:32, B. Tos.Vayichi 48:1-- cf. WHY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE). Benyamin had to be born first (Pesikta D.R.K. 13:14). Ramban (Lev. 18:25, Gen. 48:7) claims that she died as Yaakov can't be married to 2 sisters in Israel (but this is not a Noachide, pre-Sinai, prohibition; also, such converts aren't considered sisters, but "reborn", for legal purposes!); Yaakov set up Rachel`s tomb in Efrat (it's present presumed site is highly ?able-- Rav M. Gafni); he knew she'd pray for his descendants, passing by there on their way to exile (Gen. Raba 72:10). She'd also thus be in Benyamin's territory-- Sifre Deut. 33:12. Yaakov now turned to Bilhah's tent. Reuven intervened on behalf of his mother, Leah, and thus later lost his birthright. Leah used him, from his birth, to gain Yaakov's affection. Yaakov and his 12 sons returned to Yitzchak, who died at 180. Esav led the funeral, unlike repentant Yishmael, who let Yitzchak take precedance. The chiefs and kings of Esav, Seir and Edom, are listed, rulers descended from Sara (17:16); Yitzchak's blessing, that Esav would prevail by his sword, was also thereby fulfilled; but many of his "princes" were from illegitimate unions, as today.

Whenever the voice of Yaakov is interrupted, the hands of Esav are reinforced (Zohar, Genesis, 171a).


Antonine asked: "Is it not written (Ovadia 1:18): `There will be no remnant to the house of Esav'?" Rebbe replied: "That refers only to those who act like Esav" (Talmud, A.Z. 10b).

The book contains the Prophet Ovadia's sole recorded chapter of prophecy; himself a descendant of Esav, he predicts eventual destruction of Esav's "house and mountain"-- SAVIORS WILL RISE UPON MT. ZION TO JUDGE MT. ESAV, AND KINGSHIP WILL BE GOD'S. Esav must be divested of his "mountain", his claim that he can transcend the human condition by his philosophy and culture, that God now addresses him, not Israel. Once he'll accept Yaakov as his teacher, he'll be OK. Similarly, Yaakov relinquishes present exercise of Yitzchak's blessings of great wealth and dominion, for future Messianic use by his descendants. SAVIORS are great teachers who will "judge"-- save Esavian Western Civilization (Esav's Mountain) from its great errors in judgement; they'll teach them God's Revelation to the Jews, establishing His sovereignty-- AND KINGSHIP WILL BE GOD'S (M. Hirsch).

Some say that Ovadia was unfit for prophecy; but God gave him this one chapter anyway, his reward for saving 100 prophets from extinction by Jezebel. He, who rejected his pagan parents, was to judge Esav, who rejected his righteous parents. An Edomite convert, Ovadia fulfills the proverb: "From the (Esav's) tree will come the handle of the axe which fells it!" (San. 39b-- cf. Paulist Press' excellent books on Jewish spirituality); likewise, forcibly converted Jews instituted the reformation and renaissance which destroyed the church's hegemony (Jose Faur). Elisha's miracle, multiplying a bit of oil, prevents Ovadia's orphans' sale into slavery for his debts; he'd borrowed money from Ahav's son to support the hidden prophets. Should he have risked his kids' futures for the common good? How much should one give to his family and how much to the public?

In creative work, never consider quantity; Ovadia consists of one chapter, yet it found its place in The Book of Books (Bialik; q MiPe Bialik, M. Ovadia).


O what falsehood lies in kisses! (Heine, Return Home, 1827, #73).

Kissing expresses love and affection in Genesis-- Yaakov kisses Rachel, Lavan kisses Yaakov and his grandchildren, and Esav kisses Yaakov. Some rabbis viewed kissing as ugly (spreading germs?), with 3 exceptions-- when one rises to greatness, when one sees a long-lost beloved, and when parting (Mid. Raba 70:12); Tanchuma also OKs the kissing of relatives, e.g. Yaakov and Rachel (cf. an old aunt trying to kiss her newly religious nephew at his wedding). R. Akiva (Ber. 8) viewed kissing as unhygenic, praising the Medes who only kissed foreheads! NSHK is a root with 3 biblical meanings-- kissing, giving drink, and arming (only from the Prophets' era, e.g. Is. 22:8, Job 39:21, 2Ch17:17, 1Ch12:2). Perhaps all 3 denote vital infusion, to give or take life. A Divine kiss, e.g. to Moshe, may so infuse the soul with God's spirit that the body can no longer live.

Kissing is not customary among Jews. How does one, out of a clear sky, kiss, especially a child his father? (Mendele, Dos Vintshfingerl, 1865).


Edom's princes covet money, and therefore flay Israel alive (Midrash Agadat Bereshit, ch 57, ed Buber 1925, 48b)

Universal history, the Torah, and the messianic struggle between Yaakov and Esav, reflected in the prism of Chanuka's light, all interface in PATTERNS OF TIME, VOL. 8, Chanukah, by Rav Matis Weinberg ($20 from TOP): "The climax of challenge is reached towards the end of the final golus, Golus Edom. Never has there been such danger as Edom, a civilization that views itself as ethical, moral, and humane as never before, caring for knowledge, for peace, for life, for the very ecology (a good example for Israel). A civilization that appropriates for itself the name of Yisrael (cf. Blake's British Jerusalem); a "Judeo-Christian" civilization that believes it has superseded Yisrael, that views Yisrael and Torah as an unsavory relic. But the truth is that there are dangers in Edom which grow in direct proportion to the challenges contemporary civilization mounts to Yisrael. Edom can never be a true klal (whole community), only a conglomeration of selfish parts, each pursuing its happiness, always searching for more and more. This means that the system is endangered, just as it was by the Tree of Knowledge; the oceans and the animals, the rains and the soil, the markets and the productivity, are all in jeopardy. The perils increase with the power of Western Civilization, until the earth itself is at risk. The confusing darkness of golus leads to its own destruction.

Only with the light of Chanukah will the darkness be dispelled, at the very end of a long golus... "It shall come to pass that, at evening time, there will be light (Zech. 14:7)"-- the evening time of Klal Yisrael's complete return from Yavan (Hellenistic civilization, internal Israeli exile and assimilation to non-Jewish values, e.g. Miss Israel anbd Betar Yerushalayim-- YF) and its darkness, bringing the light of shemen zayis (olive oil): "The yonah (dove) returned at evening time with the branch of an olive tree... (Gen. 8:11)"-- pp 157-8. In Gen. 33:12, Eisav offered Yaakov nothing less than an alternative to Golus. The 2 would be full partners, with Yaakov free to pursue holiness and the Divine Presence, while Eisav would develop this world and share with Yaakov (166)... Yaakov celebrates the wholesale rejection of Eisav by becoming a primary provider, developing this world himself-- he "raises the dust" in his fight with Eisav's spirit (171; YF: rather than "biting dust"; cf. The State of Israel and Tzahal). Rav Matis often speaks after the beautiful services at Ohr Hachayim Synagogue, in the Old Yishuv Court Museum, Ohr Hachayim 6, Shabbat, about 8AM.

YF's comments: 1) WOW! 2) may Israel show its well hidden potential soon. 3) True, Esavian society can not pull off true unity, so lacking integrity and sanctity; yet there are many individuals and groups within it who have achieved both, more than many Jews, e.g. the Danes in WWII. Most such sooner or later turn up in Jerusalem; some become Jewish, but most are fellow travelers, Sons of Noach, who see God's hand in the restoration of Israel-- cf. Makuya. 4) Never have so many had it so good in so many realms, along with the possibility of having it much better; as Churchill said of democracy: "it's the worst possible system, except all the others which have been tried!".

Messiah, who will someday punish Rome, lives there (770? Exodus Raba 1:26).


Who are the ministering anghels?-- the rabbis (Amemar, Talmud Nedarim 20b).

Rabbis should reflect Yaakov-Yisrael's ideal Jewish state-- complete synthesis of Torah, Society, and the World. Those in the Torah and derech eretz camp must be at odds with imposed rabbinic leaders, whose world outlook is basically isolationist, even some "chief rabbis". If Young Israel and the U-O would respond to their own lecturers, e.g. Rabbis Aharon Rakefet and Shubert Spero, they wouldn't kowtow to rabbis, tho great in learning and piety, who represent the opposite of what they believe. AR stresses the need to integrate Torah scholars into every realm of Israeli life, including Tzahal, a sine qua non for a Torah state; SS notes that ALL national issues, e.g. economic and political, ARE Torah issues-- they determine the nature of our emerging messianic model society; they may be more important than the relatively narrow concerns of religious parties. Unfortunately, many chief rabbis see only ritual mitzvos, e.g. kashrut, shabbat, and halachic conversion, as their province (notable establishment exceptions are Rabbis Lau, Schluss, and Grossman).

We must recognise TWO distinct public needs-- 1) supervision of ritual activities, for which most incumbant rabbis are eminently suitable. 2) religious public relations-- the ability to communicate the Torah in an appealing and attractive manner to all, to be a true loving spiritual leader, not just a halachic technician, even to those presently alienated. Different education and personality is required for each task. The Vilna Gaon can't be the Besht and v.v.-- cf. the Habad Rebbe and Rav Soloveichik. Rather than "chief Rabbi", we might call such rabbis Director of Public Ritual and Religious Spokesman respectively. Rabbis such as Adler, Bravender, Gafni, Gold, Rakefet, Riskin, Spero, and Steinsaltz could create tremendous good will for Torah, if given powerful public posts and platforms; many chief municipal rabbis limit their public outreach to ritual rulings, and denunciations of those who do not toe the mark.

For example, one may not sit down in a Bnei Brak pizzeria or falafellia after 7PM-- young people might meet without a shidduch! Rabbis Shach, Elyashuv, and Auerbach banned Rav Riskin's seminars to broaden Israeli rabbis, so that they can relate effectively to the non-observant public; his supporters must proclaim their opposition to these rabbis' latent world view-- to preserve intact every aspect of Grandfather Israel's shtetel life style, not just his Torah. So Rav Yichya Kapach returned his folk to their traditional saba, the Rambam, and discarded mysticism, especially the new-fangled Zohar, about 100 years ago. Rav J. Soloveichik (The Rav Speaks-- Joseph And His Brethren) distinguishes between halachic authority in ritual ??, based on a majority, and the intuitive wisdom of a sensitive dissenting soul, when we deal with ?? on the nature of the world and how to successfully deal with it.

WHO IS A JEW? Many Israeli rabbis and their followers frenetically strive to change the Law of Return, which presently recognizes any convert, even reform, as Jewish. Tho they raise the wrath of millions of Jews and endanger their support of Israel and Torah institutions, they assert that TRUTH must triumph over PEACE here (the two are often in opposition-- see Ps. 85:11 and our Toldot study)-- Israeli law should not recognize non-halachic "conversions" to a Judaism which has no clear doctrines and obligatory practices. One may doubt God's existence, eat ham, and advocate homosexuality and still be accepted as a Reform "convert" to "Judaism" (or rabbi!-- tho most reform rabbis wouldn't do so, they recognize such "conversions" by others); Milton Himmelfarb (AJC symposium-- The Condition of Jewish Belief) summarized contemporary Jewish theology-- on one side are the Orthodox or T.T.-- truly traditional and Torah True--, who affirm both the Written and Oral Torah as God's immutable word; on the other are ALL the rest-- Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist; they (with a few Conservative exceptions) all agree that man MAY change the Torah to suit his conscience and feelings-- they just differ in how much and how fast one should do so. Karites and Saducees accepted only the Written Torah, ignoring God's essential covenant with Israel, the Oral Law-- "God said to Moshe: `Write these words for yourself, for (or "tho") by the MOUTH of these words I've entered a covenant with you and Israel'" (Ex. 34:27).

Most non-Orthodox spokesmen do not base their arguments against changing the Law of Return on TRUTH, a logical understanding of the terms "convert" and "religion", but on PEACE-- mutual respect, tolerance, and friendship, ALTHO we disagree on TRUTH. They claim that it is a slap in their face to exclude "converted" spouses, children, and grandchildren of supporters of Israel and Chabad from the right of a Jew to settle in Israel. They're not theologians and respect their own leaders and religious practices, which they don't wish to examine critically.

I, just as the largest U.S. Orthodox rabbinical group, the RCA, followers of Rav J. Soloveichik, don't want to alienate so many Jews from Torah and Israel (cf. Rabin's murder); the possible reprecussions on our life and death support by the U.S. are frightening. The actual consequences of the Law are trivial-- a few non-halachic converts a year are simply permitted to live here (unfortunately, very few want to!). The non-halachic definition of a Jew is ONLY for this purpose, having no effect on marriage and divorce, safely in the hands of the rabbinical courts (this too may be lost by the attention and anger aroused by the proposed legislation). We opt for mutual peace and love among Jews and the security of the State of Israel as MORE IMPORTANT than stressing even a 100% correct theological position. THE LAW OF RETURN SHOULD NOT BE CHANGED AS PROPOSED. Rav Soloveichik has noted that it would be a tremendous waste of our money, energy, and political clout to achieve this paper victory, rather than being able to inject Jewish consciousness into the general society, especially the secular schools and media. If "conversion by halacha" is required for aliya, we'll be back to square one anyway-- the non-Orthodox will simply claim that their conversion is halachic, and perform the necessary rituals, tho their rabbis themselves reject the Divinity and authority of halacha.

A SOLUTION: 1) Let's assume the advocates of limiting converts' rights to Israeli citizenship to those "converted by halacha" are mostly sincerely interested in protecting TRUTH as they see it; their AIM is NOT to stir up hatred and division in Israel, against PEACE; they should then be happy if non- Orthodox conversion is simply not officially reognized AS SUCH; they shouldn't even CARE if such converts can live in Israel, just as they don't really care if Druse or Christians live here in peace. They will have made their point and aroused world Jewry to critically examine the teachings and postulates of their religious leaders (tho many may cut donations to Habad). Unfortunately, one senses that SOME Orthodox fighters for Divine Truth are people who just like fighting and hatred (e.g. Lebanon), who fight each other just as fiercely, when no infidel is handy.

2) Let's also assume that opponents of the change are mostly sincerely interested in preserving PEACE and UNITY among Jews, especially re Israel. Their AIM is NOT to push TRUTH, as they see it. They shouldn't CARE so much whether the law reflects their beliefs-- only that no one whom they consider "Jewish" will be unwelcome as an Israeli citizen, causing hatred and alienation. Unfortunately, one gets the feeling that SOME non-orthodox enjoy their "martyrdom" in battling Orthodoxy-- it engenders foreign financial support, empathy, and admiration; their sympathizers forget about their failure to attract many olim and Israeli adherents, and to foster a high non-Orthodox birth rate, which would give them political clout. We also suffer from non-Orthodox intolerance, e.g. banning these Orthodox sheets at the Har El and Agron synagogues; the breakaway groups' exploited Y.U.'s joining them in the Synagogue Postage Stamp Ceremony, to push their political cause, forcing Y.U. to withdraw its offer of friendship.

3) Thus the Law of Return SHOULD be amended to state that everyone born Jewish, or RECOGNIZED AS A MEMBER BY ANY ESTABLISHED JEWISH COMMUNITY, may become an Israeli citizen. By not calling them non-Orthodox converts "converts", or "Jews", there can be no offense to the Orthodox sense of TRUTH. If anyone accepted by non-Orthodox Jews into their community can become an Israeli citizen, non-Orthodox leaders can rest, happy that PEACE will reign supreme. Rav Ravitz of Degel Hatorah has agreed. Some Reform leaders have agreed with me that "sociological acceptance of and into a Jewish community" is a more correct and descriptive term than "conversion" to describe most non-Jewish affiliations to non-Orthodox Jewish groups; most westerners today have a cultural, rather than a religious, orientation to Judaism. We can and must still try to influence each other toward that which we believe to be right and true, but always in an atmosphere of peace and friendship. ALL ITS (Torah's) WAYS ARE WAYS OF PLEASANTNESS AND ALL ITS PATHS PEACE (Prov. 3:17). WE MUST HAVE PEACE AND COOPERATION AMONG OURSELVES-- THERE ARE ENOUGH OUTSIDERS WHO WOULD DESTROY US; AS IN OUR PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS TO BUILD A HOLY TEMPLE, IF WE AROUSE GROUNDLESS MUTUAL HATRED, WE ENDANGER EVEN GOD'S SUPPORT.

All Jews are of royal descent (Talmud, Shabbat, 128a, Mishna Shabbat 14:4).


I am a sojourner in the earth (Psalm 119:19; see ICh29:15).

In discussing heresy, in our study of Vayera, A., we mentioned Rambam's 24 catagories of those who lose their share in the world to come, but who can always recover it with true repentence, even at their last moment; here they are, in detail, from M.T. Tshuva 3:6f:

"5 classes are termed heretics: he who says that there is no God and the world has no ruler; he who says that there is a ruling power, but that it is vested in two or more; he who says there is one ruler, but that He is a body and has form (cf. Christianity); he who denies that He alone is the First Cause and Rock of the Universe; likewise he who renders worship to anyone beside Him (e.g. Jesus, angels and dead rebbes), to serve as mediator between the human being and the Lord of the Universe.

"3 Classes are called Epicurians: he who denies the reality of prophecy, and maintains that there is no knowledge which emanates from the Creator and directly reaches the human mind; he who denies the prophecy of Moshe our teacher; and he who asserts that the Creator has no cognizance of the deeds of the children of Adam.

"3 classes are deniers of the Torah: he who says that the Torah is not of divine origin- even if he says of one verse, or of a single word, that Moses said it of himself, is a denier of the Torah. YF: but Ibn Ezra claims that `The Canaanite was then in the land' (Gen. 12:6, cf. 13:7) is a later helpful footnote; The talmud says that Joshua may have written the last few verses of the Torah, dealing with Moshe's death. Likewise, he who denies its interpretation, that is, the Oral Law, and repudiates its reporters, as Zadok and Boethus did; he who says that the Creator changed one commandment for another, and that this Torah, although of divine origin, is now obsolete, as the Nazarenes and Moslems (and modernist Jewish movements partially) assert...

"There are two classes of apostates - an apostate with respect to the violation of a single precept, and an apostate with respect to the whole Torah. The former is a person who has determined to violate a certain precept, commits the transgression habitually and has become notorious for it. Even if it is one of the lighter sins, as, for instance, if a person wears garments `of diverse sorts' (a mixture of wool and flax; Deut. 22:11) or `rounds the corner of his head' (Lev. 19:27), doing so habitually, so that it appears that the precept is regarded by him as no longer binding, he is an apostate in regard to that particular observance, provided that he acted in a provocative spirit. An apostate with respect to the whole Torah is one, for example, who at a time of religious persecution becomes converted to the idolaters' religion, clings to them, saying, `what advantage is to me to adhere to the people of Israel, who are of low estate and persecuted. Better for me to join these nations who are powerful'. A person who acts thus is an apostate in respect to the whole Torah.

"Those who cause the multitude to sin, include one who induces others to sin, whether in a great matter, like Jeroboam, Zadok and Boethus, or in a light matter, even if he only induces them to nullify the observance of an affirmative precept; and any one who coerces others to sin, like Manasseh, who put Israelites to death and so forced the people into idolatry, or deceives others and leads them astray.

"One who separates himself from the Community, even if he does not commit a transgression, but only holds aloof from the congregation of Israel, does not fulfill religious precepts in common with his people, shows himself indifferent when they are in distress, does not observe their fast, but goes his own way, as if he were one of the gentiles and did not belong to the Jewish people (cf. Netruei Karta, American Council for Judaism)-- such a person has no portion in the world to come. He, who, like Jehoiakim, commits transgressions arrogantly, whether these are light or grave offences, has no portion in the world to come. Such a one is called a shameless transgressor, because he exhibits effrontery and shamelessness and is unabashed by the words of the Torah (cf. Zimri).

"There are two classes of informers: one who delivers a coreligionist into the power of a heathen, who will put him to death or assault him; and one who delivers the property of a coreligionist to a heathen or to a despot, who is like a heathen...

"The terrorizers of a community, not for the sake of God, are those who rule a congregation arbitrarily, so that all are in awe and afraid of them-- their aim, like that of the heathen kings, being to advance their own glory and interests, but not to promote the glory of God.

"All these 24 classes which we have enumerated, even if they are Israelites, have no portion in the world to come. There are transgressions less grave than those mentioned, concerning which, however, the sages said that whoever habitually commits them will have no portion in the world to come. One should therefore avoid, and beware of, such transgressors.

"They are one (you too?) who gives another a nickname, calls another by his nickname, puts him to shame in public, seeks honour by another person's humiliation, contemns scholars or one's teachers, treats the festivals with contempt, or desecrates things sacred.

"When it is said that one who commits any of these sins has no portion in the world to come, the statement is to be understood as only applying to the sinner who dies impenitent. But if he repented of his wickedness and expired while still penitent, he is of those who will have a portion in the world to come, for there is nothing that stands in the way of repentance. Even if a person, throughout his life, denied the essential principle of religion and repented at the end, he will have a portion in the world to come; as it is said `Peace, Peace to him that is far off and to him that is near, says the Lord, and I will heal him' (Is. 57:19)".

While others may not be go as far as relatively rigid Rambam in defining heresy, being more concerned with action than belief, our beliefs ultimately influence and determine our actions. The above citation is certainly a good place to start our exploration of heresy, but by no means exhausts the subject. Remember, today we must treat even the most horrifying heretics with integrity and respect as human beings, and have no right to assume that God prefers us to them, tho we're justifiably convinced that our beliefs and practices are right, theirs wrong (see our Vayera study).

Who speaks of worldly matters and religious matters as tho they were distinct-- is a heretic (Baal Shem, q Studies in Judaism, i., 28) 11/96

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