Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Toldot 5775

We are the descendants of of Ya’akov, and that’s not always an easy burden to bear.

It’s tough enough to admire our patriarch for his sneaky behavior in pilfering dad’s blessing from his unwitting older twin brother Esav. We can put Ya’akov on trial and debate the appropriateness of his actions, but the episode still leaves us shaken morally. This week, though, I feel a competing source of irritation from the story. It comes from Rivkah’s postscript advice, her first round of advice having created the mess in the first place: “Now, my son, listen to me. Flee at once to Haran, to my brother Lavan. Stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury subsides…” (Genesis 27:43-44).

Did Rivkah just tell Ya’akov to run away? Run away? Who’s writing this, Monty Python? You engineered it so that your meeker, tent-bound son will get the blessing, maybe to toughen him up a little, and now you want him to flee? What kind of Jew are you raising?

To make things worse, the 11th century midrash Lekah Tov by Toviah ben Eliezer of Bulgaria gives a troubling explanation for Ya’akov’s need to flee: “All of the righteous ones had to cede space in times of emergency. Ya’akov fled, Moshe fled, David fled. Whenever someone tries to push time, time pushes back.” 

Wait–does that mean that we’re not only supposed to abandon ship at the first sign of danger, but that we’re the ones responsible for bringing danger upon ourselves in the first place by “pushing time?”

On Shabbat morning, I’ll respond to this midrash, with this week’s events in Har Nof fresh in our minds, and emphasize why we are not actually the descendants of Ya’akov anymore.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi David Wise