VAYISHLACH

UNIVERSAL TORAH: VAYISHLACH
By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah reading: Gen. 32.4-36.43. Haftara: Obadiah 1.1-21.

Major Testimonies: 1Qurintaus 5.1-13.

(Optional substitution: Hosea 11.7-12.12).

THE ENCOUNTER WITH ESAU

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).

* * *

A GIFT, A PRAYER… AND/OR WAR

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 SIN OF THE MEN OF SHECHEM

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).

* * *

LET US GO UP TO THE HOUSE OF G-D

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

Luther The Anti-Semite

Dr. Martin Luther
 (1483-1546)

On the Jews
and Their Lies

Von den Jueden und jren Luegen. D. M. Luth.

Wittenberg, H. Lufft 1543.

 

 1Pe_1:22  Having purified your nefashot (souls) by mishma’at (obedience 1:2) to HaEmes, resulting in ahavah shel achvah (brotherly love) without tzevi’ut (hypocrisy), have fervent ahavah (agape) for one another, from a lev tahor.

Martin Luther: The Jews and Their Lies

(extracts from the Jewish Virtual Library)

I had made up my mind to write no more either about the Jews or against them. But since I learned that these miserable and accursed people do not cease to lure to themselves even us, that is, the Christians, I have published this little book, so that I might be found among those who opposed such poisonous activities of the Jews who warned the Christians to be on their guard against them. I would not have believed that a Christian could be duped by the Jews into taking their exile and wretchedness upon himself. However, the devil is the god of the world, and wherever God’s word is absent he has an easy task, not only with the weak but also with the strong. May God help us. Amen.

***

He did not call them Abraham’s children, but a “brood of vipers” [Matt. 3:7]. Oh, that was too insulting for the noble blood and race of Israel, and they declared, “He has a demon’ [Matt 11:18]. Our Lord also calls them a “brood of vipers”; furthermore in John 8 [:39,44] he states: “If you were Abraham’s children ye would do what Abraham did…. You are of your father the devil. It was intolerable to them to hear that they were not Abraham’s but the devil’s children, nor can they bear to hear this today.

***

Therefore the blind Jews are truly stupid fools…

***

Now just behold these miserable, blind, and senseless people.

***

…their blindness and arrogance are as solid as an iron mountain.

***

Learn from this, dear Christian, what you are doing if you permit the blind Jews to mislead you. Then the saying will truly apply, “When a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into the pit” [cf. Luke 6:39]. You cannot learn anything from them except how to misunderstand the divine commandments…

***

Therefore be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self­glory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously and veheming his eyes on them.

***

Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch­thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security.

***

However, they have not acquired a perfect mastery of the art of lying; they lie so clumsily and ineptly that anyone who is just a little observant can easily detect it. But for us Christians they stand as a terrifying example of God’s wrath.

***

If I had to refute all the other articles of the Jewish faith, I should be obliged to write against them as much and for as long a time as they have used for inventing their lies­­ that is, longer than two thousand years.

***

…Christ and his word can hardly be recognized because of the great vermin of human ordinances. However, let this suffice for the time being on their lies against doctrine or faith.

***

Did I not tell you earlier that a Jew is such a noble, precious jewel that God and all the angels dance when he farts?

***

Alas, it cannot be anything but the terrible wrath of God which permits anyone to sink into such abysmal, devilish, hellish, insane baseness, envy, and arrogance. If I were to avenge myself on the devil himself I should be unable to wish him such evil and misfortune as God’s wrath inflicts on the Jews, compelling them to lie and to blaspheme so monstrously, in violation of their own conscience. Anyway, they have their reward for constantly giving God the lie.

***

No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.

***

…but then eject them forever from this country. For, as we have heard, God’s anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!

***

Over and above that we let them get rich on our sweat and blood, while we remain poor and they such the marrow from our bones.

***

I brief, dear princes and lords, those of you who have Jews under your rule­­ if my counsel does not please your, find better advice, so that you and we all can be rid of the unbearable, devilish burden of the Jews, lest we become guilty sharers before God in the lies, blasphemy, the defamation, and the curses which the mad Jews indulge in so freely and wantonly against the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, this dear mother, all Christians, all authority, and ourselves. Do not grant them protection, safe­conduct, or communion with us…. .With this faithful counsel and warning I wish to cleanse and exonerate my

conscience.

***

Let the government deal with them in this respect, as I have suggested. But whether the government acts or not, let everyone at least be guided by his own conscience and form for himself a definition or image of a Jew.

***

However, we must avoid confirming them in their wanton lying, slandering, cursing, and defaming. Nor dare we make ourselves partners in their devilish ranting and raving by shielding and protecting them, by giving them food, drink, and shelter, or by other neighborly

***

Therefore we Christians, in turn, are obliged not to tolerate their wanton and conscious blasphemy.

***

Accordingly, it must and dare not be considered a trifling matter but a most serious one to seek counsel against this and to save our souls from the Jews, that is, from the devil and from eternal death.

***

What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:

First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly ­ and I myself was unaware of it ­ will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.

Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. (remainder omitted)

Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor Jews captive with the saying of Moses (Deuteronomy 17 [:10 ff.]) in which he commands them to obey their teachers on penalty of death, although Moses clearly adds: “what they teach you in accord with the law of the Lord.” Those villains ignore that. They wantonly employ the poor people’s obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy. In the same way the pope also held us captive with the declaration in Matthew 16 {:18], “You are Peter,” etc, inducing us to believe all the lies and deceptions that issued from his devilish mind. He did not teach in accord with the word of God, and therefore he forfeited the right to teach.

Fifth, I advise that safe­conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let they stay at home. (…remainder omitted).

Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God’s blessing in a good and worthy cause.

Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen 3[:19]}. For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.

***

But what will happen even if we do burn down the Jews’ synagogues and forbid them publicly to praise God, to pray, to teach, to utter God’s name? They will still keep doing it in secret. If we know that they are doing this in secret, it is the same as if they were doing it publicly. for our knowledge of their secret doings and our toleration of them implies that they are not secret after all and thus our conscience is encumbered with it before God.

***

Accordingly, it must and dare not be considered a trifling matter but a most serious one to seek counsel against this and to save our souls from the Jews, that is, from the devil and from eternal death. My advice, as I said earlier, is:

First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss in sulphur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire. That would demonstrate to God our serious resolve and be evidence to all the world that it was in ignorance that we tolerated such houses, in which the Jews have reviled God, our dear Creator and Father, and his Son most shamefully up till now but that we have now given them their due reward.

***

I wish and I ask that our rulers who have Jewish subjects exercise a sharp mercy toward these wretched people, as suggested above, to see whether this might not help (though it is doubtful). They must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in, proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance. Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying three thousand lest the whole people perish. They surely do not know what they are doing; moreover, as people possessed, they do not wish to know it, hear it, or learn it. There it would be wrong to be merciful and confirm them in their conduct. If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy and all their other vices and thus merit God’s wrath and be damned with them. I have done my duty. Now let everyone see to his. I am exonerated.”

***

My essay, I hope, will furnish a Christian (who in any case has no desire to become a Jew) with enough material not only to defend himself against the blind, venomous Jews, but also to become the foe of the Jews’ malice, lying, and cursing, and to understand not only that their belief is false but that they are surely possessed by all devils. May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life. Amen.

From Luther’s Works, Volume 47: The Christian in Society IV, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971). pp 268­293.

1Pe_1:22  Having purified your nefashot (souls) by mishma’at (obedience 1:2) to HaEmes, resulting in ahavah shel achvah (brotherly love) without tzevi’ut (hypocrisy), have fervent ahavah (agape) for one another, from a lev tahor.

Entering a Synagogue with a Weapon

Question: May a soldier or a citizen armed with a pistol or a rifle enter a synagogue with his weapon?

Answer: The Mechilta (end of Parashat Yitro) states regarding the verse, “And when you shall build Me a stone altar, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for you will have waved your sword over it and desecrated it”: “Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: The Altar was created to prolong the life of man. Thus, one may not wave the ‘item that shortens’ (the item that shortens man’s life, i.e. a knife) over the ‘item that lengthens’ (the item that prolongs man’s life, i.e. the Altar).”

Similarly, regarding our question, the Orchot Chaim (Hilchot Bet Ha’Kenesset, Section 7) writes in the name of Maharam of Rottenberg that one may not enter a synagogue with a long knife, for prayer prolongs one’s life and a knife shortens it. Although Rabbeinu Peretz disagrees with the Maharam, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 151) rules in accordance with the opinion of the Maharam of Rottenberg. It is thus forbidden to enter a synagogue with a sword or a long knife. Although this law is not so common nowadays since people do not carry around swords, we must nevertheless discuss weapons such as rifles which are likewise made out of metal and shorten lives. It would seem based on the above that it should be forbidden to enter a synagogue with one’s personal weapon.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l (in his Responsa Yechave Da’at Volume 5, Chapter 18) explains that the Maharam does not prohibit entering a synagogue with a long knife only because a knife shortens one’s life; rather, he has an additional reason for this which is due to the respect of the synagogue, for it is disrespectful to enter a synagogue when one is armed with a weapon. He proceeds to support his view.

In the previous Halacha we have explained that it is customary to cover the knives on the table during Birkat Hamazon, for a knife shortens man’s life while Birkat Hamazon lengthens it. Based on this, the Turei Zahav asks: Why is it that it is only prohibited to enter a synagogue with a “long” knife? We do not find such a distinction between a long or short knife regarding Birkat Hamazon! He explains that regarding Birkat Hamazon where it is quite easy to cover all of the knives on the table, there is no reason for one not to do so. Nevertheless, regarding entering a synagogue where one will have to remove the knife completely a find a place to leave it in addition to the fact that there is sometimes a need to use a knife in a synagogue as well in which case one will have to go get it, our Sages did not trouble an individual to such an extent. However, with regards to a long knife which is not usually necessary in a synagogue, our Sages troubled one not to enter the synagogue with it at all.

Based on this, Maran zt”l writes that when there is a pressing need for one to carry his weapon and removing it proves to be a great hassle, it is not forbidden to enter a synagogue with it, similar to the law of a small knife. He proceeds to quotes sources and proofs to the fact that as long as there is a great need for one to carry the weapon, there is no prohibition to enter the synagogue and pray while armed with it.

Summary: It is preferable that an armed soldier entering a synagogue to pray cover his weapon with his clothing. If this is not possible, for instance, because one is armed with a large rifle, and there is a great need for one to be carrying his weapon, such as due to security concerns and the like, one may be lenient and enter the synagogue to pray in this manner.

Haftorah – Parshas Vayeitzei

Parshas Vayeitzei

Hoshea 12:13 – 14:10
This week’s haftorah is devoted to the Jewish nation’s severe plunge into idolatry. The Judean kingdom ultimately succumbed to the rampant practices of the Samaritan kingdom and engaged itself in foreign worship. This abhorrent conduct traced back to the days of Yeravam ben N’vat, the first Samaritan king. Shlomo Hamelech relied upon his unprecedented sound wisdom and permitted himself to marry women of alien descent and culture. He undoubtedly intended to eradicate from them every trace of their previous environment. However, he was unsuccessful in this and his idolatrous wives threatened to corrupt the entire Jewish nation. Hashem responded to this deteriorating situation and pledged to remove most of the Jewish kingdom from the royal Davidic dynasty. (see M’lochim 1 11:4-13) Hashem sent the prophet Achiya to inform Yeravam he would lead ten of the tribes and Shlomo’s son, Rechavam would lead the remaining tribes of Yehuda a nd Binyomin.

Yeravam began his reign with the best of intentions but he soon abused his royal authority. Instead of preventing foreign influences he ultimately corrupted his entire kingdom beyond the any point of return. Eventually, brought matters under control and exiled most of the Jewish nation. In this week’s haftorah the prophet Hoshea turns to the remaining Judean tribes and sternly warns them not to follow their brothers’ corrupt ways.

It is worthwhile to understand the events described here that led to Yeravam’s appointment and gain true insight to human nature. Hoshea said, “When (Yeravam from) Efraim spoke frightening words he was elevated over Israel; yet he sinned in idolatry and died.” (Hoshea 13:1) This verse refers to a specific incident quoted in Sefer M’lochim wherein Yeravam took a hard stand and reprimanded Shlomo Hamelech. Dovid Hamelech previously designated the Milo area outside Yerushalayim as a communal plaza for the masses of Jewish people who visited Yerushalayim during the festivals. Shlomo Hamelech, however, opted to use this area as living quarters for his new bride, the daughter of Pharaoh. The Jewish people were infuriated by this outrageous act of authority but lacked the courage to respond to it. Yeravam took the initiative and displayed his religious zeal and publicly denounced the king for his behavior. Hashem rewarded Yeravam for his courageous act in defense of Hashem’s hon or and elevated Yeravam to the highest position of authority.

The Sages add an important insight regarding this rise to power. They reflect upon the verses that describe Yeravam’s act in the following words, “And Yeravam ben N’vat … was the servant of Shlomo and he raised his hand against the king. And for this matter… Shlomo built the Milo and closed his father Dovid’s opening.”(M’lochim 1 11:26, 27) The Sages explain that Yeravam merited the throne because of his outstanding courageous opposition to Shlomo Hamelech’s conduct. But, they painfully add that Yeravam was also severely punished because he publicly shamed the king.(see Mesicta Sanhedrin 101b) Maharsha explains here that the sages sought to understand Yeravam’s devastating end. They question that since Yeravam performed such a meritorious act, as is evidenced by his appointment over Israel, how could such control result in the horrible Jewish exile? If Hashem truly appreciated Yeravam’s devotion how could it develop so quickly into a rampant campaign of idolatry?

They answer that although Yeravam’s intentions were proper they were accompanied by arrogance. True, Shlomo Hamelech deserved reprimand but this did not include public shame and embarrassment. The Sages reveal that had Yeravam been truly sensitive to the king’s honor and authority he could have never acted in this manner. Although he acted out of religious zeal he was self absorbed in piety and ignored the king’s honor and due respect. This imperfection ultimately led Yeravam to total corruption and caused him to forfeit his portion in the world to come. (ad loc)

This arrogance and disrespect played itself out on a broader scale and eventually led the Samaritan kingdom into idolatry. The Sages explain that Yeravam feared that the Jewish pilgrimage to Yerushalayim would cause him to lose his following to Rechavam. Yeravam based this fear on an halachic precedent that required him to stand in the Temple area while Rechavam sat. He reasoned that this scene would undermine his authority and publicly display him as Rechavam’s servant. To combat this, he established alternate sites of worship throughout his kingdom and forbade his people from visiting the Temple. These drastic measures forced his kingdom to totally disassociate with the Judean kingdom and the Temple. In the absence of any tangible link with Hashem, the Samaritan kingdom developed its own form of worship and became gravely involved in idolatry.

The Sages reveal that the root of this was Yeravam’s arrogance and insensitivity towards Rechavam. After all, couldn’t a scion of Dovid Hamelech be afforded proper respect and honor without interfering with Yeravam’s reign? Why couldn’t Yeravam justify his behavior as a show of honor to Hashem’s chosen one, Dovid Hamelech? The unfortunate reality was that Yeravam could not see himself forgoing his respect for Rechavam’s sake. He conceivably reasoned that the king must display total authority and not be perceived as subservient to anyone. However, the Sages reveal that this reasoning was truly rooted in arrogance and unwillingness to show others proper honor and respect. This character flaw created his threatening illusion and propelled him to alienate his kingdom.

We now realize that what began as a subtle insensitivity towards Shlomo Hamelech eventually developed into a full grown split in our nation. Yeravam did perform a meritorious act but showed disrespect for authority. Hashem granted Yeravam the throne but tested his ability to manage such authority. Yeravam succumbed to the temptation of power and could not forego his own honor. This persistent drive blinded him and misled him to undermine his own power and destroy his kingdom. (see Maharzu’s comment to Vayikra Rabba 12:5) Regretfully, we learn the power of a character flaw and see how one person’s sense of honor and respect destroyed our nation and exiled our Ten lost tribes.

This lesson is appropos to our sedra that presents our Matriarch Rochel as the paradigm of human sensitivities. Although Rochel undoubtedly knew the immeasurable spiritual value of her exclusive relationship with our Patriarch Yaakov she was not self absorbed. Her spiritual drive could not interfere with her sensitivity towards her sister, Leah. Rochel decided that her exclusive relationship with Yaakov had no merit if it caused Leah embarrassment. She, unlike Yeravam, overlooked her religious fervor and focused on her sister’s pain. She therefore revealed to Leah all of Yaakov’s secret signals and assisted her sister in establishing an eternal bond with her own pre-destined match. Rochel’s self sacrifice and sensitivity became the hallmark of the Jewish people who constantly strive to perfect themselves in these areas.

The Sages reveal that Hashem specifically responds to Rochel’s prayers on behalf of her exiled children. When Rochel weeps over her children Hashem remembers her incredible sensitivity towards Leah and responds favorably. In her merit Hashem forgives the Jewish people for their abhorrent insensitivities towards His glory and guarantees her children’s return to their land. Although their sins and ultimate exile are rooted in Yeravam’s insensitivity Rochel’s merit surpasses all faults. Her superhuman display of self sacrifice and sensitivity became the character of the Jewish people and in her merit Hashem promises to return her long lost children to their homeland. (see intro. to Eicha Rabba)

The Chafetz Chaim reminds us that our seemingly endless exile is rooted in these insensitivities. Hashem will not send Mashiach until we rectify these faults. Let us internalize Rochel’s lesson and exercise extreme sensitivity towards the feeling of others. (intro to Shmiras Halashon) Let us not allow our religious fervor or spiritual drives to desensitize us of the needs of others. Priority one must be every Jewish person’s well-deserved honor and respect. Let us remember Rochel’s ruling that no mitzva act- regardless of his magnitude- has merit unless it takes everyone’s feelings into consideration. After rectifying our subtle character flaws we can sincerely approach Hashem and plead with Him to end our troubles. May we merit Hashem’s return to His beloved nation in the nearest future.