Origins & Destinies
Contrasting Twins, Contrasting Cultures
“Two nations are in your womb; two regimes from your insides shall be separated…”
“Culture” means “a shared area of work and worship” and the massive prayer service in Jerusalem on 28 Shevat was a gracious labor that begins to remind Israel how to live and not die. The awakening shofar blasts and witness to Hashem will stay the hand of those who have sought and still seek to purge Judah of Jews and Israel of its faith and Land. To pursue full restoration, it is necessary to reflect on Israel’s unique character and how it now stands at a fork in its road, needing to decide whether it will be an ‘anything-goes’ democracy of polling, pandering and lowest-common-denominator habits, or a Jewish state of Torah truths and uprightness.
They say that character is destiny, that character begins to be revealed and built up at birth and unfolds more and more as time passes. As with individual people, so with nations. Its beginnings prefigure its end; the markings of old age are laid down in youth. On the national level, the stories that commemorate a nation’s founding indicate what it prizes and disregards, the path it will follow through all vicissitudes till its essence is exhausted or renewed in new birth.
Eleven hundred years after Abram journeyed from Haran to Shechem, six hundred years after the exodus from Egypt, about the time that Ahab was King in Israel, twin boys were abandoned on a hillside in west central Italy. The fruit of an indecent union involving a young priestess and her father, Amulius and/or Mars (the god of War) the babies were nursed by a she wolf, so goes the tale. It was in such couplings that God much earlier had identified an incurable form of violence, a theft of humanity that makes “the end of all flesh” (Genesis 6:1-13). As they grew, these Anakim twins imbibed the ferocious and predatory nature of their dam and something of her kind’s fierce drive for pre-eminence. After a brilliant and popular youth, they slew the brothers of a royal family, showing themselves enemies of order from the first. In contending for the now vacant throne they quarreled over a matter of divination (shades of Balak and Bilaam), and Romulus slew Remus. Thus was the founding of Rome, successor to Edom.
“Edom, he is Esau” (Genesis 36:1,8,43), and Esau was the elder twin of the most decisively contrasted set of brothers of all time. Like his uncle, Ishmael he could and did sport with words (having “game in his mouth”), and was skillful in the fields and with his bow. Born of a mother who was a pattern of graciousness and keen observation and a father who was the model of self-restraint and service, Esau nevertheless spurned his birthright. If it did not bestow literal immortality (for Abraham had died), what could it be worth, he thought, not even a bowl of lentil stew. It was with similar contempt that he proceeded to take wives who became “a source of spiritual rebellion” and misery to his righteous parents (26:35, 27:46).
It is the unique character of Jacob, brother of Esau that highlights the contrast between these two sets of twins and offers a lesson for the world. Jacob was “a perfect man” (ish tam) who acknowledged God’s sovereignty and providence. It was not only his Torah study but because he acted and spoke with a pre-eminent awareness of God (“the Lord your God arranged this for me”) that Isaac intuited his true identity and thus put God’s name first in blessing Jacob. “May God give you of the dew of the heavens of the fatness of earth.” Isaac omitted this divine name and sanction when blessing Esau and insisting that Jacob “shall remain blessed!”
The distinction between Romulus and Remus is one of might. Moral distinctions based on Godliness are absent, as is a God who teaches that material abundance flows from righteousness, mercy and justice. Murderous jealousy also simmered in the breast of Esau but there the stories diverge in an instructive way. Despite his father’s instructions that he serve his brother, Esau yearned for Isaac’s death so he could kill Jacob (27:41; The impiety and futility of Esau’s lusts may be gauged by the many decades of life Isaac subsequently enjoyed). Braced with divine favor and the blessing of his righteous father (who “grew continually greater,” as Mordechai, another champion later did), Jacob could at any time have dispatched Esau but for him, as for his parents, fratricide was out of the question, as was marrying an idolater. So they sent him off to Haran.
It is known through midrash and chronology that Jacob studied at the yeshiva of Shem and Eber, learning the Torah of exile and practicing the unique fortitude it requires. Famous, too is his joy and compassion at meeting Rachel in union with whom he could envision all future Jewish souls, and their promise. Buoyed with that vision, Jacob rolled away the rock and brought forth water. Enduring the deceits and thievery of Laban, raising a family, laboring with diligence and brilliance, Jacob demonstrated the intelligence and self-mastery, the kindness and strength of his father and grandfather. And so ultimately, he heard God’s voice and the message to return (31:13).
The re-union of Jacob and Esau emphasized the essential contrast between Israel and Rome. Jacob’s method of conciliation and prayer before battle deferred the latter without compromising any of his inheritance. And of course, Esau was not Remus; he had his father’s essential soul in him even if the potential went mostly unrealized. The ambiguity of his stance was expressed when he greeted Jacob saying, “I have plenty” yet had 400-armed retainers at hand. Jacob avoided strife that time by again putting God first. When he said, “I have everything,” he indicated that the “fat of the land” in and of itself was valueless to him unless it came from God, “the Dread of Isaac” by whom he had sworn at Mahanayim and through whom he had everything. Jacob avoided the resolution chosen by the sons of the she-wolf just as he earlier had given Esau time to re-consider his alienation of the birthright. That extra time granted has past.
In his last words to the Children of Jacob-Israel, Moses reminded them, “your enemies will try to deceive you.” The original for this understanding this was when Jacob declined his brother’s ambiguous invitation to travel with his soldiers to Seir, deferring his arrival there to the day when his children would be ready to rule. Instead he traveled to Succot and then to Shechem where Abram had built the first altar to Hashem and there Jacob too “proclaimed God, the God of Israel” (33:20). And so God named Jacob “Israel” (“upright of God”) and confirmed that his Children would inherit the promise made to Abraham and Isaac (35:10-13).
Where then was the error that explains the long and exceedingly harsh deferment of Israel’s sovereignty? Excessive self-restraint and excessive conciliation to the point of self-contempt, a line over which the Children of Israel have many times passed. For referring to himself too often as Esau’s “servant,” Jacob’s victory was delayed, and now the dogs of war have game in their mouths indeed.
The entire Children of Israel need to remember and take seriously God’s promise: “Behold, I am with you. I will guard you wherever you go for I will return you to this soil. I will never forsake you.” Those within Israel who fear and despise this promise have left the entire nation afflicted by “a non-people and a vile nation,” the so-called “Palestinians” who have been allowed to be “pins in [Israel’s] eyes and thorns in [its] sides” (Deuteronomy 32:21, Numbers 33:52-5). The current enemy speaks of a peace more patently duplicitous than the one proffered by Esau when Joseph stood guard before Rachel (33:7). The sign of that deceit is the bloodshed and threats of bloodshed from the foe. The modern Edom guarantees a “peace” by which Israel surrenders sovereignty in the Land holy to Hashem, an inalienable sovereignty intended to illuminate the nations with Godliness. This “peace” is a pact of lies, a covenant with death.
The massive gathering for prayer and unity in Jerusalem and throughout the remnant of Israel is only a starting point for reclaiming the entire Land for Jewish settlement and a Torah way of life. The Children of Israel must remember that they are distinct not mainly in matters of appearance but of essence. This includes politics in the broadest sense, the way that the nation regulates and maintains it self, what it fosters and what it shuns. From ancient times it has been understood that democracy unmediated by merit and transcendent moral codes is closely aligned with demagoguery and inevitably leads to tyranny. Athens, Rome and now America are learning this truth of which America’s founders warned, in vain as it turns out. This lesson has been illustrated with particular clarity in the 20th century whose mass media amplify the ability of leaders to stir the emotions of the masses. The results are commercialism, depraved lifestyles and corrupt politics and through them our era is enduring the devolution of democracy into an oppressive global bureaucracy. Israel tops the hit list of this New World Order for Israel is its antithesis, a check to its pride and a remembrance of the true source of all sovereignty. If America’s wise and implicitly Godly Constitution could not prevent the disintegration of truth into deceit, it suggests that no human code can. Only transcendent truths clearly taught and applied have the ability to order the passions for life and holiness, obligations and privileges. This is why the nations will turn to Israel for the bounty of upright judgments; this is why they will rejoice when Israel inhabits its true role. Only Torah truths, duties and privileges can make Israel a refuge against all forms of tyranny. Nearly 4000 years ago El Shadai chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to walk this path and 3311 years ago He graced Israel with the means to assert and achieve this merit.
The Lord gave the Children of Israel a Land and Torah in which and by which to live, and He gave it as “an everlasting covenant.” “For an edict written in the King’s name and sealed with the royal signet may not be revoked,” states the relevant verse in the scroll of Esther. The great prayer rally of 28 Shevat occurred just two weeks before Purim when the Jews finally won the right “to destroy, slay and exterminate every armed force of any people or province that threaten them” (Esther 8:8, 11). This right is as inviolable and ancient as Israel’s divine promise and through it they will have “light and gladness and joy and honor” (Esther 8:16). Even after this century’s nightmares of exile, the nations again have sought “to cast a lot to terrify and destroy” the Jews, -- Camp David, Madrid, Oslo, Wye River, and to undo their victories. Listen: there have been nearly two thousand years of doron u’tefillim, conciliation and prayers. It is enough; it is too much just as Jacob too much transferred words of service from the Lord to Esau. It is time “to transform sorrow into gladness” as on the first Purim, “for so the Jews gained the upper hand over their enemies” (9:1, 22-4). The foe wants battle. Israel must untie his hands and let them have it.
That is only part of solving the puzzle. Israel must repudiate the customs of the nations, the deceitful treaties and disreputable habits of the 20th century in order to live in its true borders with sanctity radiating from it perpetually like light from pure pressed olive oil, “illumination…an eternal decree for their generations” (Exodus 27:20-1). Nature abhors a vacuum, and the tawdry and violent spectacles of modern commerce, politics and “entertainment” reflect the world’s hunger for the dignified and righteous pageantry only Israel can provide in its pilgrim festivals, liturgy, uplifted banners, settlement and might. But Torah will dwell securely, properly only in the People in the Land. As David sang, “Mine is Giliead, and mine is Menashe and Ephraim is the stronghold of my head. Judah is my prince. Over Philistia I will shout. Upon Edom I will stamp my shoe” (Psalm 60). David concluded this song of Israel’s territorial inheritance by quoting the injunction of Moshe to trample Israel’s oppressors. Israel’s geographic line of holiness runs from Shechem through Beit El to Hebron; its hub is the Temple Mount. From here Israel “will spread out mightily, westward, eastward, northward and southward” (28:13-15). For “the Land that I gave to Abraham and to Isaac I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, I will give the Land” (Genesis 35:12). This deed cannot be amended or revoked. The time draws near for that deferred journey to Seir, as Ovadiah promised. “Judah will be a fire, Joseph will be flame and Edom will be like straw” because it afflicted and plundered Jacob when he was down. The Houses of “Jacob and Joseph will inherit the fields of Ephraim and the fields of Samaria. Benjamin will inherit the Gilead, and the kingdom shall be Hashem’s.”
The political-judicial system that for decades has been bartering away the Jewish birthright has all but dissolved. How could it not; it was the heritage of Athens and Rome. The endgame of that culture should alert Israel that its rightful manner of self-governance requires a Sanhedrin, prophets of righteousness and Monarchy, a King with a scroll of Deuteronomy fastened to his wrist, who will recall and follow the highest standard of justice and uprightness. Lawyers, Labor Unions and politicians are forms of national death. Armed forces, Torah sages, Sanhedrin, prophets, one people and one King are the pattern of its youth and faith that will lead Israel into a full and bountiful maturity.