Monday, November 23, 2009

May Your Curse be on Me, My Son

By Moshe Feiglin

"Perhaps my father will feel me, and I will be in his eyes as a mocker and I will bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing. And his mother said to him, 'May your curse be upon me, my son'." (From this week's Torah portion, Toldot, Genesis 27:12-13)

A youth who had "illegally" entered Gush Katif in its last days asked me:

"I don't know what to do. I must leave Gush Katif for a few days and then I will not be able to return."

"Why not?" I asked him.

"Because if I come back I will have to use a false identity at the checkpoint, and that would force me to lie," he answered. "I do not want to sin."

"I have a great solution," I said to him. "I will write you a note in which I accept upon myself the Divine punishment that you will receive for lying to get back into Gush Katif. After you have lived out your 120 years on this earth, request to be buried with the note and I will merit your Divine retribution. Do we have a deal?"

It didn't take the boy long to see the absurdity of his question, and I lost out on the deal of a lifetime.

It is easy to confuse young people. They are inexperienced and naive. Jacob lacks the life experience of his mother, Rivkah. He is not yet worldly, spending all his time learning Torah. He has not yet acquired the perspective needed to place contradicting values in their proper order. Suddenly, his mother makes an outrageous request of him - to lie to his father, Isaac, and to re-arrange events so that he will give him the blessing reserved for his brother, Esau.

Isaac loved his sons. He was blind to the fact that Esau was deceiving him. He was liable to entrust the faith in G-d revolution that his father had pioneered in the hands of his wicked son, Esau.

Rivkah understood that this would be a tragic mistake. Jacob also understood. So now what? It is forbidden to lie!

The answer to this dilemma is not simple. Generally, the preferred course of action is not to break the law - even for a worthy purpose. "Justice, justice must you pursue," says the Torah. Justice must also be pursued with justice.

That is generally the case, but not always. When should one break the rules?

"Who should one listen to? The teacher or the student?" the Rambam rhetorically asks in the Laws of Kings. In other words, if a person is instructed to carry out an action that is against the commandments of the King of the world and His Torah - he is forbidden to do so.

In reality, this simple directive becomes more complex. In any given set of circumstances, there will always be the rabbis who will explain that it is a terrible sin to deceive Isaac, that Jacob is a terrible soldier, the whole country will fall apart because of him and that we will be left with no army.

We have already witnessed the result of this approach; the destruction of Gush Katif, Israel's defeat in the two wars that came on its heels and the world's negation of Israel's right to exist. Those military, political and spiritual leaders who confused the naive Jacob, leading him to believe that it is a terrible sin to oppose the law - have brought the State of Israel to the edge of the precipice. Today, when they once again condemn the conscientious soldiers who refuse to evict Jews from their homes, they prove that they have learned nothing from their mistakes.

"Who is it who hunted food and brought it to me, and I ate from it all before you came, and I blessed him, and he shall surely be blessed," says Isaac to Esau. The famous Biblical commentator Rashi explains that it is not true that if Jacob had not deceived his father, he would not have received his blessings. In this verse, Isaac endorsed the blessing that he gave to Jacob. Ex post facto, he agrees with Rivkah and Jacob.

Rivkah and Jacob identified and prevented the mistake before it happened, warding off catastrophe in the process. Likewise, now is the time to deal with the crimes into which the government is dragging the IDF - not after the next catastrophe, G-d forbid!

The role cast upon the youthful Jacob is not an easy one. His commanders and some of his rabbis are pressuring him, trying to confuse him into gagging his own conscience. They would prefer that he would stop listening to the voice of G-d that clearly instructs him to stop.

May your curse be on me, my son. May your curse be on me.

No comments: