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Parashat Toldot

The Brawn and the Brain

When we consider strange phenomena in the field of genetics, we can think of Jacob and Esau, the heroes of this Torah portion. How is it possible for twins to be so different?

One was hairy (Esau) and the other smooth (Jacob). One (Esau) was "a cunning hunter, a man of the field" while the second (Jacob) was "a plain man, dwelling in tents". Esau's strength was in his hands while Jacob's strength was in his voice.

The birth of those twins was not only the beginning of their lives but also the beginning of a new era in the history of man. Jacob and Esau are the archetypes of two completely different world views: the world of physical power and the world of the mind; the world of the sword and the world of the voice.

One can be the son of Esau as a parent and also as a spouse, and one can be Jacob's son as a teacher and also as a nation. If my soul is controlled by force, I am Esau's son, but if it is controlled by my mind, I am Jacob's.

It is true that power and the sword arouse fear and respect, but the brain and the voice have the potential of eternity.

"The voice is Jacob's voice but the hands are the hands of Esau." (Genesis XXVII, 22) That was Isaac's reaction after feeling his son Jacob. Why didn't Isaac manage to recognize him?

The reason lies not only in Isaac's blindness nor only in the fact that Rebecca dressed Jacob's hands in goatskin. In my opinion there is another, more important reason.

Isaac did not recognize Jacob because Jacob had lost his identity. The moment he took on Esau's hands, he lost his identity. He had the voice but also the hands. He had the mind but now he also had the power.

We, the descendants of Jacob, have undergone a similar process since the establishment of the state. After thousands of years of physical weakness, we too became able to use our hands (and we are all proud of that). After thousands of years during which we heard strength only in our voice, we became a strong nation also in the military sense. After thousands of years of writing books and creating prayers, we became arms exporters.

Now we have strong hands, and that's good, because without them we would not survive as a nation. But for all that, today the people of Israel are experiencing a deep identity crisis. Our hands have become so necessary that we have forgotten the power of the voice. And there are still many who think it is possible to improve our world and restore our security only through force.
But force threatens the mind. As soon as we see might as an end and not as a means, it becomes destructive. Let us not forget that if we need to use our hands, it is only so as to safeguard our voice, the voice of Jacob.

Weekly Torah Portion

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