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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3

Jerusalem

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GENESIS — 32:4 sent

[In] Ramban [Nachmanides’] opening commentary on Parshas VaYishlach [this verse], [] he writes as follows: “This parsha (passage) was written to let it be known that G-d rescued his servant [Yaakov] by sending an angel to free him from the clutches of his more powerful opponent [Esau]. We also learn that Yaakov did not merely rely on being rescued by virtue of his righteousness, but endeavored with all in his power to save himself.  [This parsha] also offers guidance for future generations, for we will constantly face situations vis-à-vis the descendants of Esau similar to that which our Patriarch faced [in this encounter] with his brother Esau.   We should therefore follow in the footsteps of the tzaddik [Yaakov] by preparing ourselves for our own moments of peril the same way he did: with prayer, gifts, and a means of escape by which to save ourselves in the course of war. EYES 23-4
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GENESIS — 32:5 lived

He used to say: Do His will as you would your own, that He may do your will as though it were His. Negate your will before His, that He may negate the will of others before your will. Pirkei Avot II:4   Imagine that it is cold and raining outside, and you are schedule to attend a class in humash [Torah] this evening. You hestitate to go. Perhaps you had better stay home this one time, you think. Suppose, however, that a customer were waiting to see you, from whom you expected a large order. Would the weather stop you? In the case of the class, the Almighty’s will is involved. In the case of business, it is your will. The Mishnah earnestly advises: Do His will with the same devotion and enthusiasm that you have when you carry out your own will.  Yet more than this: If you want to know how strong a will can be and how thoroughly it can be fulfilled you can learn this best from the wicked. When Jacob returned to Canaan, he sent word to his brother Esau: “I lived with Laban…” [this verse] Rashi interprets this with a paraphrase, “With the wicked Laban I lived, and I kept the 613 commandments [of the Torah]; and I did not learn from his evil deeds.” Torah Shelemah on the verse §31 and note, for Midrashic sources Scholars have wondered why Rashi found it necessary to add that Jacob “did not learn from his evil deeds.” Surely, if Jacob continued to observe the 613 commandments, obviously he was not influenced! But perhaps Rashi means to imply something quite different: that Jacob is being self-critical. I have indeed lived with Laban, admits Jacob, and I have observed this man’s complete and thorough dedication to evil. When he decides to steal a horse, he rises like a lion in the middle of the night. Neither cold nor snow nor danger deters him from his self-appointed task. Yet, alas, I who observed all this, continued to perform my commandments with much less devotion and much less enthusiasm. To my sorrow, I did not learn this sense of self-sacrifice from Laban; I did not learn to emulate his devotion. Would that I could apply his zeal, his whole-heartedness to my good deeds. Attributed to R. Israel Ba’al Shem Tov SINAI1 141-2
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GENESIS — 32:5 stayed

As an example of his Hibbat Ha’Aretz [i.e., love of the land – AJL], his comment on [this verse] may be quoted. Drawing attention to the Hebrew word for “sojourned” (Garti), which means “I have been a stranger, the Hatam Sopher [Moses Schreiber, 1763-1839] adds 537 : The patriarch (Jacob), symbol of Israel throughout the ages, stresses that while staying with Laban in another country, far from his own Canaan, it was only possible for him to sojourn there, to feel like a stranger, not able to settle down in undisturbed tranquility. Peace of mind can only come to the Jew who, no longer hated and baited, hunted and haunted, no longer driven from one land and not allowed to enter another, is allowed to strike roots once again in Eretz Israel, the land of our fathers which we must help to become again the land of our children.”   LEHRMAN 126-7
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GENESIS — 32:8 afraid

There is an important thought experiment devised by Andrew Schmookler known as the parable of the tribes. Andrew Bard Schmookler, The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution (Berkeley: University of California, 1984). Imagine a group of tribes living close to one another.   All choose the way of peace except one that is willing to use violence to achieve its ends. What happens to the peace-seeking tribes? One is defeated and destroyed by the violent tribe. A second is conquered and subjugated. The third flees to some remote and inaccessible place. If the fourth seeks to defend itself it too will have to have recourse to violence. “The irony is that successful defense against a power-maximizing aggressor requires a society to become more like the society that threatens it. Power can be stopped only by power.” Schmookler, 21. There are, in other words, for possible outcomes: (1) destruction, (2) subjugation, (3) withdrawal, and (4) imitation.” In every one of these outcomes the ways of power are spread throughout the system. This is the parable of the tribes. (Ibid., 22).   Recall that all but one of the tribes seek peace and have no desire to exercise power over their neighbors. Nonetheless, if you introduce a single violent tribe in to the region, violence will eventually prevail, however the other tribes choose to respond. That is the tragedy of the human condition.   As I was writing this essay in the summer of 2014, Israel was engaged in a bitter struggle with Hamas in Gaza in which many people died. The state of Israel had no more desire to be engaged in this kind of warfare than did our ancestor Jacob. Throughout the campaign I found myself recalling the words earlier in Parashat Vayishlah about Jacob’s feelings prior to his meeting with Esau: “Jacob was very afraid and distressed” [this verse], about which the sages said, “Afraid, lest he be killed, distressed lest he be forced to kill” (quoted by Rashi ad loc.).  What the episode of Dina tells us is not that Jacob, or Simeon and Levi, were right, but rather that there can be situations in which there is no simple right course of action. Whatever you do will be considered wrong; every option will involve the compromise of some moral principle. That is Schmookler’s point, that “power is like a contaminant, a disease, which once introduced will gradually but inexorably become universal in the system of competing societies.”   Shechem’s single act of violence against Dina forced two of Jacob’s sons into violent reprisal and in the end everyone was either contaminated or dead. It is indicative of the moral depth of the Torah that it does not hide this terrible truth from us by depicting one side as guilty, the other as innocent. Violence defiles us all. It did then. It does now. SACKS 50-2
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GENESIS — 32:8 anxiety

… there are a number of rabbinic teachings which deal with considerations of conscience for the individual facing a situation of war. Significant is the fact that in these life-and-death confrontations, limitations, and scruples are explicitly affirmed as appropriate. This is so in both individual and collective confrontations. 1. “It has been taught by Rabbi Jonathan ben Saul: If one was pursuing his fellow to slay him, and the pursued could have saved himself by maiming a limb of the pursuer, but instead killed his pursuer, the pursued is subject to execution on that account.” Talmud Sanhedrin 74a.   2.   Especially revealing are the classical rabbinic comments on the anticipation of war between Jacob and Esau, deriving from [This verse]:   “’Then Jacob was greatly afraid and was distressed.’ R. Judah b. R. Ilai said: Are not fear and distress identical? The meaning, however, is that ‘he was afraid’ lest he should be slain, ‘and was distressed’ lest he should slay. For Jacob thought: If he prevails against me, will he not slay me; while if I am stronger than he, will I not slay him? That is the meaning of ‘he was afraid’—lest he should be slain; ‘and was distressed’ – lest he should slay.” Genesis Rabbah 76:2.  Another rabbinic comment ascribes to Jacob the following sentiment: “If he overpowers me, that is bad, and if I overpower him, that is bad!”   Lekach Tov, cited in Torah Shlemah (ed. M. Kasher), Vol. 6, page 1266, footnote 49. KELLNER 203
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GENESIS — 32:8 anxiety

It is clear from Rashi [See above] that Jacob was not concerned about killing Esau himself since this would be a legitimate act of self-defense.   [This and other Torah sources, i.e. Leviticus 19:16] point to the legitimacy of self-defense in Jewish thought and affirm the general concept of “if someone comes to slay you, you should slay him first.” Sanhedrin 72a. AMJV 62-3
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GENESIS — 32:8 anxiety

The moral dilemma of possibly having to kill innocents while fighting in a war has been found in actual incidents .. in the Bible. … Abraham was worried that he had “used up” any rewards [promised by G-d] due him because he might have killed [innocent] people during the war, says Rashi, and G-d reassures Abraham.   Genesis 15:1.   An analogous emotion ws expressed by Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, when he was faced with a similar emotion and situation.   When confronted with the possibility of fighting his brother, Esau, along with Esau’s entourage, the verse states that Jacob felt two emotions: he was both fearful and distressed.   Answering why the verse uses both verbs, Rashi explains that Jacob was not only distressed that he may be killed (since he might be found unworthy to continue living) but was also distressed that me might kill innocent people during the confrontation … who had no intention of harming Jacob or his family.  … An even more explicit reference regarding Jewish understanding of the issue of collateral damage is the action of King Saul, who was commanded to kill all the Amalekites.  When he approached the city that mostly contained Amalekites but also some people from the Kenite tribe, he warned the Kenites to leave [the] city immediately so that they would not be killed accidentally during the battle.   Samuel 1 15:5-6.   Thus, we see another Torah precedent legitimately worrying about collateral damage.   AMJV 62-3
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GENESIS — 32:8 frightened

R. Yaakov b. Iddi asked: “In one place it is written Genesis 28:15: ‘And I shall be with you [Jacob] and keep watch over you wherever you go,’ and, in another: ‘And Jacob was afraid!’ – He thought to himself: ‘Perhaps G-d’s assurance is not fulfilled if I sin afterwards’” Berachot 4a TEMIMAH-GEN 138
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