Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile

22 Cheshvan 5760 (November 1, 1999)


For the Life of Sarah, Someone please listen to Hashem's speech!

Every year the fifth week after Rosh Hashanah, the rabbis and Torah devout study portion Hayyei Sarah (the Life of  Sarah).  This is the one portion in the Torah that specifically addresses the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians over Israel's exclusive  right to own and dwell in the land of Israel.  It is the speech Hashem has repeatedly made year in and year out, which no one heard in Madrid and which now is not being heard in Oslo or Washington.  And it is the Torah portion which has marked the assassination of two political figures in Israel on the opposite end of the peace question: Rabbi Meir Kahane, of blessed memory, nine years ago this week and Yitzhak Rabin five years later to the day.

Rabbi Kahane was assassinated in New York City in 1990 by an off-duty U.S. Postal Service worker.  Kahane had been the leader of the populist Kach Party which advocated the transfer of the Palestinian population out of Judea-Samaria (the West Bank). He had an extremely large following among the religious Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities.  However, his position on transfer, the most humanitarian means of accommodating Hashem's ultimate plan to totally annihilate any remnant of Esau who remains in the Israeli administered West Bank, (See Obadiah 18-21), was construed by his political opponents and the secular media to be "racist." Consequently, the Kach Party was banned in Israel from occupying any seats in the Knesset.  After Rabbi Kahane's murder, the party leadership became fractioned and politically impotent as the media continued to smear both it and Rabbi Kahane.   As a former senior member of the Jerusalem Post editorial staff, I witnessed first hand the prejudice against Rabbi Kahane and Kach.

Five years later to the day in 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.  The irony is inescapable that the same forces who wanted Rabbi Kahane removed from the Knesset and the Israeli political scene to pave the way for a Labor Prime Minister who would carry forward the overtures toward Palestinian autonomy and statehood, saw their senior statesman meet a similar fate exactly five years later.  There is an expression in Hebrew for this:  Middah k'negged middah, loosely translated, "What goes around, comes around" or "Whatsoever one sows, that also he reaps."

Below, I am repeating the column I wrote eight years ago this week in 1991, published initially in The Jerusalem Post entitled, "The Speech We Didn't Hear in Madrid."  Let us add to this speech, in 1999 these comments from the Triennial Cycle of Torah readings in Sidra Vayeishev (Genesis 37-40):

"Jacob SETTLED in the land where his father had sojourned, in the land of Canaan.  These are the chronicles of Jacob:  Joseph …" (Genesis 37:1-2).

It was not until Jacob SETTLED that his 22-year time of trouble began with the disappearance of Joseph.  The rabbis say this is because Hashem had mandated that the descendants of Abraham would be sojourners NOT SETTLERS until the 400-year decree had passed.  As Rabbi David Feinstein explains this:

Jacob's desire to settle down was premature since the decree of GEIRUT (temporary sojourning) was still in force. Therefore, as soon as Jacob sought a PERMANENT STATUS, the events leading to his Egyptian exile were set in motion."

Let this also be a warning to those in Oslo this week, opening talks into the PERMANENT STATUS of a single dunam of the land of Israel or the city of Jerusalem with the intent of expropriating this same land for a Palestinian state or its capital.  Middah k'negged middah.

Also, let all of the House of Israel know assuredly that the mention of Joseph's name immediately after the long listing of the chronicles of Esau, (Genesis 36), was, in the mind of the Torah sages, the one SPARK needed to bring about Obadiah 1:18:

The House of Jacob shall be a fire, and the House of Joseph a flame , and the House of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them."

And Rashi quoting the Tanchuma referred to Joseph as the pearl which fell into the sand for which one searches and sifts until he finds it.  After finding it, he discards the pebbles and retains only the pearl. 

Maggid ben Yosef

The Speech

We Didn't Hear in Madrid

30 Heshvan 5752 (November 7, 1991)

AS THE world watched and listened to the mother of PR shows, G-d spoke!

   Unfortunately, none of the speeches in Madrid quoted the Torah reading the week that initiated the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Those readings dealt specifically with the impasse at the peace conference: Israel's purchased and witnessed right to settle in the "West Bank," and the yoke the Palestinians call "occupation."

   For the record, the October 30-November 1, 1991, opening speeches fell on Heshvan 22-24 on G-d's appointment calendar.  The speech already prepared for that occasion, which no one delivered, was in portion Hayyei Sarah (Genesis 23-25:18).

   Quoting Abraham (father of both sons represented at the conference) as he entreated the sons of Heth: "I am a stranger and an inhabitant with you; give me a burial plot with you so that I may bury my dead out of my sight" (Genesis 23:4).

   Ahuzat kever (translated "burial plot") actually means burial "settlement." Ahuza, the form of the word when detached from its construct, comes from the Hebrew root ahaz, which means "hold." The burial plot, bought at the gate of the city of Hebron, in the sight and hearing of multiple witnesses, was Abraham's first bond that tied him to the land; the place that drew him and held him.  Abraham was himself buried there, as well as Rebecca and Isaac (but not Ishmael) and Leah and Jacob (but not Esau).  It also is the earliest deed on record to any plot of property in the disputed territories.

   Genesis 24:60 records an astounding blessing pronounced upon Rebecca by what Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch called her "Aramean" family as she is about to leave to become Isaac's wife.  "Our sister!  Become (the mother of) thousands of ten thousands, and may your seed inherit the gate of those that hate them."

   And the speech would have ended with a vital bit of information concerning the sons of Ishmael, who later intermarried with Esau  ... that "they dwelt from Havilah to Shur, that is before Mitzrayim, in the region as you go toward Asshur; before the face of all his brothers did he settle." Those areas all fall outside of the territories in dispute.

   The following week's reading, Toledot (Genesis 25:19-28:9), first restates G-d's gift of the land in question to Isaac and his seed, Jacob (26:3).  The locations of numerous wells dug by Isaac also are given. The digging of wells often establishes ownership in the culture of our region.

   Most relevant and provocative, however, is Rebecca's loyalty to Jacob based on the word spoken to her at his and Esau's birth.

   "And the children moved violently against each other within her womb, and when this occurred, she said: 'Why am I thus?' And G-d said (as Hirsch puts it): "Two nations are in your womb and two states; they will be divided from one another, starting from within you; one state shall become mightier than the other, and the mighty one shall serve the lesser."

    Esau, emerging from the womb first, was entitled to be the heir to Isaac and Abraham, but in a fit of hunger he relinquished his birthright to Jacob for bread and lentils.  The deception engineered by Rebecca, who recalled the prophecy, justified Jacob getting the inheritance.

    "Peoples will serve you and nations will bow down to you.  But, you become a man to your brothers, so that the sons of your mother may bow down to you.  Then he who curses you will be cursed, and he who blesses you will be blessed.  By "sons of your mother," Isaac intended "Jacob and his descendants," but since Jacob was receiving the blessing, "sons of your mother" who would serve him would be Esau and his descendants.

   Isaac, in other words, charged Jacob-Israel to be as a man and deal fairly and justly with his "Arab" brother.  Further, this humane dealing must precede and enable Jacob's brother to humble himself before Jacob.

   Later, when Esau wanted a blessing of his own, he was told he would serve his brother, Jacob-Israel.  "Only when you humble yourself will you loosen his yoke from your neck."

    Reconvening the peace conference in Israel would be one means by which Israel's Arab "brothers" could show the humility that would loosen the yoke they call "occupation." Whether that happens or not, the only way this centuries-old impasse can begin to be resolved is the way G-d states it  ...  for the Jewish state to take the initiative and offer its Arab residents equal status but under Jewish administration  -- the Torah does not say nor imply autonomy or statehood.

    That is what G-d would have said in Madrid, given His due.

Maggid ben Yoseif