The Ancient Root of a Modern Problem

Parashat Vayishlach (And He Sent)
Beresheet (Genesis) 32: 3 (4 in the Hebrew Bible)-36:43
Haftarah: Obadiah 1:1-21

In my most recent commentary I referred to Jacob’s dream and the fact that when he woke up from his dream he said,

Surely there is a God in this place, and I did not know it.
Genesis 28:16

I believe that these words are so vital and important for us to remember, as they remind us that there is a God who is in control over everything in this world.

We often lose sight of this in our daily struggles and challenges. A couple of weeks ago, there was a terror attack in Jerusalem. I heard about that attack from both of my daughters who were en route to their school in Jerusalem. Later that day, I spoke with my mom after she called to see if we were ok. We both agreed that it is tragic that this kind of violence still takes place today. My mom had hoped that I would not know this kind of violence when I grew up, and I held the same hopes for my children. Yet, the sad reality is that we do see this kind of violence, and will continue to see possibly even worse violence in the days to come, until the day of His return.

We need to be reminded on a daily basis that there is a God who is in control, and we need to know His Word to filter all that we see and experience every day. For example, many people wonder about the reason for the current Israeli-Arab conflict. I personally believe that we find the spirit of the conflict in this week’s Parasha and Haftarah readings, as it goes all the way back to the story of Jacob and Esau.

In Genesis 36:1 we read, Now this is the genealogy of Esau (that is, Edom). The word "genealogy" indicates passing down through generations. I personally believe that the story of Jacob's deception of Esau was passed down to Esau’s descendants and, as a result, we find a root of unforgiveness, pride, jealousy, struggle of acceptance and bitterness that may have passed on. In other words, a generational hatred of Jacob, and by extension, of the children of Israel, was possibly passed down through generations of Edomites.

God’s judgment came on the descendants of Esau (Edom) as we read in our Haftarah:

Because of violence to your brother Jacob, shame will cover you, and you will be eliminated forever.
Obadiah 1:10

They were eliminated forever not only because of their violence against Jacob (Israel), but also because they stood aside when Israel suffered and did nothing to help.

On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gateand cast lots for Jerusalem— You too were as one of them. Do not gloat over your brother’s day, the day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah on the day of their destruction; Yes, do not boast on the day of their distress.
Obadiah 1:11-12

Reading the above verses gives me a possible spiritual explanation why Arabs in Gaza and other parts of the Palestinian territories celebrate and pass out candy in the streets after a terror attack again Israel or Jews. It is the same spirit of the Edomites that causes them to boast (or celebrate) over Israel’s distress.

It is important for me to stress that such actions are horrible and should be condemned! They are driven out of spiritual blindness and hatred that have been rooted throughout generations. Since the root of the matter is spiritual, so should be the solution.

As we continue to read in Verses 15-16 of Obadaiah, we also find an explanation for why the nations will also turn their backs on Israel:

For the day of the LORD is near for all the nations. Just as you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head.  For just as you drank on My holy mountain, all the nations will drink continually. They will drink to the last drop, and become as if they had never existed.

What is this drinking to which the prophet Obadiah refers? I believe it could be one of two possibilities, which are actually related. The first is the "cup of reeling" of which the prophet Zechariah speaks:

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the surrounding peoples when they besiege Jerusalem as well as Judah.
Zechariah 12:2

Just like the judgment that came to the Edomites for thinking they could eliminate the people of Israel, so will it be for the nations.

The other possibility could be the cup of God's wrath that will be poured out on the nations. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of this cup as well:

For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to me: “Take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand and give it to all the nations to whom I send you, to drink from it. Then they will drink and loudly vomit and act insanely because of the sword that I am going to send among them.
Jeremiah 25:15-16 

In closing, while it can be challenging to remember that there is a God who is in control when life gets hard, let us keep our eyes focused on Him. The only way to fight a spirit of lies is with the Spirit of truth. Let’s remember what Yeshua taught:

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.
John 14:16-17

Shabbat Shalom,

Check out previous blogs on this parashah!

Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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