For those who were shocked at the various European votes to recognize “Palestine” as an independent country as well as revelations of planned EU sanctions against Israel for insufficient appeasement, all following so closely on the heels of the savage murder of four rabbis engaged in prayer in a Har Nof synagogue, not to mention the murder of the heroic Druze policeman who was the first responder to the massacre, I can merely refer you to this weeks parsha (Torah reading), Toldot. Not only do we see Esav’s refusal to accept the responsibility for his part in the great enterprise of Tikkun Olam, partnering with God in completing the project of Creation, shown in his contempt for his birthright, we see his resentment at Yaakov’s reward, his father’s blessing, for accepting that responsibility. The parsha ends with Esav choosing Machalat, the daughter of Ishmael, as his wife.
Our tradition teaches us that there is redemption and an integral place in the future for both Ishmael and Esav, the sons of our patriarchs, hence our cousins. But that redemption comes at the end, after we, the Jewish people, have fulfilled our own responsibilities and have taken the job as far as we can on our own. In other words, we must “do Jewish”, which means operate in the world of Torah and Mitzvot, regardless of the indifference or even the contempt and opposition of the rest of the world.
Of course, Torah and Mitzvot, taking place in the present and looking to the future, is not so easy to define right now. Likewise, it’s absolutely wrong to reject or ignore the Torah and Mitzvot done by Jews who are not fully involved in the frum lifestyle. None of us are capable of “reading” the neshamot (souls) of our fellows and determining what their assigned spiritual task is–we can only do our own work.
Foremost among everyone’s list, however, is the Mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael, loving and supporting our fellow Jews. At times like these, following the synagogue massacre, following the murder of the three-month-old baby, the young woman near Efrat, the young soldier in Tel-Aviv, the shooting of R’Yehuda Glick and all the other savagery of the past month, it’s easy to feel solidarity and unity. The real challenge is when life slips back towards “normality”, when our disagreements with each other turn vicious and hateful, when we’re no longer so aware of the loneliness inherent in being Jewish in a vastly non-Jewish world.
As Jews, our ideal future emphatically does not include the rest of humanity adopting our religion. But it does, even more emphatically, require the rest of humanity to act with humanity. The current bond between Esav and Ishmael is both painful and dangerous. We see a culture based on reason irrationally turning a blind eye to murderous passion. It makes no sense and not just in Israel, but in the streets of Europe and the campuses of America, Jews are regularly attacked. While we must show strength and truly defend ourselves, we have no time to waste with apologetics or with appeasement. But mainly, we must continue our work, even under the harshest conditions (which, thank God, are far from our current reality), and create the reality where, finally, even Esav and Ishmael will join us in peace and brotherhood.