We’ve all made decisions in our lives, whether right or wrong, that have come back to bite us in the butt. Some call it Karma some call it bad luck, either way it’s a pain in the ass.
In this week’s parsha it seems like the spirit of Karma may be catching up with our fabled anti-hero, Jacob. He is returning to Cannan to be fruitful in the promised land when he hears of rumours that his brother Esau is looking for him and on the hunt with 400 men to meet him at their fathers tent.
Jacob sends messengers to Esau’s camp to ask for forgiveness and bring gifts of cattle and servants. Esau denies the gifts and marches on. The night before Esau’s arrival Jacob is met in the middle of the night by a dark figure. The two wrestled throughout the night and when they day was breaking the man realised he could not win and asked to be let go by Jacob, which Jacob refused until the man would bless him. “From here on your name will be Israel as you have striven with man and God and prevailed.” This is a very strange sequence of events as it raises the queries of, who was this man? Was he an Angel? How did he know these things about Jacob? It is popular belief in the analytical biblical world that this man was indeed an Angel, however the Torah clearly states that this person is a man of the humankind.
It made me think that this strange man of the night could be a large metaphor for the internal battle that Jacob was having with himself on the eve of his confrontation with his brother, all of Jacobs actions were catching up with him and it sent him into a scene of repentance and self-evaluation.
It made me think of the internal battles we face as Jews, between our own moral compass and that of the Torah. I mentioned to a class of 11 year olds today that in the Torah it states that being gay is an abomination with a penalty of stoning to death. They were shocked and concerned that such a thing existed in a religion and tradition they were a part of, some of them new that Reform Judaism had amended that message and made it acceptable to be homosexual but they didn’t understand how or why it came to that conclusion.
Not just in our religion but also in our lives we are faced with internal conflicts and hard questions that we must justify to ourselves and others. Sometimes we choose to ignore the questions and the hardship involved when one truly enters an internal battle of right and wrong like Jacob did.
Judaism is kind of like the Monopoly game. There is a very clear rule book on how to play the game fair, there are a bunch of people watching you to make sure you don’t cheat and sometimes you can get away with pinching a few hundred pounds from the bank and no one will notice, but you are never sure of the consequences until you are caught.
The Torah is the rule book, clearly stating exactly how to live a just life, if you believe in God these rules must seem very important. Most people do not follow all the rules because they are not convinced of the consequences and the rules seem arbitrary and in this case immoral. The question is though, How do we stay Jewish and ignore the rules we don’t like? The classic pick and choose cultural Jew, are we simply just justifying being Jewish to ourselves and others because we like it? How many homosexuals will continue to call themselves Jewish? How many feminists? When is enough, enough? Or is there something more too it?
I once asked a friend who is Gay, “How can you be a part of a religion that on paper doesn’t accept you for you?” To which he replied very honeslty, “Mitch, How can you be a part of a religion and people that on paper doesn’t accept me?” He made a very fair point.
I know this is quite provocative, it is only meant spark debate. Bring it up at your Shabbat dinners tonight and see what happens. We ask the questions, you give the answers.