There is a tradition within Judaism that all actions in the world can be viewed through the lens of the Torah reading of the week. Based upon that premise, each of these columns is to help us understand the politics of the world through a biblical lens.
As we enter even more “impeachment hearings” this week with the House Judiciary Committee, even many on the left are getting tired of what is obviously a kangaroo court similar to something that might have been found in the old Soviet Union. The first set of private hearings by the Intelligence Committee (whose name now seems like an oxymoron given how Adam Schiff ran the proceedings) was done in secret in a downstairs bunker. The public hearings were a farce: complete with refusals for the Republicans to call or fully question witnesses, the protection of certain witnesses to aid Schiff’s narrative, and a complete shutdown of any legitimate questions by Republicans.
Now we enter a stage with the Judiciary Committee calling academics as witnesses to justify the articles of impeachment that Congressman Nadler intends on presenting. The verdict is already in, and it would seem that we are watching a stage play that is badly acted to justify the impeachment that has been desired by the left since before President Trump was even inaugurated. Not only does it seem that the odds are against any form of justice prevailing, but it appears as if there is nothing left to happen except the foregone conclusion of impeachment by the House, and the ultimate divisiveness of this nation that will accompany such a process.
But in this week’s Torah reading we are reminded that there is no such thing as a “foregone conclusion,” no matter how it may at first seem. “Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for the awe of heaven.” This famous dictate from the Talmud (Tractate Berachot 33b) is a reminder about where control really lies, it is a comment that we must all remember as these kangaroo court hearings continue, and it is beautifully demonstrated not once but twice in the text that is read both last and this coming week (Gen. 28:10-36:43).
We read in the text about how Jacob has fled Canaan in fear for his life at the hands of his brother Esau. He goes to the land of his uncle Laban, and eventually marries, has children, and prospers there. But Laban doesn’t want his nephew to leave as he has brought great prosperity to Laban. So Jacob sneaks away with his family and possessions, and Laban goes to pursue him when he realizes what Jacob has done. Laban has more people, power, and physical might than Jacob, and it seems as if Jacob will either die or be forced to return to Laban and continue being an indentured servant.
But God intercedes and directly speaks to Laban in a dream, telling him not to harm Jacob. When the two men do meet, it seems as if all the odds are against Jacob and things will not go well. But because of God’s intervention, ultimately Jacob and Laban reach an accord. They agree to stay out of each other’s lands, and that they will act ethically with each other for all time, even setting up a stone mound as a witness of their treaty. They do not become friends, but no longer is there danger or dispute between them.
Against what seems like impossible odds, Jacob is kept safe and a treaty is formed between him and Laban.
A similar event happens later in the same text. Jacob, who is returning to Canaan, is hesitant that his brother Esau still wants to kill him. When Jacob learns that Esau is coming to meet him with four hundred men, he becomes terrified, and splits his camp in preparations for war so that at least some of his camp will survive what seems like the inevitable slaughter by Esau. As Esau approaches with his large entourage, Jacob goes in front of the rest of his family and presents himself before Esau…convinced that his brother would now finally kill him.
But the unforeseen happens and Esau has no desire to harm his brother Jacob. Esau (according to the Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai as well as Rashi) suddenly finds mercy aroused in his soul and he kisses Jacob with all his heart. The uncouth Esau realizes at the last moment that he actually wants nothing from Jacob. And so Esau returns back to his home, and Jacob is again preserved against seemingly overwhelming odds.
This text teaches us to have faith and be in “awe of heaven” especially in the most challenging times. Currently, it seems as if the corruption and values of the left are about to tear this country apart. The impeachment hearings are not bipartisan in any way, and practices like HR660 are intentionally divisive. Democratic presidential candidates are pushing farther and farther into socialism, race divisiveness, anti-Semitism, and other practices that are antithetical to the traditional values that have made America great for over two centuries. At first glance, it appears that the nation that so many of us grew up in and cherish will never survive the dangers coming from the left, and that the country that we will leave to our children will be significantly different, in a negative way, than the one we grew up in.
But we must take the teachings of these stories of Jacob to heart and continue to have faith. Jacob’s faith ultimately leads to the nation of Israel, both ancient and modern, and from him descends the entire Jewish world. Today and especially this week, it can be hard to have faith that somehow the Democratic party will once again shift to a party that, although opposing Republican policies, has the same underlying values of mediation, bi-partisanship, dialogue, and traditional American values. But it is imperative that we remember Jacob’s experiences, and choose to have faith that everything really is “in the hands of heaven.”
We can surrender to the current left’s practices or quit the country and move overseas. Or we can choose to have faith, continue to passionately pursue justice, and hope to bring the left back toward the center; making our country more diverse and unified at the same time.
It sounds unfathomable and as if it would take a miracle, but Jacob’s stories remind us that miracles do happen.
David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, famously once said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” As it was true for him in Israel or for our ancestor Jacob in Canaan, it is still true for us. In order to believe that America will survive and thrive, we must choose to believe in miracles.
May we all make the choice to have faith in the Divine Providence for this nation that our founding fathers often referred to, to remember the unforeseen miracles that supported Jacob, and to believe in the miracles that are needed for this country to become whole again…filled with balance, harmony, and peace.
Rabbi Michael Barclay is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, CA (www.NerSimcha.org); the author of “Sacred Relationships: Biblical Wisdom for Deepening Our Relationships Together”; and can be reached directly at [email protected]