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November 30, 2004

This Era's Esau

Mixing religion and politics for this one. Jews divide up the Five Books of Moses into weekly readings, or "Parshas", and we complete all five books each year. These do not correspond to the chapter numbers you may be used to; those were added by later Christian commentators, and it's interesting to see where they differ. Often one line that marks the beginning of a numbered chapter is actually the last line of a Parsha. At some points, I'll probably post something a little more extensive on those differences.

This past week's Parsha has something particularly relevant to Israel's situation today.

The reading is called "Vayishlach," after the first distinctive word in the section, and comes from Genesis. It's the section where Jacob, having married, is getting ready to head back to Canaan. Later on, during the night before his meeting with his estranged brother Esau, Jacob wrestles with an angel. The match is inconclusive, although Jacob's survival is considered something of a victory.

One particular interpretation of the events is striking. Jacob asks the Angel his name, and the Angel refuses to answer. In fact, tradition has it that the angel is the Satan, or accuser, the eternal enemy of the Jewish people. (Satan acquires other characteristics later on, in Christian theology, but those obviously don't concern us now.)

When Jacob is asking for the Angel's name, he's really asking for some hint as to his identity, his mission, and how he might defeat him. The Angel, by refusing to answer, is saying, "it doesn't matter." And the fact is, anti-Semitism has taken all sorts of forms, embedded in all sorts of religious and political ideologies, having in common only their anti-semitism.

The trick, the problem, is in recognizing the current threat. Now it's Islamofascism, but the institutions, and the "community leaders" are often slow to pick up on this, feeling more comfortable instead in confronting threats that they're already familiar with.

A case in point. The local head of the ADL out here wrote a letter to the local Jewish newspaper warning us to be on the lookout for a regional Nazi organization with delusions of grandeur, including plans to infiltrate the political parties and local governments.

Mr. DeBoskey seems to have missed the fact that anti-Semitism has already found a home in one of the major political parties, and that it comes not from the Right, but from the Left. In the meantime, we've got radical Muslims prowling the streets of Gaza and the West Bank, being funded from Riyadh, armed from Cairo, and called heroes in Turtle Bay.

There's a war on. It's a shame Mr. DeBoskey insists on fighting the last one.

Posted by joshuasharf at November 30, 2004 12:03 PM | TrackBack

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