Nations Of The World Can Come Together In Unity And Harmony, A Truly United Nations… [Parshat Vayishlach By Rabbi Zalman Lent]

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… but he (Jacob) said, “I will not let you go unless you have blessed me,” … and he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel …”  

– Gen 32:27/29

This week’s Parsha is one full of drama, including the two showdowns with the Patriarch Yaakov (Jacob), the kidnap and assault of Dina and the death of Rachel in childbirth. Let’s take a closer look at Yaakov and his two tense encounters. En route home from Charan after two decades away, and travelling with a large family and massive numbers of livestock, Yaakov is finally set to meet his older twin Eisav, a violent man from whom he had fled all those years ago.

Right before meeting Eisav, whilst fording his family and possessions over the River Jabbok, Yaakov is attacked by a mysterious figure we are told is an angel of Eisav. They wrestle through the night, neither able to achieve victory. At dawn they agree to separate, but Yaakov holds on until he gets a blessing from this spiritual assailant. The angel changes his name from Yaakov to Yisrael (Israel), and Yaakov survives with a limp, and a new name. His meeting with Eisav goes a little better, as Eisav is placated by all the gifts he sends and makes peace with the brother he sought to kill.

In the United Nations this Thursday, an interpreter thought her microphone was off while chatting to her colleagues. Reacting to the General Assembly’s adoption of NINE resolutions condemning Israel and zero about the rest of the world, she spoke her mind, accidentally speaking it into the ears of every single UN delegate, telling them something they sorely needed to be told:

“I think when you have like a total of ten resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there’s gotta be something … c’est un peu trop, non? [It’s a bit much, isn’t it?] I mean I know there’s other really bad  ****  happening, but no one says anything about the other stuff.”

Then she realised she was live, and quickly apologised.

Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch, in Geneva, Switzerland. He writes:

By the end of its annual legislative session next month, the General Assembly will have adopted a total of 22 resolutions condemning Israel – and only four on the rest of the world combined. The hypocrisy, selectivity, and politicization are staggering … the UN adopted a resolution today that mentions the word “Syria” no less than 10 times – yet said nothing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s massacre of more than 100,000 of his own people.

Entitled “Occupied Syrian Golan,” the resolution condemned Israel for allegedly mistreating Syrian citizens in the Golan Heights. The UN found no time today, however, to comment on the international legality of President Assad gassing his own citizens to death.

As it will soon do again by a second, redundant resolution on the Golan, the General Assembly today called on Israel to hand over the Golan Heights, and its citizens, to Syria. Now, whatever one’s view on who rightfully owns the Golan, for the UN at this particular moment to call for anyone to be handed over to Assad’s rule—even as his massacres continue unabated—is both logically absurd and morally obscene. With Israeli hospitals now treating dozens of Syrians who escaped their country’s bloodbath, the resolution is simply surreal.

Our Sages told us generations ago that built into the genetics of the world is an automatic mentality of Eisav Soneh Le’Yaakov – that the “Esau’s” of the world will always hate the “Jacob’s” of the world. In today’s parsha, Jacob is renamed Israel, and sadly we see that hatred of Esau to Israel every day around the globe.

So what do we do?

Firstly we need to increase our goodness and kindness, in our Torah study and our level of mitzvah performance. Through those we try to refine the world spiritually. Then we learn from Yaakov/Israel’s behavior with someone who sought to destroy him. In preparation for his meeting with Eisav he did three things: He prayed to G-d, sent generous gifts to Eisav, then he prepared to fight and defend himself physically.

This, say the Sages, is the way to act with those who profess to act like Eisav; first we pray that we should not have conflict, only peace and tolerance between all nations on earth. If that fails we act in generosity, with deference and respect. But when our overtures are rejected, and enmity and threats continue, then we must defend ourselves in the best way we can whether verbal, political or physical.

With so many tragedies going on in the world, with the horrors in the Philippines now top of the list, and with the threats to world peace that are out there, with Iran’s nuclear weaponisation taking pole position, let’s pray that what the interpreter spoke directly into the ears of every single UN delegate this week is something they will start to take seriously. Then hopefully the nations of the world can come together in unity and harmony, a truly United Nations, together to care and protect one another, and to live in harmony and tolerance as G-d’s children. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Zalman Lent


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