Der Unterschied zwischen Jakow und Esaw

Was ist der Unterschied zwischen Jakow und Esaw?

Was ist der Unterschied?! Ist das nicht klar? Jakow war ein Zaddik, ein großer Mensch, und Esaw war ein Rasha, ein böser Mensch. Das ist einfach, das wissen wir alle. Aber wenn wir suchen, ein wenig tiefer gehen, was finden wir unter der Oberfläche?

Wir wissen, was geschah, als sich Jakov und Esaw nach 22 Jahren wieder getroffen haben. Vor diesem Zusammentreffen hat Jakow seinem Bruder auf dessen Weg immer wieder Geschenke entgegengesandt.
Aber Esaw wollte diese Geschenke nicht annehmen. Er sprach zu Jakow: „Ich habe schon viel, Ich brauche deine Geschenke nicht!“ Jakow erwiderte darauf: „Ja, aber ich habe alles. Ich brauche sie nicht mehr, nimm sie für dich.“
Unsere Weisen lehren uns, dass die Worte von Jakow und Esaw zwar sehr ähnlich sind, sich aber trotzdem fundamental unterscheiden. Darum können wir von hier viel lernen. Welches ist das Wort, das Esaw sagt und Jakow nicht? Esaw spricht: „ich habe viel“ dagegen sagte Jakow „ich habe alles“.
Chasal erklären uns an dieser Stelle, dass das Wort „viel“ im Gegensatz zu „alle“ der große Unterschied zwischen den Brüdern ist. Jakow meint, „ich habe alles“, „ich brauche nicht mehr“; Esaw aber sagt nur, dass er viel hat. „Viel“ ist nicht „alles“ und „viel“ ist vor allem nicht genug. Jakow vermittelt uns, wie wir mit Geld umgehen sollen: was wir bekommen haben, ist das, was wir brauchen, es reicht aus. Es ist dagegen einer der Charakterzüge von Esaw, immer mehr Geld haben zu wollen.
In Pirkei Awot sagen uns unsere Weisen: wer 100 hat, wird 200 wollen. Der, der 200 hat wird 400 wollen. Geld ist eine schlechte Sache – es macht uns gierig.

Aber das ist nicht das ganze Bild. Während Jakow Esaw entgegen zieht ereignet sich noch eine zweite Geschichte: Jakow überquert mit seiner ganzen Familie einen Fluss. Er bemerkt auf einmal, daß er zwei kleine Geschirrteile auf der anderen Seite des Flusses vergessen hat.
Brannam_jugsEigentlich hätte er da sagen müssen: „Ich habe alles was ich brauche, und jetzt habe ich dieses wertlose Geschirr auf der anderen Seite liegen lassen. Was soll’s, ich brauche dieses Geschirr nicht.“
Doch in Wirklichkeit ist er mitten in der Nacht zurückgegangen, hat nochmals den Fluß überquert und dabei sein Leben gefährdet. Warum? Für was? Nur für zwei wertlose kleine Geschirrteile? Wie können wir da sagen, dass Jakow alles gehabt hat und nicht mehr brauchte, wenn er für dieses wertlose Zeug so einen Aufwand betrieb?

Außerdem – im letzen Wochenabschnitt sprach er zu Lawan: „Ich habe viel für dich gearbeitet, wann kann ich für mich selbst arbeiten? Wann kann ich für mich Geld verdienen?“
Mehr Geld? Er hatte doch schon alles. War er vielleicht doch auch einer von denen, die 100 haben und 200 wollen? Es kann doch nicht sein, dass einer unserer Vorväter sich so gab, dass er zu anderen sprach: ‚ich habe alles’ während er zu sich selbst sagte: ich will mehr! Nein, das passt gar nicht zu ihm. Wie sollen wir diese Geschichte also verstehen?
Vielleicht hilft uns hier folgende kleine Anekdote weiter: Einst sprach ein großer Rabbiner zu seiner Gemeinde: „Wenn wir alle Gebete des jüdischen Volkes nehmen, und zusammenpressen, und immer mehr pressen, lottowas wird am Ende dabei rauskommen?“ Geld, Geld, und noch mehr Geld. „G-tt gib mir Geld! Hashem ich brauche Geld! G-tt ich habe ein großes Geschäft heute, bitte mach, dass es erfolgreich wird! Bitte lass mich im Lotto gewinnen“
Die Gemeinde war geschockt! Was wollte der Rabbiner damit sagen? Wollte er, dass sie nicht mehr beten?

Natürlich nicht! Aber sie sollten zuerst ihre Ziele und dann auch ihre Worte besser wählen: „Ich brauche Geld um Zedaka zu geben. Ich brauche Geld um koscheres Essen zu kaufen. Ich brauche Geld, um meine Kinder jüdisch erziehen lassen zu können. Ich brauche Geld, um den jüdischen Staat unterstützen zu können!“

Geld nicht um des Geldes willen, sondern Geld, um jüdisch zu leben – darum geht es!
Und dann ist Geld nicht mehr nur noch Geld, sondern es verändert sich, es wird zur Mizwe. Denn unsere Gebete um Geld, unsere Bitten, mit Reichtum gesegnet zu werden, sie sind ja nun richtig ausgerichtet: wir wollen all das, um unsere Mitzwot erfüllen zu können und nicht, um einfach nur reich zu sein.

Mit Jakow war es genauso: Er hat seinen Reichtum nur für seinen Glauben verwendet. Um jüdisch zu sein und jüdisch zu leben, hat er eben auch Geld gebraucht und Hashem hat ihm viel davon gegeben. Aber Jakow hat im Gegenzug verstanden: Dieses viele Geld, es ist nicht da, damit ich in Luxus lebe, es ist da, damit ich Mitzwot halte! Deshalb ist er auch für die eigentlich nicht sehr wertvollen Geschirrteile umgekehrt und hat noch einmal den gefährlichen Fluß überquert. Er wußte: „Wenn G-tt mir dieses Geschirr gegeben hat, dann hatte es eine Bedeutung, dann hatte es den Zweck, daß ich damit Mitzwot erfülle. Es ist nicht überflüssig, ich kann es nicht einfach liegenlassen.“

Und jetzt verstehen wir auch seine Bitte an Lawan: Er wollte, nein, er mußte viel Geld verdienen. Und warum? Er hatte 12 Kinder, denen er ein jüdisches Leben mit Mizwot ermöglichen mußte. Jakow hat das Geld gebraucht, um diese wichtige Aufgabe zu erfüllen.
Esaw dagegen hat Geld nur gebraucht um des Geldes Willen. Deswegen hat Jakow sagen können: „Ich habe alles“ und Esaw nur: „ich habe viel“.

Mögen wir alle erkennen und viel Geld bekommen, damit wir unsere Aufgabe erfüllen können!

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Is blue a Jewish colour?

What does blue make you think of? The colour that is, not the band!

In football, it could mean Chelsea, Manchester City, or Everton, amongst others. In politics, it would be the Tories. In technology it could mean most social media platforms. In nationalities, it could mean Scotland, Australia and of course Israel, to name but a few.

What does blue mean in Judaism? Obviously, the first thing that springs to mind is our homeland, with its blue flag. However, there must be a ‘blue’ that dates back further than that. In fact, if there is, this may well be where our national flag gets its blue from.

Western_Wall_-_by_Jacob_RaskLet’s look for blue in the Torah. When one thinks synagogue and blue, the Tallit, the prayer shawl, is probably the first thing one thinks of. A Tallit has stripes on it. Many people wear a Tallit with blue stripes, others wear with black, whilst there are those that wear ones with multi-coloured stripes. Where do these stripes come from and what are their purpose? That the blue of the Tallit is derived from Israeli national colours seems unlikely, as there are Tellitot that are older than the state that also have blue stripes. Rather, the blue colours of the state seem to come from the Tallit. The question that follows is therefore, where did the Tallit get its blue stripes from?

At the end of this week’s Torah-portion, we read how the mitzva of Tzitzit was given to the Jewish people. The Torah teaches that G-d told Moses that any four-cornered piece of clothing requires Tzitzit-strings on each corner. What do the Tzitzit-strings actually comprise of? The Torah teaches that there are four strings doubled over (through the hole in the corner of the clothing), and tying together, thus we end up with eight strings. One of these strings, writes the Torah, must be dyed blue. This is the first time we meet the colour blue in Scripture, with regard to our daily life. (The other time is with regard to the clothing of the priests, especially the high-priest.) It seems to follow that the blue on a Tallit stemmed from these blue strings, coupled with the fact that we don’t put blue on our strings anymore, and the idea that one should have a nice Tallit.

To understand the meaning of blue in Judaism, we must understand this blue Tzitzit-string. Why do we put blue on our Tzitzit? The explanation given is that Tzitzit are supposed to remind us of our Father in Heaven. How do they do this? The blue of the Tzitzit-strings reminds us of the sea. The blue of the sea reminds us of the blue sky (think Mediterranean). beach panoramaThe blue of the sky reminds us of the blue Heaven. This in turn reminds us the blue Heavenly ‘throne’ that G-d sits on, which in turn reminds us of G-d – if you haven’t already lost track of what’s going on.

Wait a minute, what IS going on? The Tzitzit-string is dyed blue. G-d’s ‘throne’ is blue. Why all the stages in between to lose us, why can’t the blue thread remind us directly of G-d Himself? The answer is simple, yet deep at the same time. What the Tzitzit are teaching us, is that we are constantly in G-d’s presence, as He is everywhere, always. The idea of wearing Tzitzit is the idea that we know and understand that G-d is constantly with us. This however, does not mean the same thing for everyone. How we understand that G-d is always with us, and how we run our lives according to that can be very different. However, one thing is clear, if G-d is there with us the whole time, we are constantly striving towards getting closer and understanding Him more. It’s like marriage, one is constantly working on understanding their spouse more and more, but at the end of the day, men and women are wired so differently, that one can never understand the opposite gender entirely. So too, with understanding what G-d wants from us, there are so many levels that we can attain in understanding and appreciating His constant presence with us. This is why we are not so worried about losing people on this roundabout way, from the Tzitzit to G-d, as we are worried of people thinking, “since I can’t see how Tzitzit should remind me about G-d, Judaism is not relevant to me.”

blue tzitzitHence, the colour blue is teaching us a very important and relevant message. Blue in Judaism means “take your time”. You are not expected to look at the blue Tzitzit-string and immediately think, “Oh, G-d’s watching over me.” Rather, by looking at the blue, you think that on whatever level you are, there is something that you can do to get closer to G-d. By doing that thing on your level, you are achieving your own level of perfection and greatness, which is what G-d wants. So, if when you look at the Tzitzit, you think of the beach, it is ok. You are not expected to see further, at the moment. However, when you have progressed, and you already know more, then you may be expected to already see the sky too, eventually reaching the highest level, where you get all the way to thinking of G-d, living one’s life with a constant understanding that G-d is there with you all day long.

So, what is the meaning of blue in Judaism? I’d suggest it is the most important colour. It means take your time, work at what you can work. This means something different for each and every one of us. It is no wonder therefore that the Luchot, the Tablets with the Ten Commandments, were made of blue sapphire. How is one expected to keep the Ten Commandments, which are effectively a table of contents for the entire Torah? In stages. Look at where you are now, work on what you can now, and only then can you move on to something bigger, something greater. We may never get a chance to achieve the ultimate level, however, we are not all expected to achieve the same lofty levels, rather each of us is in this world on his level, to achieve the best that he can achieve.

(Maybe that’s why blue is currently the colour-scheme of my blog, as this is something I truly believe in and stand for, individualism.)

Can an All-German Champions League final on English soil be reason for English fans to celebrate?

There’s no denying it, England has viewed Germany as their greatest football rival since the beginning of time, or at least ‘football-time’. Now, with two German football giants about to pay a visit to Wembley for the
Champions League final, what are English fans supposed to be thinking?!

There’s an old joke, that whilst the pessimist and the optimist are busy arguing over whether the glass is half empty or half full, the realist walks over and drinks it. Whilst football pundits are arguing over who is going to win, and how English fans are reacting to an all-German Champions League final on English territory, I’d like to point out a reason for English fans to be celebrating. No less than half the players who will be present at this match are guaranteed to lose! Is that not a reason to celebrate? With 100% odds that a German team will lose this match, should this not be a dream come true for English fans?

In truth, it is not quite so simple. There is a very interesting story in the Talmud (Berachot 65b). When the Talmudic Sage Rava became ill, he kept it secret for one day. The second day though, he allowed his illness to become public knowledge. Rava explained that when everyone found out he was ill, the following reactions would occur. Those who felt bad for him would pray for his recovery, whilst those who hated him would get excited. He then quoted the verse in Proverbs (24:17-18) “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; do not rejoice in your heart when they stumble, for G-d will see and disapprove, and He will turn His wrath away from the enemy.” It seems that Rava wanted his enemies to gloat over his downfall, thus removing any reason that G-d may have had to make him ill. This would grant him an immediate recovery.

Why is this so? It seems that gloating is so bad, that G-d will remove any reason to gloat if one were to do so. But what is so terrible about gloating? There is an interesting piece in the Torah (Exodus 23:4-5), where it discusses what to do when one finds an enemy’s animal that is in trouble, whether it got lost, or is overloaded. The Torah stipulates that although it is the property of an enemy, one must assist the owner, by returning or unloading the animal. Obviously, the same would apply whether or not it is an enemy’s animal. Why then does the Torah specifically refer to an enemy’s animal in these cases? The Torah isover_loaded_donkey teaching us two things.
Firstly, one must even help an enemy.
Secondly, the fact that this is an enemy makes one even more obligated to assist them. There is a natural tendency to avoid one’s enemies. This opportunity though, may be divinely orchestrated to recant all prejudices they may have about this enemy, thereby achieving peace. When one gloats over their enemy, they reinforce any
prejudices they have. By assisting their
enemy, they can repair their relationship.

However, that is not all. A more extreme example of this idea is seen on Passover. Although there are eight days of Passover (outside Israel), only on the first two do we say the entire Hallel. After that we only say the ‘shortened version’ (like on Rosh Chodesh). The Yalkut Shim’oni (Proverbs 24:17) explains that this is because Passover ends with the Egyptians drowning. It is not right that we celebrate the Passover festival in its entirety when others, even our enemies, were suffering. Though this is extremely difficult, to feel the pain of an enemy who hurt us, something may be within our reach. If we need an incentive, we have it too! In Proverbs, we are warned not to gloat over an enemy’s downfall, as if so, G-d may turn the tide, and we will suffer instead. It is not simply because G-d doesn’t want us gloating, He wants us to reconcile with our enemies, achieving true peace. This is why gloating is so terrible that anything that may be
remotely viewed as gloating (such as saying the entire Hallel on Passover) is not done. Not only is it a missed opportunity for reconciliation, it is the exact opposite, it nurtures and increases the hatred between enemies.

Though this will not be happening with regard to English and German fans (at least not so quickly…), there are points that can be applied to our situation. It may not be within our reach to celebrate when a German team wins the Champions League, which is quite understandable. However, we should not allow ourselves to celebrate that a German team loses on English soil. From the connotations of Proverbs, if we want an All-English final in Lisbon next year, it seems like a good idea to cheer along with the German fans. If we cannot, we should at least not gloat over the losing team. Though this may not bring about the peace that G-d wants, it is a way to internalise the idea of peace. Through not gloating here, we may be able to stop gloating about personal downfalls too. This will bring about the peace that Proverbs wants us to achieve. So, sorry, but there’s only one reason for English fans to cheer about an All-German final, and that is simply the fact that it is on English soil! A small celebration perhaps, but it is certainly better than gloating over our greatest football rivals.

CL_Ball

That’s a long aliya!

Last week I blogged about how long the Megilla is. This week it’s about how long the first two aliyot are!

Torah_ScrollIf you looked in this week’s Torah portion (Ki Tisa), you’ll have notice that the first two aliyot go on forever! If not, then be warned, the first two aliyot are extremely long. Is the Torah portion long this week? Well, yes, but that’s not the answer, the first two aliyot cover over two thirds of the entire Torah reading.

This seems like some kind of deliberate way of putting those who are not a Kohen or Levi on the sidelines, giving the lion-share of the Torah reading to the Kohen and Levi. Is that fair?

Let’s analyse the content of these two aliyot.
Though the first one is as long as the second, it is not so interesting. It is ‘only’ about creating things for the Tabernacle. The excitement only really begins in the second aliya. It is here that we read about the Golden Calf. We read how the Jews gave up on Moses returning from Sinai, creating and worshipping an idol. We read what happened when Moses came back down mountain, how he called all those who had been faithful to punish those who had not. The second aliyah ends when the shame and embarrassment of the Jews is over, and Moses is asking G-d to forgive the Jews. It seems that we are deliberately avoiding allowing an Israelite to be called up to this piece about the Golden Calf. This is especially apparent, as the aliyah ends as soon as the sin of the Golden Calf is over.

This is in fact exactly what is happening. We are avoiding giving an Israelite (myself included) an aliyah that contains the Golden Calf saga. Why should we do this?

Imagine you knew somebody who regularly committed certain crimes. He has since renounced such a lifestyle, and is living as a fine upstanding citizen. One day there is a major news story of somebody who has been caught, doing exactly what this person did. Would you feel comfortable discussing the events with them? How about if this person himself was a news sensation for their crime. Would you leave any information about that story lying around when you knew this person was going to visit? Surely you would hide away any reminder of this person’s previous crime.

When we read this week’s Torah portion, we are reading of a terrible sin committed by the Jewish people. A mere forty days after receiving the Torah, they turn to idol worship. What could have done worse?! After renouncing such actions and returning to where they were previously, do you think any Jew wants to hear about this story again?

Golden_CalfWell, it is in the Torah, it is something for us to learn from, and we read it every year. It is not the most pleasant piece to read, and we do not really want to call up someone who might be offended by this misdeed.

Who can we turn to if all the Jews participated in this misdeed? When Moses came down from Sinai, what was his call to arms? ‘Those who were true to G-d, those who did not commit idol worship, should join with me.’ Who stepped forward? The entire tribe of Levi. Not one Levite committed this misdeed, they all remained true to their faith. If so, it is only fitting that a Levite be given the story of the Golden Calf, so as not to remind those who failed in the past of their failings.

This is absolutely amazing! We worry about the shame of the descendants of something that happened over three thousand years ago! This shows just how far we must go to protect the feelings of others.