Israel Forever

For the week ending 10 December 2011 / 13 Kislev 5772

The Strategy of Survival

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

When the Talmudic Sage Rabbi Yanai traveled to Rome as a representative of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael, which was under Roman rule, he first carefully reviewed this week's Torah portion. Aware that the relationship between his ancestor — the Patriarch Yaakov — and the ancestor of the Romans — Esav — was a preview of the relations between their descendants, this Sage studied the strategy thus described in Parshat Vayishlach.

When Esav offered to accompany Yaakov, or at least assign some of his people to escort him, Yaakov diplomatically rejected the offer. From this Rabbi Yanai learned to always make sure that no Romans escorted him on his return. The one time that he had to leave for Rome in such a hurry that he did not have time to review Parshat Vayishlach, he made the mistake of allowing some Romans to accompany him. The midrash relates that by the time they reached the Port of Akko, he lost his coat to them.

It has wisely been said that "nations have no ideologies, only interests." The particular interest of the heirs of Esav throughout history has been to deprive Jews of their possessions and even their lives.

This is as true today as it was in the time of Yaakov and Rabbi Yanai and it is therefore important for those responsible for Israel's foreign affairs to remember the strategy of maintaining proper diplomatic relations while carefully avoiding putting their faith in anyone but G-d to secure Israel forever.

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