Jacob’s Voice

by Rabbi David Zaslow

Blind Isaac on his deathbed touches his son Jacob and says, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” Esau is the stronger brother, the hunter. Jacob, his twin, is a man of books and dreams. The two of them are an archetype of the twin parts of ourselves. For three thousand years this one line from Torah has been a shibboleth for people of Israel whenever we were on the verge of big trouble. Friends, Israel is on the verge of big trouble. We need to chant it again. By speaking with the “voice of Jacob” we never let ourselves become bitter or bigoted people. We hold onto our dream of a world where there is no hunger, oppression, or war. By having the “hands of Esau” we recognize that their are forces gathering bent on destroying Israel, and we must be prepared.

As a child I heard these words each Passover: “In every generation there are those who try to destroy us….” I never thought I would see the day when that terrifying line had meaning during my lifetime! “That was for my parents generation!” How naive I was to believe that I’d be part of the first generation in history when some monstrous power did not want to annihilate the Jews. The time has come for us to balance the dreams of our prophets with the reality of what Israel faces as a result of the Palestinian election of Hamas, and the recent proclamations by the President in Iran. The murder of athletes in Munich was just a beginning. Dozens of airline hijackings in the eighties – just a beginning. Terrorist attacks by Hamas escalated one-hundred fold after Rabin tried to make peace, and that was just a beginning. September 11 – just a beginning. The Taliban in Afghanistan were just the beginning. Arab (mostly Muslim) genocide against Blacks (mostly tribal or Christian) in Darfur – just a beginning. In almost all the local wars around the world there are Muslim radicals involved – just a beginning. Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh’s assassination – just a beginning. Violent riots and dozens of people murdered in response to a cartoon in Denmark – just a beginning. Islam is at war with itself, and at war with the world. For the time being the terrorized, victimized, silent majority within Arab countries – the moderates, the women, the mystics, and my friends – are losing.

Wahhabi(1) ideology explicitly teaches that the world is divided into two parts. Dar el-Harb is the house of War – that part of the world controlled by non-Muslims (i.e. Europe, North America) which will someday be controlled by Muslims in its vision of world domination. Then there is Dar el-Islam, any land, especially Israel, that was once controlled by Muslims which must be “returned” to Muslims immediately. James Woolsey, former CIA Director under Clinton warns us,(2) “Wahhabi ideology is…totalitarian to a unique degree in its repression of women. In 2002…religious police in Saudi Arabia forced some young girls fleeing a burning school back inside to their deaths because they were not properly veiled. This is a fanaticism that knows no bounds….Christians, Jews, and other Muslims, followers of other religions, non believers – are under absolutely no obligation to accept the Wahhabis’ and their apologiests’ claims that they represent ‘true Islam.’”

American Sufi leader Sheik Muhammead Kabbani and a few other courageous Muslims have been warning us about Islamic extremism for a long time. Woolsey writes, “We must get over this reluctance to challenge the perpetrators of…theocratic totalitarianism….[whose] objective is to unify first the Arab world under theocratic rule…then those regions that were once Muslim (e.g. Spain), then the rest of the world. Such totalitarianism seems crazy to most of us; we thus tend to underestimate their potency….the Salafists’(3) theocratic totalitarian dream has some features in common with the secular totalitarian dreams of the twentieth century, e.g. Nazis’ Thousand year Reich, or the Communists’ World Communism. Salafists…exhibit fanatic hatred of Shiite Muslims, Sufi Muslims, Jews, Christians, and democracy….The underlying Salafist ideology being spread by the Wahhabis is fanatical and murderous, indeed explicitly genocidal.”

May Hashem bless us hold onto our dream as we awaken to what is really happening in our world. Just as the leaders of the Crusades and Inquisitions did not speak for true Christianity, so these new Crusaders do no speak for true Islam. When peace loving Muslims speak out on behalf of Israel or for brotherly relationship with Jews they are risking their lives, so let us be courageous as we stand by them. They are in what will probably be a long battle for the heart and soul of their faith. In the meantime, let us speak with the voice of Jacob and not be afraid of using the hand of Esau as we exercise our obligation to protect ourselves. Peace for Israel, Ishmael, and the world – That’s the dream! May the wall protecting Israel be even stronger – that’s the sad reality.

(1) See BBC article by Roger Hardy

(2) See Woolsey’s The Elephant in the Middle East Living Room

(3) See Frontline’s Bruce Livesey’s The Salafist Movement.

(4) See also Professor Michael Doran article

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