"Let my lord go ahead of his servant" Genesis 33:14


Cruel and relentless killings in Israel continue to shake us to the very core of our personal and collective being. In the freeze frame between the ominous portent of Jacob's invitation to Esau to journey ahead of him, and the future-shock identity of Esau as arch enemy (36:1), the parashah leaves us in uneasy limbo. If Esau goes ahead of Jacob and conquers the world, how will God's covenantal promise to Jacob be fulfilled? (32:10-14); and what is the meaning of Obadiah's prophetic vision in the haftarah that "saviours will ascend Mount Zion to judge Esau's mountain, and the kingdom will be the Lord's" (1:21)?

The history of Jewish survival has shown that the blood of destruction is inextricably bound up with regeneration. Jacob, who understood that the triumph of Jewish destiny would be its ultimate emergence from the grip of Edom, let Esau go ahead. This elicited from God the repetition of His covenantal promise to Jacob that "a nation and a congregation of nations and kings shall descend from your loins" (35:11).

In each generation wherever Jews have suffered the ghastly trials of successive Edoms, God's promise, sometimes almost extinguished, has accompanied them as it did Jacob, and as it accompanies us now.

Our task is to act in the transformative name of Jacob whom God renamed Israel (35:10) to vanquish the Edom around us and rebuild what Esau and his progeny (36:8-43) have decimated. Through heartfelt prayer, unflagging hope, wise judgment and undaunted courage, we will bring Obadiah's prophecy to fruition and "the House of Jacob will be a fire and the House of Joseph a flame - and the House of Esau like straw" (1:18).

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