Know our place
There is a fascinating Midrashic interpretation in this week's pershah about the dramatic encounter between Yacob and Esav. The Torah says, "And Esav ran towards him (Yacob) and embraced him… and he kissed him." The Hebrew word for "and he kissed him" is vayishakayhu. In the Torah, this word is written with a line of dots above it. Says the Midrash Yalkut Shimoni: these dots are there to indicate that the word should be read it differently; not vayishakayhu, he kissed him, but rather vayishachayhu, he bit him!
How can we understand a Midrash which seems to change the entire meaning of the word? A kiss is an expression of love and a bite is the opposite! Says the Sfat Emet "When Esav kisses, Yacob is bitten!"
The American experience confirms beyond a shadow of a doubt that freedom, democracy and equal rights, while a wonderful blessing for Jews for which we should be eternally grateful, also present a profound challenge to our Jewish identity and way of life. In the melting pot of the United States, Jews have integrated so successfully that they are virtually disappearing! Success and affluence are wonderful gifts of opportunity, but American Jewry doesn’t seem to be passing the test of faith with flying colors.
Although our illustrious community has fared better than most Baruch Hashem, it is only through our strong devotion to tradition and Torah study that can keep us from falling victim to the downside of Westernization.