“And Jacob approached Isaac his father, who felt him and said: ‘The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.'”
The voice of our father Jacob is the voice of reconciliation, of kindness, of reason; the hands of Esau are the hands of violence, of impulse, of falsehood.
As Jews we strive to be children of Jacob–renamed Israel when he struggled with God–and to use our words, our intellect and compassion, our vision of a better world to counteract the violence that surrounds us.
Our sages noted a play on words in the Hebrew text: The phrase “haqol qol ya`aqov — the voice is the voice of Jacob” can also be read “heqel qol ya`aqov” meaning “when the voice of Jacob is stilled, then the hands are the hands of Esau.” When the voice of compassion and intelligence is silent, the forces of violence win out. When we sit back and wish away those who call for political murder, pull guns, call us “bloodsuckers,” paint swastikas on public buildings–when we still the voice of Jacob, then the hands that act will be those of Esau.
In addressing the insensitivity shown by Governor Rowland in his Thanksgiving Proclamation which implied that the festival is a Christian festival, we need to be consistant and persistant in attempting to persuade others of the importance and virtue of our vision of a society in which various groups can live together with understanding and respect. In our every conversation we must be the gentle voice of reason and morality. While that voice is not always heard, if it persists it will eventually prevail for truth is inherently more powerful that falsehood.
The old joke has it that each person in Israel thinks that they are the President. The beauty of the reality behind that joke is that indeed each person feels a great responsibility toward the nation. Some things are just too important to be left to our leaders.
Unfortunately, “the Jews” don’t control the press; if we did, certain people would be getting much less coverage, or at least much more critical coverage. But each of us can speak, write or act in ways that consistently advocate the elimination of prejudice and hatred, that promote mutual respect and tolerance. While we have a few organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and leaders who speak out courageously when others are silent, they can never say enough. Each of us must make heard the voice of Jacob.
(c) Jon-Jay Tilsen