Rationally, it is hard to understand why the world cares so much about what is happening in Israel. There are bigger conflicts in other parts of the world, but everyone is obsessed with Israel. One tiny little country surround by Arab countries hundreds of times as large. Rabbi Yissochor Frand quotes a fascinating insight from Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner. In 1970, the PLO hijacked three planes and they ultimately landed in Jordan where they remained until a deal was worked out with Israel. Rav Hutner was one of the hostages who sat on one of those planes for a week.
When he returned to America, he noted that there is a major difference between the descendants of Eisav (generally the Christian world) and the descendants of Yishmael (the Arab and Muslim world). While Christians have persecuted the Jews, it wasn’t about the land. It was about religion or pure anti-semitism, but not with the goal of taking over the land. The Arabs and Muslims on the other hand have always been obsessed with the land of Israel. Despite its small size and lack of resources, they have invested a lot of blood and money in trying to control this small strip of land. Why do they care so much?
The answer lies in this week’s Parsha – Vayishlach. At the very end of the Parsha, the Torah lists all of the Chiefs of Eisav’s descendants and ends with the words “These are the Chiefs of Edom by their settlements, in the land of their possession – he is Eisav, father of Edom” (36:43). This whole section seems to be superfluous. Rav Hutner points out that the Torah is emphasizing that Eisav had land that belonged to them and had been given to Eisav as an inheritance. The Christian world had been given land through Avraham and Yitzchak and never felt the need to claim Israel as their own. Yishmael, on the other hand, was never given any land. Avraham had sent him away with some gifts, but no land. Yishmael lived in “their open cities and by their strongholds”. (25:16) They have never gotten over their resentment of us as the descendants of Yitzchak. We received land and they did not. As a result, despite having numerous countries with so much land that they make Israel look like a dot on the map, they will always feel the sting of having been sent off without being given a portion of land as an inheritance or gift. Rav Hutner is telling us that the issue is not about religion, and it isn’t even about the land for its own sake. It is rooted in resentment and that is almost impossible to appease.
When dealing with other people and especially our own children, we must be very careful not to create resentment. The results can be extremely damaging and last a lifetime. On the flip side, we should work hard on ourselves to avoid feeling resentment as it makes it impossible for us to peacefully co-exist with others. Focus on the blessings we have and not on what we think we are missing.
Rabbi Shaps and the JET Team