In this week's Torah portion, we read of a small gift Father Jacob sends to the Viceroy of Egypt:
If that's the way it has to be, then take clippings from the Land of Israel down to Egypt in your pack, a gift for the great man: some balm, some honey, spices and lotus flower, peanuts and almonds. [Genesis 43:11]OK, so let's get this straight: Ancient Israel is in the middle of a record-breaking, devastating famine. The only place with food is Egypt, and Jacob is sending the Viceroy of Egypt, the guy who controls the food supply for the entire planet, a gift of...food?
And why specifically those foods?
With those gifts, Jacob is sending a message to the Viceroy of Egypt. If the clippings of the Land of Israel could talk, this is what they might say:
It is true that at this moment in time you appear to hold all the cards. You have food where others have none; you are prosperous, you are powerful, you are influential. But your power is like the food you control, once it is consumed, it is gone forever.
Not so the Land of Israel and her gifts. Balm, honey, spices, perfumes, nuts - all are used in small amounts, yet endure for long periods of time. Israel is a land of enduring gifts, minute in quantity, but priceless in quality.
So Mr. High-and-Mighty Viceroy: don't be so sure that you hold all the cards, we in Israel have a few of our own.All over the United States, Jews are gathering to say extra chapters of Psalms and to pray for peace, troubled by the latest rampaging paroxysm of Islamo-fascist murder in Israel and other locales around the world. And that is laudatory as far as it goes.
But as we focus on the latest terror attacks in Israel, as our rabbis sermonize about the crisis-of-the-week in the Israeli headlines, the impression begins to solidify in the American Jewish psyche that Israel is a dangerous place for Jews to live; certainly much more dangerous than the affluent American suburbs that most American Jews call home.
Jacob's clippings gently remind us that nothing could be farther from the truth: Jews and Judaism in Israel are actually thriving, while Jews and Judaism in America are rapidly disappearing.
Don't believe me? Read the Guttman/Israel Democracy Institute Study of Israeli Jewry, then contrast those results with the Pew Research Center's 2013 Study of American Judaism.
It's a little like two jet planes passing in the sky: jet "A" is ascending, but is passing through some turbulence to attain altitude, while jet "B" is enjoying a glass smooth descent - straight into the ocean. And...the passengers of jet "B" are fervently praying for jet "A" to have less turbulence.
Which plane would you rather be on? And who should be praying for whom?
Maybe the nuts on the plane aren't only the in-flight snack.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah.