A few weeks ago we read the portion of the Torah called Toldos. I happen to know it well because it is my bar-mitzvah parshah. (I might even know it by heart.) And yet, although I am familiar with every word, I totally missed a major message that we need to learn from.
If people would ask you what Toldos is about, your answer would be simple: the birth of Yaakov and Eisav, the dispute that Yitzchak had regarding some wells, and the major episode of Yaakov “stealing” (but not really) the brachah away from Eisav. While that is correct, this summary misses a simple but very significant episode in Jewish history.
Avimelech – king of the Philistines in G’rar (near the modern city of Ashkelon) – tells Yitzchak to leave. His orders are direct and simple: “Go away from us” (B’reishis 26:16). Yet, in that same chapter, that same King Avimelech comes back to Yitzchak! Our father Yitzchak is puzzled and asks; “Why have you come to me? You hate me; you drove me away from you!” (26:27).
Allow me to modernize Yitzchak’s question in my own words: “You threw me out, you condemn me in the UN, you despise me, you are pro-BDS, you are anti-Semitic, you support Hamas… so why have you come to me? What do you want from me?” The answer that King Avimelech gives is nothing less than incredible, and I can’t believe I missed it all these years. Here is what he says: “We have indeed seen that G-d is with you… Let us make a treaty with you… You are the one blessed by G-d” (26:28-29). Yitzchak responds positively to this request, makes them a feast, and Avimelech leaves in peace.
What just happened here? Let’s take a moment to analyze this story. A king who hates the Jews comes back, asking for a treaty, and why? Not because he recognizes that we are good, decent people or that he suddenly loves Jews. An anti-Semitic king comes running to the Jews because he recognizes that G-d is with us! “You are the one blessed by G-d,” says this evil king, and he truly believes that you don’t mess with someone like that. In other words, when the Jewish leader – in this case, Yitzchak – lives his life and leads his people with the name of Hashem as his guiding light, the entire world will eventually recognize and accept that fact. The same nations of the world that condemn us daily in the UN and send money to Hamas and Hezbollah will one day run to Jerusalem to make peace with us.
I have spoken in over 500 Jewish communities
around the world, and the number-one complaint I receive
is about Israel’s horrible public relations
Am I crazy or do I truly believe what Y’shayahu HaNavi said? “My House (the Beis HaMikdash) will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Y’shayahu 56:7) These powerful words are said on Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and all fast days before Sh’ma Koleinu. It means that the entire world will one day recognize that we are the chosen people, truly blessed by Hashem, and they will come to Jerusalem to sing these praises! That’s right: All the Israel-bashing nations will stop their hatred and unite their voices in blessing the one and only G-d! So what do we do in the meantime, sit around and wait? Absolutely not! If this is what the world is waiting for, let’s give it to them now! But there’s a problem.
I have spoken in over 500 Jewish communities around the world, and the number-one complaint I receive is about Israel’s horrible public relations. “Why can’t you guys do better PR?” or “What do you expect from the world with such lousy PR?” While these complaints are quite accurate, the suggestions people give me are completely ridiculous: “Hire a Madison Avenue PR firm” or “Spend millions on a massive social media campaign with videos, animation, and contests that get people informed and excited about Israel.” Nonsense!
Is that what Yitzchak did to change Avimelech’s mind? Hire a great PR firm? Not at all! He simply led his family – the beginning of the Jewish nation – according to Hashem’s direction. Every word he spoke and every action he took was motivated and guided by our Father in Heaven. Simply put, when you looked at Yitzchak, you saw the Name of Hashem “tattooed” across his forehead.
This is exactly how the great Judah Maccabee led his troops into battle against the mighty Syrian-Greek army. We are all looking forward to the coming holiday of Chanukah, but how many of us can answer this basic Chanukah question: What was the Maccabees’ battle cry? Answer: “Whoever is for Hashem, come to me!” Do you realize what that means? They went to war, proudly fighting Hashem’s battle and made sure the Syrian-Greeks knew this! As a matter of fact, before the very first battle against the Syrian-Greeks in Bet Horon, Judah Maccabee had just a handful of men and they said to him, “How can so few of us fight against so many? Besides, we have had nothing to eat all day and are exhausted.” Please focus on how he answered them:
Judah Maccabee replied: “Many can easily be overpowered by a few – it makes no difference to Heaven. Victory does not depend on numbers; strength comes from Heaven alone. Our enemies come filled with insolence and lawlessness to plunder and kill our wives, our children, and us. But we are fighting for our lives and our Torah. Heaven will crush them before our eyes. You need not be afraid of them.” (From Rabbi Pinchas Stolper’s sefer, Five Glorious Brothers, page 52)
After a startling victory, the Syrian-Greeks returned for round two. This time, they came with 6,000 mighty warriors, and the Jews had less than 3,000, many of whom were not even equipped with swords and armor. Once again, Judah Maccabee led his men with the Name of Hashem: “Do not be afraid of their great numbers, nor panic when they charge. Remember how our fathers were saved at the Red Sea. Let us cry now to Heaven to favor our cause, to remember the covenant of Torah that Hashem made with our fathers and to crush this army before us today. Then all the Greeks will know that Hashem saves and liberates Israel!” (Five Glorious Brothers, pages 55-56)
I can give many more examples, from King David to Mordechai and Esther, but the point is clear: When our leaders lead us b’sheim Hashem (in the Name of Hashem), the world respects us and – eventually – will come to us seeking blessing and guidance. It’s not fancy PR campaigns we need or social media-animated videos, but true Jewish leaders who live, breathe, and guide our nation according to Torah values. Therefore, please don’t get all upset when you see a condemnation in the UN or some worthless activist bashing Israel. They are doing their job because we are not doing ours!
We need a modern-day Judah Maccabee, whose PR campaign was making sure the Syrian-Greeks knew about Hashem.
We need a modern-day Yitzchak Avinu whose actions led Avimelech to say, “You are the one blessed by G-d.”
When we do that – and only when that happens – will there be true peace in the Land of Israel.
Shmuel Sackett is a 100% product of Queens. He was born in Middle Village and moved to KGH shortly before his bar-mitzvah. He graduated from YCQ (1975) and YHSQ (1979). He was Havurat Yisrael’s first Youth Director (4 years) and started the first 2 NCSY chapters in Queens. Shmuel made aliyah in 1990 and co-founded Manhigut Yehudit, together with Moshe Feiglin. His website is www.JewishIsrael.org Sackett is married with 6 children and 4 grandchildren. He lives in Herziliya Pituach.