Friday, November 2, 2012

Two-Minute Torah: Brothers and Rivals

A number of years ago the late Cardinal Rene Lustiger visited Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. This in and of itself was remarkable. Cardinal Lustiger was born in France, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants, in 1926. During Word War II and the Nazi occupation of France he took refuge among Catholics and ultimately converted to Catholicism. His parents were both imprisoned in concentration camps; his mother died, his father survived. Lustiger became a priest and eventually a bishop and cardinal, but he always acknowledged his Jewish roots and went to synagogue on his parents' Yahrzeits to say Kaddish in their memory.

Chovevei Torah is on "Open Orthodox" rabbinical school and they certainly proved their openness by welcoming this halachically-Jewish cardinal to visit and address the students and faculty. During the visit Cardinal Lustiger quoted Pope John Paul II's statement that Jews and Catholics are brothers and that it is the duty of all Catholics to respect their older brothers. Rabbi Avi Weiss, the head of the Yeshiva, responded that in the Torah the older brother usually got the short end of the stick and maybe it was time for the Jews to be the younger brother!

The pattern of the younger brother supplanting the elder is a strong motif in the Book of Genesis.In this week's Parasha, Vayera, Isaac is the favored son though Ishmael is older.  Jacob is the favored son though Esau is older. Joseph, too, is favored, though of course he is only the 11th out of 12.

When Esau in a few weeks discovers that Jacob has stolen his blessing, he asks "do you have only one blessing, my father?" It is a good question. Must it be the case that God loves those of one particular religion more than those of all others? Or has God more than one blessing?

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