Parshas Vayechi: The dangers of Zealotry

Yaakov Avinu’s final condemnation of unconstrained zealotry
In what seems to be a most unlikely and inappropriate setting- his final words to his children, Yaakov gives a brutally harsh rebuke to his second and third eldest sons, Shimon and Levi.

Referring to their genocidal elimination of the village of Shechem (כי באפם הרגו איש) , in retaliation for their complicity in the kidnapping and rape of their sister Dina, he refers to their tools as “weapons of Hamas (literally stolen weapons). “

Rashi comments that Yaakov is telling them that they had stolen the tools of Eisav, the man of war, the hunter, in carrying out this impulsive and unacceptable operation.

It could possibly be the equivalent of calling the Jewish Underground, that placed many a bomb in civilian Arab areas, Nazis and worse- the way of the Aryan “Master Race””, not of the Torah’s “Chosen Nation- a light unto the nations.”

His condemnation continues:
בְּסֹדָם֙ אַל־תָּבֹ֣א נַפְשִׁ֔י בִּקְהָלָ֖ם אַל־תֵּחַ֣ד כְּבֹדִ֑י כִּ֤י בְאַפָּם֙ הָ֣רְגוּ אִ֔ישׁ וּבִרְצֹנָ֖ם עִקְּרוּ־שֽׁוֹר:
(ז) אָר֤וּר אַפָּם֙ כִּ֣י עָ֔ז וְעֶבְרָתָ֖ם כִּ֣י קָשָׁ֑תָה אֲחַלְּקֵ֣ם בְּיַעֲקֹ֔ב וַאֲפִיצֵ֖ם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל: ס
“In their council, let my soul not enter, in their assembly, let my honor not participate, for in their anger, they killed a man ,and with their will, they uprooted an ox.”

Those who get offended when extremist Jews who advocate “death to Arabs” or forced transfer, are accused of being Jewish fascists or even Nazis, might take well to note that the first person to accuse fellow Jews of behaving in such a way, appears to be none other than Yaakov Avinu- a frightening thought indeed!

In contrast, the fourth son, Yehuda, is the epitomy of both strong leadership and calculated restraint- a master of strategy, but not afraid to confront the enemy when necessary.

It is he who stopped the brothers from killing Yoseif, he who convinced Yaakov to send Binyomin with him, he who confessed to his misadventure with Tamar and said “she is more righteous than me “, and he who confronted Yoseif with respect but absolute confidence.

He was NO whimp, and certainly had NO “exile mentality”, but he wasn’t a Jewish version of the Ku Klux Clan or the A.W.B.

It is he, who is compared to the lion, and he who is given the sceptre of Kingship.

and it is from him, that the final Mashiach will come.

As is so often the case, the weekly Haftorah is linked to the parsha, not only superficially, in this case with the final words of David haMelech [Melachim 1/2], but also at a deeper level.

Here also, David haMelech condemns his former strongman, Yoav, to death, for his over zealous and violent behaviour, particularly in his assassination of his rival generals: Shaul’s general Avner ben Ner, who David was in the process of making peace with, and Amasa ben Yeter, who David had appointed in his place as general, after that tragic episode.

Despite Yoav’s strong qualities and loyalty till near the end, and the fact that according to Chazal, he was actually a great and hospitable man, this “trigger-happy” style was not to be left unchecked, and was indeed, stolen weapons from a different ideology.

Those of us who have been following both the parsha, as well as last week’s events in Israel, cannot help but be shaken by the timing.
I do not think Moshe Feiglin is Eisav, and I am far from convinced that Netanyahu is a modern day “Yehuda”, but I also truly believe that the Kahanists of this world and their followers make one simple but fatal flaw: the use of stolen weapons- the weapons of Eisav, of the power of the hunt, of survival of the fittest, and forget the basic traits and qualities of the Jewish people, a merciful nation, a people chosen to be a “light unto the nations”, not to oppress the nations.

It is indeed comforting that Likud voters rejected the rash and zealous faction that has tried to turn the Likud into a racist party Menachem Begin would have been ashamed of, and of values that are totally the opposite of the Torah’s ways of דרכיה דרכי נעום וכל נתיבותיה שלום .

It will also be comforting if the victorious faction re-embraces both the “national dignity” and “human rights” values of Begin, who despite not being fully observant, had many values largely consistant with those of the Torah, and learnt the essential balance that Yaakov Avinu taught us this week, one that President Rivlin has done us so proud by publically upholding: One can be a dignified Jewish leader who stands up for our G-d given rights, without trodding on the rights of others, and without making us seem like Nazis in the eyes of the world.

ה עוז לעמו יתן ה יברך את עמו בשלום