Friday, November 1, 2013

It´s All Smoke n Mirrors

I´m not into horror films, and I´m too squeamish to talk about this in depth, so I´ll write it real fast and then move on to the fun stuff.

When Essav died, he was beheaded. As if with a mind of its own, his head rolled all the way to Mearat Hamachpeila and was buried among the graves of our holy forefathers and mothers, but his body was laid to rest outside the cave.

But...why? Why did he have to be split in two, and why was his head a VIP but his body wasn´t?

Ok, you can open your eyes now.

Essav was a man who knew how to trap, says the possuk. And Yitzchok loved him because he trapped him with his mouth.
They say that the road to a man´s heart is through his stomach. But did Yitzchok really favor Essav, a disheveled hunter (who fed him good food), over Yaakov, who was a renowned scholar and respectable citizen?

Rashi says, To trap: To trick his father. Essav would consistently asked him halchik questions which he did not heed or abide by, just to give him the impression that he was careful in his performance of mitzvos.
He trapped him with his mouth, is not referring to the food he gave him. He trapped him and tricked him with his words.

If you read through the parsha, (Toldos) you´ll notice that he Torah spends quite a lot of time focusing on the faults of Essav.

Personally, I like to ignore negative behavior and not celebrate it. Negative attention is destructive and addictive. So why are we studying his flaws and deficiencies?

For the last 2,000 years we find ourselves living under the dominance of Essav´s descendent, Edom. The more we understand Essav´s modus operandi and value system, the better equipped we will be in recognizing his deceptive tactics in order to defend and distance ourselves from such behaviors.

Let´s peak into the psyche of Essav for a moment. Essav had spent his entire life tricking his father and the world that he was a holy roller. Rather than beautifying himself he was devoted to decorating the mirror and manipulating public opinion. Living in proximity to Essav we would have a hard time finding the fault line of his tragic flaw. Ultimately, though we can all observe the utter hollowness of his character. As devoted as he was to his father, supposedly, it was more about his own selfish agenda than anyone could presume. His entire campaign produced a world of sizzle but delivers a paucity of steak.

Essav gave his father what he liked to eat and also told him what he wanted to hear. These are powerful tools for winning friends and influencing spouses and children. However, the cautionary note is that if these approaches are not used to build bridges of trust, furthering relationships, but to mask malevolence, then it cannot qualify as communication but rather a campaign of manipulation.
A few decades ago there was a story that transpired in Penn University, that, when I read about it, made a lasting impression on me.

There was a professor of ethics who had just completed his class on moral behavior. It was an amazing presentation about the dangers of influence vs. dignity and strength, and all of his students left the class feeling inspired and impressed. Just a few days later, a student found him in a private bar deeply involved in everything he had just declared as evil and dangerous in his lecture. Of course word spread around the university, and with shock and dismay, they challenged him in front of class the next day.
He responded in a nonchalant fashion, ¨What do you want from me? How is the value of my lecture diminished by my behavior? If I were a math professor, would that mean I have to be a triangle?¨

Essav was ¨Echad bapeh, echad balev¨, What came out of his mouth and what was in his heart were two completely different things.

Ultimately, Essav fell prey to the politics of perception, believing that symbolism substitutes for substance, and public relations portrays reality. Blaming Yaakov for his own failure in the end, rather than owning up and taking responsibility for his own poor choices, betrays the depth of his self-deception, and magnifies that much more his own tragic flaw.

So, this is why he was buried in the manner that he was. His head and body were not in synch. He was two different people. His head knew right from wrong. His mouth inspired and impressed the world around him. But his body behaved like a completely different person.

¨Be true to yourself. If you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out¨

Have a beautiful shabbos,