The Straight Way (2003)

by | Oct 31, 2006 | 0 comments

If I wasn’t afraid, if I wasn’t lazy, if I wasn’t concerned about kavod what would I do?

Yaakov’s name means crooked.

The word “Akov” means insidious. Esav defined his brother Yaakov’s essence according to his name. He is deviant, perverse, corrupt and crooked. “That is why his name is Yaakov – because he has already tricked me twice.” (Breishis 27;36)

G-d called Yaakov, Yisroel. We say daily in our prayers: “Vekarasa es shmo Yisroel Veyeshurun.” “You called his name Yisroel because he was straight.” G-d defined Yaakov as Yashar: honest, truthful, sincere, straightforward, upright and scrupulous.

Our forefather had two names, each one conflicting with the other. Yaakov and Yisroel. Akov and Yashar. Crooked and straight!

There was a defining moment in the life of Yaakov; a moment of transition. There was a moment when Yaakov became Yisroel. On the way to his reunion with Esav he met an Angel and he battled with the Angel all night long. At the end of this deep historical battle, the Angel told Yaakov “No longer will your name be Yaakov, your name is Yisroel.” Perhaps the battle that took place was over the philosophical definition of integrity. Yaakov was forced into trickery. He tricked his brother Esav, he tricked his father Yitzchak, and he tricked his father-in-law Lavan. He had to. Is there another way to deal with Lavan or Esav? Esav, Edom, was the father of the Roman Empire. When in Rome do as the Romans do. Much ink has been spilled to explain how Yaakov, our pillar of integrity acted insidiously.

It was at the moment of battle that the Angel set him straight! You are no longer Yaakov – you are Yisroel. The Angel gave Yaakov permission to be straight. As Yaakov you may have had to be crooked but as the Father of the Jewish people you must be straight.

There are so many ways to accomplish our goals. For a lofty goal almost everything can be justified. But at the end, that is not the Jewish way! Go straight.

Life is full of difficult decisions. Some consult Kabbalists, some consult politicians, some do the Gra’s goral, and some flip a coin. I have a spiritual method for deciding what to do when we don’t know what to do. I ask myself- if I wasn’t afraid, if I wasn’t lazy, if I wasn’t concerned about kavod what would I do? I ask myself, what really is the straight way? With meditation we will come up with the answer. The answer may not be the easiest, the most politically savvy, or the safest but it is the straightest. And straight we must go.

As Jews we were taken out of Egypt to do the right thing. The Torah was not given to the Bnei Yaakov – it was given to the Bnei Yisroel. Call yourself Yisroel, said the Angel, and you will master both man and G-d!

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov Haber has been a leading force in Jewish community and Jewish education for over forty years. He lived and taught in the United States, Australia and in Israel. He is presently the Rav of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun, a vibrant community in the center of Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel, and serves as the Rabbinic guide to many of its wonderful organisations.


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