What is it about Yerushalayim that makes it so central on the world stage? Why does the United States government care if we build in our capital? Why does the Arab world get up in arms if we build a synagogue in our capital city? What is it about the current situation that is so exciting, and at the same time stirs up such indignation inside of ourselves?
It is important to realize that we have reached a crucial historic point in history. It would seem as if the United States has suddenly decided that the Jewish people do not have a right to Jerusalem, and that we can not build in our very own capital. This, however, is not a new phenomenon. Anyone who is a US citizen and has had a child born in Jerusalem (as I have) knows that although the American birth certificate states the place of birth as Jerusalem, the country of birth is left off. There was recently a court case which declared that one does not have the legal right to have Israel stated as the country of birth written on a passport if the child was born in Jerusalem. If you look carefully at that case, you will see that the issue there was that the United States can not take sides in deciding to whom the jurisdiction of Jerusalem will ultimately be given. The current dispute, however, seems to be the first time that the United States has gotten explicitly vocal about its displeasure with Israel claiming Jerusalem as its capital at all, as opposed to just passively staying out. This change in attitude has been getting more and more apparent with the entrance of the newest American administration. The question is, What is its significance, and is there a Torah source that can shed light on these events?
In thinking about this, I realized that it could be summed up that the West has a hatred for the Jewish people that is usually covert, but every now and then, it boils up above the surface and becomes overt. The West represents the current manifestation of Esav, and thus, we need search no further than Esav himself to find examples of hidden and revealed anger. These examples will give us an important clue as to where we are headed. As the Ramban writes, in reference to the meeting between Yakov and Esav when Yakov returned from Lavan’s house, that meeting was a template for the interactions between the Jewish people and the West throughout history. Thus, there is much to be learned from carefully examining the Torah in that light.
The place where we see this pattern is in Esav’s angry desire to kill Yakov after the blessings were stolen. Yakov was completely unaware that this was his evil intent, until Rivka makes it known to him. She herself only knew of his plans because of a Divine revelation that she received. As we have discussed, the blessings that Yakov stole were the very essence of the purpose of the Jewish people as the leaders of the world, in the capacity of Moshiach ben Yosef. Esav’s hatred and jealousy were not simply because Yakov stole the blessings, but more importantly, because Esav had now been rejected from his role as a part of the Divine plan. Like Kayin before him, and Shaul after him, this rejection created a profound anger and desire to destroy his counterpart (Moshiach ben Dovid), and this fueled his angry plan to kill Yakov.
Sending Yakov away from the land of Israel was an important act on the part of Rivka, because as long as Yakov was in Israel, his function as Moshiach ben Yosef was resonating with the land, so to speak, creating a greater reason for Esav to want to kill him. As we saw, whoever has the function of Moshiach ben Yosef receives the land of Israel, which functions as the physical manifestation of Moshiach ben Yosef for the whole physical world. Thus, it was a calculated move to not only send Yakov away, but to send him out of Eretz Yisroel entirely. This helps us understand why Esav suddenly comes at Yakov with four hundred men – twenty two years later – when Yakov is on his way back to Israel. As he gets closer, the ‘noise’ of Yakov’s resonance with Eretz Yisrael gets louder and again pushes Esav to try to kill him. Despite this, however, Yakov must only truly do battle with the spiritual power of Esav, which is the angel he fights with at the Yabok river. Once Yakov vanquishes that spiritual force, Esav is left powerless, and all he can do is have a harmless interaction with Yakov, without causing him any damage.
If we think about this in light of what is currently transpiring, we can see through to a deeper level than what is occurring on the surface alone. It is clear that both Yishmael (the Arab world) and Esav (the West) would wish to claim the job of Moshiach ben Yosef, that is, the ones who will lead and guide the world. This ability, however, is completely tied up in the control of Jerusalem. Whoever has control of Jerusalem has control of the world. The spiritual forces of each of these nations thus wishes to assert its domination over the city of Jerusalem, and can not admit that the true dominion belongs to the Jewish people. On the surface, it just seems that the Arabs want to claim Jerusalem because of the mosque, and that the West just wants there to be ‘peace.’ But underlying it all is a spiritual need to be in control of Jerusalem. Even the West that seems to want to give Jerusalem to the Arabs on a silver platter really only desires to be the one in control over Jerusalem. Whoever controls the city rules the world.
It is important to understand that when Yakov returns to Israel, after he has had eleven of his twelve sons, he is ready to begin the building of the Jewish people, and that can only occur in Israel. Thus, whereas Esav had only covertly wished to kill Yakov twenty two years before, at this point, as Yakov is resonating his mission of Moshiach ben Yosef to an even greater extent, Esav comes out with four hundred men to kill Yakov – his anger has boiled over to the surface.
Paralleling this, the closer we get to the revelation of Moshiach ben Yosef, the more the Jewish people resonate with our corresponding mission. As more and more of our people return to Israel, and the scales tip to the point where there are more Jews in Israel than outside of Israel, we are reaching the point in time that corresponds to Yakov Avinu returning with his family to Israel. We are thus reliving that time, when Esav left behind his hidden hatred and began to clearly show his true intentions. This is reflected in the current behavior of the United States government.
Although current events might seem disconcerting, the truth is that there is a tremendous נחמה contained in this parallel. It may seem that the world is crashing down on us here in Eretz Yisrael, and it is not beyond imagination that we will soon see a scenario similar to the war of Gog Umagog described in Yechezkel. Nevertheless, just as Esav’s aggressiveness was nothing more than an indicator that a spiritual battle was about to take place, which Yakov succeeded in, so too, the current events that we are witnessing are but an indicator that we are entering into a similar spiritual battle, which ultimately will be won by the offspring of Yisrael.