THE QUESTIONS ESAU ASKS US
Occasionally, a biblical passage will leap off the page indicating that it has a relevance not merely to the time and place in which it was originally uttered, but for all generations.
Such a passage occurs when Jacob sent his agents with gifts to bring to Esau, ahead of their meeting.
Jacob told his emissaries; Esau will ask you three questions:
To whom do you belong? Where are you going?
For whom are these before you? (Bereishit 24:18)
Rabbi Joseph B Soloveitchik (d.1993) explains that these questions are addressed to all of us, whoever, wherever, we may be.
To whom do you belong and where are you going? – These are metaphysical questions. They challenge us to declare that we are proud to be Jews, that we are members of a community with an historic destiny. We are being asked, who is your G-d, what is your way of life? To whom have you consecrated your future? What is the historic destiny that you dream and pray for?
However, continues Jacob, Esau will ask you a third question:
For whom are these before you?
This question is related to the here-and-now. Your wealth, your talents, your capabilities and your energies, your wisdom and your experience – are you willing to contribute to the society in which you live? Are you ready to involve yourselves in the wider social, material and cultural welfare of the country in which you live?
The answer Jacob instructs his messengers to say:
You shall say, [I belong] to Jacob; it is a gift sent to my master. (ibid. v.19)
Jacob told his agents to answer the third question in the positive. It is a gift sent to my master. We feel obligated to enrich society with our talents and to be constructive and useful citizens. Yet, regarding the first two questions, he commanded his messengers to be forthright and unequivocal. I belong to Jacob and his G-d. Our spiritual identity and our historic destiny, our religious personality and commitment belong to G-d and his servant, Jacob.
At the time of writing, the outcome of an election is uncertain. Whatever government comes into office, we have a responsibility to society and its wellbeing. At the same time, our identity as members of the Jewish community with a sacred and historic bond to our Torah and our G-d is of paramount importance