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Enemies Can Become Friends; Until Then, We Must Defend Ourselves

Reading from a Torah scroll in accordance with Sephardi tradition. Photo: Sagie Maoz via Wikimedia Commons.

In last week’s Torah portion, we read about how Isaac and Ishmael came together to bury their father. And in fact, they lived together at the same place, Be’er Lechai Roi. Their coming together seems to have been complete.

This week we are introduced to the rivalry between Esau and Jacob. The character of Esau is complex. He is a hunter; his father prefers him to stay-at-home. Esau betrays character faults that hint at why Rebecca thinks that Jacob would be the better heir. It is true that Esau honors, respects, and serves his father, but he is impulsive, demanding what Jacob is eating when he could so easily have turned to the other tents where at lunchtime his and other mothers were serving up lunch. He marries the first time against his parents’ wishes, even if he tried to make up for it the second time. When he realizes he will not get his father’s blessings, he weeps and yet follows this by swearing he will kill his brother. We know that in due course he will make peace with Jacob. Even so, in rabbinic literature, Esau is described very negatively as the everlasting enemy of Israel.

There is a well known Midrash, “Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai says it is well known (or it is a rule) that Esau will always hate Israel” (Midrash Sifri Bamidbar 69).

Rebbi Shimon lived during the reigns of two Roman emperors, Trajan and Hadrian, whose anti-Jewish decrees and persecution led to the Bar Kochba uprising from 132- 135 CE. And Esau became associated with Roman oppression. Why Esau? Because he was also called Edom, after the red lentils of the soup that Jacob had made. Red appears as a symbolic color in many ancient warrior peoples. In Roman mythology, it was associated with blood and courage. It was the color of the god of war, Mars, and the color of the army. Roman soldiers wore red tunics, gladiators were adorned in it.

And yet, according to the Talmud, the two succeeding emperors, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, had very good relations with R. Judah the Prince, the head of the Jewish community in the Land of Israel.

Things have changed a lot in Christianity these past hundred years since, particularly in the Catholic world. And although some liberal churches have joined the children of Stalin in attacking the Jews for having a homeland, most have not. And some are even our greatest supporters. So, it may be time to re-consider our history with them.

Today, we have new challenges — largely Arabic and Muslim mobs that have been chanting antisemitic slogans throughout the streets of the world. They don’t represent all Muslims, but it is clear many of the people we are seeing are endemically antisemitic.

We must not let hatred demean us or drag us down to the worst level of humanity. I pray that one day, enemies will become friends, and such expressions of antipathy will disappear altogether. But in the meantime, we must defend ourselves.

The author is a writer and rabbi, currently based in New York.

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Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks

A protester wrapped in an Israeli flag at a rally against antisemitism at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A live web service provided by that allows users to speak directly with one of the Jewish organization’s leading rabbis has seen a 300 percent increase in usage since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

More than 5,000 chat responses (over 225 per day) are received each month, according to Aish, which added in a press release that many of the chats turn into extended conversations, sometimes on WhatsApp, in which rabbis help unaffiliated or disconnected Jewish users reconnect with their Jewish identities and form bonds with other Jews.

The Jewish organization said it believes the increase in usage of its live web chat service is due to the global rise in antisemitism and a newfound curiosity about Israel following Oct. 7, as well as a “yearning for meaning and community in the face of life’s uncertainties, and a desire for deeper meaning and spirituality in the face of a fast-paced modern culture where spiritual needs have been put on a backburner for too long.”

“We’re hearing from so many Jews who feel profoundly disconnected, whether due to living in areas with little Jewish community or lack of affiliation growing up,” said Rabbi Tzvi Broker, who oversees‘s Live Chat. “The personal nature of these interactions, coupled with their anonymity, creates a safe space to ask questions and begin exploring. Having a live rabbi to connect and share with, has been a draw for many, and we’re seeing lives transformed as a result.”

Among their efforts, Broker and his team have helped people on the chat slowly incorporate Jewish rituals and traditions into their lives, and have connected them with peers through the organization’s new online community Aish+ so they can continue learning and engaging with other Jews.

“It’s amazing to witness lives being transformed in such profound ways,” said Broker. “Jews around the world are finding threads of connection to their heritage, and tapping into the depth and wisdom of our tradition to find meaning, community, and resilience in these challenging times.”

Bob Diener, the founder of and the seed funder of’s live chat, added in a statement: “The chat has been a powerful way for people to connect one-on-one with a spiritual leader and have their unique questions answered in a non-threatening and non-intimidating way. The chat’s rabbis are connecting so many people to their roots who otherwise don’t know where to go for guidance.”

“The chats have had a deep impact on many disconnected from the Jewish community,” said Aish CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Each of the people we connect with demonstrates a broad yearning to explore Jewish spirituality, peoplehood, and identity and that is why they have been turning to Aish for connection and guidance. We are happy to provide both while connecting them with local Jewish communities in their area, if there is one, to continue their journey.”

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Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’

Jerry Seinfeld attends the premiere of Netflix’s “Unfrosted” at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, California, US, April 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

Jewish comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld roasted an anti-Israel protester who tried to disrupt his comedy show in Sydney, Australia, at the Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday night.

Videos from the scene showed a male heckler in the audience repeatedly shout, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan that has been widely used as a call for the destruction of Israel.

While the disruptive audience member continued to chant in support of Israel’s extermination, Seinfeld ridiculed him, sarcastically telling the audience:  “We have a genius, ladies and gentlemen! He’s solved the Middle East! He’s solved it: It’s the Jewish comedians, that’s who we have to get! They’re the ones doing everything.”

“Go ahead, keep going,” Seinfeld told the anti-Israel heckler as the audience laughed and cheered. “They’re gonna start punching you in about three second so I would try and get all of your genius out so we can all learn from you. It’s a comedy show you moron, get out of here.”

The heckler was eventually escorted out of the arena by security personnel and as he walked out of the venue, Seinfeld mocked him some more by sarcastically saying: “You’re really influencing everyone here. We’re all on your side because you have made your point so well and in the right venue. You’ve come to the right place for a political conversation. Tomorrow we will read in the paper: ‘Middle East, 100 percent solved thanks to man at the Qudos Arena stopping Jew comedian.’ They stop him and everyone in the Middle East went, ‘Oh my god, let’s just get along.’”

The “Seinfeld” creator then jokingly suggested that to solve issues with “indigenous Aboriginal people and the white people” maybe he should harass Australian comedian Jim Jefferies during a comedy show in New York because “if this works, that will work.”

“You have to go 20,000 miles from the problem and screw up a comedian. That is how you solve world issues,” Seinfeld quipped.

Seinfeld had a number of his comedy shows recently disrupted by anti-Israel activists because of his support for Israel since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. Seinfeld’s commencement speech at Duke University was also interrupted by similar protesters, who staged a walk-out shortly after he was introduced on stage.

During an interview last month, Seinfeld addressed protesters by saying: “It’s so dumb. In fact, when we get protesters occasionally, I love to say to the audience, ‘You know, I love that these young people, they’re trying to get engaged with politics … we just have to correct their aim a little bit.”

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Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews

As an expert (self-proclaimed) in the female heterosexual gaze, I took note of the trend of the “hot rodent man.” Does this mean you’re attracted to the friendly mascot from Orkin Exterminator Co.? Maybe you do, maybe he’s tremendous, but no, “hot rodent man” refers to what is essentially the male equivalent of jolie laide, […]

The post Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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