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Coming Home

Friday, 5 December, 2014 - 10:00 am

The craze has begun.

My inbox and mailbox are both stuffed with ads and marketing material telling me just how much I need the latest invention and the coolest gadget.

In the greatest irony possible, the day after – or is it already the day of? – Americans profess their fealty to the sacred virtue of thankfulness for what we have, we begin in earnest the campaign to focus on what we don’t have.

Yes, I too take advantage of the sales, but that’s not the point. It’s the focus on what we have not. It’s the massive consumerist effort to convince me that I need something that I never knew existed, cannot afford and may never use.

Put in better perspective, the purpose of marketing a product that I don’t have is to convince me that I ought to have it. What if, however, I absolutely have no need or interest for that item? Say, for example, someone was pitching me on the Dollar Shave Club. It might be the best shaving program out there (how am I to know), but since I don’t shave, it’s a wasted effort.

Now, if they tell me that so many other people have it – that still won’t get me to bite, because while it may be wonderful for some, it’s useless to me.

***

At the conclusion of this week’s parsha Vayishlach, the Torah lists the settlements of Eisav (Esau) and his descendants. It’s nice to know that our distant cousins inhabited certain lands, but do we really need to know all the details?

It almost sounds like the ads telling me about the weight loss program that someone else successfully used – in order to convince me that I should want it too. So what’s the deal?

What the Torah is really underscoring is that Seir is NOT our land.

But, why? Why not just tell us that we were promised the land of Israel? By deduction we’d know that we weren’t promised the other lands.

***

There are times when we might assume that the land of Eisav – who happens to be the father of modern society by virtue of his role as ancestor to the Roman Empire – is also our home. We might look at the ‘beautiful billboards’ promoting our current land as the best place on earth. It may be Russia for a Russian Jew, America for an American Jew, or Australia for an Australian Jew. Each of us is tempted to consider the country of our citizenship our true home.

Yes, we long for the coming of Moshiach, when our current reality will change and we will go to a place called Israel. But – for now – this is home.

By defining Seir as the land G-d gave to Eisav and his descendants, the Torah is talking to Jews who may in fact inhabit the literal or figurative lands of Eisav. ‘You may be living in America; but your true home is in Israel. You may be living the American dream; but your real dream is to live a life of Torah.’

Living outside the Holy Land is not the problem. The Torah predicts it and – arguably – sanctions it. But forgetting where our true home and values are is indeed problematic.

Let’s not dream about going to a place called Israel. Let’s dream about coming home.

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