This week’s Bible portion is “Toldot,” or “tellings,” Genesis 25:19-28:9, supplemental reading Malachi 1:1 – 2:7.
Genesis 25:27 contrasts Jacob and Esau; the former is quiet and studious and the latter is a hunter. The language of the text around hunting is very specific: Esau “understood hunting.” The commentator Rashi explains that Esau understood how to lie to his father Isaac about the nature of his activities.
Basically, Esau was hunting his father Isaac.
Esau used tricky words, not a bow and arrow or a sword, to deceive the man.
He would “trap and deceive” his father by pretending to care about the types of things that the “innocent” (per the Biblical text – “simple”) Jacob cared about.
Rashi tells us that Esau would do this by asking scholarly, esoteric questions: “Father, do we tithe salt and straw?”
Esau was an evil man. The last thing he cared about was tithing salt and straw for the poor. But he branded himself to his father as exceptionally knowledgeable and caring.
It is one thing to be a bad person. It is ten times worse to be a bad person pretending to be good. But unfortunately this is what we deal with today, and it’s never been any different throughout history.
More than 250 years ago (264 years to be exact), a deceiver named Jacob Frank provoked the Christians into burning the Holy Talmud.
Frank styled himself as the modern replacement for Sabbatai Zevi. In fact, Zevi was a mentally ill false messiah whose followers clung to him even after he converted to Islam under threat of death. The rabbis had already excommunicated him years before.
The Jewish faith has encountered false messiahs multiple times. But during these years, in the aftermath of the Khmelnitsky uprisings, which saw anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 Jews brutally murdered, people were especially desperate to believe.
And so they wind up accepting the claims of a man so evil that he claims evil is good. The brilliant Zevi, who invented a blessing on “that which is forbidden,” was like Esau in that they “knew how to hunt.” Turning the tables on the faith community, they attacked their truly religious brethren as “Erev Rav,” or “mixed multitude” (inauthentically Jewish). See Pawel Maciejko, The Mixed Multitude: Jacob Frank and the Frankist Movement, 1755-1816.
After Zevi’s death, Frank takes up the mantle of Sabbateanism and cranks the evil up as high as he can possibly go:
Back in Poland he gathered a sect of believers, who were drawn by his charismatic personality, and announced him the heir of Shabtai Zvi. But he would not settle for that, and wished to form a new, improved, high intensity Sabbatean theology, based mainly on a gallery of mystical radical symbols that were about nothing but destruction and nihilism.
“Frank addressed his followers: ‘I came not to elevate your spirits, but to humiliate you to the bottom of the abyss, where you can get no lower, and where no man can rise from by his own forces, but only God can pull him with his mighty hand from the depth.’
“By ‘abyss’ he meant particularly sexual rituals that included sacred orgies with just a touch of incest.”
Frank orchestrated a mass conversion of Jews to Christianity, claiming to have been inspired by God directly, although his beliefs were anything but Christian.
No doubt to ingratiate himself, Frank set up a “debate” between the rabbis and the Frankists. Of course, the faithful Jews lost this debate. Their punishment was to watch as the holy Talmud burned, ironically in the beautiful city of Kamenetsk-Podolsk, Russia (now Ukraine).
On a single, awful day, in the beautiful city of Kamenetsk-Podolsk, Russia (now Ukraine), the Talmud went up in flames, directly because of a man who claimed to be a Jewish liberator, whose message was the message of Satan.
Photo caption: “Castle (fortress) in Kamianets-Podilskyi in June 2019.” Photo credit: Grzegorz Gołębiowski. Creative Commons. Via Wikimedia.
The day was November 13, 1757, coinciding with 1 Kislev 1757.
This year, 1 Kislev is today, November 5, 2021.
By Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain.