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Dear Chaver - now published email

The following idea can serve as the beginning of an answer to your question:

Our mother, Rivkah, was told that “two nations are in your womb” (25:23). The word for “nations” in the verse is spelled one way (ksiv) and pronounced another way (kri). According to the Oral Tradition, it is pronounced “goyim” which means “nations”, and that is how we usually translate the word. According to the spelling, however, the word can be read as “gayim” which means “proud ones” . Rashi cites this second explanation, and I suggest that you read the commentary of the Gur Aryeh on this Rashi, as he explains how the European nations which descend from Esav have a sense of pride which is expressed through their sophisticated and elegant cuisine, clothing, and architecture. In terns of your research on German culture, this Gur Aryeh is a must!

If a proud nation has an inner life which is based on the Divine truth - the truth which leads to a life devoted to love and justice, then it will express its greatness through these spiritual qualities. Outer expressions of greatness, such as elegant cuisine, clothing, and architecture may also be used to expresse this nation’s greatness, but they will be of secondary importance. If, however, the inner life of a proud nation is based on selfish and cruel desires, then it expresses its greatness primarily in outer manifestations such as decorum, elegant clothing, food, archictecture, as well as sophisticated art and music.

Chazal say that the nation of Edom is compared to a pig who lies down with its cloven feet extended in front of the body as if to say, “Look at me, I’m kosher.” However, it does not chew its cud. On the inside it is not kosher, but on the outside it looks kosher. Although the inner nature of Edom is dominated by selfish and cruel impulses, this nation tries to give the impression that it is “kosher” by demonstrating its sophisticated culture which includes an emphaisis on order and decorum. On the outside, they give the impression of being “civilized” and “polite”; on the inside, they are really savages.

The Jewish people living in the Land of Israel have been living in a difficult pressure cooker, and the tensions from without and from within have caused our society to be lacking in some of the outer signs of greatness, such as decorum. Nevetheless, signs of the true inner greatness of our people - even among those who are alienated from Torah - can still be found.

I once was riding on a Jerusalem bus with a rude and aggressive bus driver. At one stop, however, this was a very elderly woman who was trying to get on the bus. His angry and hostile expression immediately changed. His face became warm, and he left his seat to help the elderly woman on the bus, speaking to her with gentle and loving words.

Much Shalom,