Office of the Chief Rabbi

Toldot: Jacob and the Pandemic

Why are our voices today more powerful than ever before?

Transcript:

Why are our voices today more powerful than ever before? 

In Parshat Toldot, the Torah tells us how Yaakov successfully deceived his father Yizchak into giving him the bracha of the firstborn. Yitzchak felt his son and he felt like Eisav, and yet the voice was the voice of Yaakov prompting Yitzchak to exclaim,

“Hakol kol Yaakov v’hayadayim yedei Eisav,” – “The voice is the voice of Yaakov while the hands are the hands of Eisav.”

 

The Midrash tells us that this actually was a bracha. Yitzchak was saying as follows: May Hashem bless you and your descendants that the Eisavs of this world, your enemies, will only be able to potentially harm you with their hands, that is to say when they are in your presence. But may Hashem give you and your descendants the potential through all the blessings that you give to the world to say something here which will make an impact on the other side of the world.

Through the generations we have always understood that the power of the ‘kolo shel Yaakov’ – the voice of Jacob – has been through tefillah, prayer, so that from here on Earth we can make an impact in the heavens above through Hashem listening to our prayers. But more recently, through recordings, people have been able to hear the voice of somebody elsewhere. Through the telephone we’ve been able to communicate and to inspire. But actually it has been primarily through coronavirus that we have found and discovered new means through which our voices can be heard emphatically, right around the globe.

With conventional methods of delivering shiurim and teaching classes not available to us we’ve resorted to zoom and other methods and we’ve discovered that actually we can include everybody everywhere. The result has been absolutely extraordinary.

I’ve discovered for myself, for example, an opportunity – I now learn regularly with my grandchildren who live in three continents. We bond together through learning and it’s wonderful that we’re able to study together and appreciate our traditions together, and I highly recommend this to you all.

And let us not forget about a different type of ‘kol’ – it’s the kol, the sound, of singing: being able to see concerts, hear recordings and benefit from the ruach, the wonderful spirituality, of the singing of others wherever they might be through the modern methods that are available to us.

Let us therefore pray to Hashem that, 

“Hayadayim yedei Eisav,” – the hands of the eisavs of this world will not even harm us when they are in our presence, and at the same time, may we continue to excel through the, 

“kol kol Yaakov,’ – the voice which is the voice of Jacob through what we teach, through what we learn, through how we sing, and how we inspire our world thanks to the voices that God has given us. 

Shabbat shalom.