“Some things seem to look like a paradox,
but they really go together like a pair of socks”.
- From the Jewish hip-hop album. “The Living Wells”.
Sometimes things seem to be contradictory in nature but when analyzed further we see how they thread together seamlessly. Our father Yaakov is introduced in the Torah as a wholesome man who remained in his tent. The Hebrew word for “wholesome” is Tam which you might be familiar with as one of the 4 sons in the Pesach Haggadah. The one known as the “simple son.” This description of Yaakov as being wholesome, or simple, residing in the tent seems to paint a picture of someone who was sheltered from the word, simple in his views and perhaps even a bit naive.
But the Torah paints another picture of Yaakov. A Yaakov who is ambitious, shrewd and witty. Yaakov who grabs on to his brother’s heel at birth, disallowing him to fully call himself the firstborn and then outwitting him to give over that right. Yaakov who comes penniless to the home of the swindling Lavan, who only wants to see his demise and, somehow, manages to outsmart him at every turn and leave his home with great wealth and married to not one, but two, of Lavan’s daughters. Yaakov who can come face-to-face with an angel of God and wrestle with him until the Angel yields.
So who is this Yaakov? Is he sheltered and timid or is he suave and perseverant? And the answer is: Yaakov is the father of the Jewish people and therefore he is the paradigm of a Jew.
A Jew knows that he is part of society, yet somewhat separate. He works long hours at the office, but doesn’t forget his daily spiritual regimen. You will find him davening Mincha (afternoon services) in the corner of the airport as we waits for his flight to take off for the big business deal he has the next day. She is one of the top professionals in her field but that doesn’t stop her from making sure that there are fresh home-baked Challahs each week on a beautifully set Shabbos table, which is her true masterpiece. His co-workers think he is a hipster, but his six-inch beard is of the same sort as his grandfather wore in the ghettos of Europe. She is super stylish, yet equally super modest. He is kind, caring and loving, but won’t hesitate to pick up a gun and defend his homeland when it is being threatened.
The Jew prides himself in his ability to juggle and balance the many responsibilities of living a more secluded Jewish life while being a productive member of society. It is in our DNA from our forefather Jacob. And though it might truly seem like a paradox, we strive to bring it together like a pair of socks.