The Voice of Jacob: What are our leaders really saying?

Our forefather Isaac described the incompatible nature of his two sons, Jacob and Esau, each of whom would evolve into two distinct nations, by proclaiming,

“the voice is the voice of Jacob and the hands are the hands of Esau”.
This verse is classically referred to throughout rabbinic literature as the main means of identifying the Jewish nation vis-a-vis their father Jacob; a nation which would distinguish itself by its power of speech and would achieve prominence through its methodical elocution revealing soulfulness and deep contemplation. Unfortunately this does not appear to be the case regarding our political and religious leadership in Israel. Our politicians and Jewish leaders talk allot but they don’t seem to say much and even when they appear to be trying to say something of significance, their intentions are clouded with suspicion. And so in light of the many momentous decisions which have been made over the last few weeks in this country and in an effort to sustain the Jewish quality of articulation, I thought it would be helpful if I extrapolate the meaning of some of the statements which have been made by our esteemed legislators, distinguished politicians and spiritual leaders.

Prime Minister Netanyahu claims to have been held hostage within his now former coalition by his former finance minister Yair Lapid and his former justice minister Tzipi Livni. They apparently did not listen to the Prime Minister or to the instructions agreed upon by the cabinet to which they belonged; in fact the Prime Minister has accused them of trying to create a putsch to topple him. This may be true but by dissolving the Kenesset and calling early elections what the Prime Minister is really saying is that he cannot engage major players who were part of his cabinet and that, as we have witnessed in the past, he is incapable of diplomatically bridging gaps (gaping as they may be) between himself and opposing personalities who hold influential posts within his government.

When Prime Minister Netanyahu now says that, “the people of Israel deserve a better, more stable, more harmonious government,” what he is really saying is not only that he believes that he currently has a better chance of being elected and gaining more control over a cabinet which will not have to include those who may disagree with him, but that when he is reelected Prime Minister and he needs to form another coalition, chances are he will do so by entering an agreement with the Haredi parties as he has unfortunately done in the past. Considering that the Haredi parties are only interested in themselves they will not argue with Netanyahu over domestic or foreign policy; as long as they are provided with the money they demand for their institutions they won’t cause Netanyahu any problems and his adversities, for the moment, will have been tempered.

When Yair Lapid boldly declared at the beginning of his short spate as Finance minister that “old politics are dead and new politics are in”, he sounded like he would promote a new political vision and that he would cater to and serve as the voice of the political center. In fact, those with short term memories should recall how he and Bennett formed an alliance to force Netanyahu to take both of their parties into the government. Yet gradually Lapid began criticizing Netanyahu and the right and, after he failed to manage the budget and he realized that Netanyahu or the majority of the cabinet for that matter did not support his proposed budget which purported to weaken the IDF and security and contained no strategy with which to reduce housing prices, he blamed Netanyahu for
“leading Israel to a needless election”.
What Lapid was actually saying is that he was willing to call himself a centrist, even though in truth he was not, all for the sake of being elected and receiving a central portfolio in the past government.

Lapid continued by accusing Netanyahu of looking after “his personal interest and survival, over the public good”. Yet he and former justice minister Tzipi Livni stated that during Operation Protective Edge last summer Netanyahu’s cabinet “lost its faith in his ability to manage” the war. In actuality what Lapid and Livini were really saying is that they are hypocrites. After all, if indeed both of them lost faith in Prime Minister Netanyahu or witnessed the entire cabinet to which they belonged doing so, would it not have behooved them to say something at the time of the war itself? One can only infer that their positions of power in the government were more important to them than ensuring the safety of the country and its citizens. The only way to explain Lapid’s accusations and Livni’s reference to Netanyahu this past week as a “cowardly inept leader” in light of their own blatant negligence is hypocrisy. In fact it appears that Prime Minister Netanyahu himself understood this when he retorted,
“There’s no limit to Lapid’s hypocrisy…he relentlessly preaches new politics, yet practices the old politics of wheeling and dealing which he claims to despise”.
What Lapid and Livni were really saying is that they can insult the entire Israeli public’s intelligence by making accusatory statements without thinking that they would expose their own weaknesses at the same time.

When chief rabbis Lau and Yosef opposed the Tzohar bill, enabling Israelis to get married by the religious municipality of their choice as opposed to being restricted to their local municipality, what they were actually saying is that they are interested in continuing to monopolize religion within the confines of a money making institution. When the Tzohar law includes within it the illegality of rabbis who are unregistered with a municipality to officiate for weddings it strengthens the rabbinate’s monopoly on Jewish weddings by making it a criminal offense to conduct private wedding ceremonies in which the couple does not register the marriage, even if it meets all the standards of Orthodox weddings, and it confirms that Israelis will continue to be held hostage by a process and an office which will remain oppressively foreign to them.

Ultimately our rabbis and politicians are saying the same thing; that they both suffer from the same symptoms of insincere and incomprehensive communication.

Chanukah is a holiday which is meant to remind us of the value of quality as opposed to quantity. The small Jewish coup was victorious over the mighty Greek superpower as depicted by the small flask of oil which, because of its qualitative measures managed to stay alit for eight days as opposed to one. Chanukah is also a time when people show good will and distribute gifts to one another. It is time for our leaders to offer us the gift of qualitative leadership or at least leadership which embraces certain qualities. Perhaps they should begin by emulating the “voice of Jacob” and saying what they mean as opposed to forcing their constituents to figure out what they mean to say.

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