The Torah tells us about the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau. As they grow up, there is great “sibling rivalry” between them, much of it induced by parental favoritism. There comes the day when Jacob, on his mother’s advice, disguises himself as Esau and “steals” the parental blessing from their blind father. We are left to believe that the animal skin disguise causes the father to be deceived as Esau is described by the Torah as very hairy.
But some have suggested that there is a deeper meaning to this changed outward disguise. That the clothing Jacob now wears symbolizes the material world of possessions and living in the “outdoor” world. That “outdoor” world represents the secular or modern world. And so we might say that as modern Jews, we too wear the “clothing” of that secular world, rather than the “clothing” that is distinctly Jewish.
The challenge that we Reform Jews face: to wear the “clothing” of the secular world in which we live, while holding on to the spiritual and moral values and observances that give meaningful affirmation to our Jewish identity. Yes, we contemporary Jews live with one foot in the Jewish world, and the other foot in the secular world. We want and enjoy the benefits and opportunities of the world around us. But let us also cherish and hold fast to the Jewish aspect of our lives-our moral and spiritual roots.
Rabbi David Greenberg