It’s been in the news for the last several weeks. Powerful men who believed they were beyond reproach are suddenly being forced to face the music for their inappropriate actions; some many years ago and others more recently. While for most of us, the fear of getting caught is deterring enough to prevent us from misbehaving, to some—especially the elites of society—that fear is nonexistent. The urge for momentary satisfaction is just too strong, and coupled with perceived invincibility, there is no consideration of the consequences.
As always, the Torah predicts and forewarns this attitude. This week we read about Esav, Isaac and Rebecca’s eldest son, selling his firstborn rights to his younger brother Jacob for a mere pot of lentil soup. Many years later, when his father wants to bless his firstborn, Jacob rightfully usurps these blessings for himself, banking on the deal they made decades earlier legally making him the “firstborn” despite being younger.
It is only then that Esav cries out in sorrow, recognizing that his conduct finally caught up with him. But of course, by then it was too late and he was irreversibly trapped in his self-made inferiority. And the rest is history. Jacob’s descendants go on to be the great nation of Israel, while Esav’s go on to be...well, no one really knows who Esav’s descendants are today.
Of course, if this is so regarding misconduct, it would certainly be the case with righteous behavior. The long term effects of doing good may not be known at the moment, or perhaps ever, but you can be sure that it’s there.
And one more tie-in to current events:
This weekend thousands of Chabad rabbis from around the globe will be converging on New York City for our annual conference. While I’m not able to personally attend this year (due to the recent birth of our seventh child), my son Mendy is attending with several hundred of the next generation of Jewish leaders.
You’re not alone if you’ve heard from your Chabad rabbi more than once, “Just do one mitzvah, it makes all the difference!” It’s what we teach and what we strive to accomplish in our respective communities. No mitzvah by a Jew is too small to matter, and nothing is ever forgotten. With so many opportunities to express kindness to others and fulfill the mitzvahs of the Torah, you will actually want your past to catch up with you.
Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov
(A version of this column also appeared in The Times of Israel.)