Parshat Vayishlach


• DO YOU KNOW HOW TO WIN OVER YOUR ENEMY? We have our share of people who don’t exactly like us whether as individuals or as a nation. The last couple of weeks we have witnessed how easily our enemies can ignite our surroundings and put us on the edge of war. Every once in a while we get a wake up call and realize there are many who hate us. This week’s parsha is a textbook account on how to deal with our enemies. Our forefather Yaacov was informed that his brother who he hasn’t seen in over twenty years was approaching towards him with four hundred soldiers so he devised a plan on how to appease the enemy and to come out of a dangerous situation unscathed. The three point plan was prayer (some of those prayers have become the essential part of our daily services ), gifts (bribing them, resulting in their softening their stance against us) and battle (last resort).

• The sages say there are seven degrees of hate that Eisav had for his brother so for this Yaacov bowed down to his brother seven times. Each time another layer of hate was removed. Although one of the lessons to be learned is not to rely on miracles and not to trust one’s own righteousness but do whatever is in your power. One should give the utmost effort, whether it be skill, charisma, intelligence, kind words to beat your foe. However it seems like from the Sages perhaps Yaacov flattered his brother a bit too much. For the seven times he bowed down to Eisav, Yaacov’s descendents were punished with seven brutal kings that tortured our people.

• R Sampson Refael Hirsh indicates that the actions and philosophy of life of Yaacov and Eisav is reflected upon their respected desendents throughout history. Yaacov is absorbed in his concerns for the wholeness and welfare of his family. He builds himself up gradually, and finally attains internal happiness and a tranquil family life, but the political strength is always in the hands of others. Eisav, on the other hand, is already established as both a ruler and warlord of his people, as described at the end of the parsha. For thousands of years this struggle has continued between Yaacov and Eisav. Yaacov has the glorious family life, centered around Shabbat and Holidays while Eisav has the strength and power. Should the main focus and philosophy of man be the pursuit of political power? That is the question the Torah with all its mitzvot (commandments) gives us a clear answer on. The final victory will belong to the moral side and not the one with the power. This is evident by the kiss in which Eisav gives Yaacov, as it gives a hint as to what will happen in the end of days. The emotions Eisav shows indicates that deep within him beats a spark of humanity which he will concede and relinquish the sword philosophy. The scene where Eisav, the strong one, falls on the neck of Yaacov. That is a victory for justice which will be the final stage between the struggle of Yaacov and Eisav.

Second Portion

• We learn from this section it’s not wise to travel alone at night. Yaacov encountered Eisav’s angel, after he went back to retrieve a few things (pachim), whom he fought and struggled with till the morning.

• Why didn’t a dark angel confront Avraham or Yitzchak? Why just Yaacov? The reason is Yaacov represents Torah. The Satans main concern is if a Jew is learning Torah. Torah is an essential part of our being.

Third Portion

• An angel has one task, mission, then he is PATUR-accomplishes his mission; the last step, whether he succeeded or not, is singing to G-d . Interestingly, Yaacov asked the angel his name (shem) however he could not answer because one’s name is defined by the accomplishment of his mission, which he failed. SHEM (name) and SHAM (there) are from the same root. One has to go there, wherever his mission is, to accomplish one’s name. That is what a soul, NE-SHAM-MA, is all about. Whenever the Torah uses the style with SHEMO first, as in SHEMO MANOACH (his name is Manoach), the Shemo serving as the lead-in indicates this particular individual accomplished his mission. However if the name is first, followed by the SHEMO, as in NAVAL SHEMO, he did not accomplish his mission.

Fourth Portion

• The scripture say that they kissed. Our sages say that Eisav tried to bite Yaacov in the neck. Many commentaries say Eisav’s kiss was compared to a bite. This is symbolic; in future generations whenever Eisav embraces Yaacov the end result will be negativity, assimilation, etc.

Fifth Portion

• An inhabitant of Shechem rapes Yaacov’s daughter Dina. Shimon and Levi take revenge. Did Shimon and Levi act properly, deceiving the people of Shechem and killing them? It seems like a pretty severe punishment to inflict the entire city for the act of one evil person. In the scripture the Torah seems to indirectly justify what the brothers did. Yaacov, though,to an extent agreed to the circumcision part, however didn’t know the extent of what they planned and did. He figured they would grab Dina when the men were at their weakest due to the circumcision. In essence they acted with out the approval of Yaacov. Here we learn the extent of punishment provided to an accomplice. Yaacov mentions the fact that “hono” that was violated by their actions. His sons responded when one deals with swindlers one must forgo honor.

Sixth Portion

Words are dangerous; especially ones of Tzadikim. When Lavan accused him of stealing his idols. Yaacov, out of frustration, said who ever stole the idols shall die. He was unaware that his beloved wife Rachel had done so.

Seventh Portion

After the death of Rachel, Ruben was insulted that the main bed of Yaacov was not put in his mother’s tent. So he switched the beds himself, angering his father. However Yaacov did not respond until years later when he was was about to die and giving the brachot to each son.

Credit to: Rabbi Avi Matmon

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