Weekly Reading Insights

VaYishlach 5763


Overview of the Weekly Reading: VaYishlach
To be read on 18 Kislev 5763 (Nov.23)

Torah: Gen.32:4-36:43;
Haftorah: Book of Obadia (who was an Edomite convert!)

Stats:Vayishlach, 8th out of 12 in Genesis, contains 0 positive mitzvot and 1 prohibitive mitzvot.
Vayishlach is written on 237 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 11th out of 54 in overall length.

Yaacov sent messengers to Eisav, informing him of his return. Eisav came to meet Yaacov, along with 400 men. Yaacov divided his people into two camps, so that should Eisav attack, at least one camp would survive. Yaacov sent gifts for Eisav. He then sent his wives, children and possessions across the Jabbok River. During the night Yaacov wrestled with an angel, who could not defeat him, so he touched Yaacov on the thigh, dislocating his hip. At dawn, the angel blessed Yaacov, and changed his name to Yisrael. Yaacov met with Eisav in reconciliation. Eisav went to Seir.

Yaacov separated from him and went to Shechem, where he purchased Kever Yosef. Yaacov's daughter, Dina, was forcefully taken by Shechem, who wanted to marry her. Yaacov, and Dina's brothers said they would permit the union only if Shechem, along with every other male, would circumcise himself. On the third day after their circumcision, when they were all suffering, Shimon and Levi killed all the men and returned with Dina. They left for Beth El, where Yaacov set up an altar to G-d. Rachel died in childbirth on the road. Yitzchak died at the age of 180. The parsha ends with the chronicles the family of Eisav, and the kings of Edom.


"The other band which is left may then escape." (32:9)

Approaching his brother Esau, Jacob divided his camp into three groups, each of which was for a distinct purpose: to appease Esau with gifts, to pray for G-d's help, and to prepare for war should it become inevitable. This parallels the commandment in the Shema in which we are enjoined to love G-d "with all your heart" (prayer); "with all your soul" (war); "and with all your might" (possessions and wealth).

(Sefat Emet)

"And so he commanded also (gam) the second, also the third, also all those who followed the flocks." (32:19)

The Hebrew word "gam," spelled gimel-mem, appears three times in this verse, alluding to the three (gimel) redemptions of the Jewish people that will come about through a tzadik whose name begins with the letter mem: Moshe (the redemption fro m Egypt); Mordechai (the redemption of Purim); and Moshiach, who will usher in the Final Redemption.

(Otzar Chaim)



Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of
Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

If we follow Rashi – who understands the words Alon Bachot “oak of weeping” in 35,8, immediately before the report of G-d changing Jacob’s name [to Yisroel] and blessing him, as a veiled hint that Rebeccah had died – it seems strange that Jacob would experience a Divine vision at a time when he was in mourning for his mother. We have a tradition that one does not experience prophetic visions except when in a state of joy (Midrash Hagadol Vayigash 45,27). There is an excellent reason that Jacob should have experienced this revelation t the moment he mourned the death of his mother.

G-d hinted to Jacob at the time when he mourned the death of his mother that he would experience a punishment for not observing the commandment of honoring father and mother during the twenty-two years he had remained at Laban’s. As a matter of fact, Joseph’s separation from his father, during which time his father continued mourning for him, lasted twenty-two years (as explained by Rashi on Genesis 37,34, where he refers to Jacob’s statement to Laban in 31,41: Zeh li esrim shanah b’veitecha, “these twenty years I have spent in your house, etc.”). Jacob explained to Laban that in the end he would be punished for not having left Laban’s house much sooner. According to Rashi the words zeh li, mean that “this is my sin.”

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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(W:08-63 VaYishlach)

It is interesting to recorders of history how over the last 150 years there has been a move towards the nuclear family. Small family units replace the extended family of grandparents, parents, children grandchildren, cousins, and more. Often, people today lack community of any kind. Superficial relationships with work colleagues and neighbors replace community-oriented life, when a person's presence in synagogue-or lack of, one's health, well-being, etc. were noticed and dealt with. Rebbe Michil gives a very interesting insight on community life and how we can benefit from it.

Torah is not a bunch of stories but rather eternal lessons. What is one thing we can learn from the conflict between Yaacov and Eisav? A person must always be humble, because by being humble we will be liked by our neighbors. This is spelled out clearly in Orchot Tzadikim, (one of the classic books of Mussar) in "The Gateway of Will": '"When a person likes his peers and is liked by them, the Almighty likes him" (Avot 5:10), and even his enemies complete him (rather than deplete him), as it is written in Mishley (16/7), 'When a person's ways are accepted by G-d, even his enemies will compliment him' (in Hebrew, yeshalem). Therefore, it is very important, that when a person finds he has enemies, he should take it as a reflection of his own behavior. He must immediately look into his own deeds and do tshuvah'.

The simple reasoning here is that in the spiritual dimension, when a person sins, he gives strength to the klipa, the negative side, which in turn shares this strength with his enemies. The way to fix this is to do the opposite, do tshuvah and give strength to the positive side. This depletes the strength of our enemies! This is true whether we are speaking about a neighbor, a former friend or even a spouse. Particularly a spouse! One must do tshuvah immediately so that especially those closest to us should not be against us.
This is what the verses in our Torah portion refer to (33,4-5) that in preparing to meet Eisav, Yaacov 'went before them' (his wives and children). Even though Yaacov's family was holy and attached to the true Source, he was on higher level. How do we know this? Because he immediately identified the inner meaning of having an enemy in his brother, that he must examine his own actions and do tshuvah. This caused him to go to an even higher spiritual level. What caused Yaacov to do tshuvah? He perceived Eisav as a righteous person who was angry with him! There must be some problematic issue, Yaacov said to himself. Therefore, to open the discussion, he bowed seven times, indicating that he lowered himself seven levels to communicate with Eisav in an appropriate way. When Yaacov fully transformed himself with tshuvah, then the verse says, 'and Eisav ran to meet him'. Eisav was transformed into a friend and companion, rather than a bitter enemy.

By responding with tshuvah to the negatives in our lives, and thereby increasing the peace in our homes and workplaces, even in the 'small stuff issues', we will impact our lives for the better in obvious ways, and simultaneously weaken the power of those who seek our harm, G-d forbid. May we merit the ultimate peace on the personal and universal scope with the final redemption, now.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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