Weekly Reading Insights: VaYishlach 5764



Overview of the Weekly Reading: VaYishlach

To be read on 18 Kislev 5764 (Dec. 13)

VaYishlach is the 8th Reading out of 12 in Genesis and 8th overall, and 11th out of 54 in overall length.
Genesis 32:4-36:43; Haftorah: Book of Obadia (who was an Edomite convert!)
Pirkei Avot: not till after Passover

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.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:08-64/VaYishlach )

All the world was afraid of Laban [and his sorcery], so the first words that Jacob sent to Esau were "I have lived with Laban". [He meant it to mean] "If you say that it was only for a month or a year, that is not how it was. Rather I have stayed [with him] up till now. I stayed twenty years with him, and if you say that I came away empty handed, [that's the reason for adding] that I had ox and donkey [when I left]. These are two are representatives of severe judgment. When they come together they only do so to cause harm to the world.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:08-64/VaYishlach )

All the divine beneficence that is granted to him is given as well for the sake of all [the souls of those other righteous people] who are dependent upon him. This is why righteous people value their possessions, since [they are aware that] it is granted them from above.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the Shelah, Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:08-64/VaYishlach )

The words "The land of Seir, a field of Edom" (Ibid.), two names for Esau's territory, allude to both the physical and the spiritual domain. The "Land of Seir" is an allusion to Samael, whose share in the world is the "seir" - literally the "goat", or scape-goat, which is offered to him "as a bribe" on the Day of Atonement.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed, and he divided the people who were with him." (32:8)

What caused Jacob to be distressed? The fact that the people who were with him were "divided." Jacob recognized that when the Jewish people are united, the forces of Esau can do them no harm. It's only when there are internal divisions and strife that Jews should worry.
(Maayanot HaNetzach)

"Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau." (32:12)
The repetition of the word "hand" indicates that Jacob was afraid of two separate dangers: the "hand of Esau," Esau's brute physical power, and "the hand of my brother," Esau's brotherly love. Esau's sword posed a threat to Jacob's physical well-being, but socializing with him would be an even greater threat to his soul.
(Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik)

"Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him." (33:4)
When a small flame is brought close to a burning torch, the smaller fire is nullified within the larger one. So too was it with Jacob and Esau. Jacob was the great light, whereas Esau contained tiny, hidden sparks of holiness. When Esau spotted Jacob these sparks were aroused, prompting him to
(from L'Chaim #546)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:08-64/VaYishlach )

In a short but very beautiful soliloquy before G-d, our forefather Yaacov admits his fear, "I have become small from all of Your kindness and truth…" (32/11). Rashi explains that Yaacov was afraid that all of the kindness he received from G-d had reduced his spiritual merit and therefore made him vulnerable to Esav's attack. The Shlah says that if this is how our forefather Yaacov saw the world, how much more so for all of us. We should be ever vigilant to repay all of G-d's kindness with our own good deeds many times over. The main reason people are not sensitive to G-d's kindness is because they are so selfishly absorbed in their own needs and desires, they do not see what is going on around them. Rabbi Yuroslovsky, the leader of the Chabad Rabbinical Court in Israel, told the following related stories at the Shabbat meal as part of the celebration following my son's marriage:

The prophet Eliyahu (Elijah) was once sent to test Rabbi Moshe Alsheich of Safed in his zealousness for the commandment of hospitality. From the very onset of Shabbat the 'guest' kept crying for more food until not only all the food in the host's home, but all the food available from all of the neighbors was eaten. The only way Rabbi Alsheich was able to calm his guest was by promising that immediately after Shabbat he would ritually slaughter an ox just for him. That evening one ox after another was slaughtered, but when they were checked, unbelievably all were deemed non-kosher. When the 40th ox slaughtered was found to be kosher, Rabbi Alsheich turned to his guest in joy, only to find that he had disappeared.

Because of this and other great episodes of self sacrifice for doing mitzvahs, Rabbi Moshe Alsheich was graced by Heaven with the privilege of revealing one of the 70 faces of Torah interpretation. For years, he lectured on the weekly Torah portion to the entire city. Once, on parshat Chayei Sara, with the holy Ari (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria) in the audience, he became excited about his topic and found great personal satisfaction in the attention his listeners gave. Suddenly, the Ari left the synagogue. Totally distraught, Rabbi Alsheich finished his talk and raced after him to ask what happened. The Ari explained that when one gives a talk about the great personalities of the Torah, they come to listen. The souls of Avraham and Sarah came to hear Rabbi Alsheich as did the soul of Efron (the owner of the field that Avraham bought to bury Sarah.) "When you noticed how interested everyone was, and you felt self-satisfied, this upset Avraham and Sarah, who cannot bear even a slight hint of haughtiness, so they left. That left only the soul of Efron in the room, and I did not want to be alone in the room with Efron. So I left too."

Rabbi Yuroslovsky continued with a story about the 2nd rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi DovBer, the 'Mitler Rebbe,' who was known to be a demanding leader. Not everyone was comfortable going to him for a private audience. Once a chasid entered and asked the Rebbe how to rid himself of 'hargashat hayaish'-a feeling of oneself-indicative of a person who leans towards being self-centered. The Rebbe asked the chasid if he knew what hargashat hayaish is, and then the Rebbe answered the question himself.

At the very beginning of the creation, the Satan (Accuser)-the embodiment of all of the evil in the world, but also characterized as G-d's servant whose purpose is to test our true spiritual resolve-came to G-d and asked after his purpose. G-d told him to be the Primordial Snake. The Satan was very happy because he knew he had a lot to do. After a dozen generations, around the time of Noach, he asked again what to do. G-d said to be the angel of death. Happy, he set to work, all through the time of the flood and the generation of the tower of Babel. But when Avraham came along things became quiet, and so again the Satan approached G-d. G-d told him to be the Yetzer Hara, the Evil Inclination. Really happy now, he worked successfully until the time of Moshe's leadership and the giving of the Torah.. G-d then told him to be "Yaish"-an exaggerated sense of self that blinds a person to seeing G-d in the world. He had lots of work again until the Ba'al Shem Tov taught how to control self- centeredness and focus on spirituality. When the Satan asked, 'NOW what am I supposed to do?' G-d said, 'you will be 'hergashat hayaish', a much more subtle level of pride and haughtiness. Thus, concluded the Mitler Rebbe: the Accuser, the Primordial Snake, the angel of death, the evil inclination, haughtiness and self-centeredness, are all the same. Now that we know the truth, we can get to work!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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