Weekly Reading Insights: Vayishlach 5766


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Vayishlach

To be read on 16Kislev 5766 (Dec.17)

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

Vayishlach is the 8th Reading out of 12 in Genesis and 8th overall, and 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.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:0866/Vayishlach)

Rabbi Yehudah asked: What was Jacob's intention in sending messengers to inform Esau that he had been living with Laban? What did he achieve by telling him this? However, Laban's [infamous] reputation had spread far and wide. [It was known] that not one person [against whom he had a vendetta] had escaped him, for Laban was a powerful sorcerer. He was the father of Beor (see Sanhedrin 105a; Bamidbar Rabba, Balak), who was the father of Bilaam, about whom it is written, "Bilaam the son of Beor, the sorcerer" (Joshua 13:22), but he outstripped them all in his knowledge of sorcery and black magic.

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:0866/Vayishlach)

The first king [Bela ben Be'or] personified daat, which [issues forth] after bina. Opposite [daat, in the realm of evil], issued [the gentile prophet] Balaam ben Be'or. [As the Sages state, it is written in the Torah that] "There arose no prophet in Israel like Moses" (Deut. 34:10), but amongst the gentiles there did arise such a prophet, namely Balaam ( Bereishit Rabbah 14:2). Just as Moses personified daat on the side of holiness, so did Balaam [personify daat] on the side of evil, inasmuch as he personified strict judgment.

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

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From Rabbi Moshe Alshich (S0866/Vayishlach)

Seeing that, theoretically, the source of the blessing could be [the angel] Samael, a spiritually negative force, he did not want to be the recipient of a blessing from that source at all. He was only interested in confirming blessings already received from divinely inspired sources.

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


"He took from what came to his hand...a present for Esau his brother." (32:14)
The words "what came to his hand" seem unnecessary. When Jacob began to prepare the animals as gifts for his brother, the animals were reluctant to be given to Esau, an idol-worshipper. Jacob had to take them with his hand and persuade them to go.
(Beit Yakov)

"If you will become as we are, that every male of you be circumcised." (34:15)
Why did the sons of Jacob, who were physically strong and powerful, avenge what happened to their sister Dina in such a "sneaky" way? Why did they insist that the people of Shechem be circumcised? Had Jacob's sons attacked them as they were, the world would have reacted with an uproar. Once the people of Shechem nominally identified themselves as Jews, however, they could be killed with impunity. For surely no one would protest the killing of Jews...
(Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshutz)


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

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

MOSHIACH THIS WEEK (M:0866/Vayishlach)

"These are the names of the chieftains [that came] of Esau, chieftain Magdiel, chieftain Iram; these are the chieftains of Esau.." (Gen. 36:40-43).

The present exile is referred to as "Galut Edom - the Edomite Exile," because the Romans - who brought about the present exile with their destruction of the Holy Temple - were mostly descendants of Edom. This exile is generally divided into two eras, governed by two kinds of chieftains-leaders, as mentioned in the verse cited:

The first is "Chieftain Magdiel." This name signifies, and is an expression of, "he magnified himself (yitgadel) above every god" (Daniel 11:36). In this first era of the Edomite exile, the Roman Empire expanded throughout the world, seeking to overpower Judaism and to make it difficult for Jews to observe Torah and mitzvot.

The second one is "Chieftain Iram." This name, the Midrash notes, is an expression of "he is destined to amass (le'erom) treasures for the royal Moshiach." This refers to the second era of the Edomite exile, the one close to the Messianic days. In that time Rome will cease to subdue Israel and will itself submit to holiness. Moreover, it will even assist Moshiach. Rome will be transformed to realize the sacred meaning of its name: Romi as an expression of hitromemut - exaltation, i.e., the exaltation of holiness.

[Reprinted with permission from
L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:0866/Vayishlach)

For 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, where a person's presence (or absence) in synagogue, 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 just a bunch of stories, but rather eternal lessons. One thing we learn from the story of Jacob and Esau is that 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 Jewish ethics, 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, 'When a person's ways are accepted by G-d, even his enemies will compliment him' (Proverbs16:7). 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 return to G-d".

The simple reasoning here is that, in the spiritual dimension, when a person sins he gives strength to the negative spiritual forces, which in turn share this strength with his enemies. The way to fix this is to do the opposite and give strength to the positive side. This depletes the strength of our enemies!

This is what the verses in our Torah portion refer to, that in preparing to meet Esau, Jacob "…went before them [his wives and children]" (Gen. 33:4-5). Even though Jacob's family was holy and attached to holiness, he was on a 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 perfect himself. This caused him to go to an even higher spiritual level.

What caused Jacob to do this? He perceived Esau as a righteous person who was angry with him! "There must be some problematic issue within me," Jacob said to himself. Therefore, to open the discussion, he bowed seven times, indicating that he lowered himself seven levels to communicate with Esau in an appropriate way. When Jacob fully transformed himself, then the verse says, "…and Esau ran to meet him". Esau was transformed into a friend and companion, rather than a bitter enemy.

By responding with self-examination and repentance to the negative aspects in our lives, and thereby increasing the peace in our homes and workplaces, 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

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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