Sunday, December 18, 2016

Parshas Vayishlach

Parshas  Vayishlach:

So, the first passuk/verse of Parshas Vayishlach isVayishlach Yaakov Melachim el Esav achiv, artzah Seir, si’dei Edom/And Yaakov sent messengers (or Angels) to Esav his brother, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom.

So, Rashi HaKadosh says two words, quoting from Midrash Bereishis Rabbah: ‘Melachim mamash/Real Angels.’ Meaning that Yaakov Avinu sent real Angels to Esav. Why?

Explains the Tosher Rebbe (Rebbe Meshulam Feish Lowy zt"l): Chazal tell us that Esav had the potential to become greater than Yaakov Avinu – had he actually tried. However, the fact that he had a bigger Yetzer Tov also meant that he had a bigger Yetzer Hara – and he fell for the Yetzer Hara. But he still had within him, teaches us Reb Lowy zt"l, that huge Yetzer Tov and the high potential.  So maybe it could be aroused, and he would do Teshuva!

Ah; now we understand why Yaakov Avinu sent real Angels to Esav, he explains: Because he wanted Esav to see these spiritual beings, and perhaps it would arouse the high potential and spirituality that he had inside of him, and he would do Teshuva.

He even goes further and quotes from the Ramban zt"l who says that Esav treated the Angels harshly and didn’t even let them talk to him!  Now, according to this, Reb Lowy zt"l explains, we can understand why Yaakov Avinu got so afraid (as we see a bit later in the parsha):

If Esav had refused to do Teshuva and let the good in him be aroused, imagine what would happen in the future, i.e. with his descendants! (Because we know the concept that Chazal teach us; ‘Maaseh Avos siman li’banim’ which basically means ‘The happenings to the Forefathers are a sign [for what will happen] to the sons (i.e. us)’.  So maybe this was a sign that Esav's descendants would refuse to do Teshuva as well - and that could mean bad things for the Jews).

But, based on these things, the Tosher Rebbe zt"l teaches us an important lesson: Somebody who doesn’t except rebuke or Mussar is just like Esav (in a way). Because he refused to hear what the Angels had to say and he refused to let the good in him come out.[1]

Often times we look at rebuke or Mussar as an offense against our honor, or someone trying to tell us what to do, or trying to change us, etc. But that is the wrong way to look at things! Rebuke and Mussar help us to find our bad points and get rid of them!

This reminds me of the story where someone started yelling at the Alter of Kelm (HaRav Simcha Zissel Ziv zt"l) and insulting him. People wanted to take the man away, but Reb Simcha Zissel told them not to. And he explained that even if the person’s intention was not to help him (by merely pointing out his faults), he could still learn from it and it could still help him![2] The same goes for us.

Okay; back to the parsha: The Angels went, and reported back to Yaakov Avinu that Esav was coming toward him and 400 men were with him. This looks like a possible war and Yaakov Avinu was scared.

(See the vort from the Tosher Rebbe zt"l for one explanation of why he was scared). But the Midrash says another powerful thing: The Torah says ‘Vayira Yaakov mi’od; vayetzer lo/And Yaakov was very afraid, and it distressed him.’

Says the Midrash; what distressed him? The very fact that he was afraid, because it might have been a lack of faith in Hashem.

HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt"l gives another explanation for his fear: He says that the reason why Yaakov Avinu was scared wasn’t because he was worried that he wasn’t righteous and could get punished by having Esav get him; he obviously knew that he was, because Angels escorted him after he left Lavan!

The reason he was worried, explains Reb Moshe zt"l, was because he was worried that he hadn’t reached his full potential, and maybe he could be punished for that. Maybe he hadn’t capitalized on every opportunity he had been given. And this is a fear, he says, that basically every Jew can have.[3]

Okay, back to the parsha: So, Yaakov Avinu Davened to Hashem to save him from Esav, and he said a pretty lengthy prayer. This can teach us a lesson of what to do often times when you are scared: Daven and talk to Hashem. Anyway, Yaakov Avinu split his camps into two, and sent lavish gifts to Esav.

Then in this Aliyah, Yaakov Avinu is left alone at night, and he wrestles with a "man". According to most sources, this "man" was the Angel of Esav – the Angel of Death (the Malach HaMavess). They wrestled until dawn, and when he saw that he could not overcome Yaakov Avinu, he touched his hip socket and dislocated it. (That is why we cannot eat from the thighbone and down on an animal).

The Angel asked Yaakov to let him go, but he replied that he would not let him go unless he blessed him. The Angel asked Yaakov Avinu his name, and he replied "Yaakov". And the Angel told him that Yaakov would no longer be his name – but Yisroel would be his name. Then Yaakov Avinu (Yisroel) asked the Angel his name, but the Angel replied "Why is it that you ask for my name?" and then he blessed Yaakov.

Says HaRav Leib Chasman zt"l: Not telling his name – "Why is it that you ask for my name?" was this Angel’s name (so to speak).  And Reb Chasman zt"l gives a mashal/parable: Say there are a bunch of people watching a movie in a theater, he says. And someone sees them sitting in the dark (which, as you know, is how a theater works), so he turns on the light. Now they can’t see the movie anymore!

So too with the Yetzer Hara (A.K.A the Angel of Death), says Reb Chasman zt"l.  When things are "dark" spiritually, i.e. we aren’t seeing what is going on, he is most powerful and people listen to him most. But the thing that he really does not want us to do (and the thing that we must, with Hashem’s Help, do) is to "turn on the lights" so as to see the truth. Just like the projector screen, when you turn on the lights, you see that the movie isn’t real, so too with the Yetzer Hara (in a way).  You must "turn on the lights" and realize what the truth is.

So, he explains, the Angel of Death – who is also sort of the Yetzer Hara – does not want us to know who he is. That is one of his main things. He doesn’t want us to shed light on the truth and see the truth of the matter, otherwise he would be ruined.[4] (The "truth" is like we explained in Mussar Drosha: Vayishlach). That is "Why is it that you ask for my name?" according to Reb Chasman zt"l. And of course, this ties in beautifully with the fact that the Angel who wrestled with Yaakov Avinu had to go when the sun came up (the light).

Back to the parsha: So, we have the famous meeting between Yaakov Avinu and Esav, and Yaakov sets his camps up in a certain order, etc. Esav and Yaakov hugged, Esav kissed him, and Esav cried on Yaakov’s neck. Yaakov Avinu wanted Esav to accept the gifts, and at first Esav declined, but after Yaakov urged him, he accepted. This encounter etc. "takes up" almost four Aliyos.

Later in this parsha, Hashem officially changes Yaakov Avinu’s name to Yisroel. HaRav Dovid Feinstein shlita discusses the basic difference between Avraham’s name change, and Yaakov Avinu’s: He says that the big difference is that at the start of the passuk/verse when Hashem is changing Yaakov’s name, He says ‘your name is Yaakov’, and so it was evident that his name was to also be Yaakov still; not only Yisroel.[5]

And the Or HaChaim HaKadosh (HaRav Chaim ben Attar zt"l) explains another thing: He says that every name in the Torah represents the Neshamah/Soul that Hashem gave that person, and so the name Yaakov represented his Neshamah/Soul.  However the name Yisroel represents an enhancement of his Neshamah/Soul, and he earned that name.

Okay, so, also in this parsha, Rachel Imeinu has Binyamin and she dies while having him. So she named him Ben Oni (Son of My Suffering), but Yaakov Avinu called him Binyamin. Seder Olam says that Rachel Imeinu was born the day that Yaakov Avinu got the Bracha from Yitzchok Avinu, and so it says that she died at age 36. Late in the parsha, the Torah lists the descendants of Esav.

This parsha has 154 Passukim/verses, which is the most Passukim/verses of any parsha in Sefer Bereishis.

Have a wonderful week full of holiness and warm, inspired Service of Hashem, everyone!

  1. From  Shiur given by HaRav Gedaliah Jaffe shlita.
  2. From Sparks of Mussar (original - HaMe'oros HaGedolim).  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd.
  3. From The Stone Edition Chumash:  By HaRav Nosson Scherman shlita.  Artscroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd.
  4. From  Shiur given by HaRav Shalom Rosner shlita.
  5. From The Stone Edition Chumash:  By HaRav Nosson Scherman shlita.  Artscroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd.

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