Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 17   No. 8

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Parshas Vayishlach

The B'rachos Were Meant for Eisav
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)

Commenting on the word "Garti" (in the phrase "im Lavan garti [I sojourned with Lavan]") Rashi explains that Ya'akov was telling Eisav how, for the last twenty years, he had sojourned (with the status of a 'Ger'), and that he had not become wealthy or influential. So Eisav could see for himself, that his father's B'rachos had not come true, and that he had nothing to be afraid of! Alternatively, (davar acher), Rashi adds, based on the letters of "Garti", which also spell Taryag (the total number of Mitzvos that Yisrael would later receive at Har Sinai), he was informing him that he had kept all the Mitzvos, and was still worthy of Divine protection. Consequently, Eisav was well advised not to start up with him. These two explanations, the K'li Yakar points out, are contradictory - the first, is an expression of humility, based on a sense of fear that Eisav would do him harm; the second, a threat that portrayed total self-assurance.

And this will explain why Rashi treats them as two distinct answers, by adding 'Davar Acher', as we explained What is nevertheless problematic, he points out, is a. why according to the second explanation, Ya'akov Avinu referred to Eisav as his master, and himself, as Eisav's servant, and b. why he uses the word "Garti" (with its negative connotations), to convey the message of 'Taryag'. He should rather have used word "Avadti .. " (and found another method of conveying the hint of 'Taryag'?

*

The K'li Yakar therefore explains that the two above interpretations are in fact, one, and he interprets the Medrash in the following way:

Ya'akov Avinu sent to Eisav that he had not become a wealthy or influential man, as we explained earlier. This does not mean to say that the B'rachos had not materialized - that would be a slight against his father Yitzchak! What it meant was that when his father blessed him, he thought he was blessing Eisav, and that is precisely what happened. The blessing took effect on Eisav (Ya'akov's pretence notwithstanding). His (Ya'akov's) own attempt to steal the B'rachos did not succeed, and it was Eisav who received the blessing, just as Yitzchak intended. As Chazal have taught 'Reuven cannot encroach upon what is reserved for his friend as much as a hair!' And so it was that Ya'akov had turned out to be a Ger, whilst Eisav had his own kingdom in Har Se'ir.

Perhaps, Ya'akov continued, the B'rachos had indeed been fulfilled with regard to Ya'akov. After all, had Yitzchak not told Eisav that the moment Ya'akov sinned, Eisav would throw off the shackles of Ya'akov's authority? So perhaps he (Ya'akov) had sinned and that was why he had not succeeded, and Eisav had?

That is why he used the word "Garti" - to make it clear that he had kept all the Taryag Mitzvos, and that it could not possibly have been on account of his sins that he had not seen the fulfillment of the B'rachos, but because they were not meant for him in the first place, as we explained.

Ya'akov Avinu used the word "Garti" to tell Eisav that although he had observed all the Taryag Mitzvos, he nevertheless remained a Ger. Consequently, there was no reason for him to vent his anger against him.

*

Finally, the author suggests that perhaps one ought to erase the words 'Davar Acher' from the text of Rashi, seeing as the two explanations are so closely connected.

*

All of the above of course, was meant for Eisav's ears. Ya'akov was flattering Eisav for the sake of Darkei Sholom and in order to safeguard his own future, indeed his own life. In view of Ya'akov's reasoning however, we will need to find a counter-argument to explain why the B'rachos were in fact intended for Ya'akov, and not for Eisav.

This lies in the fact that although Yitzchak intended to bless Eisav, that was only because he thought that Eisav was the B'chor. He blessed Eisav, not because he was Eisav; he blessed Eisav because he was the firstborn. Had he known that Eisav had sold the birthright to Ya'akov, it was Ya'akov whom he would have called, not Eisav. By remaining silent when his father called him, Eisav was in fact deceiving his father into blessing him under false pretences (not to mention the oath that he had made to Ya'akov, and that he was now abrogating by pretending to be the firstborn).

Consequently, all that Ya'akov had done was to trick his father into giving him what was rightly his.

That explains why, when Yitzchak asked Ya'akov who he was, he replied "I am Eisav your firstborn!". What he meant, the Ramban and other commentaries explain, was that, having purchased the birthright from Eisav, he was now taking his place (as the birthright belonged no longer to Eisav but to him).

And so, when Ya'akov turned out to be the recipient of the B'rachos, it transpired that Yitzchak had blessed the right person after all. That explains why, when Eisav subsequently complained to his father, the latter responded "Gam baruch yih'yeh" - The B'rachos are his by right! I blessed the right person, and I have no right to take it away from him. And if the B'rachos had not yet materialized, it was because the time had not yet arrived to do so. But rest assured the time would come when they would.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Ya'akov's Messengers

"And Ya'kov sent 'Mal'achim' before him to Eisav his brother " (32:4).

The word "mal'ochim" can mean either messengers or angels, says Rabeinu Bachye. In this particular case, he explains, it means both. Ya'akov Avinu sent a group of messengers comprising his servants and men of his household to try and appease his brother Eisav, he explains, and mixed in the group, was a spattering of angels that had just arrived to protect him, as described at the end of last week's Parshah.

*

What bears out this interpretation of "mal'ochim", says R. Bachye, is the fact that no sooner does the Torah informs us that Ya'akov sent the Angels, the Torah reports that they returned, without informing us that they arrived at Eisav's camp, or what they said to them. This suggests that they returned as soon as they left, in the way that only angels can do. Upon their return, the Torah does indeed give us a brief report regarding the messengers' encounter with Eisav, but not before it has let us know by way of this hint, who the messengers were!

*

Ya'akov Avinu, the author explains, was in fact going in the footsteps of his grandfather Avraham, who prayed (successfully) that G-d should send an angel ahead of Eliezer to help him succeed in his mission (as the author explained in Parshas Chayei-Sarah [24:6]; see author's comment, 24:16). Now Ya'akov was doing the same thing.

*

My Master Eisav (1)

"So you shall say to my master Eisav " (32:5).

Ya'akov would not have referred to Eisav as 'my master' when not in his presence, says R. Bachye. He was merely instructing his messengers that when they spoke to Eisav or to any member of his household, they were to refer to Eisav as 'Ya'akov's master Eisav' (and to himself as 'Eisav's servant'). Even so, bearing in mind that, at the beginning of the Parshah, G-d had explicitly informed Rivkah that "the older son will serve the younger one", Ya'akov's descendents were destined to pay for this act of flattery, See Ba'al ha'Turim (36:31).

*

My Master Eisav (2)

(Ibid.)

R. Bachye elaborates further - Yitzchak lived in the south of Eretz Yisrael, so that Ya'akov had to pass through Edom (Eisav's territory). That explains why he was afraid of Eisav, and why he saw fit to send messengers to him, in an effort to win his friendship.

Yet Chazal take him to task for doing so. The Medrash even cites the Pasuk in Mishlei (26:17, [written with reference to this episode]) "Like one who grabs hold of a dog's ears " (inciting the dog which then bites him).

G-d said to him: 'Eisav was going (harmlessly) on his way, and you send to him and call him 'your master'! (see footnote in R. Bachye). This is what the Pasuk in Mishlei means when it compares a Tzadik who bows before a Rasha to a muddy spring and a broken fountain.

Yet in spite of this, the Medrash continues, now that Ya'akov did bow before Eisav, calling him 'My master', we must learn Derech Eretz from there, how to pay homage to a king.

*

And it is based on this important lesson that the Medrash cites the Medrash which describes how, when Rabeinu ha'Kodosh (R. Yehudah ha'Nasi) wrote to the Emperor Antoninus 'So says your servant Yehudah ', the latter responded 'Since when are you my servant? Would that I will be your servant in the World to Come!'' Back came Rebbi's reply 'Neither am I any better than my ancestor, nor are you any worse than yours - for Ya'akov sent to Eisav "So says your servant Ya'akov"!'

(See also Main article, Parshas Toldos).

*

Eisav's Angel

"And he is also (Gam) coming to meet you" (32:7).

The word "Gam", R. Bachye explains, comes to include Eisav's angel, who was coming to fight with Ya'akov. Indeed, he is 'the man' who later in the Parshah struggles with Ya'akov. This also supports what the author said earlier, that the messengers that Ya'akov sent to Eisav contained a contingent of Angels (as we explained there). Had that not been the case, how would Ya'akov's human messengers have known that Eisav's angel was on the way to fight with him.

And it also explains, says R. Bachye, why in the next Pasuk, the Torah writes that "Ya'akov was afraid and troubled (see Rashi) - He was afraid of Eisav, and troubled because of his Angel.

*

Humility Before G-d

"I have become small through all the kindnesses which you performed with your servant" (32:11).

This is how Rashi explains the Pasuk. Not so the Ramban, who translates it as "I am too small (undeserving) for all your kindnesses". According to the Ramban, Ya'akov was expressing (not how G-d's kindnesses had detracted from his merits, but) how unworthy he was to begin with, to be the recipient of G-d's numerous acts of kindnesses.

*

Following in the footsteps of the Ramban, R. Bachye extrapolates from this Pasuk that, when standing before G-d in prayer, one should first reflect upon one's own lowliness and insignificance on the one hand, and the Greatness of G-d (whose servant he is - which is why Ya'akov added "with your servant") on the other. And he should recall all the kindnesses and goodness that Hashem has done for him, not because he deserves them, but purely out of kindness, like a master to his slave; as David Hamelech said in Tehilim (16:2) " You are my Master; You are under no obligation to do good to me".

Then, and only then, should he begin to Daven!

* * *

HIGHLIGHTS FROM ...
... TARGUM YONASAN

'And he purchased the portion of field where he had set up house for a hundred pearls' (33:19).

*

' he built there a Mizbei'ach, and there he gave a tenth of everything that he owned before Hashem the G-d of Yisrael' (33:20).

*

... THE BA'AL HA'TURIM

"And he arose that night and took his two wives and his eleven sons (yelodov) " (32:23).

There are two other Pesukim in T'nach which contain the word "yelodov" - 1. in Yeshayah (29:23) "For when he sees (ki bi're'oso) his children (yelodov), My handiwork in their midst (G-d with reference to Ya'akov); 2. in Iyov (38:41) "Who prepares nourishment for the raven, when its young ones (yelodov) cry out to G-d "?

This is what the Medrash is referring to, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, when it says that Ya'akov saw three hundred thousand of his descendants, just as he saw his eleven sons (the Gematriyah of "ki bi're'oso" - is equivalent to 'Lamed Ribvo'os' - three hundred thousand).

(This poses a difficulty however, seeing as, according to the Pesukim and the well-known commentaries, Yisrael only began to increase rapidly many years after Ya'akov Avinu's death).

Furthermore, the Ba'al ha'Turim informs us, just as there, the raven's children cry out to Hashem, so too here, did Ya'akov instruct his children to cry out to Hashem to save them from the clutches of Eisav. The Medrash does indeed tell us that he took each son individually, and told him to Daven to Hashem to this end.

*

"And he (Ya'akov) said 'I will not send you away unless you bless me (berachtoni)' " (32"27).

The Gematriyah of "berachtoni", the Ba'al ha'Turim points out is equivalent to that of 'Hodeh le'birchosi' (concede to my blessing), since he was the Angel of Eisav.

See Rashi.

*

"And he prostrated himself seven times until he reached his brother" (33:3).

The seven times, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, corresponds to the Pasuk in Mishlei (24:16) "For seven times will a Tzadik fall and rise", and to remove the seven proverbial abominations from Eisav's heart (see Mishlei 26:29).

*

"Ochi, y'hi l'cho asher loch (My brother, you keep what is yours!)" (33:9).

Here, says Rashi, Eisav conceded that the B'rachos belonged to Ya'akov. The Ba'al ha'Turim corroborates this by pointing out that the Gematriyah of "Ochi, y'hi l'cho asher loch" is equivalent to that of 'Zeh ha'b'rochos' (This is the B'rachos).

*

"And these are the kings that ruled in the land of Edom before a king ruled over Yisrael" (36:31).

This was a punishment, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, for the eight times that Ya'akov referred to Eisav as his master.

* * *

THE MITZVOS AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 429:
Not to Benefit from Sacrifices of Avodah-Zarah (cont.)

Also included in this La'av is not to add to the money (or possessions) with which G-d has graced a person, money (or articles) that have been stolen, held back from his employees, that comprises interest or that was obtained through any other illegal means, all of which fall under the heading of 'the accessories of Avodah-Zarah'. This is because the inclination of a man's heart is evil; he covets the above and brings it into his house. As a matter of fact, a person's Yeitzer-ha'Ra is called by the name of Avodah-Zarah, as the Gemara says in Kesubos (68a), where it cites the Pasuk in Re'ei (15:9) "Beware, lest there will be thoughts of lawlessness in your heart", and in the same Parshah (13:14), in connection with Avodah-Zarah, the Torah writes "lawless men went out from your midst and led astray ". And in connection with monies such as these and those which are used in the service of Avodah-Zarah that the Torah writes in Eikev (7:26) " you will become banned like it" - whatever cleaves to it becomes a ban. G-d's blessing will not take effect on it, and it will gradually dwindle until it is destroyed. For so the Gemara says in Bava Metzi'a (75b) 'A P'rutah of Ribis (interest) destroys many stores of money; the one comes and destroys the other'.

This Prohibition applies everywhere at all times, to men and to women alike. The Rambam rules that anyone who contravenes it by taking any item from an idol, bringing it into his home and benefiting from it, is subject to two sets of Malkos - 1. "ve'Lo sovi "; 2. "ve'Lo yidbak .

* * *

Existence (the Three Worlds)

(Continuation of last week's main article)

After describing the ladder, the Torah concludes "And behold, G-d was standing on top of it", because Hakadosh Baruch Hu is higher than them all. He brings His power to bear upon the angels, and the angels in turn, influence the constellations, who in turn by virtue of their constant movements influence the lower worlds.

It transpires that what causes this world to run is the constellations, what causes the constellations to run is the angels, and what causes the angels to function is G-d, who is ultimately the moving power behind the entire universe.

* * *

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