November 26-27,1999 18 Kislev 5760
Pop Quiz: In what city did Ya'akob buy a piece of land after returning from Laban?
Rashi tells us that Ya'akob was alone that night because he went back to get some jars that he had forgotten behind. This led to his struggling with Esav's angel the entire night and finally emerging victorious. Although we know that Ya'akob was extremely wealthy, he still went back across the river to retrieve some inexpensive utensils. This is not to say that Ya'akob couldn't part with his money, because when it came to buying a burial plot from Esav, the Midrash tells us that he placed a pile of money at Esav's feet in order to purchase his right in the Me'arat Hamachpelah. We see from here that Ya'akob could spend a lot of money for something important. However, he didn't want to waste anything of value and he was even willing to go across a river to get his jars. This teaches us an important lesson. We are given money and resources to use properly. When buying something worthwhile, we may spend as much as necessary in order to obtain it. But we should never waste money or valuable items for no good reason. Especially today, in our throw-away society, we must teach our children the value of money and the value of our possessions. To throw away something of value is wrong. If we show our children BY EXAMPLE that we appreciate our money and our valuables, spending them when necessary and saving them when not, we will be raising them in a proper way, so that they will have the correct attitude towards their possessions and will likewise do the same. The most important thing which we have to teach our children not to waste is time. With all of our "time-saving" conveniences, we have a lot of extra time on our hands. When we waste this valuable time, we are wasting our very life itself! Just as Ya'akob didn't waste any resources, even something worth very little, we have to value everything Hashem gives us, especially our time in this world. The expression "to kill time" means "to kill life" G-d forbid. This is the best lesson we can impart to our children. Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And Ya'akob sent angels" (Beresheet 32:4) Our perashah presents us with a confrontation between Ya'akob and Esav. Our Sages tell us that there is an important rule to remember as we study this encounter. The rule is "ma'aseh abot siman l'banim - all that happened to the forefathers is a sign of what will happen to their descendants. Esav represents the evil forces of the world, and Ya'akob represents Torah and truth. Therefore this rule is extremely important, because from the events that happened then, we can learn how to act now. In the Midrash, there is a criticism leveled at Ya'akob. Why did he send messengers to Esav? Why did Ya'akob contact him at all? The Midrash compares the situation to one who passes a sleeping dog. The wise man lets the dog sleep. If he wakes him up, the dog is liable to jump on him. The Zohar, however, praises Ya'akob for confronting Esav! Is this a contradiction? Rabbi Gedalya Schor explains that there is no contradiction. On the natural level, one should not start up with the enemy. One never knows the outcome. This is the lesson of the first Midrash. However Ya'akob knew that he and Esav represented two major forces in the world, and what would happen to him would affect his children. The Zohar is praising Ya'akob for putting himself into this situation to help his later generations. He feared that the later generations would not be able to defeat Esav. Therefore, he put himself in front of Esav to defeat him in order to help his descendants. Ya'akob prayed for victory, made plans for war and sent a great gift. This three-way strategy is a model for us today. We, the Jewish people, have been fortified by our forefathers for all possible situations. Hashem is with us, and through the forefathers, told us how to act. We do not need the protection of the nations nor is it healthy to rely on them. We should not expect the President of our great country or his wife to fight our battles. The United States is not the protector of our people and is not obligated to play that role. If we rely on Hashem, that is all we need. Shabbat Shalom.
"Rescue me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav" (Beresheet 32:12)
We know that Ya'akob's only brother was Esav. Why did he specify "the hand of my brother, the hand of Esav"? Ya'akob had two fears, physical and spiritual. Firstly, if Esav and his army attacked him, he might be overpowered and killed. Secondly, if he became friendly with him, Esav would be a bad influence on Ya'akob's family. Therefore, he prayed, "Rescue me from the hand of my brother," that he should not harm us spiritually through becoming a "brother" and good friend of the family. Also, he prayed that the vicious "hand" of Esav should not attack and, G-d forbid, physically harm the family. The Gemara (Berachot 30b) says that when one is in the midst of prayer, even if a king greets him and inquires about his wellbeing or even if a snake is wound around his heel, he should not interrupt his prayers. In view of the above mentioned, this halachah can be explained as a metaphor. Throughout the long galut (exile), the Jewish people are confronted with basically two types of experiences. Sometimes we experience a seemingly benevolent government which expresses interest in our welfare and grants us equal rights. In other instances, governments encircle the Jewish people like a snake. We are oppressed, put into ghettos, and suffer from the many restrictions placed upon us. Our wise Sages are teaching us that, regardless how the situation appears, we should not make any break in our prayers. At all times, we must continue to pray to Hashem that he liberate us from galut immediately. (Vedibarta Bam)
Answer to Pop Quiz: In Shechem
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