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by Daneal Weiner

Based on the Torah of Rav Moshe Wolfson.  


The number 7 is associated with nature, the world having been created in 7 days. 8 symbolizes a step beyond nature. The Torah commands we count 7 times a period of 7 years and then the following year, the 50th, is the Yovel year. The Yovel year is a year of return and restoration. The numbers 8 and 50 are both one step beyond their respective sevens. When we see these numbers in Judaism they share similar associations.

Parshas Vayishlach

is the 8th parsha of the Torah. We can anticipate in it ideas of return and restoration.

The Ramban writes, “This parsha was written to show Hashem saves his servants and redeems them from the hands of powers greater than they. He sends angels to save them. Its message for the generations is that Hashem will redeem Israel. The episode of Dinah shows how all Hashem’s accountings are for the betterment and well-being of Israel. Even though she suffered an atrocity, what came from it was something good, the wife of Yoseph. As we’re told in the Midrash, Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer, from Dinah’s rape she gave birth to Osenas, and an angel brought her to the house of Potiphar.”

The rape took place in the city of Shechem, part of Yoseph’s portion in Israel. Furthermore, our Rabbis tells us she was named Dinah from the root Din- judgment. After bearing six tribes to Yaakov, Leah conceived again. Leah judged that, knowing there would be 12 tribes of Israel, if she had seven, and the other two wives of Yaakov already had two each, that would leave only 1 tribe to Rachel. Less then that of the other wives. So Leah prayed that her child be a girl so Rachel could merit a second boy. Our Rabbis say that Leah was already pregnant with a boy and Hashem miraculously switched him with her, so she called her Dinah. Rather than giving birth to Yosef, Leah had Dinah. Dinah’s daughter, Osenas, was Yoseph’s bashert. It couldn’t happen to a more fitting woman.

The Arizal writes that when the Torah wrote of Shechem, “There is ample room in the land for them,” the word for ample room- rachavat- is the initials of Rav Chaninah ben Taradyone. Israel merited one of their greatest Tannaic Sages. One of the 10 martyrs. All Hashem’s accountings are for the return and restoration, for the betterment and well-being of Israel.

Later in the parsha we read of another tragedy, the early passing of Rachel with the birth of Yoseph. Immediately thereafter we are told Yaakov, called here by the name, Israel, “journeyed on and he pitched his tent beyond Migdal-eder. And it came top pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuven went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and Israel heard. The sons of Israel were twelve.” This also begs for explanation. The obvious and the not so obvious. What did Reuven do and what is the need of stating, “when Israel dwelt in that land”?

The Targum Yonason ben Uziel writes something remarkable on these words.  That from there the Messianic king would reveal himself at the end of days. We do not hear again of Migdal-eder until one of the last prophets, Micha says, “And you, Migdal-eder, Ophel of the daughter of Zion, they will come back to you.” To understand this verse, ArtScroll explains Ophel is the name of one of Israel’s fortifications. The Prophet compares the ingathering of Israel to the gathering of lost sheep. It seems we all may congregate around that point. So he dubs the Ophel as Migdal-eder, Tower of the Flock. Here, again, the Targum Yonason ben Uziel writes Migdal-eder is the Mashiach of Israel.

“Reuven went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and Israel heard. The sons of Israel were twelve.” The Torah does something remarkable here. There is no punctuation in a Torah scroll. We know each verse’s ending by tradition handed down from Sinai. We do have paragraph marks in the Torah. Breaks in the text. In the middle of this verse about Reuven, the Torah places a paragraph break. It only one verse, yet it is divided most unusually. The verse goes until, “and Israel heard,” then it breaks, then it continues, “the sons of Israel were twelve.”

Rashi writes the Torah is testifying that all 12 sons of Israel’s were equal. “They were all righteous, for Reuven did not sin.” So not only does the text itself require explanation but also the unusual break.

Rashi explains that Yaakov had his bed in the tent of Rachel. With her passing, Yaakov moved his bed to Bilha’s tent, Rachel’s handmaid. Reuven saw this as an affront to his mother. Her whole life, Leah was second to Rachel. Now she should be second to Rachel’s handmaid? So Reuven moved Yaakov’s bed to Leah’s tent. There is no law against bed moving. Reuven did not sin. But as one of the very Tribes of Israel, this intrusion, amplified by his stature, is tantamount to one of us having relations with our father’s wife.

The Torah, having just spoken of the birth of Yoseph, prior to the interjection of Migdal-eder, now resumes its narration of that topic. With the birth of Yoseph, Israel’s bed is complete. That merits recognition. That is what the Torah does. The text break signals the shift. “The sons of Israel were twelve.”

As I understand it, Rav Wolfson explains Rashi’s position a little further. The Gemorah says anyone who thinks Reuven erred is mistaken. After the telling of Reuven’s “sin,” the Torah wants to return to acknowledge the aforementioned milestone in the birth of our nation. Unlike Avraham, who had his Yishmael, and unlike Yitschak who had is Eisav, Yaakov has given birth to his 12th righteous son! To switch topics the Torah introduces a new paragraph. Although it just spoke harshly about Reuven, it will juxtapose this praise of equality right after the “sin.” Then it goes a step further. The Torah goes so far as to attach the praise back to the “sin” in one continuous sentence. This should certainly clear Reuven’s name.

As reassuring as this explanation is, nothing in the Torah is by chance. The eye is still left with the impression of distance between the “sin” and the acquittal by the paragraph break.

Rav Wolfson says this is why the verse said, “when Israel dwelt in that land.” That land, as the Targum Yonason says, is the place of the Mashiach. In messianic times, the evil inclination will be slaughtered and all the actions of Israel will be righteous actions. In the place which is the root of messianic times, sin is not plausible. How something appears is completely different than what is at its essence. Vayishkav es Bilhah pilegesh aviv- And lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine = 1223 = Bishkone Yisrael ba’arets hahe- when Israel dwelt in that land!

So we no longer need the words of the new paragraph brought back into the verse to testify for Reuven. The testimony comes within the verse itself! Even more, his innocence is hinted to within the very words which tell his “crime.”

This also explains the connection of Yaakov’s journey to this place immediately after the death of Rachel. Because only in response to Rachel’s tears did Hashem promise He would return her children to their land. Rachel has at her essence an attribute of Yovel- the return and restoration of Israel to their roots.

The month which correlates to Reuven is the month of Tammuz. In Tammuz we fast for the breach of the wall of Jerusalem, which led to the fall of the House of G-d. To the eye, Tammuz is a time when sin disrupted the harmony of the Homeowner and his bride, Knesses Yisrael. We know that in Messianic times that harmony will be restored. Tammuz = 453 = Melech Hamashiach- King Messiah.

Every month has a tsiruf. A tsiruf is one of the 12 possible combinations of the 4-letter Name of Hashem (since one letter is repeated). Each tsiruf appears as the first of last letters of 4 words somewhere in Tanach. The tsiruf  for Tammuz is hey-vav-hey-yud which appears as the last letters of, “Zeh aino shaveh li.” (From Megillas Esther.) Zeh aino shaveh li = 480 = V’amecha, kulam Tsaddikim- And Your nation, they are all righteous. No matter how we appear to the eye.

Last week in Vayaitsay we read, “Odd asher yai’asfu kol ha’adarim”- until all of the flocks have been gathered. The Zohar writes that these words speak of the final ingathering of all Israel. The root of ha’adarim- the flocks, is the final letters from our Migdal-eder- Tower of the Flocks. All of the flocks have been gathered- Yai’asfu kol ha’adarim = 536 = v’kol zeh aino shaveh li- The source of the tsiruf of Tammuz. The ingathering, the return of Tammuz for a month of mourning to celebration, the restoration of Reuven, it will all come together in messianic times.

When Yechezkel prophecies of that time he says, in the Name of Hashem, “My servant David will be king over them, and there will be one shepherd for all of them.” My servant David will be king over them- V’avdi David melech aleyhem = 351 = Migdal-eder.

And he pitched his tent beyond Migdal-eder- Vayiat ahalo maihalah l’Migdal-eder = 528 = the milui gematria of Yovel. Not as the word appears to the eye but according to its essence. Spelling out each letter. Yud-vav-dalet Vav-yud-vav Veis-yud-sav Lamed-mem-dalet.  

The first place something appears in the Torah is its source. The last place it appears is its completion. The very last time Yovel is mentioned in the Torah is by the daughters of Tselaphchad. Should they marry into another tribe, their ancestral land will move from their tribe to the tribe of their husbands. And should any of it be sold, when the Yovel year comes, their land shall return to the tribe of their husbands. V’im yeheyah hayovel livnei Yisrael- and when the Yovel will come to the Children of Israel = 757 = Atah Migdal-eder- “You, Tower of the Flocks,” as spoken by Micha of the messianic days.

What comes out from all this is that however it looks on the surface, there is no sin at the essence of Israel. This message comes to us through Chanaukah with its 8 days of celebration. The menorah is set up close to the ground, where the presence of Hashem is usually not found, to testify to the downtrodden and despaired amongst Israel that we should not let the weight of our sins rob us of the truth of our redemption and restoration.

The Greeks decreed each Jew to write on the horn of every ox they owned that they had no connection to the G-d of Israel at the penalty of death. The horn of an ox was a reminder of the golden calf, the first and greatest sin perpetrated by the Nation of Israel. Chanukah, whose lights are messianic lights, warmly reminds us that no sin is so great as to cut us off from G-d. At our essence we are sin-free. G-d rewarded the self-sacrifice of Mattisyahu and His devout few our victory over the Greeks. The horn of the oxen- keren hashore = 861 = Mattisyahu.

The days of Chanukah, with its root chinuch are days of education of messianic times. A time of redemption and restoration. A time for the betterment and well-being of all Israel. If all Hashem does leads us towards that return, why wait for the inevitable? Why not tap into it right now with our own initiation?

Every day in davening we say, “‘A redeemer will come to Zion and to those of Jacob who repent from willful sin,’  are the words of Hashem.” What better time for repentance then an 8-day holiday as opposed to a 7-day, or a 2 or a 1? Chanukah’s 8 days connects us right to the power of ultimate redemption and restoration. In this parsha, all we said and Yaakov’s small containers of oil are laying the foundations for our return. “A redeemer will come to Zion and to those of Jacob who repent from willful sin,” are the words of Hashem- Uva l’Tsion goeil ul’shavei feshah b’Yaakov ne’ume Hashem = 1334 = Parshas Vayishlach.

Today’s the day. Make it count. An 8 count.

Shabbat Shalom.

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