VORTIFY YOURSELF

From
Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
e-mail yosil@MNSi.net

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This week's "Vort" is a reprint of last years and is printed in honour of
the Brit of Avraham Chanan Margolin, new-born son of Avi and Mara Margolin.
Mazal Tov.

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"V O R T I F Y Y O U R S E L F"
Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
yosil@MNSi.net
Parshat Vayishlach
B'rayshit (Genesis) 31:4 - 36:43
Haftorah - Obadiah 1:1-21
981205
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Our Parsha includes one of the most monumental events in Jewish history,
the renaming of Ya'akov. This event occurs while he is returning home
after 34 years away from his parents (14 years in the Yeshivah of Shem and
Ever; 14 years working Rachel and Layah, and 6 years working for Lavan and
accumulating great wealth).

Before he is reunited with his parents, he hears that his brother Eisav is
advancing with an army of 400 warriors. He readies himself through prayer
and peace offerings, and when all else fails, Ya'akov prepares himself for
battle. He divides his entourage and waits for battle. Suddenly, in the
middle of the night, he crosses the River Jabbok and encounters a very
powerful force.

"And Ya'akov was left alone and a MAN struggled with him until the
break of dawn" (B'rayshit 32:25).

Rashi sites a Gemara (Chullin 91a) that explains that Ya'akov suddenly
remembered that he left a "Pach Katan" (a small jug) on the other bank of
the Jabbok river. It was while searching for the jugs that he encountered
the Sar Shel Eisav (the guardian angel of Eisav). What compelled Ya'akov
to endanger himself for just a few small jugs?

Rashi goes on to say that the possessions of a Tzaddik (a righteous man)
are important to him, for [he knows that] they come through the Grace of
Hashem. However, there is another explanation that is very interesting.

The Midrash tells us that thirty four years earlier, when Ya'akov was
leaving Eretz Yisarel to find a wife, Eisav made his son Alifaz (one of his
more compassionate offspring, who was raised on the knee of Yitzchak) swear
to kill Ya'akov. Ya'akov camped one night and heard strange noises.
Alifaz declared that he was ordered by his father to kill Ya'akov, his
uncle. Ya'akov explained to Alifaz the tradition that, Ahni Nechshav K'met
(a poor person is considered a dead man). Convinced, out of sympathy,
Alifaz took all of Ya'akov's possessions and thereby fulfilled his oath to
his father.

That night Ya'akov had a dream about angels descending and ascending a
ladder stretched to the heavens (last week's Parsha). One of the angels
gave Ya'akov a miraculous Pach Katan (a small jug). This jug contained
pure olive oil that when empty, suddenly became full again. Ya'akov used
his jug to obtain the funds necessary to finance his trip to Lavan. That
was the miraculous jug that Ya'akov left on the banks of the river and
returned to get. We'll get back to the jug later.

The Angel that fought Ya'akov was the guardian angel of Eisav. In fact, he
has many names, Samael, Satan, the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination), Sitra
Achra (the other side), just to name a few. They struggled, and the angel
realized that he could not overpower Ya'akov. So he struck him on the
thigh, wounding him (for this reason Jews don't eat the hind quarter of
cattle [see verse 33]). Then, the sun began to rise, and the angel had to
leave, but not before Ya'akov had forced a blessing from Samael.

Verse 29 reads;
"No longer will it be said that your name is Ya'akov, but Yisrael, for you
have striven with the Divine and with man, and you have overcome (Ki
Saritah Im Elohim V'im Anashim Vatuchal)."

Ya'akov represents the passive Jew. There are times that passivity is the
proper approach. But, there are times when the Jewish people must be
aggressive, and this is what Yisrael represents. After this name change
Ya'akov was not limited to passive responses. He had overcame the most
powerful force one could encounter, and a metamorphosis took place in him,
he another being, he became Yisrael.

For this reason his children became known as the B'nai Yisrael (the
Children of Yisrael), and the land they inherited became known as Eretz
Yisrael (the Land of Yisrael). For they are aggressive in nature, they
must continually wrestle with Hashem and with man in order to exist.

Let's return to the Jug. Ya'akov passed this jug on to his son Levi.
Eventually it was inherited by Aaron who was annoited with its oil and then
annoited the Altar of the Tabernacle with it, and first filled the Menorah
with its wondrous oil. It was passed on from leader to leader until
finally, the Maccabees defeated the Greeks and the Hellenists and entered
the Holy Temple to resume the Holy service. But they couldn't find oil to
light the seven branched Menorah until someone found a Pach Katan (a small
jug) of oil that miraculously burnt for eight days.

My friends, Chanukah is almost upon us (the 1st candle is lit the evening
of Sunday, December 13th). And one of the blessings that we say when we
light our Menorahs is:
Sheasah Nisim La'avotaynu Bayamim Hahaym U'bazman Hazeh (that You have
performed miracles for our ancestors in those days and in this time).

This blessing might have been said by the Maccabees when they witnessed the
miracle of the Jug. And we who have lived to see the birth pangs of
redemption, can say the same blessing with total conviction.

But, sometimes we act like Ya'akov when we should be acting like Yisrael.
We must actively see that miracles are occurring all around us and in every
generation, from Auschwitz to the establishment of the State of Yisrael,
from the Six Day War to the return of over a million Soviet Jews to Eretz
Yisrael, from the battles against assimilation to the reawakening of our
people all around the globe. True, these battles and these victories have
taken their toll. In many ways, like Ya'akov we also were wounded, but we
have prevailed.

This Chanukah let us light our Menorahs with the fervor of Jews who not
only can make light, but who can see the light. Let us pour forth that
never ending Pach Katan that is in each and every one of us. And, let us
aggressively allow our light to shine, heralding the miracles that have
fashioned us into Children of Hashem.


Shabbat Shalom,



Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig

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