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Parashat Vayishlah


"He saw that he could not overpower him"

What exactly did the angel see during his wrestle with Yaakov? The Midrash comments that the angel beheld the Shechinah, and thus recognized his inability to defeat Yaakov. The Midrash compares the angel to one who wrestles with the prince and suddenly sees the boy's father - the king - standing nearby. He immediately gives up the match and withdraws from the fight. Similarly, once the angel saw the Shechinah hovering near Yaakov, as it were, he gave up.

We may learn from here that when one wrestles with his evil inclination, even when he feels weak, that he lacks the wherewithal to overcome his temptation, the Shechinah is with him, and his victory is therefore guaranteed!

"He saw that he could not overpower him"

The Ramban zs"l writes: "This entire incident [of Yaakov's wrestle with the angel] is a symbol for Yaakov's descendants, that there will come a generation among his progeny whom Esav will overpower almost until the point of destruction. This occurred in one generation during the time of the Mishnah, in the time of Rabbi Yehudah Ben Bava and his colleagues. As Rabbi Hiyya Bar Abba said, 'If someone would tell me, give your life for the sanctification of the Name of God, I will consent, so long as they kill me immediately. But during a time of persecution, I cannot tolerate the suffering. What would they do during these periods of persecution? They would bring blocks of iron, heat them over a fire, and put them under the victim's armpits, thus burning their souls...'"

The Ramban concludes, "There were other generations when they [our enemies] did even worse, and yet we endured it all and it passed, as the pasuk alludes, 'Yaakov came complete...'"

"He saw that he could not overpower him"

Rabbi Ovadyah Seforno zs"l explains that the angel was unable to overpower Yaakov as a result of the latter's constant attachment to his Creator, in both thought and speech. Indeed, one who attaches himself to the Creator genuinely and sincerely is guaranteed protection from harm, as the pasuk states (Tehillim 16:8), "I place Hashem opposite me always - for from my right I will never falter."

"He saw that he could not overpower him"

Rabbi Yaakov Hayyim Sofer zs"l cites the comment of the Midrash that the angel wanted to let Yaakov know with whom he was wrestling. He therefore stuck his finger into the ground, and the ground was suddenly set ablaze. Yaakov challenged his competitor, "You're trying to frighten me this way? I am made entirely of fire, as the pasuk states, 'The house of Yaakov will be like fire!'" He explains, that the enemy nations attempt to threaten us with a flood of blood of fire, meaning, through external forces or wisdom. But none of these forces can overpower us, for we are endowed with a unique inner protection, the fire of faith which burns strong inside us.


The Saintly Poet, Rabbi Yisrael Nagara zs"l

There is a well-known story of the great singer and poet, Rabbi Yisrael Nagara zs"l (who composed, "Y-ah Ribon," and his name - Yisrael - is formed by the first letters of each stanza) who was sitting as his Shabbat table singing, as was his want, and at that moment the Ar"i zs"l was sitting with his students. The Ar"i beheld tens of thousands of angels gathering in the house of Rabbi Yisrael to listen to the sacred prayers, as all his songs were song with "ru'ah hakodesh." Suddenly, he saw one angel come and scatter the crowd of angels, because Rabbi Yisrael sung with his arms uncovered. The Ar"i immediately sent two of his students to inform Rabbi Yisrael. Upon hearing what had happened, Rabbi Yisrael was gripped with fear and immediately covered his arms. The angels once again joined his table to listen to his beautiful, soul-stirring song.

When Rabbi Yehudah Gizfan zs"l, the author of "Minhat Yehudah" and one of the great leaders of the Jewish community in Yemen around two hundred years ago, heard this story, he could not believe that it actually happened as recorded, "For it is impossible to say about such an individual that he would make this grave error, especially at a moment when the 'ru'ah hakodesh' rested upon him!" He explained the concept of the "outstretched arm" with which Hashem smote the Egyptians on the basis of Kabbalah. The future redemption is to unfold in a similar manner, as the prophet promises, "Like the days when you left Egypt, I will show you miracles." Therefore, Rabbi Yisrael Nagara zs"l most likely wanted to hasten the arrival of the ultimate redemption, the period of great wonders, and, in this way, revealed his arm of sanctity in order to arouse this attribute of the Almighty. However, the time for the redemption had not yet arrived. The Creator therefore sent an angel to scatter the other angels from the table. The Ar"i saw all this in his ru'ah hakodesh and sent a messenger to inform Rabbi Yisrael that he should cover these proverbial "arms," for the time of redemption had not yet arrived. The story nevertheless assumed a more simple, straightforward form, in order to teach, quite simply, the proper respect and decorum with which one must sit at his Shabbat table.


A Collection of Laws According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

The Laws Involving Wearing Clothes

continued from last week

One should not walk four cubits with his head uncovered. This is particularly relevant today, when a head-covering is a sign that one observes the Torah and missvot and accepts upon himself the yoke of heaven. In this way, the covering of the head distinguishes between those who serve Hashem and those who don't, and thus every God-fearing individual should cover his head to show that the fear of Heaven is upon him.

As an added measure of piety, one should cover his head even when walking less than four cubits. Even when not walking, but sitting in a moving car, train, etc., one should be stringent and cover his head. Even when standing or sitting, one should not go too long without his head covered. The custom is be stringent in this regard both outdoors, under the sky, and indoors, under the ceiling of the house. It constitutes an added measure of piety to sleep with one's head covered, as well. Nevertheless, there is no need to be concerned should the covering fall off during the night.

One should wear a hat or "kippah" which covers the entire head, or at least most of the head, when reciting shema, tefilah, and certainly when reciting birkat hamazon.

A hat made with many holes, such as one made with straw, is sufficient for a head covering, and one may even recite a berachah with such a hat on his head.

Regarding one who wears a wig, without a hat, and the wig contains a layer of material which cannot be seen, the authorities dispute whether or not this constitutes a proper head covering. One should be stringent and wear a covering over the toupee, especially when praying or reciting berachot, for this is the generally accepted custom.

Placing one's hand on his head suffices for a head covering. Nevertheless, one should not recite a berachah or mention Hashem's name when only his hand covers his head. However, one may even recite a berachah and Hashem's name if another person places his hand on his head. Similarly, one may recite a berachah and God's name if he places his sleeve over his head.

If one's covering fell off unknowingly during the recitation of a tefilah or berachah, one has nevertheless fulfilled his obligation and does need to recite a new berachah/tefilah.

One may go without his head covering in the bathhouse, in the inner room where people wash, even when not actually washing his head. One whose head is uncovered, such as in bed, by the beach or a pool, may think to himself matters of Torah learning, and there is no need to be concerned in this regard.

It is proper to cover the heads of children, as well, so as to instill within them the fear of Heaven.

The custom is that single girls do not cover their heads. Nevertheless, they should be trained to cover their heads at least during the recitation of Shemoneh Esreih. However, single women who don't cover their heads even during Shemoneh Esreih, the recitation of berachot or Torah study should not be reprimanded, for they have authorities on whom to rely.

Even though "Shalom" is considered a name of the Almighty, as it says (Shoftim 6:24), "He called it, Hashem Shalom" (see Shabbat 10), it is nevertheless permitted to say "shalom" to a Jew walking without a head covering. Even though this person would then answer, "shalom," there is no need to be concerned of leading him to recite God's name with his head uncovered. (It is, however, forbidden to say "shalom" to one in the inner room in the bathhouse.)

In Masechet Berachot (15a), Rabbi Yohanan is cited as saying that one who wants to properly accept upon himself the yoke of heaven should, in the morning, first perform his bodily functions, wash his hands, lay tefillin, recite shema and pray. This constitutes a complete acceptance of the yoke of heaven. Rabbi Hiyya Bar Abba continued in the name of Rabbi Yohanan that one who does this is considered as having erected an altar and offered sacrifices upon it. Therefore, a person should first check to see if he needs to use the washroom before praying, in order to ensure that his body is clean during shema and tefilah.


The Midrash tells that when Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi had to travel to Rome, the capital city of the empire which ruled the entire known world ruthlessly and continued to tighten its grip on the Jewish people, he would first study the parashah of Yaakov's meeting with his brother. He knew full well the eternal nature of the Torah, its function as a guide for all times, for all circumstances. He most likely resorted to the same three tactics as Yaakov: a gift to appease the rulers, prayer and, finally, battle. Once, however, he did not go through this parashah thoroughly before his journey. He was greeted honorably by the Roman authorities, he reached favorable agreements on every issue and, upon his departure, a legion of Roman soldiers came to escort him. He forgot that when Yaakov was departing from Esav, he refused Esav's offer to supply him with accompanying guards. The Midrash says that by the time Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi reached Acco, he was forced to give up all the possessions which he had with him, including his cloak and horse.

Perhaps the officials in the current government also forgot to consult this parashah before travelling to the present-day "world leader." For if they had, they would have taken advice from the Torah leaders who follow the light of the Torah, they would not have agreed to the protection offered from the other side of the ocean, armed escorts not just to Acco but for the long-term, involving joint participation. How sad it is, that although we have such a brilliant Torah, a Torah of life full of sound advice, but we do not consult it...


Each parashah in the Torah was written for the lessons contained therein. The story of Yaakov's encounter with his hostile brother also presents us with a critical and relevant lesson. On the national level, the Midrash tells us that Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi would study this parashah before each of his meetings with the Roman dignitaries. But on the individual level, as well, this parashah serves as a source of guidance and direction. As a person sits in the Bet Kenesset or Bet Midrash, he resembles Yaakov, the "simple man, a dweller of tents." When an individual spends time at home, involved in the education of his children along the path of our national heritage, he once again follows his patriarch Yaakov, each person according to his own level and capabilities. But when he leaves the security of his home, and embarks into the street, working for his livelihood and taking care of his needs, he runs the risk of encountering "Esav." This Esav can often be found in the common culture, in the environment of the "man of the field" (as Esav is described), in the rampant, unrestrained permissiveness of society. Esav comes "with four hundred men with him," as he in manifest in hundreds of different ways - the immodesty portrayed in public signs, dress and behavior, inappropriate speech - a combined attack against all that is sacred, from all directions. Not to mention the pictures and stories in the press whose standards are brought down to the lowest common denominator and which strives to arouse the most basic, animalistic drives within people. And how about the television broadcasts which threaten the soul and have the capacity to destroy all that is good within a person? "Hashem has made one against the other." The more Torah has spread its light within the study halls of the yeshivot and kollelim, the more the power of purity and spiritual growth blossoms, to that same extent the darkness tightens its grip outside the Batei Midrash, the waves of impurity grow stronger and weigh heavier. "Esav, with four hundred men with him."

So, what is the solution? How can one deal with this crisis? How can one adequately prepare for this ever so dangerous encounter? One needs to study this parashah and draw the relevant conclusions. Yaakov prepared in three ways for his meeting with Esav: a gift, prayer and battle. The tactic described most elaborately in the Torah is the gift, Yaakov's attempt to appease his brother, to find favor in his eyes by bowing down seven times and hugging and kissing his brother - during which Esav tried to dig his teeth into his brother's neck, as Chazal describe...

Is this really the way to greet the culture of the street, with all its corruption and impurity? Through appeasement and a feeling of closeness? The heart refuses to accept such a notion, but this is what the Torah writes. Careful, though, for in this regard the heart's intuition is correct. True, the Torah describes such an encounter, but this parashah requires some further analysis. Rabbi Yisrael of Salant zs"l has taught us that only the saintly Tannaim were capable of learning straight from the pesukim. We, however, must look to Hazal's interpretations in the Gemara and Midrashim for guidance how to correctly understand that which is written in the Humash.

The Zohar (end of Parashat Mikess) tells the story of Rabbi Hiyya and Rabbi Yossi who were walking together and came across a man wearing a tallit and girded with a sword. Rabbi Hiyya wondered, is this man a ssadik or a bandit? Rabbi Yossi responded, "We are commanded, after all, to judge everyone favorably. As we know, when a person goes out he must prepare himself in three ways - a gift, prayer and battle. This person is probably travelling, so he took with him his tallit for prayer and his sword for battle. Since he has done these two, as we can tell, there is no need to check if he has done the third." As he passed them by, they said hello but he failed to respond. Rabbi Hiyya remarked, "You see that he does not have a gift, he is not interested in appeasing, as evidenced by the fact that he did not even say hello!" The two rabbis began conversing in Torah issues. As soon as the stranger heard that they were discussing matters of Torah, he went over to them and answered their greeting. He asked them curiously, "When I did not respond the first time, what did you suspect?" Rabbi Yossi said, "We thought either you were praying or involved in Torah thoughts." He answered, "The Almighty should judge you favorably just as you judged me. The truth is, however, that a man once greeted me as I was travelling, but when I answered he began fighting with me. Eventually, he tried to kill me and steal everything I had, because he was a bandit ambushing unsuspecting travelers. If not for my strength, he would have left me penniless or dead. >From that day on, I promised myself I would never answer a greeting unless I knew he was a ssadik and a Torah scholar, as the pasuk states, "There is no peace, says Hashem, for the wicked" (Yeshayahu 57:21).

How does the message in this story conform to Yaakov's behavior in our parashah, to his kind offering of gifts and words of appeasement to his brother? Our conclusion must be that true, since Esav wanted to kill Yaakov, the latter was forced to cool down the anger through appeasement. It was impossible to avoid the confrontation. But this man was walking along the road and feared from bandits dressed as innocent passers-by. In such a situation, one must equip himself with the necessary weapons to fight back, as well as pray to the Almighty for assistance. But a gift, appeasement - impossible.

This is the guidance and direction to which we must look.


If a person would come along and say, "I've got a great business proposition for you. It will cost only a thousand shekels - a great opportunity!" What would you say? Sure, what kind of question is that? You would want to hear more details. The thousand shekels is a brokerage fee, a reasonable charge for such a great venture, certain to succeed. There is a Jewish community in the United States - you would visit there soon, most likely. Well, they are offering a house exchange. You and your partners would allow them to use your homes in Israel whenever they arrive. In exchange, you would be allowed to live there, in the homes of the American participants. Sounds good, no? Nevertheless, you must pay the money immediately, and, of course, there is a chance that you will soon have to evacuate your home. And how many homes are available for all the participants in America? The one offering the deal answers quite frankly, "There is but one home there, and I already reserved it for myself..."

So, what are the chances that you would be convinced to join??

Yet, he won the jackpot. This is exactly what Shechem, the son of Hamor, did - he convinced his entire city to circumcise themselves! What did he say, how did he persuade them? He explained to them why this business arrangement is most worthwhile: we, the city of Shechem, will give our daughters to them as wives, and, in exchange, we will receive their daughters for our sons. In other words, we will get their one, single daughter - who was already taken. Yet, the people of the city agreed to the idea. They didn't ask any questions - they picked up and waited on line to be circumcised.

But wait - before we laugh at them, let's take a closer look at ourselves. Unfortunately, we will probably end up laughing at ourselves first. Shechem was, in actuality, the father of modern marketing, and his students are those who control all the major economic systems in contemporary society. They turned the planting of a trap into an ideal, ruining the other into a top priority and goal. When they can sell refrigerators to Eskimos, convince the wicked in gehinnom to buy electric heaters with credit cards - they consider themselves successful, arousing the envy of others. When a person returns from the store carrying packages full of merchandise he never intended on buying, he resents the fact that others have manipulated him, have attracted his interest through a sophisticated system of advertising. Everything was taken into consideration: the location of the demand, the form of packaging, the color of the labels, the lighting and background music in the store. In light of all this, the need for the item has become just a side point.

Advertisers have invested millions in order to leave us poor, as we are expected to pay back these millions by purchasing that which we really don't need. This advertising occurs publicly, against all conventional rules of ethics, against all protocol of proper competition. It leaves no possibility of being saved by exercising caution. There is no warning sounded in advance. Let's take one concrete example. The Reform and Conservative moments have no following in Israel, period. The community in Israel lives fine and happily without them, sense no need for them, and senses the forgery and falsehood latent in their position, i.e., that it is "possible" to be religious and eat pork, it is "possible" to be married to a gentile by a "rabbi," it is "possible" for a "rabbi" to be a heretic (in fact, a sizable percentage of Reform "rabbis" declared that they do not believe in God!). In Israel, nobody buys that. What has that handful done with the funds collected from communities across the globe? They bribe members of the Israeli parliament and members of the press with free trips abroad, including free housing in luxurious hotels. Then, surprisingly, every argument contains some "balance": we will hear the position of the Chief Rabbi, and then we will hear that of the Reform rabbi, as if there was some equivalence between the two. And, of course, the journalist covering the event had his entire trip paid for by them.

Of course, this is just one example, but let's remember the main point - all advertising is but a trap, and underneath lies nothing but the mirage of wealth...


Measure for Measure (18)

Flashback: A wealthy but stingy man caused the death of an impoverished Torah scholar by insensitively neglecting his needs. The poor man's soul was denied entry into Gan Eden because the wealthy man was destined to be punished on his account. He was therefore given the opportunity to appear to the wealthy man to instruct him along a path of repentance. He ordered the wealthy man to wear tattered clothing, dress up as a peasant, and study Torah day and night. He was not to ask anything from anyone until he was absolutely famished, at which point he was allowed to go to his own home and ask for some food. He did so only to be met by beatings and insults from his servants and family, until they finally allowed him to eat some of the bread crumbs reserved for the chickens...

After he finished eating, he returned to the Bet Midrash and continued his learning. Various people, including those who learned and prayed there, invited the man into their homes to eat and sleep, but he refused. They even brought him fresh, wrapped food and pots just off the fire, but he did not accept their offers. His vision became blurred and his head started spinning from the aroma coming from the inviting meals, but he shook his head in refusal and moved the food to the other side of the bench. People looked and shook their heads. They shrugged their shoulders and took the food away. Other passed by and dropped some coins, figuring that he preferred money over food. "You shall be blessed, compassionate Jews," he muttered, but he would then move the coins away to the corner, forbidding himself to take them. He was enveloped in hunger and studied Torah until after the last student left the Bet Midrash and the final candle was extinguished. Only then he recited "keri'at shema" and slept on the hard bench. His bones continued to ache from the beatings which he suffered, and his soul ached even more. As morning broke, he woke up dizzy and joined the "vatikin" prayer service. Afterwards, he tried to continue his studies but his hunger did not allow him to concentrate on his work. His knees trembling with hunger, his heart trembling with fear, he dragged himself back to that ever familiar home. He knocked on the door, and once again the maid opened it. "You again! You have come back!?" she called. Her voice was answered by the sudden appearance of the other servants, as well as the wife and children. "Go, get lost!" they shouted in unison. He responded desperately, "Have mercy, please give me something to eat." They gave him not food, but punches and kicks. "Oh!" cried the woman bitterly. "The trouble of my missing husband was not enough - I now have to deal with this beggar. Go wherever you want, but here we don't give out donations. Just wait until my husband comes back, then you will see what anger really is!"

"But Madame," warned the maid, "he will just break more windows."

"Then let him take the crumbs for the chickens and leave us alone," she declared, turning her head away from her husband...

to be continued...


We generally think that salt is merely a substance which adds taste to foods. Although this is of course true, salt contains far more significance than that. In fact, no living creature can live without it, and thus its importance matches that of water and air. Salt is one of the minerals which allow the body to survive and function properly. After all, the living organism is a complex, chemical machine which could be created by no one but the Almighty Himself and, as stated, salt is one of the chemical elements critical for the operation of the human body as well as other living organisms. How much salt does the human body need? Quite frankly, not much. Human blood is composed of 92% water and just .9% salt. This small quantity must be distributed precisely throughout the body. This is one of the critical functions of the kidneys, to ensure that the salt in the blood is divided accordingly throughout the different parts of the body. For the same reason, the body requires the right amount of water. Salt is dissolved in water, and therefore the quantity of salt in the body depends upon the salt concentration in the body's water. When a person loses too much water by sweating, for example, there results a higher-than-normal concentration of salt in the body's water, which causes thirst.

One of the great qualities of salt is that it never goes bad; it stays forever. It therefore serves as a symbol of the eternal covenant between the Almighty and His people, a covenant which is never ruined - "An eternal covenant of salt" (Bemidbar 18). Since each sacrifice offered in the Bet Hamikdash strengthens the bond between Hashem and the penitent Jew offering the sacrifice, every sacrifice must be salted (Vayikra 2:13). Another reason for this requirement relates to the fact that salt adds flavor, thus, in effect, sweetening and improving the food. Similarly, repentance purifies a person from all spiritual defects. The custom has thus developed to leave salt on the table and dip the bread into salt prior to the berachah of "hamossi." The table of a Jew must resemble an altar, and just as a sacrifice was never offered on the altar without salt, so do we add salt to our bread. Taking this concept to a deeper level, the Jewish soul may be considered the "salt" of the body. When the soul lies within the body, the body is complete and functional. But once the soul has departed, then the body becomes like a piece of meat which has not been salted, and it becomes ruined. Our souls originate from the Divine Throne, and we must therefore take good care of it, by providing it with the necessary nourishment - Torah.

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