DECEMBER 15-16, 2000 19 KISLEV 5761
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And he got up that night and took his two wives...and crossed them over the stream (Beresheet 32:23-24)
Our perashah opens with the confrontation of Ya'akob and Esav. Ya'akob spent many years in the home of Laban and is now returning home. Ya'akob must face Esav who promised that he would kill Ya'akob. Our Sages teach us that our perashah is a model for us to follow when we have confrontations with our gentile enemies.
On the night before Ya'akob was to meet Esav, Ya'akob crosses his entire family, his servants and all of his possessions, over the River Yabok. After he crossed over his entire entourage, he realized that he forgot some small jars, so he went back to get them. While Ya'akob was on the other side alone retrieving his small possessions, he was attacked by the angel of Esav. Ya'akob was forced to fight the angel all night until he won.
One may ask, "What was so urgent that he had to cross the River Yabok in the middle of the night? Crossing the river only brought them closer to Esav. Why couldn't he stay where he was and confront Esav where he was?" (see the Rashbam for one answer). Rabbi Nissan Alpert answers that crossing the River Yabok would bring them into the land of Israel. Ya'akob was worried about his sin that he delayed his return to Israel all of the years that he was away. He wanted to rectify that sin before confronting Esav. He therefore pressed forward, risking danger in the middle of the night, to cross the river into the land of Israel. It is interesting, however, that the Torah tells us that he went back over because he forgot some small unimportant utensils on the other side, which delayed him from entering the land. There is a powerful but subtle hint here for us. The Torah is hinting to the future generations of Ya'akob that we will delay our return to Israel for small unimportant utensils!
We yearn to return to our land. We should even go now! What's holding us back? Our little utensils. Everything is just little utensils.
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Why do you ask my name?" (Beresheet 32:30)
As Ya'akob prepared to meet his brother Esav, he met up with a "man" and struggled with him the entire night. The Rabbis tell us that this was the angel of Esav who wanted to overpower Ya'akob, and fought with him until morning. When Ya'akob asked him his name, the angel responded, "Why do you want to know my name?" Some of the commentaries tell us that in reality he answered his question, because the angel of Esav, who represents the yeser hara (evil inclination) wants us not to know him. Therefore, he says, "Why do you ask my name?" which means don't find out about me; that's my identity and my essence.
The yeser hara works best when we don't ask questions. He convinces us to do things that we shouldn't do but his success lies in the fact that we don't bother checking if it's correct. So in reality his name, which means his identity, is "Don't ask me my name." We have to learn from here not to take his advice but rather to ask before we do or don't do anything. This way we will be able to overcome him. Shabbat Shalom.
"And his eleven children" (Beresheet 32:23)
The pasuk tells us that Ya'akob approached Esav with his wives and his eleven children. At this point, Ya'akob had eleven sons and one daughter, Dinah, since this was before Binyamin was born. On this pasuk, Rashi asks, "Where was Dinah?" (since the pasuk only mentions eleven of the twelve children). He gives the answer that she was hidden in a box and therefore is not counted. How does Rashi know that the eleven children did not include the daughter, Dinah; maybe it was excluding one of the sons?
One of the reasons why the Bet Hamikdash was built in Jerusalem on the land of Binyamin is that he was not born when Ya'akob met Esav and thus did not bow down to Esav.
When Ya'akob met Esav he had eleven sons and one daughter. If we would say that the eleven children included Dinah, and one of the sons was hidden in the box, then that child would deserve that the Bet Hamikdash be built on his land more than Binyamin, because he was already born and did not bow down to Esav, while Binyamin was not even born at the time. Therefore, Rashi knew that the missing child had to be Dinah, who did not get a share of Eres Yisrael. (Vedibarta Bam)
"I have sojourned with Laban and delayed until now, and I have oxen and donkeys" (Beresheet 32:5,6)
Rashi explains that Ya'akob was telling Esav, "Despite my stay with Laban, I have still been able to observe the 613 misvot, and I did not learn his evil deeds." Harav Yitzhak Z. Soloveitchik once met the Rav of Hamburg. During their conversation, the Rav explained how Ya'akob was able to live in the presence of the evil Laban and remain pure. Ya'akob himself gave the reason for his success, when he said, "I have oxen and donkeys." As far as Ya'akob was concerned, Laban was equal to an ox or donkey. To Ya'akob there was no distinction between the wicked Laban and the average animal. With this perspective in mind, it is no wonder that Laban's influence did not harm Ya'akob.
Harav Soloveitchik responded that, although this interpretation is not consistent with the text of the pasuk, its message is definitely true. Only when we attribute importance to wicked people, when we dignify them or their activities, do we fall prey to their baneful influence.
However, if we truly respond to them as an ox or donkey, then we can say, "I did not learn from his evil deeds." (Peninim on the Torah)
This week's Haftarah: Obadiah 1:1-21.
The prophet Obadiah was a descendant of an Edomite convert. He discusses here the confrontations between the descendants of Ya'akob and the descendants of Esav (Edom). The main subject of this section is the anger of Hashem against Edom, and the prophecy that in the times of the Mashiah, Edom will be judged and punished for all the suffering and persecutions inflicted on the Jewish nation.
Answer to Pop Quiz: Ben-Oni. However, Ya'akob named him Binyamin.
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