Points to Ponder

Vayishlach 5777

And Yaakov sent messengers (32:4) – Rashi notes that there is a difference of opinion if these were real  Malachim or messengers.  But assuming that they were real Malachim why was he allowed to send them? Why utilize a miracle when a regular person would have been enough? Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl. explained that to the truly Shalem person, it was not the utilization of a miracle. To Yaakov it didn’t matter if the messenger was a Malach or a human. If he was bringing the word of Hashem THAT was the impressive part. One who needs to see the miracle in order to believe is really not as faithful beyond the miracle (See further “The Warmth and the Light” P. Vayetze and Michtav MiEliyahu I: p. 178-9).

I lived with Lavan (32:5) – Rashi famously quotes 2 ideas – that I lived with Lavan and was not some sort of leader and the idea that Yaakov lived with Lavan and kept the 613 mitzvos. One approach is humbling and the other is competitive and challenging. How can they both reflect Yaakov’s intent? Kli Yakar suggests that Yaakov was telling Eisav that you cannot assume that the Berachos worked magically for you see that they didn’t. Therefore Eisav should realize that no matter what, Yitzchak’s Beracha will fall on the head of whomever it was intended. Rav Bernard Weinberger Shlita adds that the message is actually one of strength. Yaakov was telling Eisav that only one who knows he is undeserving – only one who sees himself as undeserving of being a Sar V’Chashuv in this house – and keeps the 613 even in Lavan’s – will be successful in this world. Yaakov told Eisav, you come with 400 men but know that all of that Kavod is not going to make you successful.

It is a present to my master Eisav (32:19) – The Gemara (Sotah  41) notes that the Chachamim were wrong for patting a Rasha on a back. When it came to Agrippas it was the cause for a destruction against the Jews. Rav Schachter Shlita explained that Chanifa means when you praise a Rasha as a Tzaddik when the Rasha too knows that he is not the Tzaddik you are painting him out to be (consider Rav Moshe Feinstein’s Teshuva about honoring Michallelei Shabbos at dinners). The gemara adds that in this world one can give Chanifa to a Rasha as Yaakov does here because it is a Safek Sakanas Nefashos, However one should avoid it if it is not a Safeik Sakana.

 Your name shall no longer be known as Yaakov rather Yisrael (32:29) – What was the basis for the change in the name? Rav  Kanatopsky ztl. explained that the name Yaakov referred to one who avoided conflict and tried to be submissive if it was possible. Yisrael reflects the idea that when necessary, Yaakov was able to contend and hold his own both with man and Malach. Later, Hashem too, repeats the name change – says Rav Asher Weiss Shlita – because the Malach only comprehended the external attribute of leadership, what he did not recognize was the fact that Hashem’s name was added to Yaakov’s – guaranteeing that the Jewish people would never falter.

And Eisav rushed to greet him and he hugged him and he fell on his face and he kissed him and they cried (33:4) – Why Eisav cried is understood. However, the Torah’s use of the word “They” implies that  both Yaakov and Eisav cried for the same reason. How is that supposed to make sense? Rav Shimon Schwab ztl. explained that when Eisav saw that nature had changed course and that he, who was supposed to evermore hate Yaakov did not, he recognized how low he had sunk and how he really could have achieved what Yaakov did and would not. For this, he cried. Yaakov too, upon realizing that Eisav had really given up, cried as well, for the loss of the opportunity for Avraham’s grandson and Yitzchak’s son.

And so it should not be done (34:7) – What was added with this phrase? Rav Pinkus ztl. explained that it is bad enough when something horrific happens. When it happens and it is extraordinary in the place it happens that is a double damning thing. When one slaps his Chavrusa in the Beis HaMedrash, it is a horrific thing – not only is the slap an embarrassment, the public shaming too, needs to be contended with. Here, the fact that Dinah was taken and abused and the people said nothing despite this being not ok, was reason for the city too, to be deserving of death.


You have embarrassed me (34:30)- Why did Yaakov care so much about his standing with the nations of the world? Rav Hillel Lieberman ztl HyD explained based upon the gemara (Shabbos 33b) that notes that wherever Yaakov went, he contributed to the social welfare of the place. He added that Rav Kook ztl. notes that this is part of our job as Ohr L’Goyim. Rav Lieberman explains that when we say Eichartem Osi – it happens when the nations of the world think that Bnei Torah are NOT a beacon of light to the world. Shimon and Levi’s actions gave pause to the outsiders to think that Bnei Torah only think about themselves. 


Haftorah – Don’t stand by your brother on the day he is made strange, do not rejoice when Yehuda is defeated  (Ovadiah 1:12)Yalkut Shimoni notes that when Nevuchadnetzer went to battle Yirushalayim, the children of Eisav set out on the roads to fence sit and support the victor in persecuting the refugees – be they retreating soldiers or potential captives. Ibn Ezra notes this prophesy spoke of the time of Churban Bayis Rishon. However, Abarbanel notes that the entire Nevuah of Ovadiah turns to a future based focus and speaks to the religious challenges we still face from the descendants of Eisav and Edom today. In the end the victors of Har Tzion will judge the mountain of Eisav.