Parashat Vayishlach

Perashat Vayishlah begins as Yaakov sets out for from Lavan’s house to the land of his brother Esav. He takes with him his wives and their children and all his livestock, as well as their servants. Yaakov sends messengers ahead of him, to let Esav know that he has been living with Lavan and has prospered while he was there. The messengers return, and inform him that Esav is on his way to meet Yaakov with four hundred men. Yaakov becomes very distressed by his imminent encounter with his brother Esav, even though Hashem had told him that He will protect him when he goes home. Yaakov sends messengers to greet Esav with the hope of appeasing his brother, who is apparently still angry with him. Yaakov prays to Hashem with these words: hatzileni na miyad ahi, miyad Esav. "Rescue me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav". Why did Yaakov repeat himself in this way? He could have said, 'Rescue me from my brother' or 'Rescue me from Esav'. Yaakov is teaching us a very important lesson. Although we know at this point that Esav is his enemy who hates him, Yaakov was worried that Esav could either come to him as his enemy Esav or as his brother Esav; that is, in anger or in a peaceful manner. Either way, he prays to Hashem to save him. Rashi quotes Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai: Halacha beyadua she-Esav sone' L'Yaakov. It is a law: it is known that Esav hates Yaakov. We know that we live amongst those who may seem to welcome us, but who deep down hate Jews. We've seen this hidden hate emerge so many times throughout history, most recently during the Holocaust, just seventy years ago! There is an amazing concept that is brought down to us from the great Spanish Talmudic scholar, Rabenu Nissim ben Reuven, The RaN, that one reason the Berachot were attained the way they were in last week’s perasha, was to actually cause Esav to hate Yaakov. So Hashem actually created anti-Semitism by orchestrating the Berachot in this manner. The reason for this is that Hashem wanted there to be a hate between Esav and Yaakov (between the Jews and the non-Jews). Rabenu Nissim teaches that the reason Hashem did this is to discourage us from socializing with non-Jews because that will lead to problems that go against our Torah. In this week’s Parasha, 32:25, it says, "Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn". Rashi explains that this angel was the guardian angel of Esav. Esav's angel is different from all the others, for just as Esav epitomizes evil, so his angel is the prime spiritual force of the evil-Satan himself. Satan's job is to come down to earth to seduce man to sin, after which he returns to Heaven to incite Hashem to prosecute man for his sinfulness. The question is asked, why did Esav's angel only pick on Yaakov to fight with and not Avraham or Yitzhak? Of our three Avot, we learned that Avraham epitomized Hesed, Yitzhak founded the concept of Avodah or Prayer but Yaakov, who is described as ish tam yoshev ohalim – a pure-hearted man who dwells at home – is a man of the Torah. So Hashem sent an angel to wrestle with Yaakov to pave the way for the ultimate salvation of B'nei Yisrael. In masechet Baba Batra (16a), it says that the angel of Esav had to attack Yaakov because, as the last and the greatest of our Avot, Yaakov symbolized our struggle to raise ourselves and the rest of the world with us. As the Angel of Esav wrestles with Yaakov, he cripples him because he cannot destroy him. The Hafetz Hayyim used to say, that the Yetzer Hara doesn't mind if a Jew fasts, prays and gives lots of tzedakah, providing that he doesn't learn Torah! The pillar of Torah is the most important of all three and the most crucial for B'nei Yisrael's success in carrying out its mission on earth. Yaakov represents Torah and without it, Israel will fail. That is why the Satan did not confront Avraham or Yitzhak. Our Jewish history bears this out all too tragically. In many countries Jews invested in shuls and charities like hospitals and universities but not in Yeshivot. Those communities unfortunately assimilated and ultimately disappeared. It is only when these communities remained loyal to the legacy of Yaakov, which is Torah, that they remained strong! Our community is a prime example of that legacy, because we had Rabbis and business leaders who understood that Torah had to be the foundation of a thriving Jewish community to guarantee its' survival. They built this community here on the shores of America with true Torah values. We are the beneficiaries of the fruits of their labor in the early infancy years of our community. The very next pasuk, goes on to say: "When it was perceived that the Angel of Esav could not overcome Yaakov, he struck the socket of his hip". This injured Yaakov and from this we learn that we are not allowed to eat from the Gid Hanasheh -- the tendon of the animal’s thigh -- because it is not kosher. We also learn from Yaakov's injury that since Yaakov represents Torah and the hip is what supports a person’s body, so too, the angel of Esav's goal is to attack the supporters of Torah. This is the main reason that we so often witness a struggle in raising funds for Torah institutions. Hashem set it up that way so we, as the supporters of Torah, must overcome the Yetzer Hara in order to gain merit to be able to support Yeshivot and Torah institutions! In the time of the Hafetz Hayyim there was a very big struggle, as today, to raise money to support Yeshivot. There were three very wealthy men who could have supported all the Yeshivot on their own. So they asked the Hafetz Hayyim: "Why can't we just ask those wealthy men to support the Yeshivot themselves?" The Hafetz Hayyim answered: "Everyone must have the opportunity to support Torah, even if it is the dollar that the old lady puts in the pushka". A very close friend of mine who is a big supporter of Yeshivot always tells me that a person must have Zechut (Merit) to give their money to Torah institutions because ultimately it is not us supporting Torah but Hashem who promised that Torah will always continue. There is a famous question that is asked: "Is it we who are supporting Torah or is the Torah supporting us?" Rabbi Aharon Kotler met with a very wealthy man. The man was going to give a large amount of money to the Lakewood Yeshivah, but at the end he decided not to make that donation. Rabbi Kotler's helpers saw that the Rabbi looked very downcast about not receiving the money. So they went over to the Rabbi to console him. They assured him, "Don't worry Rabbi, we'll get the money somehow". Rav Aharon answered, "I'm not worried about the Yeshivah, because I know that we will get what we need from Hashem, but I'm concerned for this man because he just let this tremendous Zechut of supporting Torah slip through his fingers!" At this point, after Yaakov's struggle with the angel of Esav, and when the dawn was breaking, Yaakov asks, "Please tell me your name," and the angel answers: "Why do you want to know my name?" Rashi comments that an angel’s name is a reflection of the angel’s mission here on earth. The angel replied that he had no set mission and thus the angel’s name is never the same. Sometimes the Yetzer Hara can come in the form of a desire for money or in the form of pride, or maybe it can come in the form of drugs or gambling, Hass V'Shalom! Every one of us have buttons that the Yetzer Hara knows how to push in order to make us sin. Sometimes, the Yetzer Hara will even come in a way to trick us and convince us that we're doing a Mitzvah by doing a particular sin. So we always must be on guard to stay far away from sin, and the best antidote for that is to spend our time learning Torah! Amen! May we all be able to overcome our Yetzer Hara so that we can keep far away from sin and so we can have the Zechut of learning and supporting Torah institutions in our community and in Israel. May we also continue to live in peace with the non-Jews of our day while we are still in Galut, as we look forward to the coming of the Mashiah very soon! Amen! Shabbat Shalom! Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of Rabbi Amram Sananes Leiluiy Nishmat.... Eliyahu Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Garaz Sarah Bat Chanah Malka Bat Garaz Shulamit Bat Helaina Yaakov Ben Rachel Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Rav Haim Ben Rivka Meir Ben Latifa Yitzchak Ben Adele Esther Bat Sarah Chanah Bat Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana Moshe Ben Garaz Rafael ben Miriam