Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 16   No. 8

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Parshas Vayishlach

Sheep First

"And I have oxen and sheep " (32:6).

When listing animals, says R. Bachye, it is common for the Torah to begin with sheep, since they are the most esteemed and choicest of all the animals (presumably because, as Chazal have said, they are the most lucrative of all animals, or is it perhaps because K'lal Yisrael are compared to sheep).

Indeed, we find that the Torah writes in connection with Avraham "And to Avram he did good because of her; and he had sheep and cattle"; and in connection with Yitzchak "And he owned flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, and many enterprises". And even in connection with Ya'akov himself, the Torah writes "And he had many sheep, maidservants and servants, camels and donkeys".

Why is it then, asks R. Bachye, that here, he lists sheep only after the oxen and the donkeys?


Citing a Medrash, the author explains that when Ya'akov mentioned 'ox' first, he was alluding to Yosef, who was compared to an ox, and who was destined to defeat Eisav, when the time is ripe, as the Navi Ovadyah writes "And the House of Ya'akov will be a fire, the House of Yosef a flame and the House of Eisav, stubble, and they will set fire to them and devour them" (1:18) , as Rashi cites in Vayeitzei (30:25).


According to the simple explanation however, he attributes Ya'akov's choice of order to Ya'akov Avinu's powers of diplomacy. He deliberately avoided beginning with the species of sheep and goats (both of which the Torah refers to as 'Tzon'), because he remembered well how it was through goats that he obtained the B'rachos from his brother Eisav, (when his mother told him to go to the 'flock' and to fetch two goats), and he had no doubts that Eisav remembered it too. So he wisely opened his list of possessions with other animals, thereby psychologically playing down the importance of sheep in the eyes of Eisav.

Later, after the messengers returned from their mission, the Torah records that he divided "the people who were with him, the sheep and the cattle"; and again later, after Eisav had accepted his overtures, he said to him "My master knows that the children are tender and I have the nursing flocks and cattle to look after". At that point, he clearly considered it safe to give the sheep their rightful place at the head of the list without antagonizing Eisav.


That is what the author writes in Pasuk 6. This is what he has to say in Pasuk 15, after posing the same question, he draws a distinction between before Tefilah and after Tefilah. Before he had Davened, Ya'akov was afraid to mention sheep first, to avoid arousing Eisav's deep hatred, as we explained earlier. But once he had Davened, his attitude changed; his fear dissipated, and he was overcome by a feeling of security. Now he wanted to frighten Eisav to prevent him from attacking him. So he deliberately sent him the goats first, to remind him of The B'rachos, to convey the message that if his intention was to fight with him, he stood no chance, for the B'rachos that he had received from his father, on account of the goats that he had brought him would stand him in good stead. His father had blessed him "Be a master over your brother", and Eisav was therefore well-advised to desist from attacking him, for all his efforts were doomed to fail.


And it is for the same reason that Ya'akov concluded his gift with she-asses and donkeys. These, for their part, would serve to remind his brother that he was destined to fall into the hands of his (Ya'akov's) children at the end of days, as the Pasuk in Zecharyah (9:9) states "Behold your king will come to you, righteous and victorious is he, poor and riding on a donkey, a foal the son of asses".


It is truly remarkable as to how deeply one Tefilah affected Ya'akov Avinu. Before he Davened, he was afraid for his life, and took great pains to avoid provoking his brother Eisav. The moment he had Davened however, he felt secure, and not only did his fear dissipate, but he was even prepared to threaten Eisav and to put him in his place.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

More about Sheep and Goats

"Two hundred she-goats and twenty he-goats " (32:15).

Ya'akov began with goats, R. Bachye explains, because whenever there is a group of animals, it is always goats that will go in front. And what's more, they comprised the largest group of males that Ya'akov sent. Next came the camels, whose males numbered fifteen, followed by the cows and the she-asses - ten males preceding the Tahor species (the cows) before the Tamei species (the donkeys). In each of the above cases, he preceded the females, because (with the exception of the camels) they exceeded the males.

Alternatively, the order of the species that Ya'akov sent followed the duration of their pregnancies - goats and sheep, five months; camels, six; cows, nine months, and asses, twelve.



Rabeinu Chananel writes that in total, Ya'akov sent Eisav five hundred and fifty animals, which explains why kings sat on the throne of Malchus Edom five hundred and fifty years before Shaul ha'Melech sat on the throne of Malchus Yisrael. See also Ba'al ha'Turim.


Misleading Eisav

"Until I come to my master to Se'ir (ad asher ovo el adoni se'irah)" (33:14).

Ya'akov had not the least intention of reaching Se'ir at that point, Rashi explains (as a matter of fact, he was only going as far as Succos) and he only mentioned Se'ir in order to dissuade Eisav from attacking him.

This conforms with Chazal, says R. Bachye, who say that if a gentile asks a Jew where he is going, he should always mention a place that is beyond his destination. In that way, should the gentile intend to do him any harm, he will have a good chance of being able to save himself when he leaves the highway earlier than the gentile expected him to.


Furthemore, Rashi adds, he really did intend to go to Har Se'ir, when in days of Mashi'ach, when they (Mashi'ach and his colleagues) will "ascend Mount Tzi'on victorious to judge Mount Se'ir". Indeed, R. Bachye points out, the last letters of "ovo el adoni se'irah" spell "Eliah" (as Eliyah ha'Navi is sometimes called).


Unaffected by his Encounter

"And Ya'akov arrived complete (shaleim) in the city of Sh'chem" (33:18).

Complete in body, comments Rashi, complete in learning and complete in money. In other words, Ya'akov arrived in Sh'chem, unaffected by his dealings with Lavan or his encounter with Eisav.

Perhaps Rashi learns this from the word "Shaleim", which is the acronym of the first letters of 'She'er' (body), 'Limud' (learning) and 'Mamon' (money).


Three Reasons Why

"And Dinah the daughter of Leah went out to see the daughters of the land" (34:1).

Dinah is referred to as the daughter of Leah, Rashi explains, because she followed in her mother's footsteps, who also "went out" to meet Ya'akov, and what's more, she went out bedecked with jewellery. And that is why she was taken and raped by Sh'chem. 'The honour of a princess lies in the home', David ha'Melech taught in Tehilim. It is unbecoming for a Jewish woman to leave her home, especially when it is merely to see the sights of the land.

Dinah did. See where it got her!


We now know why Dinah was punished. But what did Ya'akov do to deserve such a blow?

R. Bachye gives three reasons as to why Ya'akov was punished.

1. Because he said to Lavan "Let my integrity testify for me for tomorrow"; to which G-d commented "Do not boast about what will happen tomorrow". You said "Let my integrity testify for me for tomorrow". Tomorrow your daughter will go out and be raped!

2. Because he kept Dinah away from Eisav. He even went so far as to place her in a box, and lock her in. Who knows whether she would not have succeeded in bringing him back to the fold? 'You did not want her to marry a man who is circumcised', said G-d; she will be 'married' to someone who is not. You did not want her to get married honourably, she will get married dishonourably.

3. Because he attributed to himself total authority (seroroh) 33:20 (see footnote), something which even the Chazan ha'Kenesses would not deign to do.

* * *


"Two hundred she-goats, and twenty he-goats (Izim mosayim u'seyoshim esrim )" 32:15.

Every word in this Pasuk, the Ba'al ha'Turim observes, ends with a 'Mem', as do all the words in the Pasuk in Pinchas (29:33 [in connection with the Korban Musaf of Succos]) "u'Minchosom ve'niskeihem, la'porim ve'la'kevosim ".


The five hundred and fifty Korb'nos Tzibur that Ya'akov's children were obligated to bring annually came to atone for the lack of faith in G-d, who had promised to protect him, that Ya'akov displayed by sending Eisav this gift (comprising five hundred and fifty animals) to appease him.


'Altogether, there are eight Memin', he adds, and correspondingly, eight kings ruled in Edom before King Shaul ascended the throne of Yisrael (as the Torah records in the final paragraph of this Parshah).

Alternatively, he concludes, the 'Memin' hint to the fact that all the animals listed here were blemished (ba'alei mumin). He did this in order to prevent Eisav from bringing them as Korbanos. (Finding favour in Eisav's eyes is one thing. Showering him with merits is another).


"And leave a space (revach) between one flock and the next" (32:17).

The same word appears in Megilas Esther, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, where the Pasuk (4:14) writes "Relief (revach) and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another source ".

This teaches us, he explains, that throughout the ages, to attain deliverance, it is (sometimes) necessary to bribe the government officials.


"And you shall say 'it belongs to your servant Ya'akov; it is a gift that is sent (Minchah hi sheluchah) to my master Eisav' ".

Here too, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, we find the same word, but this time, not in one other place, but in two!

For the Torah writes in Vayechi (49:21) "Naftali is a hind let loose (sheluchah), who delivers beautiful sayings", and in Yechezkel (2:9) " and behold a hand stretched out (sheluchah)". Here, like in Vayechi, Ya'akov sent Eisav the gift accompanied by nice words, and although Eisav did not really want to accept Ya'akov's 'peace-offering', he could not refrain from stretching out his hand and accepting it, like the Pasuk in Yechezkel.


" and he (Eisav's angel) touched the spoon of his (Ya'akov's) thigh" (32:26).

He wasn't sure as to whether Ya'akov was a human-being or an angel like himself, says the Ba'al ha'Turim,. Angels limbs, it seems, don't have joints. So he touched the spoon of Ya'akov's thigh, to see whether he had joints. (It is doubtful that the angel would mistake any of us for an angel; and if Eisav's angel mistook Ya'akov for one, it indicates that Ya'akov resembled one.)

Alternatively, he explains, he caused him a blemish, to disqualify him from performing the Avodah. This was an act of revenge, seeing as Ya'akov had purchased the birthright from Eisav, thereby earning him the right to bring Korbanos, as the firstborn customarily used to do. Indeed, he adds, the Gematriyah of "be'kaf yereicho (on the spoon of his thigh)" is equivalent to that of 'le'poslo mi'Kehunah' (to disqualify him from the Kehunah).

G-d however, had other plans (see Rashi Pasuk 32).

* * *


Mitzvah 122:
The Mitzvah of Testifying

It is a Mitzvah to relate any testimony that one knows in front of the judges, whether it concerns matters for which the defendant is subject to Miysah, or money on which he has been warned, or whether it is to save him from death or from a monetary loss, as the Torah writes in Vayikra (5:1) " .. and he is a witness and he either saw or knows, if he does not relate his testimony he shall bear his sin"; Whatever the case may be, one is obligated to testify in front of the Beis-Din There is however a difference between money-matters on the one hand, and matters that concern life and death and other issues concerning sin; inasmuch as when it comes to money matters, a witness does not need to testify unless one of the litigants actually invites him to do so; Whereas somebody who sees a fellow-Jew transgressing an Isur that is subject to Malkos (e.g. one man striking another) or death (e.g. a murder), is obligated to go to Beis-Din and testify of his own volition, in order to destroy the evil and to deter people from sinning.

A reason for this Mitzvah due to the obvious benefits that the Mitzvah brings to mankind, it is unnecessary to elaborate on its underlying reasons, since they are clear for all to see.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah Chazal have drawn various distinctions between people with regard to this Mitzvah, in that not everybody is obligated to appear before Beis-Din to testify. For example, if the witness is an outstanding Talmid-Chacham, on a higher level than the judges, he has the right to refrain from appearing in Beis-Din to testify, should he so wish, because the Asei of Kavod Torah overrides that of testifying. Similarly, a Kohen Gadol is exempt from testifying , unless his testimony concerns a king (whose status is above his). Chazal have also forbidden Kings of Yisrael (specifically) from testifying agaimst others, and others from testifying against them - because of a catastrophic incident that occurred with King Herod, in the time of the second Beis-Hamikdash, as is recorded in the Gemara in Sanhedrin. This prohibition does not however, extend to the kings of Beis David, who are permitted to testify against others, and against whom others are permitted to testify One does not refrain from testifying on account of love or hatred, since "the remnant of Yisrael do not perform injustice (in their testimony [Tzefanyah 3:13])", though this principle does not apply with regard to judging, where a both a friend and an enemy are disqualified from judging, seeing as an enemy cannot see merit, nor a friend, guilt The Rambam writes that the min ha'Torah, it is basically the verbal testimony of the witnesses that is acceptable in court, not the written, as the Torah writes in Shoftim "by the mouth of the witnesses ". However, in order to enable people to obtain loans, the Chachamim instituted, that when it comes to money matters, the Din can be finalized through witnesses who have signed on a document, as if they had testified vernally. The Ramban, in Seifer ha'Mitzvos, poses many questions on the Rambam. In his opinion, the testimony contained in a document, is min ha'Torah, as the Pasuk writes in Yirmiyah (32:44) "and written on a scroll and signed".

Mitzvah 120:
The Korban of the Sanhedrin who Erred in their Ruling (cont)

And on the other hand, when the sin does become known, it is essential that they are aware of the sin in which they erred (and not that they harbor doubts regarding which sin it was in which the error took place), even though in any event, they know that an error took place in one sin or another, and even though those who took their cue from them and sinned will inform them as to what it was. The fact is that since they do not recall what the sin was, they are Patur, as the Torah writes "and the sin is known" (implying that it is known to them and not that it was told to them by others). All of the above are the conditions required to obligate the Beis-Din to bring a Korban (and not those who followed their instructions, as we explained). When we say that the Beis-Din is Chayav to bring a Korban, what we mean is that the twelve tribes who followed their ruling are obligated to bring a Korban on their behalf, as the Gemara in the first Perek of Horiyos explains. Consequently, if the error involved the sin of Avodah-Zarah, then the twelve tribes are obligated to bring twelve bulls as an Olah and twelve goats as a Chatas; whereas if it involved any other sin, then they bring just twelve bulls. If even one of the above conditions is missing, then whoever took their cue from the Sanhedrin and sinned is obligated to bring a Chatas Yachid, and the Sanhedrin is exempt and the remainder of the details as to when the individual sinner is Chayav and the Beis-Din is Patur, and vice-versa, and the division of Korbanos among them, such as what the Gemara writes in Horiyos (9a) 'All the Mitzvos in the Torah for which one is Chayav Kareis be'Meizid and Chatas be'Shogeg, an ordinary individual brings a she-lamb or a she kid-goat, whilst the Nasi (the king) brings a he-goat, and the anointed Kohen (the Kohen Gadol who was anointed with the anointing oil) and the Beis-Din bring a bull together with all the remaining details are discussed in Maseches Horiyos and in various places in Zevachim (see Rambam Hilchos Shegagos, chapter 14).

This Mitzvah applies when the Beis-Hamikdash is standing, when we have a functioning Sanhedrin.

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