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

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Vol. 19   No. 8

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
R' Eliyahu Zev ben R' Yerachmiel Moshe z"l
by his family
in honour of his 23rd Yohrzeit on the 14th Kislev
and to celebrate the birth of a son
to Meshulam and Eliane n"y

Parshas Vayishlach

One Brother, Two Problems
(Adapted from the Beis Halevi)

Considering that Ya'akov had only one brother, asks the Beis Halevi, why did he ask G-d to deliver him from "the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisav", when "my brother" could have referred to nobody else but Eisav?

He cites the Zohar, who explains that this was necessary, because people often refer to other relatives as 'brother', so in keeping with the principle to Daven with clarity and accuracy, Ya'akov saw fit to add the words "from Eisav", allowing no room for misunderstanding.

That may well be, the author asks, but the question remains, why did Ya'akov need to insert "from the hand of" twice, when it would have sufficed to say 'from the hand of my brother, Eisav'? And if it comes to that, one may ask, why did he not just ask G-d to save him from Eisav? Why mention 'brother' at all, since presumably, there was only one Eisav?


When Ya'akov was informed that Eisav was approaching, he realized that he was now facing one of two scenarios - either that Eisav had in mind to kill him, or that he wanted to make peace with him and go with him hand in hand, as two brothers. The fact was that he was no more interested in his brother's friendship than he was in his enmity, since he knew that the evil Eisav was bad company for him and his children. Indeed, that is why the Torah writes "And Ya'akov was extremely afraid and he was troubled". He was afraid what Eisav might do to him physically, and he was troubled about the bad influence that he would inevitably be on his family. And so he asked G-d to save him from the spiritual danger that his brother presented, and from the physical danger in which Eisav would place him.


And G-d answered both prayers. Initially, Eisav came with the intention of killing Ya'akov. Then, after G-d miraculously spared Ya'akov from doing battle with Eisav, the latter offered to accompany him on his journey, even as far as slowing down his own pace, in order to keep him company. From that fate too, G-d spared Ya'akov, and the Torah writes that Eisav returned to Sa'ir "on that very same day"! The commentaries ask why the Torah finds it necessary to add these words. Only the Torah wants to stress the fact that Ya'akov was spared having to tolerate the company of his loathsome brother even for one day.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

Oxen & Donkeys
Don't Grow from the Ground

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

'And these, fit neither into the category of "from the dew of the Heaven" nor into that of "from the fat of the earth" that my father promised me' (Rashi).

The Riva queries this from the Gemara in Eruvin, which describes sheep and cattle as 'gidulei karka' (grows from the ground).

Citing R. Elyakim, he refers to Rashi in Sotah who, obviously bothered by this very question, explains that an animal is called 'Gidulei karka', because the pasture that the land provides causes it to grow. It may well grow 'from the ground', but it does not grow out of the ground (in the way that plants and trees do). In other words, they fall under the category of 'Gidulei Karka', but not under that of 'Gidulim min ha'Karka'. And it is the former to which Ya'akov specifically refers to here.

In support of this explanation, Rebbi Elyakim cites a Gemara in Bava Metzia. The Gemara in Bava Metzia confines the Torah's concession for workers to eat from the produce with which they are working to what grows from the ground (such us eating from the corn as he threshes it). It does not extend to a worker who is milking or making cheese, even though they too are the produce of animals. So we see that even though animals may be called 'gidulei karka', they do not fall under the category of 'gidulim min ha'karka'.


Is He an Angel?

"When he saw that he could not overcome him, he touched the hip-socket of his thigh" (32:26).

When the angel saw that he could not overcome Ya'akov, the Riva explains, he thought that the latter must be an angel. So, he checked him out by touching the hip-socket of his thigh (See Rashi). He did that because unlike humans, angels do not have thigh-joints, which explains why they never sit down (angels do not relax), which in turn, explains why they are sometimes described as 'Omdim' (standing).

So he touched the hip-socket of Ya'akov's thigh to see whether he had a joint there or not.


One Hundred & Sixty Thousand Men

"And Eisav made his journey back on that day to Se'ir" (33:16).

What happened to the four hundred men who accompanied Eisav, asks Rashi.

And he answers that one by one, they deserted him.

But how can that be, asks the Chizkuni, considering that in the previous Pasuk Eisav offered to leave some of the soldiers who were accompanying him (presumably in order to protect his family), implying that, on the day that Eisav took his leave, his men were still with him.

The question seems to assume that Eisav spent a few days with Ya'akov and that the four hundred men slipped away before he left for home.

Citing R. Elyakim, the Riva explains that the four hundred men who accompanied Eisav were all officers, and that each one had many men under their command. Consequently, it was the four hundred officers who slipped away and their men whom Eisav offered Ya'akov.

The Riva himself proves R. Elyakim's answer from a Medrash which states that just as Eisav was leader of four hundred officers, so too, did each officer have four hundred men under his command.

It seems to me however, that when the Pasuk states "on that day" it means on the same day that he arrived, it is possible to explain that Eisav's four hundred men began to desert him from the moment they saw Ya'akov (and perceived his superiority over Eisav). The last few men left him between the time that he made his offer, and, by the time he departed not one remained.

* * *


"Inflate (harbu) exceedingly upon me the marriage settlement and gifts " (34:12).

The same word appears in Amos (4:4) "in Gilgal rebel greatly (harbu)" - with reference to idolatry.

Even though Sh'chem and Chamor offered to give Dinah many wedding gifts, they also continued to indulge greatly in idolatry, like the people in Gilgal did later, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, in spite of the condition that Ya'akov and his sons made with them that they discontinue their evil practices.

That is why the B'nei Yisrael later took the foreign gods of Sh'chem and hid them 'under the oak tree in Sh'chem'.

Perhaps that also explains why Shimon and Levi abrogated the covenant that they entered into with the people of Sh'chem and killed them.


" because they (the men of Sh'chem) defiled (tim'u) their sister" (34:27).

The word "tim'u" appears in two more places - in "They defiled My Mikdash" (Yechezkel 23:38), and "They defiled Your holy sanctuary (Tehilim 79:1).

They all point to the same thing, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains - They defiled G-d's Mikdash to copy the deeds of Sh'chem; And so they defiled His holy sanctuary, as the Pasuk writes in Eichah, "They defiled women in Tziyon".

The next Pasuk begins with the words are "their sheep and their cattle", to teach us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that they behaved in a perverted way, like animals.


"I am Keil Shakai, be fruitful and multiply" (35:11).

The Name 'Shakai", the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, is the Name of G-d that is connected with Pityah ve'rivyah. Hence the hidden letters of the word ('Yud' 'Nun' of the 'Shiyn', the 'Lamed' 'Tav' of the 'Dalet' and the 'Vav'' 'Dalet' of the 'Yud' add up to five hundred - the combined number of limbs of a man and a woman.

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