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

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Vol. 20   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 24th Yohrzeit on the 14th Kislev

Parshas Vayishlach

(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Bringing Eisav to His Knees
(Part 1)

"And he (Eisav) said 'To whom does all the camp that I encountered belong?' And he (Ya'akov) replied 'To find favour in the eyes of my master'" (33:8).

Citing the Medrash, Rashi explains this with reference to the camp of angels, who fell upon Eisav and his men and began beating them when they told them who they were. When they mentioned that Eisav was the son of Yitzchak, the beating continued. They then claimed that he was the grandson of Avraham, but the situation did not improve. And it was only when they pointed out that he was the brother of Ya'akov, that the beatings came to a halt, because, the angels said - 'In that case, you are part of us!'

According to this Medrash, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, Ya'akov's answer 'To find favour in the eyes of my master!' is difficult to understand. Since when does a good hiding elicit favour in the eyes of the recipient?

He suggests, tongue in cheek, that just as we honour and respect men of great learning and of good Midos, so too, does Eisav respect and honour war heroes and mighty men of great fighting ability.


Consequently, when Eisav saw the fighting ability of Ya'akov's emissaries, he was filled with awe, and reacted by asking Ya'akov who these amazing awe-inspiring men were and what purpose they served. And back came Ya'akov's reply that they were mighty warriors and that he had sent them to find favour in his eyes. Indeed, Ya'akov knew that there was no surer way of gaining Eisav's admiration than employing a team of men who knew how to pack a good punch.

The author may have said this with tongue in cheek, but the truth is, right up to modern times, nothing is as effective in bringing our enemies to their senses as bringing them to their knees.


Bringing Eisav to His Knees
(Part 2)

We just discussed the angels that Ya'akov sent to soften up Eisav and to gain his admiration. The Oznayim la'Torah queries this from the end of last week's Parshah, where the Torah describes Lavan's pursuit of Ya'akov, and, as Chazal explain, his attempt to totally destroy him.

The Pasuk explains there how G-d appeared to him that night and warned him to let Ya'akov be, and not to start up with him, irrespective of what method he used. Clearly, that warning sufficed to put an end to Lavan's evil plans, and Lavan departed the scene, duly chastised.

Now, if a Divine warning sufficed to stop Lavan in his tracks, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, why did Ya'akov find it necessary to use force to stop Eisav? Why could a Divine warning not negate Eisav's plans just it negated Lavan's?

And conversely, if it was necessary to use such extreme measures to stop Eisav from attacking Ya'akov, why were the same tactics not needed to prevent Lavan from doing so?


The answer, says the author, lies in the deep different levels of G-dliness (or lack of it) that divided the two men. Lavan may well have worshipped idols, as he himself admitted when he told Ya'akov that he had cleared out the house, yet he nevertheless believed in G-d. Indeed, he referred to G-d directly on quite a number of occasions, in his dealings with both Eliezer and Ya'akov. He served both G-d and idols simultaneously, which is even permitted to a ben No'ach, according to a number of commentaries.

Consequently, a Divine warning was all that was needed to stop Lavan in his tracks.

Eisav on the other hand, believed neither in reward and punishment nor even in the existence of G-d, a? Chazal have taught us. And a Divine warning to a person who did not believe in G-d would of course, have proved totally ineffective. Therefore the only course of action was a show of force, to bring Eisav to his knees, as we explained earlier. That is what Ya'akov (or should we ascribe it to G-d) did, and indeed, it worked.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Why Ya'akov was Afraid

"For I am afraid of him, lest he comes and smites me - mothers together with children" (32:12).

The question as to as to why Ya'akov Avinu was afraid of Eisav, in spite of G-d's promise that He would look after him and return him to his father's house is well-known (See Rashi Pasuk 11).

The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos too, answers the question with the same Pasuk as Rashi, only he extrapolates it from the second half of the Pasuk "because with my stick I crossed this Yarden, and now I have become two camps!"

When G-d promised to look after him on his way to Lavan, the Da'as Zekeinim explains, he was alone; he had no wife and no family, only a stick. That being the case, G-d's promise to him affected him alone and to be sure, he had no doubts that G-d would fulfil that promise, and save him from the hand of Eisav. However, he had now become two camps, comprising four wives and a host of children, and he had no guarantee that they would survive an attack by Eisav and his men. Hence, he prayed to Hashem lest Eisav will come and smite him - by killing the mothers in his family together with their children, who had no guarantee of Divine protection.


Gid ha'Nasheh

"Therefore Yisrael shall not eat the Gid ha'nasheh (the sciatic nerve)" (32:33).

In his second explanation, the Da'as Zekeinim offers an innovative explanation for the Mitzvah, one which fully explains the unusual wording the Torah uses here, in presenting the Mitzvah.

Ya'akov's children, he points out, did not behave correctly in allowing their father to travel alone (back and forth across the brook). They should have accompanied him. And it was because they did that, that Ya'akov was harmed and left with a limp. That is why G-d gave them the Mitzvah of Gid ha'Nasheh, to remind them not to be lax in the Mitzvah of accompanying a person on his journey.

The Rosh adds that this was a punishment inasmuch as they were deprived of a good-tasting food for all generations as a reminder of their sin.


Taking their Cue (or not Taking their Cue)
from their Mothers

"And the maidservants (Bilhah and Zilpah) approached, they and their children, and they prostrated themselves" (33:6).

Interestingly, points out the Da'as Zekeinim, the Torah here uses the feminine word ("va'tishtachavenan"), suggesting that the mothers prostrated themselves but not their children. By Leah on the other hand, the Torah expresses itself in the same way, but uses the masculine word ("vayishtachavu"), which suggests that Leah's sons prostrated themselves too.

The Da'as Zekeinim explains that this is because whereas Leah was a major wife to Ya'akov, her sons took their cue from their mother and prostrated themselves too, Bilhah and Zilpah were maidservants and were therefore less important than their children. Consequently, they (the children) did not take their cue from them. Their mothers prostrated themselves before Eisav, but they refused to do so.

This explanation clashes with Chazal, who explain that the only one of Ya'akov's children who did not prostrate himself before Eisav was Binyamin, who was not yet born.

The answer of the Riva however (See Parshah Pearls, vol. 18) accommodates Chazal's explanation.


Paying for Mitzvos

"And he purchased the portion of field (in Sh'chem) for a hundred K'sitah" (33:19).

The K'li Yakar explains that since he intended to offer a Korban to Hashem (as the next Pasuk informs us), he did not want to do this free of charge, much in the same way as David ha'Melech paid Aravnah ha'Yevusi in full, for his granary, before offering a Korban there.

Alternatively, David paid in full because he purchased it as the location on which his son Shlomoh would eventually build the Beis-ha'Mikdash . And it is for the same reason that Avraham paid Efron the full price for the Me'oras ha'Machpeilah. He too figured that whatever one buys for a Mitzvah, one not only pays for, but one pays full price.

Chazal have said that a doctor who charges nothing is worth nothing. By the same token, a doctor who charges little, is worth little. Likewise, someone who wants an object of Mitzvah for nothing or who haggles over its price, demonstrates that that Mitzvah is worth nothing or little to him.

Conversely, a person who is willing to pay full price for a Mitzvah, demonstrates his appreciation of the Mitzvah, and how valuable it is in his eyes.

* * *

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