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

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Vol. 21   No. 8

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
ר' ישכר דב בן יוסף אלימלך (טרנבסקי ברנרד) ז"ל
יאהרצייט בי"ג כסלו
ע"י בתו ומשפחתו

Parshas Vayishlach

Ya'akov Arrives in Sh'chem
(Adapted mainly from the Oznayim la'Torah)

"And Ya'akov arrived complete (sholeim) in the town of Sh'chem, which is in the land of Cana'an, when he came from Padan Aram, and he encamped (Vayichan) in front of the town" (33:18).

"Complete", Rashi explains, in body, financially and Torah-wise. 'In body' - cured from his limp; financially - in spite of the large gifts that Ya'akov, still afraid that Eisav would attack him, had sent Eisav since their encounter; and in his learning - despite all the years he had spent in close contact with the arch-swindler Lavan.

The commentaries point out that all this is hinted in the word "sholeim", which is the acronym of 'sheldah' (a body/skeleton), 'limud' (learning) and 'momon' (money). It strikes me that these three things are similar to the three things that we mention in the Sh'ma "with all your heart (your learning), your Soul (your body) and your 'might' (your money).


The seemingly excessive details with which the Pasuk ends, says the Oznayim la'Torah, come to teach that, like his grandfather Araham before him, upon his arrival in Eretz Cana'an, his first stop was Sh'chem. By doing so he paved the way for Yisrael, whose first stop after crossing the River Yarden, would be Sh'chem.


The word "Vayichan" can also mean 'and he graced'. Hence Chazal explain that Ya'akov introduced coinage and initiated markets and cheap sales in Sh'chem. That explains, says the author, why Chamor and Sh'chem, when trying to convince the people of Sh'chem to enter into a covenant with Ya'akov and his family, would say "Let them stay in the land and trade in it". Even though they were all shepherds, it did not take them long to appreciate their business acumen. It is to their credit, he explains, that Sh'chem and Chamor acknowledged what Ya'akov did for Sh'chem and gave credit where credit is due. Most host nations where we stay tend to ignore the financial successes that their Jewish residents bring to their country.


The Oznayim la'Torah also comments on the words of Sh'chem and Chomor "These people are peaceable (sh'leimim) with us (Pasuk 21)". Note that this is equivalent to the word "sholeim" that the Torah uses with regard to Ya'akov in the current Pasuk. In similar vein to the Medrash that we quoted earlier, he talks about the three attributes that a stranger needs in order to be accepted in a community - he must be healthy (body), be financially stable (money) and cultured (learning), which are equivalent to the three things of which we spoke there. Sh'chem and Chamor realized this and were therefore ready to grant residential status to Ya'akov and his family on the spot.


Finally, the Oznayim, commenting on the phrase "and he encamped in front of the city", cites Chazal, who explain that he arrived late on Erev Shabbos and fixed an Eiruv Techumin, declining to enter the town until the following day, because he added (Tosfos Shabbos) from the weekday on to the incoming Shabbos. He went beyond the borders of Shabbos, the author explains, that is why he merited an inheritance without borders (as the Gemara explains in Shabbos (118).

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Parshah Pearls

Ya'akov's Emissaries

"And Ya'akov sent messengers (Mal'ochim) to Eisav his brother" (32:4).

Bearing in mind a. that the word for both messengers and angels is 'mal'ochim', and b. that Ya'akov has just encountered two camps of angels, Rashi explains that the "mal'ochim" here means angels.

And so it must, adds the Oznayim la'Torah, as which human being would have dared to meet up with Eisav, the Eisav who had firmly decided to kill Ya'akov? There is a story told in Shmuel about the messengers that David sent to the king of Amon, to comfort him when his father died. And the Pasuk there relates how the king insulted and humiliated them by sending them back with half their beards shaved off and half their clothes cut off. There is no question whatsoever that Eisav was quite capable of treating any messengers sent by Ya'akov in similar fashion, and even of killing them.

Indeed, the Medrash informs us that Ya'akov initially tried to send human emissaries, but they refused to go.

So he sent angelic emissaries, knowing that Eisav would be unable to do them any harm.

On the other hand, the fact that not only were the angels prepared to do Ya'akov's bidding, but that Ya'akov issued them with commands which they dutifully carried out speaks volumes about the greatness of Ya'akov Avinu. Hence Chazal say that Tzadikim are greater than angels.


Ya'akov Kept all the Mitzvos

" … say to my master Eisav 'I stayed with Lavan (garti)'" 32:5.

Playing on the word "garti" (which contains the same letters as 'Taryag') Rashi explains 'I lived with Lavan and I kept the Taryag Mitzvos'.

Why did Ya'akov divulge this piece of information to Eisav, asks the Oznayim la'Torah? Did he really think that it would impress him?

The answer lies in the Medrash, which explains that when Ya'akov did meet Eisav, the latter kissed him - "I will kiss him", the Medrash says, quoting Eisav, "and suck out his Neshamah from him!"

What he meant was that if he could not destroy Ya'akov physically, he would destroy him spiritually. He would lure him away from his religious beliefs by befriending him. He would work on him (with love) until they merged into one nation - under his influence. To misquote a famous saying 'If you can't beat 'em, get 'em to join you!'

According to the commentaries' interpretation of the Pasuk on the words (in Pasuk 12) "Save me from my brother from Eisav", it seems that Ya'akov anticipated Eisav employing those tactics to overcome him, and prayed to G-d to save him from them.

And that is precisely the reason that he pointed out to his brother "I stayed with Lavan … !" The message was that if after twenty years, Lavan had not succeeded in breaking his spirit, and he kept all the Mitzvos throughout his tenure there, then all Eisav's efforts to change him would be in vain, and he may as well not bother trying.


Why Not Dogs

… Goats … sheep … camels … cows … and donkeys" (32:15:16).

Why, asks the Oznayim, did Ya'akov not send Eisav dogs, which would certainly have been extremely useful to a hunter like Eisav?

And he answers that Ya'akov declined to give him something which he could later use against him, like we find that Yosef's brothers set their hunting-dogs on Yosef, when he came to enquire about their wellbeing.

It is also possible that Eisav had no need for hunting-dogs, since he had the special hunting-clothes that he stole from Nimrod.


The Location of the Beis-Hamikdash

"And Ya'akov called the name of the place where G-d had spoken to him 'Beis-Eil' " (35:15).

He sanctified that location for the future. It was the exact spot which would later serve as Aravnah ha'Yevusi's threshing-floor and which David Hamelech purchased from him on which to build the Beis-Hamikdash.

The Oznayim la'Torah, cites an old man who, quoting his Rebbe, the Chasan Sofer, pointed out that the words "the place which He spoke to him" is mentioned three times, hinting at the three Batei-Mikdash.

Perhaps one can add that, whereas on two of those occasions (Pasuk 13 & 15), the Torah adds the word "Elokim", on one occasion (Pasuk 14) it does not. This is because the Shechinah was not present in the second Beis-Hamikdash.


Anah and his Father's Donkeys

" … the same Anah who discovered (motzo) the mules (Yeimim) in the desert whilst pasturing the donkey's for Tziv'on his father" (36:24).

This is how Rashi translates the Pasuk

The Oznayim la'Torah, citing the Moshav Zekeinim interprets it quite differently. Translating the word "motzo" as 'fought' (based on a Pasuk in Tehilim), and "Yeimim" as the equivalent of "Eimim" (the name of a nation mentioned in Lech-L'cho [14:5]), he explains that Anah fought off the Yeimim in the desert when they came to steal his father's donkeys.

The author supports this explanation, because then the details contained in the second half of the Pasuk fit nicely - as the Torah is telling us about Anah's strength, in that he fought off an entire 'nation', even though he was alone in the desert, and his father was not there to help him. I would support Rashi's explanation for the following reason.

Rashi (in Pasuk 24) explains that the Pasuk deliberately inserts this episode here to inform us that Anah who was himself Pasul, now brought Pesulim into the world (See Rashi there). According to the Moshav Zekeinim however, the current episode has no connection with Anah's Yichus, which the Pasuk discussed immediately prior to it. According to his explanation, the punch-line is missing.

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