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

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Vol. 7   No. 8

Parshas Vayishlach

Ya'akov's Legacy
(Part I)

We learn numerous lessons from Ya'akov Ovinu's handling of Eisov in the opening chapter of this week's parshah, many of them with regard to the way that we should behave in this third and final golus. For it is well-known that Avrohom paved the way for Golus Mitzrayim, Yitzchok for Golus Bovel and Ya'akov, for Golus Edom.


The first thing we learn is the greatness of Ya'akov (the epitome of a tzadik), who was able to send angels to do his bidding, in keeping with what Chazal have said - that tzadikim are greater than mal'achei ha'shoreis.

This is hardly surprising however, when, only a few pesukim later, Ya'akov informs Eisov that he had lived (for twenty years) with Lovon, and (yet) he had observed all the taryag mitzvos. There are not many people who could have lived for so long in such a negative environment, and remained so totally unaffected by the people around them.


The only two errors on Ya'akov's part were: 1) that he sent messengers to an Eisov who was not currently interested in him, which the Medrash compares to grabbing a sleeping dog by its ears, and then having to take protective measures to defend oneself. Yaakov too, was now forced to take defensive action against the hostile Eisov whom he himself had aroused. Indeed, this was the blueprint of the Jews' mistake in calling in the Romans to help them in their civil war, in the time of the second Beis ha'Mikdosh.

2) that, in spite of having obtained the b'rochos from his father, who declared him to be Eisov's master, he referred to Eisov as his master no less than eight times, for which Eisov was granted rulership eight generations before Ya'akov. It may be necessary to subjugate ourselves before our oppressors, as we shall see, but not to give up our identity, in the process.


Ya'akov taught us a major lesson in strategy, when he prepared himself for his confrontation with Eisov by sending gifts and by praying. He prepared for war too, but that was only as a last resort, should Eisov attack him. Had the Zealots taken their cue from Ya'akov and not attacked the Romans (in the period of the Second Beis ha'Mikdosh), the Churban Bayis Sheini would have been avoided .


We learn from Ya'akov never to put all our eggs in one basket, but to split up our camp into sections (like Ovadyah did in the time of Ach'ov, when he hid fifty prophets in one cave, and fifty, in another). Thanks to Ya'akov Ovinu's foresight, when the enemy picks on us in one place, we find a haven of refuge somewhere else. Concerning tefilah too, Ya'akov used the expression "Kotonti", stressing his inadequacy, from which we can learn that the essence of tefilah is to subjugate oneself before G-d, to ask Him on the merit of His graciousness, rather than on one's own merit.


If all the troubles of the golus were to come upon us all at once, we could not possibly have survived. This is why Ya'akov set the pace for us by instructing his messengers to leave a space between one group of animals and the next.


The fact that Ya'akov had no genuine reason to beg Eisov for forgiveness was immaterial to him. What was important was that Eisov posed a threat, and that the only way to soften his hard heart was to do just that. That explains why he specifically informed Eisov that he was atoning for the wrong he had done him with the gift that he was sending. Likewise, in the course of the golus, we have seen that humbling ourselves before our overlords has proved to be more effective than confronting them (except in cases of self-defense).

Ya'akov repeated this lesson when, as he approached Eisov, he bowed down seven times (and all his family took their cue from him and bowed down, too).


Parshah Pearls

(Adapted mainly from the Seifer P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro)


A Touch of Pride

"I am too small for all the kindnesses and for all the truth which You performed with Your servant ... " (32:11).

Why, asks the Gro, does Ya'akov Ovinu attribute G-d's kindnesses to himself? Surely, it would have been more befitting to ascribe them to the merits of his fathers, Avrohom and Yitzchok?

From here we see, explains the Gro, that when one refers to the kindnesses of the past (that Hashem has already performed with a person), he should attribute them to his own merit, in order to bring him to a spirit of humility when he realizes how inadequate he really is, as is evident by Ya'akov's words here.


It is when one makes a request from G-d (pertaining to the future) that one is expected to ask on the merit of one's righteous ancestors - as we find by Shlomoh ha'Melech, whose prayer for the gates of the just-completed Beis ha'Mikdosh to open to allow the Oron ha'Kodesh to enter, was answered only after he had mentioned the merits of his father Dovid; and by Chizkiyohu ha'Melech, who was promised that Yerusholayim would be saved on the merits of Dovid ha'Melech, and not on his own, as he had requested.


That is why Chazal say in Sotah (5a) that a person requires an eighth of an eighth of pride. The eighth of an eighth hints at "Kotonti", the first word in the eighth posuk of the eighth parshah, pertaining to the humility which results directly from the little bit of pride contained in the same posuk, of which we spoke earlier.


Who Are Our Leaders?

"And he placed the maidservants in front, and Leah and her children behind them, and Rochel and Yosef at the back" (33:2).


'The deeds of the forefathers are a blueprint for the children', our Sages have said. Ya'akov's strategy here is a sign that in the times of Moshi'ach (which this episode portends), the Eirav Rav will lead Klal Yisroel (a curse that we are experiencing today), the ordinary people will be next in line and the talmidei-chachomim last.


Greed and Contentment

"And Eisov said ... 'I have plenty' " (33:9). "And Ya'akov said ... 'because I have everything' " (33:10-11). 'I have all that I need', Ya'akov was telling Eisov. But Eisov spoke haughtily: 'I have stacks - far more than my needs!' (Rashi).


The Chofetz Chayim adds that the expressions used here by Ya'akov and Eisov respectively, were not isolated statements, but typified their personalities. Eisov's "I have plenty" is an expression of greed, and it is about such greedy people that Chazal have said that someone who has one hundred wants two, and when he obtains two, he wants four, meaning that he is never satisfied with what he has.


Ya'akov on the other hand, told Eisov that he had everything, intimating that he lacked nothing, and was satisfied with his lot. The difference between Ya'akov and Eisov is synonymous with the difference between greed and contentment.


Se'ir's Children - Eisov's Territory

"These are the sons of Se'ir the Chori who dwelt in the land ... " (36:20).

Of what interest are all the names of the B'nei Se'ir, asks the Gro?

Simple, he replies. All the names of the B'nei Se'ir were also names of towns in Se'ir which fell into the hands of Eisov. And that's what makes them important, because even though Eisov's territory was one of the ten lands promised to Avrohoms children, it was one of the three that would not be given to them until the days of Moshi'ach. Until then, it was given to Eisov. It is therefore necessary to tell us the names, so that we should know which lands not to conquer.


He Hadn't Died Yet

"And Ba'al Chonon ben Achbor died, and Hadar succeeded him ..." (36:39). Having recorded the death of the previous seven kings of Edom, why does the Torah not mention the death of Hadar, the eighth and last king - particularly as, in Divrei ha'Yomim (1, 47)), the posuk does do so?


Because, explains the Gro, when Moshe wrote the Torah, Hadar was still alive. Consequently, he could not write that Hadar died, as that would have been untrue. By the time Ezra wrote Divrei ha'Yomim however, Hadar had already died, so he was able to insert his death there.



(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

36. Not to deny money that is owed - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:11) "And do not deny", a warning not to deny owing money from the value of a perutah and onwards. This la'av incorporates all kinds of denial of money: whether it is something that one undertook to look after, a loan, theft, money that he received legally but held on to, or a lost article that he found and failed to return. The moment the owner claims it and he denies it, he transgresses the la'av and is also disqualified from testifying in Beis-Din.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


37. Not to withhold money that is not one's own - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:13) "Do not withhold from your friend", meaning that one should not hold back money belonging to his friend which came into his possession legally. For instance, if someone receives money in the form of a loan or rental, and the owner is unable to obtain it from him because he is a hard man to deal with , he transgresses this la'av.

This mitzvah applies everywhere, and at all times, to men and women alike.


38. Not to delay paying an employee - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:13) " ... the wages of a hired man shall not remain with you overnight until the morning". And it also writes in Ki Seitzei "And the sun shall not set on him". The first possuk refers to a day worker, who has all night to claim the money, so the Torah writes "until the morning", whilst the second possuk refers to a night worker, who has all day in which to claim, which is why the Torah writes "and the sun shall not set on him".

A man who works only part of the day, can claim his wages all day, and one who works part of the night, all night.

If a man is commissioned to make something for a client, then, as long as he retains the article, the client will not contravene the la'av, even if the worker informed him that the article is ready.

As long as the employee fails to claim his wages, the employer does not contravene the la'av, and even if he did, he only transgresses if he is able to pay him, but refuses to do so. If he is not, or if a third party agrees to pay in his stead, then he has not transgressed.

If the employer postponed payment until after the time prescribed by the Torah, he contravenes the la'av as well as the asei "Give him his wages on the right day" (ibid.). After that, should he postpone payment still further, he transgresses the la'av in Mishlei "Don't keep telling your friend to go home and come tomorrow" (3:28). All of the above mitzvos apply both to money that one owes for work done and to rent owed for hiring an animal or vessels. Someone who withholds the wages of an employee is considered as if he had killed him. Besides the above la'avim and the asei, he also transgresses the la'av of withholding money that is not one's own (see previous la'av) and the prohibition of robbing. (Continued)


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