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December 5, 1998 16 Kislev 5758

Pop Quiz: Where did Ya'akob purchase land when he returned to Canaan?

IT'S NEVER TOO EARLY by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Deborah, the wet nurse of Ribkah, died and was buried below Bet-El"

In our perashah we are shown the mighty showdown between Ya'akob and Esav. Every detail must be studied deeply, because our Sages teach us that all that transpired between them had historical repercussions. However, the Torah seems to make a break in the action to mention a fact, which at first sight seems relatively unimportant. Deborah, the nurse of Ribkah passes away. Rashi goes at length to explain her presence in the camp of Ya'akob and says there are additional hints here regarding Ribkah's death.

Rabbi Moshe Sternbach explains that the Torah is going out of its way to mention Deborah in order to teach us an important lesson. Deborah was Ribkah's first teacher. She was the one who started the education of Ribkah. The Torah wants to acknowledge the great importance of the earliest education of a child. The Gaon from Vilna said that he never forgot his first teacher, the one who laid the foundation of his education for him.

The Torah wants to dispel the thought from the minds of the people who think that the tender young years of the child are really not so important. The child's first teachers teach the fear of Hashem, the love of Hashem and the love of misvot. The religious quality of the teacher, as well as the makeup of the class, plays a crucial role in the child's early first impressions. Shabbat Shalom.


"And his eleven children" (Beresheet 32:23)

The pasuk tells us that Ya'akob approached Esav with his wives and his eleven children. At this point, Ya'akob had eleven sons and one daughter, Dinah, since this was before Binyamin was born. On this pasuk, Rashi asks, "Where was Dinah?" (since the pasuk only mentions eleven of the twelve children). He gives the answer that she was hidden in a box and therefore is not counted. How does Rashi know that the eleven children did not include the daughter, Dinah; maybe it was excluding one of the sons?

One reason why the Bet Hamikdash was built in Jerusalem on Binyamin's land is that he was not born when Ya'akob met Esav and thus did not bow down to Esav.

When Ya'akob met Esav he had eleven sons and one daughter. If we would say that the eleven children included Dinah, and one of the sons was hidden in the box, then that child would deserve that the Bet Hamikdash be built on his land more than Binyamin, because he was already born and did not bow down to Esav, while Binyamin was not even born at the time. Therefore, Rashi knew that the missing child had to be Dinah, who did not get a share of Eres Yisrael. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And Ya'akob asked and he said, 'Please tell me your name,' and he replied, 'Why do you ask me my name?'" (Beresheet 32:30)

Ya'akob fought with the spiritual being which was the personification of Esav, which was also the personification of the yeser hara (evil inclination). When Ya'akob was victorious, he asked the being for his name, but was told, "Why do you ask me my name?" This reply might appear to be a refusal to give a truthful answer. But Rabbi Yehudah Leib Chasman explained that this was actually the name of the evil inclination, "Don't ask."

The desires of this world draw a person like a magnet. The best way to overcome one's negative impulses is to be aware of how illusory these pleasures actually are. As soon as you take a close look with your intellect at worldly desires, you will see how empty and meaningless they are. "Don't ask!" As soon as you start asking questions to clarify the reality of the evil inclination, you will find that there is nothing there. This is analogous to seeing a shadow and thinking that something is actually there. As soon as you light a candle you realize that what you saw was only an illusion. Use your intellect to see the emptiness of negative desires and you will be free from their pull. (Growth through Torah)


"And Ya'akob was greatly afraid and distressed" (Beresheet 32:8)

Just as Ya'akob and Esav opposed one another, so too in contemporary life they face one another. They each represent a distinct way of life, originating from two different sets of goals. Ya'akob is characterized as a hard-working and loving family man, blessed with children. Opposite him stands Esav, a man of "accomplishment" and substance, of power and glamour. For twenty years Ya'akob struggled to raise a family, to educate children, to earn the privilege to be entitled "Patriarch." Simultaneously, Esav was climbing the ladder of political fortune. He had become a military leader, whose wealth and strength were externally enticing. The meeting of these two contrasting powers, symbolized by the disparate characters of Ya'akob and Esav, reflects the struggle between forces that have shaped world history. Ya'akob is the paradigm of family life, happiness and the dispensing of kindness unto others, while Esav represents the attraction of political might. For thousands of years the battle of these two ideologies has raged. The Torah vividly illustrates for us that morality will ultimately be triumphant. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: In Shechem.

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