NOVEMBER 22-23, 2002 18 KISLEV 5763
"Thirty nursing camels with their colts." (Beresheet 32:16)
As Ya'akob Abinu returns to his father's house in the land of Israel, he must first deal with Esav. Esav is approaching with a large army to confront Ya'akob and his family. Part of Ya'akob's strategy is to send Esav an elaborate gift, part of which was thirty camels.
In the days of the Hatam Sofer, a decree was issued by the Hungarian education minister stating that Torah may no longer be taught in the Yeshivas of that country. The leaders of the Jewish community realized that their only hope would be to send a delegation to this minister to convince him to change his mind. Upon hearing their request, the minister refused to meet with them, showing his true hatred for the Jews. Upon further requests and urging, he agreed to meet with them, but only in the morning during the time he eats his breakfast. This was intended to degrade them to have to meet with him while he was eating.
Before the delegation departed, they went to the Hatam Sofer for a blessing of success. He blessed them warmly, but added a warning: "Make sure not to violate any halachah at any price while you are there." The delegation was surprised. After all, they were not going with any intention of violating any halachah! Nevertheless they remembered the Rabbi's words.
When they arrived, the minister commanded his servant to serve them coffee. The coffee contained milk, and milk from a gentile is forbidden. They looked at each other remembering the Rabbi's words, and didn't drink. When the minister questioned them, they replied that they were not allowed to drink a gentile's milk. He asked the reason, and they responded that it's a law based on the possibility that milk from an unkosher animal was mixed in.
The minister smiled and said, "No problem. I only own cows so it is therefore permitted for you to drink." However, since they couldn't be sure, they realized that the halachah forbade this milk, so they refused.
The minister went into a rage, and called his housekeeper commanding her to tell him that it was cow's milk.
She said, "It's cow's milk and..."
"And what!" screamed the minister.
"Please forgive me, but some of the milk spilled so I refilled the pitcher with camel's milk from our neighbor. But please forgive me. Camel's milk is more tasty so I thought it would be all right."
The minister was stunned. He realized the truth of the Torah, and rescinded the decree. Our lesson from this is obvious. When the Jewish people keep the Torah, the Torah protects us. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Esav said, 'I have plenty'...And Ya'akob said, 'I have everything'" (Beresheet 33:9-11)
When Esav saw the lavish gift given to him by his brother, Ya'akob, he tried to demur and say he has plenty, he doesn't need this gift. However, Ya'akob insisted and in his statement back to Esav, he said, "I have everything." This slight contrast in their attitude towards materialism says much about their different values and priorities. Esav, who favors this world and all of its alluring possessions, says he has plenty. He may have a tremendous amount, but he still says it's only plenty, not all.
There's always room for more! Ya'akob, whose goal in life is to become closer to Hashem, using his worldly possessions to achieve spiritual accomplishments, says, "I have it all! Everything I have is enough for me. I am not missing anything!"
There is a fellow who was buying a new car, and after weeks of shopping and planning, finally got the one he was looking for. The right color, the right interior, and all of the right accessories, as much as he could afford. His happiness lasted one day, because the next day, his neighbor bought the higher priced model with all the new gadgets, and parked it right next door. The first one who bought the car that he could afford all of a sudden lost his excitement because he didn't have it all!
Are we similar to Esav, who could always use more and are not happy with what we have because something can always be added, or are we like Ya'akob, that whatever we have is everything? Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And Hashem said to Ya'akob, 'Arise, go up to Bet Kel and dwell there and make an altar to the G-d that appeared to you when you fled from Esav your brother.'" (Beresheet 35:1)
Rabbi Avigdor Miller states that this "dwelling" was not intended to be a permanent residence. Hashem only wanted Ya'akob to stop and take an accounting of what had happened until the present. The purpose of this "dwelling" was to avail Ya'akob the opportunity for contemplation, so that he could reflect upon all the wonders which Hashem had created for him and his family.
Simply considering was not sufficient. It was incumbent upon him to allocate a specific time to meditate and appreciate all the good which Hashem had done for him. Every experience was part of a chain of events specifically preordained for Ya'akob's ultimate benefit. Ya'akob built the altar, and he expressly related Hashem's kindness and beneficence. Only after the entire history was narrated was Ya'akob prepared to leave. Indeed, every aspect of his history was significant, since each detail constituted a link in the chain of kindness.
Similarly, Moshe recounted all of Klal Yisrael's travels and experiences, so that they would be able to read about them and be reminded of Hashem's benevolence to them. For each of us to look back at our own personal history is to discern the hand of Hashem remarkably guiding every facet of our lives. In so doing, we recognize His every kindness. It is not only right, but it is our obligation! (Peninim on the Torah)
[Ya'akob said] "I have lived with Laban" (Beresheet 32:5)
Rashi explains that the numerical value of the word “garti” (I have lived) is 613, representing the 613 misvot. Ya'akob was saying to Esav that even though he lived in the house of Laban, he kept all the commandments, and did not learn from Laban's evil ways.
The simple understanding is that even someone like Ya'akob could have been negatively influenced by being in the environment of Laban. Ya'akob therefore stated that he succeeded in blocking out the negative effects of being in Laban's home.
Rabbi Elhanan Wasserman quoting the Hafess Hayim explains that Ya'akob was actually faulting himself saying, "Although I succeeded in fulfilling the misvot, I was not as enthusiastic with my misvot as Laban was with his evil ways. I didn't approach the misvot with the excitement that he expressed when he was doing bad."
Question: What have you done to protect yourself from the negative influences of the outside world? Do you approach the misvot with enthusiasm, or are they more of a burden - something we do only because we have to?
"These are the chiefs of the sons of Esav" (Beresheet 36:15)
Rabbi Yitzhak Hutner makes note of the fact that the expression "aluf," chief, is used only in regard to the descendants of Esav. The descendants of Yishmael, however, are referred to as "nasi," prince. He explains that this difference in terminology indicates a disparity in their relationship to Am Yisrael.
In the Talmud, Sanhedrin 99a, Hazal interpret the term "aluf" to be a sovereign without a crown. Esav merited the name of monarch in a limited sense. He will survive as a nation until that day when "the saviors will ascend Har Zion to judge Esav's mountain, and the kingdom will be Hashem's" (Obadyah 1:21). On the other hand, Yishmael was only bestowed the title of "nasi," which is primarily an honorary appellation with no power attributed to it.
Esav inherited something tangible. He is identified as the beneficiary of Har Se'ir. Conversely, regarding Yishmael, the Torah states, "Banish the maid servant [Hagar] and her son [Yishmael] for he...will not inherit" (Beresheet 21:10)
Rav Hutner expounded on this contrast, in light of B'nei Yishmael's bloodthirsty desire for a share in Eres Yisrael. He explained that Esav, who received his own tangible inheritance, has no motivation to demand a portion in our Holy Land. Yishmael, who received no share in the land, perseveres in his implacable hatred toward B'nei Yisrael, violently demanding a share in the land from its true inheritors. (Peninim on the Torah)
In our perashah, Esav takes a small army to meet Ya'akob. Ya'akob prepares to meet his older brother and hopes to triumph, just as he had triumphed by receiving the blessings of the firstborn. Esav went on to become the father of a great nation, Edom who, true to the blessing given by Yitzhak, lived by their sword, and in doing so, oppressed the Jews.
In our haftarah, Obadiah the prophet foretells what will be Edom's fate. Obadiah himself was an Edomite who converted to Judaism. He warns his former nation that just as Ya'akob triumphed over Esav, the Jews, with the help of G-d, will eventually triumph over Edom.
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