by Rabbi Yehoshua Aron Sofer
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"I sojourned with Lovon and tarried until now" (Bereishis 32:5).
Rashi comments the word garti, "I lived as a stranger", has the numerical value of six hundred and thirteen, implying "I have resided with Lovon all these years, but kept all the mitzvohs and didn't learn from his wicked ways." Many commentaries ask for what purpose did Yaakov tell Eisav he kept all the mitzvohs? Ksav Sofer answers Yaakov understood Eisav would attempt to destroy him in one of two ways. Either he would attack him in open warfare, or he would befriend him, insinuate his non-Jewish lifestyle into Yaakov's household, and obliterate his Yiddishkeit. Yaakov preempted this second procedure by warning Eisav that he had already endured the machinations of an evil relative and learned to keep his distance and maintain spiritual hegemony.
This was also Yaakov's intention when he prayed prior to meeting up with Eisav, "rescue me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisav". Why did Yaakov repeat the obvious, asking to be saved from his brother, and from Eisav? The answer is that he prayed to be saved from two different methods of attack: from the murderous hand of Eisav, and from the caress of his brother whicgh would also ultimately harm him. This is also what the verse is alluding to when it says, "Yaakov was frightened and distressed". He was frightened of Eisav's physical attack, and distressed over his possible harmful influence.
When preparing for war, Yaakov divided his group into two camps saying, "If Eisav assaults one camp, the remaining camp will survive." What was the guarantee one would survive, maybe Eisev would annihilate both camps? Ramban answers that Yaakov recognized the eternal survival of the Jewish people. No matter how much Eisav succeeds in destroying, Hashem will always provide a nucleus of survivors from which to grow new generations of Jews. The story goes that when the Nazis ascended to power in the early thirties, someone approached the Chofetz Chaim, fearful that the survival of the entire Jewish nation was at risk. The Chofetz Chaim reassured him that Hashem already pledged the perpetual continuity of the Jews, and he quoted the verse above, that even if Eisav overcomes one camp, there will be another segment of Jews that will live. Asked where the Jews would find safety seeing as how the whole Europe was on the brink of war, the Chofetz Chaim replied, "On Mount Zion there will be refuge" (Ovadiah 1:17). How prophetic these words proved to be .
The guarantee the remaining camp will survive is also in the spiritual sense. Even if many Jews assimilate, there will always be a remaining camp living a Torah life. The verse states, "it shall never be forgotten from the mouths of their offspring" (Devarim 31:21), which Rashi notes is a promise to Klal Yisroel the Torah will never be lost to their progeny. In the daily prayers, we quote the words of Yeshaya (59:21), "My (Hashem's) spirit which is upon you and My words that I have placed in your mouth will not be withdrawn from your mouth nor from the mouth of your offspring nor from the mouth of your offspring's offspring, said HaShem, from this moment to eternity". Rashi explains that no matter how bitter the oppression of exile may be, Torah will never be neglected by the Jewish people.
Further in the parsha, we read of Yaakov's night long struggle with the protecting angel of Eisav, in which Yaakov prevails. This is a portent of the future struggles Yaakov's descendants will have to endure in the long night of exile. The nations of the world will fight us and beguile us throughout history, but ultimately we will win.
Rabbi Yehoshua Aron Sofer, Kollel Beis HaTalmud Yehuda Fishman Institute, Melbourne Australia
Rabbi Yosef Levinson
"And Yaakov was left alone" (Bereishis 32:25).
Yaakov Avinu, after transferring his entire family and possessions across the Yabbok River came back alone. Rashi explains that he forgot some earthenware jugs and returned to retrieve them. Left there alone, he was vulnerable to attack by the saro shel Esav, the angel of Esav. Chazal (Chullin 91a) learn from this that the money of tzaddikim is more precious to them than their own bodies. The reason for this, the Gemara explains is that tzaddikim avoid any dealings that have the slightest appearance of theft or dishonesty. Since they honestly toil for every penny, it is dear to them.
Of course anything one toils for is considered precious in some way. Chazal say a man would rather have one bushel of produce that he toiled for with his own hands than nine bushels from someone else's field (Bava Metzia 38a). Furthermore, there is an aveira of bal tashchis; the Torah warns us not to destroy our possessions or be wasteful. HaRav Yerucham Levovitz zt'l, writes that we must realise our possessions are a gift from Hashem. If one received a gift from a king, one would surely treasure it. Even an insignificant item would be cherished - how much more so if the gift comes from the King of Kings, Melech Malchei Hamelachim HaKadosh Baruch Hu! One who realises that everything he owns is a gift from Hashem would certainly take the greatest care of every possession. This is why Yaakov Avinu put himself at risk for the sake of some earthenware.
And this is also why tzaddikim scrupulously avoids dealings that even hint at theft. The thought of possessing an item that might truly belong to another is totally abhorrent to them. They know and trust that if Hashem wished them to possess it, then He would give it to them through entirely legitimate means. But one whose trust in Hashem is lacking, and who attributes his success to his own efforts, can be tempted by dishonesty because they may fail to recognise that their possessions are a gift from Hashem.
We can take this a step further. Everyone has a unique role to play in Hashem's master plan. The necessary tools to fulfil this mission are one's possessions. Seen in this light, one's property is elevated to a status similar to a cheftza shel mitzva, objects used for mitzva observance. Just as one uses an esrog to fulfil a mitzva, so too, all possessions assist in fulfilling one's mission in life and reaching perfection in Avodas Hashem, in serving Hashem. Therefore, the righteouses zealously guard their belongings. They realise the great value that can be gained even from an otherwise insignificant item. They also know that they may still need these possessions to continue their climb to perfection.
We live in a disposable society. Today's new and improved model will almost certainly be superseded in just a few months with a newer and even more improved one. Obviously we should think twice before we replace what we have, but more importantly let us ensure that we use Hashem's gifts wisely and fully in assisting us reach our potential in Avodas Hashem.
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