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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Vayeshev

"And he struck the socket of his hip, and Yaakov's hip socket was dislocated." (32:27)

The Zohar Ha'Kadosh interprets the "kaf yerech" as "tamchin do'oraisa," referring to those who support Torah. The Chafetz Chaim explains that Eisav's angel disputed Yaakov's claim to the blessings, offering the argument that Eisav had as much right to the blessings as Yaakov did. Yaakov retorted that his descendants would one day receive the Torah to study. Although Eisav's angel could not impugn this rationale, he nevertheless attempted to hurt Yaakov. He succeeded in weakening the financial support for Torah. In the "Ikvasa d'Meshicha," the period of time close to the advent of Moshiach, Torah supporters will seek excuses to shirk their responsibility. This was the manner in which the Sar shel Eisav, angel of Eisav, left an eternal blemish on Yaakov's ability to "move" forward.

The Chafetz Chaim adds that the actions of the Patriarchs serve as a portent for their children. In every generation, those who seek to challenge and undermine Torah, attempt do so in every way possible. When they see that the lomdei Torah, those who study Torah, reinforce themselves by affirming their commitment to Torah study, these detractors - by withholding their material support - attempt to prevent their continued study . They do everything in their power to undermine Torah study -- be it disparaging those who study, concocting reasons for channeling funds to other charities, or making impossible demands upon those institutions whose goal it is to teach and disseminate Torah. The demands are not based upon logic. Their goal, however, is apparent - to prevent the study of Torah.

Just as Yaakov triumphed over the angel, even though he limped away, he continued to build a vibrant nation devoted to the observance and study of Torah, so, too, will we continue to overcome the present detractors of Torah.

"Therefore the Bnei Yisrael are not to eat the displaced sinew on the hip socket... because he (the angel) struck Yaakov's hip-socket on the displaced sinew." (32:33)

Rashi attributes the name given by the Torah to the sciatic nerve, Gid Hanashe, to the fact that the nerve was "nash'e," "jumped" out of its place. When the angel struck Yaakov, he dislocated the sciatic nerve. Accordingly, the word nashe is defined as being removed from its original or usual place. Another meaning can be applied to the word "nash'e," which sheds light upon the actual damage that resulted when the angel struck Yaakov.

Horav Avigdor Tzvi Nebentzhal, Shlita, cites the pasuk in Parashas Mikeitz (Bereishis 41:51) in which Yosef, upon naming his son Menashe, says, "Hashem has made me forget all my hardship." In this instance the word is defined as "made me forget." Hence, "nashe" has something to do with forgetting. Essentially, both definitions coincide. One who forgets has a certain frame of reference removed from his memory. Hashem facilitated Yosef's ability to forget his affliction. How do we now reconcile our definition with the gid ha'nashe? Does it become the the "nerve of forgetfulness"?

Horav Nebentzahl suggests that essentially this is the manner in which the angel impaired Yaakov and his descendants. Shikcha - forgetfulness - like most qualities, has its advantages as well as its disadvantages. The ability to forget can be an enormous gift that is necessary in order to maintain our sanity. The fact that Hashem has decreed that the memory of one who has passed on slowly slips away from us, is a blessing in disguise. If we would remember the death of a loved one many years later as if it had happened that day, we would go out of our minds! It is similar to our relationships with people. Imagine if we would continue remembering the humiliation we once suffered once at the hands of another person. We might never forgive him, if we had not been blessed with the ability to forget.

The Orchos Tzaddikim offers yet another "advantage" to forgetting - Torah study. If a person never forgets, he might complete the Torah and feel he has nothing more to learn. This is impossible, since there is no end to the length and breadth of the study of Torah with all of its commentary. A person might foolishly think, however, that he has learned it all and stop studying.

Obviously, there is also a downside to forgetfulness. We are obliged to remember certain things. We are to remember all of the trial and travail that has accompanied us as a nation, so that we, remember that Hashem has been with us throughout. We must remember that it is to Hashem to whom we owe everything. We may not forget divrei Torah, Torah lessons. We must review them constantly, for to forget demonstrates laxity and thoughtlessness. It shows that we do not take our Torah study seriously. We are not addressing the one who forgets because his memory fails him. We are, rather, criticizing he who desires to forget, who puts the Torah out of his mind because its mitzvos encumber him.

In light of the above, Horav Nebentzhal suggests that the "dislocation" that occurred symbolically represented the angel's dislodging the Jew's memory of Hashem, His Torah and mitzvos. This became the gid ha'nashe, nerve of forgetfulness, to signify the forgetfulness that Eisav's angel penetrated into our phsyce. Had the angel not harmed Yaakov, we would be as perfect in our belief in Hashem as Yaakov Avinu was before he was struck by the angel.

"And he (Yaakov) built himself a house and for his livestock he made shelter; he therefore called the name of the place Succos." (33:17)

One would think that when Yaakov assigned a name to a place, he would use a reason more meaningful than the fact that it had served as a shelter for livestock. The Ohr Ha'Chaim suggests that this was probably the first time anyone had cared for animals to the point that shelter was provided for them. This public display of compassion for animals was viewed as sufficient reason for naming the place Succos. Hence, people would take note and themselves show concern for animals.

Horav Simcha Zissel Broide, Shlita, takes a novel approach towards understanding Yaakov's reasoning. The pasuk states that Yaakov first built a house. Targum Yonasan claims that this house served as a Bais Ha'Midrash, House of Torah Study. Horav Broide posits that Yaakov remained in his ohel, tent, as usual. The succos were temporary dwellings erected to provide shelter for the livestock. The house was the only edifice that had some sort of permanence to it. Why? What purpose did this house serve that made it so unique? It was the place for Torah study. It was Yaakov's fortress - the only place that Eisav could not touch. It was the one place that accorded Yaakov security against his eternal foe.

Our question now becomes more compelling. If Yaakov built a Bais Ha'Midrash for Torah study, should he not name the city after this bastion of Torah? It would seem more appropriate than a livestock pen! From this anomaly, Horav Broide infers a remarkable lesson. Yaakov teaches us that while he was traveling to Eretz Yisrael, to his permanent home, nothing along the way had any stability. His home was a tent; the pens for his livestock were flimsy succos. Everything along the way was temporary. There is one edifice, however, which maintained its permanence wherever it was, the Bais Ha'Midrash. Regardless of the terrain, in spite of the duration of time spent there, the House of Study, the fortress of Judaism, must be built with stability and firmness.

The concept of impermanence, the thought of transience, is the antithesis of Torah. Provisional structures are for an individual's material belongings, while his spiritual needs must be satisfied in a solid and secure structure. Yaakov named this place Succos in order to proclaim that this was not his permanent home. He was just stopping along the way to his country and future home. Nevertheless, even here amidst his temporary dwelling, he erected a House of Torah Study that was firmly rooted to serve the spiritual needs of his small community. After all, this was Yaakov's yeshivah!

"And Eisav took his wives... and all the members of his household... and went to a land because of Yaakov his brother." (36:6)

The commentators suggest a number of reasons that Eisav suddenly decided to separate from Yaakov. Some of them posit that pure greed motivated this decision. He felt the land could not support him in the style to which he had become accustomed. Horav S.R. Hirsch, zl, contends that Eisav's decision was a pragmatic one; he could not tolerate Yaakov's presence. Despite their newfound relationship, the moral gulf that existed between them was loathsome for Eisav. He simply could not cope with his brother's lifestyle. These various explanations notwithstanding, we still must address the reason that Eisav left. Why could he not just have demanded that Yaakov move on? Why was Eisav so acquiescent to leaving? It hardly seems consistent with his nature!

Horav Moshe Mordechai Epstein, zl, comments that Eisav left because, now that Yaakov was in his presence, the sham that Eisav had lived until now was exposed. As long as Eisav was Yitzchak's only descendant who dwelled in the land, he could present himself as the sole heir of the Patriarchs. He was the true beneficiary of Avraham's middah of chesed. After all, was he not the one who exemplified himself in his Kibud Av, the honor he accorded to his parents? He emphasized mitzvos bein adam l'chaveiro, areas dealing with inter -relationships among people. This pretense continued as long as Yaakov could be depicted as the ne'er-do-well, sitting with his ancient books studying in the tents of Torah. Yaakov had no time to perform deeds of chesed. He was too busy studying. He had no time to interact with the broader world!

Eisav employed such slander to help himself in climbing the social ladder. By denigrating Yaakov, he was able to elevate his own stature in the eyes of other people. Everyone sought out this distinguished heir to the legacy of Avraham. He became "mechutanim" with the noble aristocracy of his time. Eisav set the stage in a way that would enhance his own image at Yaakov's expense.

When Yaakov returned amidst pomp and glory, a wealthy man who had earned his fortune through hard work and integrity, people took notice. Suddenly, Eisav's disparaging remarks did not seem to be based in reality. Yaakov distinguished himself in every area of human endeavor; he was successful materially at the same time that he maintained a reputation that was above reproach. His love and respect for his fellow man was exemplary.He endured the cheating and thievery of Lavan without descending to his level of debasement. Yaakov managed to achieve all of this while he maintained his commitment to Torah study. The people now saw the blatant lies that Eisav had spread. No longer did Eisav have a place in the land. Yaakov's presence was a glaring indictment against him. He was compelled to leave in humiliation to go live in the area of Har Se'er.

It would serve us well to just stop and digest these words. Bnei Torah are the targets of the same type of disparagement that Yaakov Avinu suffered. People have offered a number of responses to these degrading remarks - most of them foolish and undignified. Perhaps, the most astute reply would be the one that Yaakov used - to say nothing. He behaved with integrity and decency, maintaining his observance of Torah and mitzvos to the extreme. Eisav and his successors cannot fight the truth. We have only to continue to "live" it.


1. Why was Yaakov so afraid of Eisav? Did Hashem not promise to protect him and return him safely to Eretz Yisrael?

2. Which of Yaakov's children did not bow down to Eisav? 3. Why was Yaakov punished with the incident involving Dinah?

4. What right did Shimon and Levi have to kill the entire city of Shechem because of the sin of one individual?

5. Why did Yaakov bury Rachel on the road?

6. A) How many kings, descendants of Eisav, reigned in Edom before any king reigned for Bnei Yisrael? B) Why was this?


1. Hashem's promise to Yaakov was contingent upon his actions. Yaakov feared that the "sin" that he possibly had committed rendered him unworthy of Hashem's blessing.

2. Binyamin, who was not born yet, and Dinah whom Yaakov had hidden in a chest to prevent Eisav from setting sight on her.

3. 1) Yaakov had locked Dinah away in a chest. Hashem punished him for this, since she possibly could have influenced Eisav to repent. 2) Yaakov failed to fulfill his vow to build a mizbayach at Bais El.

4. By stealing Dinah from her father's home, Shechem ben Chamor violated one of the seven mitzvos that a Ben Noach is to observe. The people who did not prosecute him were likewise guilty of not setting up a judicial system to enforce justice. Since they were also in violation of one of the mitzvos Bnei Noach, they incurred capital punishment.

5. Hashem commanded him to bury Rachel on the road, so that she would serve as comfort for the Jewish exiles as they passed by on their way to Bavel. This place was also located on the portion which was destined to be the inheritance of her son, Binyamin.

6. A) Eight. B) This is a punishment for Yaakov having addressed Eisav eight times as "My master." Hashem viewed this form of subservience adversely.

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