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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Vayishlach 5767

This week's sedra continues the events in the life of Jacob. These include Jacob's wrestling with the angel, his name changed to Israel; his meeting with Esau after many years of separation; the abduction of Dena; the destruction of the city of Shechem by Shimon and Levy; his return to Beit El, the birth of Benjamin and Rachel's death.

Let us look at a Rashi-comment in the beginning of the sedra.

Genesis 32:9

"And he (Jacob) said: If Esau comes to one camp and attacks it, the remaining camp will survive."


the remaining camp will survive. Rashi: Against his (Esau's) will. Because I will do battle with him. He (Jacob) prepared himself with three things: 1) For giving a gift (as it says) "The gift passed ahead of him." (32:22) ; 2) for prayer (as it says) The G-d of my father Abraham" (32:10); 3) for war (as it says) " The remaining camp will survive." (our verse).


The first part of this comment "Against his (Esau's) will." Has been interpreted by the commentators to mean: Since Jacob split his larger camp into two smaller camps in order to best preserve at least someone, in case Esau attacks, then Jacob cannot be 100% certain that the remaining camp will survive, he can only hope that is what will happen. But since Jacob says absolutely, and with certainty "The remaining camp will survive." This means Jacob is determined and will fight to insure their survival.


Now let us look at the rest of this comment. Rashi says Jacob prepared himself for the upcoming meeting with Esau, in three ways. Look at the three ways and look at the verses that support the three actions.

What would you ask?

Your Question:


A Question: The Torah tells of the three acts that Jacob did but in a different order than Rashi's. First Jacob prepared for war by splitting his camp (our verse). Then he prayed (the next verse), and only then did he prepare the gift for Esau (verse 22).

Rashi's order is: Gift, Prayer & War. We ask: Why did Rashi have a different order?

Can you think of an answer to this difficult question?

Your Answer:


A Possible Answer:

The commentaries struggle with this one. Rabbi Yaakov Kamentsky in his book "Emes l'Yaakov", suggested the following idea.

Rashi lists Jacob's actions in order of his preference and their significance, not in their chronological order.

First and foremost for Jacob was the accomplishment of Peace with his brother. Therefore, if a gift will lead to peace (as, in fact, it did. See 33:4) Jacob preferred that way. He then prayed that the gift would, in fact, lead to peace and avoid a battle.

Then if nothing else helped, he realized he would have to fight, but this was last in his mind. And therefore Rashi listed it last, Jacob's least preferred action.

This an interesting insight by Rabbi Kaminetsky, ZT"L, he was a man known for his peaceful ways towards all people, regardless of their race or religion !


Verse 33:4 depicts Jacob's meeting after all of his preparations. It says:

"And Esau ran towards him. He hugged him and fell on his neck and kissed him and they (both) wept."

Rashi's comment here is that Esau was insincere in his signs of affection.

But the Nitziv (Naftali Tzvi Berlin, Late 19th century) ) interpreted the last word "they cried" as showing that Jacob too was moved and truly accepted Esau's signs of affection. He says this indicates that in the End of Days there will be peace between the two brothers, Jacob and Esau.

Let us pray for those days to be in our days!

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.

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