Aliya-by-Aliya Parshat Vayishlach 5762

Numbers in [square brackets] are the Mitzva-Count from Sefer HaChinuch.

Kohen - First Aliya - 10 p'sukim - 32:4-13

Yaakov sends messengers to his brother Eisav with a message of conciliation (and warning?).

[SDT] Onkeles seems to consider the messengers that Yaakov sent to be human (IZGADIN are runners or messengers); Rashi states that the word MAL'ACHIM is to be taken literally, as heavenly angels. Commentaries point to the end of last week's sedra (which tells of Yaakov's encountering the "camps" of angels upon his return to Eretz Yisrael) as support for Rashi's point of view. Bartenura further explains that Biblical references to angels always include something they said or a prophetic message. When Yaakov encountered the angels, nothing is said. It could be argued, that the Torah mentioned the angels in connection with Yaakov's sending them to Eisav. Other commentaries say that Yaakov sent angels because humans might be affected by Eisav and angels would be able to "read" the situation accurately.

[SDT] One of Yaakov's statements was that he had been living with Lavan and was delayed until now. Rashi comments imply that "he lived with Lavan but did not learn from his evil ways". Some see this as a compliment to Yaakov, that he was able to maintain his complete adherence to the Torah in such an alien atmosphere. Others see an implied criticism: All those years in Lavan's home, and he did not learn form Lavan's evil ways... how to channel the cunning and enthusiasm he witnessed towards his own service of G-d. There are lessons to be learned even by negative example.

Yaakov announces to Eisav that he has "oxen, donkeys, sheep, servants".

[SDT] Why does Yaakov tell this to Eisav? Is he boasting about wealth that he has amassed in Lavan's house? The opposite. Yaakov is telling Eisav that although he has much material wealth and large flocks and herds, he does not have land. He has not (yet) benefited from the blessing (that Eisav felt should have been his) of "from the dew of the heavens and the fertility of the ground..." Therefore, Yaakov hoped that Eisav would not be angry with him.

Side note: This parallels the She'hakol bracha vs. all the other "special" brachot. Yaakov is so far blessed with the She-hakol type of wealth. The other 5 of the 6 brachot for food are all related to that which comes from the ground, the blessings of TAL HASHAMAYIM & SH'MANEI HA'ARETZ, which Yaakov has not yet received.

The report of Eisav's pending arrival with 400 men prompts Yaakov into three modes of action. He first divides his camp into two, so that one will be able to escape if the other is attacked. Then he prays to G-d for His help and the fulfillment of promises made. (the third phase is in the next portion.)

[SDT] Commentaries point out that he asks G-d to save him "from my brother - from Eisav". This is not a redundancy. The Jew faces two enemies: The Eisavs of the world who would destroy the Jewish people, and the "friendly brothers" who would gladly permit us to assimilate into their cultures - thereby also bringing about the destruction of the Jewish People. Yaakov prays for salvation from both threats.

Similarly, in the very first pasuk of the sedra, Yaakov sends the angels (or messengers) to his BROTHER EISAV. Yaakov is always aware that Eisav is both, and he must be weary of both persona.

The Beit HaLevi puts it this way. Danger #1 is war. Danger #2 is a treaty with Eisav that can also be disastrous.

Levi - Second Aliya - 17 p'sukim - 32:14-30

Yaakov next prepares elaborate gifts from his flocks and herds for Eisav to be delivered with a good-will message of appeasement.

[SDT] Baal HaTurim points out that there are two p'sukim in the Torah in which every word ends with a "final mem". Here in Vayishlach (32:15): 200 she-goats, 20 he-goats... and BaMidbar (29:33): And their (referring to sacrifices) flour-oil offerings, their wine of libation, for the oxen... Is there a connection? Yaakov sent 550 animals as an appeasement to Eisav, even though G-d had assured him that He would protect him. Yaakov's descendants were destined to offer 550 animals per year as Musaf sacrifices.

(The numbers need work, but the final results bear out the Baal HaTurim's remarkable observation.)

He instructs his servants what to say when they meet up with Eisav. During the night before his encounter with Eisav, Yaakov finds himself alone. (This is one of the sources for the rule that a person should not go out alone at night.)

[sdt] Commentaries tell us that Yaakov had returned across the Yabok River to retrieve small flasks of oil that had been left behind. Some say that this was the oil with which he anointed the altar and monument he built in G-d's honor, and that this flask of oil was the antecedent of the sole flask of oil found by the Hashmona'im many centuries later. This is another of many examples of MAASEI AVOT SIMAN L'BANIM.

Yaakov battles with a "man" (whom we are taught is the guardian angel of Eisav). Yaakov prevails in this struggle but is injured. He receives an unusual blessing from the angel in the form of an additional name - Yisrael. [SDT] Yaakov asks the angel who has wrestled with him to give him a bracha. Rashi says that he was asking that the angel acknowledge the brachot that Yaakov had received from Yitzchak, which Yitzchak had intended to give to Eisav. Perhaps what prompts Rashi to this explanation rather than the situation being simply that Yaakov was asking for a new bracha, is the unusual word BEIRACHTANI (which relates to the past) and not BORCHEINI (bless me now).

Shlishi - Third Aliya - 8 p'sukim - 32:31-33:5

MITZVA WATCH The perennial battle between Eisav and Yaakov, which this battle typifies, is "commemorated" by the prohibition of "Gid HaNasheh". Even though the Torah introduces this mitzva in the context of the story, the mitzva is considered part of the Revelation at Sinai, as if it would have said: "And G-d spoke to Moshe saying - command the People not to eat the Gid..."

The only "negative" mitzva in the book of B'reishit is this prohibition against eating the "Gid HaNasheh". Removal of the "gid" and its innervating branches in the thigh and leg of the animal, as well as the fats and flesh in the area, is difficult. Further problems result from blood vessels that must be removed from that part of the animal's body. The process of removal of the gid and other vessels is known as "Nikur" or "treibering". It is, in most cases, not economically feasible to remove the "gid". The whole hind section of the animal is generally sold as non-kosher. This is the standard practice in the U.S. In Israel, however, where there is not a so readily available non-kosher market, nikur is done. This means that some fancy hind cuts of meat are available to the kosher consumer. (Tenderloin, sirloin, porterhouse...)

Yaakov sees Eisav and his men coming; he pushes his family behind him and repeatedly bows to his brother. Eisav runs towards him embraces him, k*i*s*s*e*s him, and weeps.

See the Lead Tidbit for more on the kiss Mishlei 24:16 says: For a righteous person will fall seven times and rise up... Baal HaTurim relates this pasuk to Yaakov's bowing 7 times before Eisav.

Eisav asks about the women and children and Yaakov prepares to introduce his family to Eisav.

R'vi'i - Fourth Aliya - 15 p'sukim - 33:6-20

Yaakov humbles (humiliates?) himself before Eisav as he presents his family to him, all of whom bow to Eisav. Yaakov presented his wives and 11 children.

[SDT] Why did Yaakov hide Dina from Eisav? Some explain that Yaakov did not want Eisav to ask for (take) Dina as a wife and thereby subject her to his wickedness. For this, Yaakov was punished, because Dina might have been (probably would have been) a positive influence in Eisav's life. (The very next portion of the Torah tells us of the kidnap and rape of Dina by Sh'chem and the subsequent debacle of the revenge exacted by Shimon and Levi.) Commentaries ask whether Yaakov should be praised, rather than punished, for protecting Dina. Bartenura says that Yaakov's reason for hiding Dina was not the fear of anything negative happening to her, but the fear that she would succeed in reforming Eisav, which would make him worthy of the blessing that he would dominate his brother.

Eisav asks about the groups of animals that he met on his way. Eisav at first refuses to accept the gifts, but eventually takes them. Then Eisav suggests that he and Yaakov join together. Yaakov adamantly refuses.

NOTE: At first, Yaakov seems to want to avoid antagonizing Eisav, even to the point of humbling himself before his brother. However, when the possibility of subjecting his family to the influences of Eisav is at issue, Yaakov boldly risks confrontation. Lesson to learn. Yaakov travels to the Sh'chem area where he purchases land and builds a Mizbei'ach.

The land that Yaakov purchased was later used for the burial of Yosef's remains. Ironic how Sh'chem and Hebron were both purchased by the Avot and those were two of the places first given to the PA as Area A. Add Beit Lechem to the ante and we have been incredibly disrespectful (to say the least) of KIVREI AVOT. What was done to Kever Yosef by the Arabs was an inexcusable desecration. Our governments apparent inaction at the time and since is worse. (Personal opinion)

Chamishi - Fifth Aliya - 42 p'sukim - 34:1-35:11

Dina (who had been hidden from Eisav) now goes out to explore the "local attractions". She is kidnapped and raped by Sh'chem who then falls in love with her. His father proposes an alliance with Yaakov's family for the purpose of intermarriage and fusing of their cultures. Shimon and Levi trick Sh'chem and his people into circumcising themselves. When the people are weakened, Shimon and Levi kill them to avenge what was done to Dina. Yaakov is upset at what they have done (perhaps not - commentaries say he was upset at not being consulted in the first place), but they defend their actions.

G-d tells Yaakov to move to Beit-El and build an altar there. Yaakov rids his household of idols. G-d prevents the locals from pursuing Yaakov and family to avenge the killing of the people of Sh'chem. Rivka's nurse Devora dies and is buried. (There is a Tradition that Rivka died at this point too.) G-d appears once again to Yaakov and blesses him. He confirms the new name Yisrael (which is used alongside the name Yaakov, each having different connotations).

Shishi - Sixth Aliya - 37 p'sukim - 35:12-36:19

G-d reiterates His promise of the Land to Yaakov and his descendants. Yaakov erects another monument to mark the place at which G-d appeared to him. Rachel gives birth to Binyamin (11th of Cheshvan) and dies in childbirth. She thanks G-d with her dying breath for her having a second son. She is buried on the "road to Efrat" and her burial place is marked "even unto this day".

Reuven "commits an indiscretion" with Bilha

[SDT] The Gemara states: Anyone who thinks that Reuven actually slept with Bilha, as the literal translation of the pasuk would indicate, is grossly mistaken. Some say that Reuven moved Yaakov's bed from the tent of Bilha - where Yaakov had placed it after Rachel's death - into his mother's tent. The Torah's cryptic description of what he did is considered a sharp rebuke for his actions, which were disrespectful to his father. Nonetheless, he was motivated by protective jealousy for his mother Leah. The Mishna states that when the Torah was translated into Aramaic during public Torah reading, this pasuk was not translated. It was read, but it was left without TIRGUM so as not to mislead and confuse the people.

This is a glaring example (of which there are many more, as well as more subtle ones) of the inability to understand the Written Word without its inseparable partner, the Oral Torah. This is so for "story" parts of the Torah, as well as Halachic texts. This is the tragedy of the translation of the Written Torah into other languages. This is the tragedy of the nations of the world clutching their bibles and thinking that they hold in their hands the Word of G-d. They hold only part of the Word of G-d which is so easily misunderstood and perverted in the absence of its Oral part.

The sons of Yaakov are 12.

[sdt] This statement is part of the same pasuk (although it begins a new parsha) as the statement about Reuven's deed. This is considered proof of the Talmudic statement mentioned above. Had Reuven actually sinned, he would not immediately be acknowledged as one of the sons of Yaakov, he would have been ostracized, or worse. Additionally, he is identified as Yaakov's B'CHOR in the very next pasuk.

Yaakov's sons are enumerated. Yaakov returns to his father's home. Yitzchak dies at 180 (5 years more than Avraham. Some say that Avraham was "taken 5 years before his time" to spare him the pain of knowing of Eisav's evil ways) and is buried by Yaakov and Eisav.

Eisav's descendants are enumerated.

The fact that this is done at this point in the Torah, before the Torah continues with the accounts of the family of Yaakov seems to say: Let's finish up with Eisav first, before we continue with the important line of descent. Eisav is a force in this world, but he is not the reason for its existence. I (says the Torah, so to speak) am not yet ready to continue telling about Israel; I'll get to it after this business is out of the way.

Another reason offered for the detailed presentation of Eisav's lineage is a rebuke of sorts for Yaakov's humbling himself before Eisav. Call him your master and you his servant, says G-d (so to speak), then I will establish him and his line of royalty in their own land, before you and your descendants are ready for nationhood.

Sh'vi'i - Seventh Aliya - 24 p'sukim - 36:20-43

The Torah continues naming the descendants of Eisav and the kings that ruled the city-states, "even before there ruled a king in Israel". Israel must still go through many stages of refinement and pass through many trials and tribulations before they are to emerge as The People of Israel.

Haftara - 21 p'sukim -Book(let) of Ovadya

Different communities read different Haftaras. The ongoing battle between Yaakov and Eisav is the main theme of the prophecy of Ovadiya. The prophecy focuses on the ultimate judgment that Eisav's descendants face; G-d will emerge as the true King of all. The Haftara "answers" the question raised in the sedra as to what are the real feelings of Eisav to Yaakov.