The Jewish Eye
Bais HaLevi - Eisav, Can't Beat Him Don't Join Him
Yaakov davened to Hashem ‘Hatzileini Na MiYad Achi MiYad Eisav"; Save me from my brother from Eisav. The Bais HaLevi asks why does it need to say Achi and Eisav? He answers that the Zohar says when you daven for something you should be as clear as possible in your descriptions. He then asks why does it need to say "MiYad"; from the hands of, twice? Let it just say MiYad Achi Eisav.
He answers that Yaakov felt trapped. The two logical outcomes of meeting Eisav were that Eisav would kill him or the other outcome which was no less frightful for Yaakov was that Eisav would forgive him and they would live together like brothers. As far as Yaakov was concerned Eisav's closeness would cause religious erosion that was as dangerous for Klal Yisroel as physical destruction. He wanted to keep his children as far away from Eisav and his lifestyle as possible. That is why he davened that he should be saved from both being murdered at the hands of "Eisav" as well as "Achi" the brotherly hand that Eisav may want to extend to him.
This says the Bais HaLevi was indicative of the future Galus Edom. During some periods we face destruction from cruel and murderous enemies. At other times we self destruct from the brotherly closeness of our host nations. This freedom ends with assimilation of ideals and lowering our level of Avodas Hashem as well as unfortunately assimilation itself.
Eisav Has 24 Hours Until He Dies
"Yaakov said, "If Eisav comes to one camp and strikes it, then the remaining camp shall be for refuge." How did Yaakov know that if Eisav attacks one camp the other would escape? Maybe, both would fall prey to Eisav?
The Chanukas HaTorah answers, Rivkah said a prophesy in Parshas Toldos - "Lamah Eshkol Gam Shenaychem Yom Echod." Rivkah instructed Yaakov to run away from Eisav because, "Why should I be bereaved from both of you on the same day." She said a Nevuah that Eisav and Yaakov would die on the same day. Based on this prophecy, Yaakov placed a distance of 1 day between the 2 camps. He reasoned; if Eisav will come to the first camp and kill me, he will surely die within a day. He therefore will never make it to the second camp. That is why he was confident that 1 camp would escape.
Vilna Gaon - And How Much Exactly Is 1/64 of Gaava?
The Gemara says that a person is allowed to have "Shiminis ShebeShiminis of Gaavah" - 1/8 of an 1/8 (1/64) of arrogance. What is the meaning of this unusual terminology - "an eighth of an eighth"?
The Vilna Gaon explains, the Gemorrah means the 8th pasuk in the 8th parsha. Parshas VaYishlach is the 8th parsha and "Katonti Mikal HaChasadim" is the 8th pasuk. A person's level of haughtiness must be on the level that he is unworthy of anything. - "I have been diminished by all the kindness and all the truth you have done for me." Whatever Hashem does and will do for me is not coming to me. It is a gift from Hashem, "Katonti" - I am unworthy!
Maharsha explains that a person who has more than 1/64th of Gaavah is considered a showoff. An allusion to this is that "Gas" - "Gimmel" Samach" - 63 - means haughty.
Rav Ruderman - 613 Mitzvos Doesn't Automatically Make You A Tzaddik
"I have lived with Lavan (Im Lavan Garti), and tarried until now" [Bereshis 32:5]. Rashi cites the famous Chazal that the word "Garti" (I lived) has the numerical value of 613 (Taryag), indicating "I lived with the wicked Lavan, but I observed the 613 Commandments - without learning from his evil ways."
Rav Ruderman noted the apparent redundancy in Yaakov's message to his brother, Eisav. If Yaakov had already sent the message "I observed the 613 Commandments," what is added by further stating "and I have not learned from the evil ways of Lavan?" Rav Ruderman Zt"l, taught that the inference to be drawn is that one can observe the 613 commandments and, nevertheless, learn from the ways of a Lavan. Even within the context of a fully observant life-style, a person can wind up looking like a Lavan. Even when an individual's actions are technically permissible, the person may still be acting like a Lavan. A person can live an indulgent life-style -- one that may not technically deviate from the letter of the Law, but one,which is totally foreign from the spirit of the Law.
Therefore, Yaakov clarified: "Not only have I observed the letter of the 613 commandments, I have also not learned from Lavan and have even continued to observe the spirit of those laws."
Vilna Gaon - Dina Had To Be The Missing One
And Yaakov took his 2 wives, 2 maidservants and 11 children and crossed the River Yabok". Rashi notes that the pasuk only mentions Yaakov's 11 children. Where was Dina? He answers; Yaakov placed her in a box so Esav should not lay his eyes on her. The Vilna Gaon is bothered how Rashi knew that it was Dina who was missing. Maybe Dina was 1 of the 11, and one of the other Shivatim was missing?
The Gaon answers, the Gemara says that the Bais HaMikdash was built in the portion of Binyamin because he was the only Shevet who did not bow down to Esav. The pasuk tells us how all the Shivatim and their mothers passed before Esav and bowed. Binyamin, who was not born yet, did not bow down to him. If one of the Shivatim was in the box, then he too did not bow to Esav. There would then be 2 Shivatim who did not bow to Esav, and the Gemorrah would have to explain why the Bais HaMikdash was built in the portion of Binyamen and not in the portion of the Shevet who was in the box.
Netziv - Yaakov's War Strategy Seems Confusing
In preparing for the meeting with Eisav Yaakov took three measures. He davened to Hashem, he sent a peace offering to Eisav, and he prepared for war. How did he prepare for war? He divided the group into two so that if one is attacked at least the other one can escape. There are a number of things that are unclear about this. First we see that when they met Eisav they were all together. Second, it says Vayachatz twice. Once they day before they met and then again the day they met. Third, we see that they all crossed Ma'avar Yabok together on the night following the day that they were divided.
The Netziv answers that Yaakov divided up the group because he was expecting Eisav to attack on that very day. When he understood that Eisav wasn't going to attack that day and had his camp rest before the big meeting, Yaakov gathered both groups back together again and crossed the Yabok. After his bruising battle that night with Eisav's Malach where he came out victorious he was no longer scared of Eisav to the degree he was the day before. The next morning before meeting Eisav it says again that he divided the children. The Netziv says this wasn't the division of yesterday. This was simply a division into groups as a minor precaution. They weren't separated and all groups stayed together. Why? Because although Yaakov knew he was not facing annihilation, he was afraid of the damage that Eisav could cause him, just like the Malach left his mark by damaging Yaakov's Gid HaNasheh.
Wiping Out the City of Shchem Created A Snowball of Trouble
Why did Yaakov think that one of the other nations residing in Eretz Yisroel would attack them after they wiped out Shchem? The family certainly proved its strength as it just warded off Eisav and his 400 men and his two children singlehandedly wiped out a city. One of the Mefarshim say that Yaakov knew that no one would attack his family because Hashem protected them because they had a Bris Milah. After Shchem was decimated, even as they were still suffering from their Bris Milah, it was clear that a Bris Milah was no protection at all and Yaakov's family could be defeated as well.
Why was Yaakov afraid of this possible attack? The Chasam Sofer says that he was scared that he would need to murder people. With blood on his hands he wouldn't be able to fulfill his promise and dream of building a Matzeiva when he returned to Eretz Yisroel since someone with blood on their hands cannot build a Mizbei'ach. Similarly Dovid was unable to fulfill his life's dream of building the Bais HaMikdash.
Shimon and Levi answered this complaint that while causing blood on his hands is a risk they took, nevertheless if they didn't wipe out Shchem it would appear as if Dina went with Shchem willingly. If so the Yaakov would certainly be Pasul from bringing Korbonos since he was considered a Kohen and his daughter entered an illicit relationship.
Chasam Sofer - Rochel Gave Binyamin a Beautiful & Moving Name
As Rochel was dying in child birth she called her newborn son"Ben Oni"the son of my pain and mourning. Yaakov called him BinYamin the son of my strength from the word "Aven". Why would Rochel give such a depressing name and how could Yaakov deny her dying wish?
The Chasam Sofer explains that Rochel's use of the word Ben "Oni" referred to the child of her strength. How? The reason Roshel died when they came to Eretz Yisroel is that Yaakov and all the Avos kept all the mitzvos while in Eretz Yisroel. Since he couldn't be married to two sisters, Rochel being the second sister he married was doomed to death upon their return from Chutz La'Aretz. This all happened to Rochel because of the strength and courage that she showed in helping her sister Leah marry Yaakov on what was to be her wedding night. Her death was another tragic consequence of this heroic and selfless act. Therefore she called BinYamin the son of her strength.
Yaakov didn't change his name, he merely clarified it since Ben Oni can have the negative connotation of pain and mourning. He therefore called him BinYamin to let everyone know Rochel's true intentions upon her death.
Back to top
A Different Kind of News
Questions or Comments? Send an email to:
Copyright © The Jewish Eye 2008 All Rights Reserved