Torah Weekly

For the week ending 24 November 2007 / 14 Kislev 5768

Parshat Vayishlach

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Returning home, Yaakov sends angelic messengers to appease his brother Esav. The messengers return, telling Yaakov that Esav is approaching with an army of 400. Yaakov takes the strategic precautions of dividing the camps, praying for assistance, and sending tribute to mollify Esav. That night Yaakov is left alone and wrestles with the Angel of Esav. Yaakov emerges victorious but is left with an injured sinew in his thigh (which is the reason why it is forbidden to eat the sciatic nerve of a kosher animal). The angel tells him that his name in the future will be Yisrael, signifying that he has prevailed against man (Lavan) and the supernatural (the angel). Yaakov and Esav meet and are reconciled, but Yaakov, still fearful of his brother, rejects Esavs offer that they should dwell together. Shechem, a Caananite prince, abducts and violates Dina, Yaakovs daughter. In return for Dinas hand in marriage, the prince and his father suggest that Yaakov and his family intermarry and enjoy the fruits of Caananite prosperity. Yaakovs sons trick Shechem and his father by feigning agreement; however, they stipulate that all the males of the city must undergo brit mila. Shimon and Levi, two of Dinas brothers, enter the town and execute all the males who were weakened by the circumcision. This action is justified by the citys tacit complicity in the abduction of their sister. G-d commands Yaakov to go to Beit-El and build an altar. His mother Rivkas nurse, Devorah, dies and is buried below Beit-El. G-d appears again to Yaakov, blesses him and changes his name to Yisrael. While traveling, Rachel goes into labor and gives birth to Binyamin, the twelfth of the tribes of Israel. She dies in childbirth and is buried on the Beit Lechem road. Yaakov builds a monument to her. Yitzchak passes away at the age of 180 and is buried by his sons. The Parsha concludes by listing Esavs descendants.


Room At The Top

“…now, you have acted foolishly.” (31:28)

More words exist in the Hebrew language for foolishness than for wisdom.

Maybe this is because wisdom is simple whereas foolishness makes its appearance in numerous motley shades.

Of the great follies that beset mankind, few are as pervasive as the love of status.

Two Jerusalem garbage collectors were ‘working the bins’ outside the Mir Yeshiva. One worked at street level, the other stood on top of the truck receiving the bins from the other.

As they were working, Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz, zatzal, passed by. He recognized the garbage collector who was working at street level and greeted him. The garbage collector whispered confidentially to him, “I just want the Rosh Yeshiva to know that I usually work on the top of the truck.”

Along with jealousy and lust, kavod, the love of status, removes a person from this world.

To be sure, everyone needs some sense of self-respect, some feeling that his life is significant. Without that we wither and die. But the love of, or rather the lust for status, is a pernicious poison that lurks in the heart long after every physical desire has atrophied.

Honor does not belong to flesh and blood; it is the exclusive prerogative of the Creator

“…the Beneficent One fashioned honor for His Name…” (from Yotzer Ohr, morning prayers)Everything G-d created in this world, He created for His honor.

In goes without saying (and therefore needs to be said) that G-d does not need us to honor Him; rather He created everything for one reason — to bestow good on us. We earn that good by honoring Him.

Honor is not something that can be prefabricated. It cannot be ordered up like a takeaway meal. Honor that is forced from someone is no honor at all; it is the reverse.

It is the greatest insult.

The essence of honor is that it is voluntary. Honor’s precondition is the ability to deny it. Not only this, but the inclination towithhold that honor makes the honor all the greater when given.

Thus, the greatest honor that G-d can receive is where there exists the maximum potential contempt and rejection.

That place is this world.

Freedom of choice dictates that this world contains the utmost capability to do the opposite of what G-d wants.

Thus it is the place that can give G-d the greatest honor.

When we do what G-d wants, we honor Him, and when we do so, He elevates us far higher than the top of the world’s tallest garbage truck.

  • Sources: Based on Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch and others, and a story heard from Rabbi Chaim Salenger

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