Torah Weekly

For the week ending 24 November 2018 / 16 Kislev 5779

Parshat Vayishlach

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Returning home, Yaakov sends angelic messengers to appease his brother Eisav. The messengers return, telling Yaakov that Eisav is approaching with an army of 400. Yaakov takes the strategic precautions of dividing the camps, praying for assistance, and sending tribute to mollify Eisav. That night, Yaakov is left alone and wrestles with the Angel of Eisav. Yaakov emerges victorious but is left with an injured sinew in his thigh (which is the reason that 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 Eisav meet and are reconciled, but Yaakov, still fearful of his brother, rejects Eisavs 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 Eisavs descendants.


Quinoa: Food for the Soul?

“Yaakov became very frightened and it distressed him…” (32:8)

I must confess I tend to be a bit cynical when it comes to “miracle” stories. It’s probably the influence of my highly litvishe background. My grandfather a”h couldn’t stand sweet gefilte fish. “Ach! Poilisch!” he would exclaim. Apparently he used to put salt on his cornflakes. In my mind, the impact of second-hand stories of hashgacha pratit, Divine supervision and near-miraculous intervention, tend to weaken in direct proportion to the number of ‘hands’ they pass through.

The following story is only “third-hand.” I heard it from my daughter who heard it from the person to whom it happened.

A well-known Israeli Jewish outreach personality who we will call Avi was visiting the Negev in the south of Israel on a Thursday. He stopped by a friend to have lunch and they served a Quinoa salad. Avi had never tasted Quinoa in his life.

Quinoa is a gluten-free, high-protein plant food, one of the few that contain all nine essential amino acids. It is also high in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants. Another benefit of Quinoa is that it is great for dieting: One cup of cooked quinoa has about 40 fewer calories than the same amount of white rice, but the real benefit is in the carbohydrates. White rice has almost 15 times more grams of carbohydrates, and quinoa provides five more grams of fiber and double the protein.

But what really attracted Avi to Quinoa was its taste. He loved it. That night, back in Tel Aviv, he told his wife that he wanted to make some Quinoa for Shabbat the following evening. She said, “Let’s ‘go to town’ and make a whole load of Quinoa recipes.”

Friday night arrived and, as was normal, Avi had invited some young boys and girls from the local army base to come for a Shabbat experience with an Orthodox family.

One of the young girls came to the Shabbat table and her jaw dropped.

“Quinoa!” she gasped.

Avi said, “I’m sorry if you don’t like Quinoa. We’ve got a lot of it tonight!”

“When you invited me for Shabbat, I forgot to tell you that I’m on a special diet. I only eat Quinoa. On the way over here I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to have sit there and eat nothing’. So I said, ‘G-d, if You really exist, make it that there will be some Quinoa there tonight!’”

As far as I know this is a true story, but then why shouldn’t it be. They say that anyone who believes every “Rebbishe maaseh” (miraculous story about a Chassidic Rebbe) is gullible, and anyone who says that they are all rubbish is an apikorus (heretic).

“Yaakov became very frightened and it distressed him…”

The Midrash says that Yaakov was distressed that the prospect of confronting Esav frightened him, for such fear indicated a lack of trust in G-d’s promises (28:15 and 31:3).

If Yaakov could find himself lacking when it came to trust in G-d, how much the more can our trust in miracles become a little rusty. But let us not forget that we are surrounded by them, and, sometimes, G-d even gives us more than just a glimpse of them.

  • Sources: Midrash; E. Conick

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