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Friday, December 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayishlach

A couple of Mazal Tov dedications to pass along:
Mazal Tov to my cousin Dov Seliger of London on his marriage to Elki Weiniger of Gateshead this past Wednesday. May they merit to build a Bayis Ne'eman B'Yisrael. And Mazal Tov to the ganse mishpachah.

Mazal Tov to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Sara and Avi Lifshitz on the birth of a baby boy this past Sunday. May they merit "lehachniso bivriso shel Avraham Avinu bizmanah" and to raise him le'Torah, le'Chuppah, ul'Maasim Tovim. And Mazal Tov to the ganse mishpachah.

Before his confrontation with Eisav, Yaakov prays to HaShem (32:12) to save him "miyad achi, miyad Eisav," from my brother, from Eisav. Ohr HaChayim addresses the seemingly superfluous reference to Eisav has a brother. Although Yaakov was primarily afraid for his life, he was aware that Eisav posed a threat to his existence in two manifestations. The obvious threat was a physical one, with Eisav acting with his traditional enmity. However, Yaakov was also afraid of Eisav acting like a brother toward him, befriending him and influencing him spiritually. He therefore asked of HaShem to save him both from the physical perils of an encounter with a hostile Eisav and the spiritual dangers of a loving brother.


Later in the parsha, before Yaakov encounters Eisav, he does battle with an angel through the night until the morning. The Torah describes the battle, (32:25) "vayei'aveik ish imo." Rashi quotes one interpretation of the word "vayei'aveik" as coming from the root "avak," dirt, as the clash caused much dirt to be kicked up in the process. Rashi then offers his own interpretation of the word as being of Aramaic origin connoting fastening or intertwining, referring to the nature of their hand-to-hand combat. Ramban, asserting that a "ches" may be interchanged with an "alef," suggests the true root of the word is "chavak," meaning to hug.


The angel is traditionally considered the "sar," (angelic manifestation) of Eisav. The battle is a paradigm of the eternal battle between Yaakov and Eisav. The battle's conclusion at alos hashachar, dawn, symbolizes the days of Moshiach when the eternal battle will come to an end and Yaakov will emerge victorious. Perhaps we may understand that the different interpretations of "vayei'aveik" are not in conflict. Rather, they are in concurrence with the methods by which Eisav wages war with Yaakov. The angel kicked up dust in his attempt to destroy Yaakov. But the angel also hugged Yaakov in fraternal affection in an attempt to destroy him as a brother as well.


Indeed, we must be constantly aware of the dangers posed by Eisav's evil hatred. At the same time, however, we must be cautious not to be deceived and misguided by our apparent acceptance and comfort in his midst.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka


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