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Friday, December 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayishlach

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 as 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, (32:25vayei'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 mashiach 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

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: The Great Dishon Confusion

Dikdukian: Appearances

Dikdukian: Efrasah, What is your Real Name?

Al Pi Cheshbon: Goats and Amicable Numbers by Dr. Ari Brodsky

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