Torah Weekly

For the week ending 2 December 2017 / 14 Kislev 5778

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.


A Master of Disguise

“Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him…” (32:25)

The secular Jewish newspapers make depressing reading. (Serves me right for reading them!)

It seems that every Torah prohibition — especially its norms of family life — have now been overridden by “enlightened” thought. What the Torah terms “abominable” has now not only become “acceptable” but even “admirable”.

Ironically, the rainbow, that symbol of G-d's withholding His anger from Mankind, has been commandeered by that group provoking that same anger.

The negative drive in man has always had two agents provocateurs. One blatant and the other sophisticated.

“Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him…”

Rashi comments: “One said (Rav Shmuel bar Nachmani): ‘he appeared to him (to Yaakov) as an idolater,’ and one (Rav Shmuel bar Acha) said: ‘he appeared as a Torah scholar.’” (Talmud Chulin 91)

The evil impulse has two faces: that of the idolater and that of the sophisticate.

We find this idea echoed in the Midrash:

Rav says, “The yetzer hara (evil inclination) is like a fly that sits on two openings of the heart”. Shmuel says, “It is like a grain of wheat”. (Midrash on Bereishet 4:7)

In search of his pleasures, the fly will visit the most putrid and disgusting places in the world. He is blatant in his lust.

Wheat is the symbol of sophistication, as the Talmud says: “A baby does not know how to say ‘Daddy’ and ‘Mommy’ until it tastes the taste of wheat.” (Berachot 40)

A Jew must know that the yetzer hara is much stronger that he. The yetzer hara is a malach — an angel. He is a master of disguise, and if G-d did not constantly help us we would not be able to withstand his onslaught.

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