Vayishlach: Spiritual Honesty

A timely and crucial message.

Moshe Burt,

As our parsha begins, Yaakov sends melachim ("angels"; some render it "messengers") "ahead of him to Eisav to the land of Seir, to the field of Edom.... Thus shall you say... to Eisav, so said your servant Yaakov: Im Lavan garti ('I have sojourned with Lavan')...." (Breishit, perek 32, p'sukim 4 and 5)
Yaakov "sojourned with Lavan, but yet... kept all of the 613 commandments."

We learn that the Gematria (numerical value) of the word garti is 613; that Yaakov "sojourned with Lavan, but yet... kept all of the 613 commandments and... did not learn from his [Lavan's] wicked deeds." (Torah Gems, Aharon Greenberg, Vayishlach, page 251)

There seems to be a message in the reunion between Yaakov and Eisav that is both timely and crucial, on the heels of Binyamin Netanyahu's now-infamous 10-month construction freeze in Yehuda and Shomron. And there seems also to be a message relating to the courageous newly-recruited soldiers of the Kfir regiment, the Shimshon battalion and others who have recently begun making public displays of insubordination against possible future immoral orders to evict their their fellow Jews from outposts in Yehuda and Shomron.

This is the parsha in which we learn of Yaakov's climactic reunion with brother Eisav (which was reminiscent of the old Four Tops song from the 1960s, "If you bite my neck, I'll turn to stone, turn to stone...."

We learn that upon their reunion, Yaakov and Eisav embraced, wept, and that Eisav kissed Yaakov on the neck.

The Shem Mishmuel (Shem Mishmuel, Rabbi Zvi Belovski, Vayishlach, pages 61-63) cites a midrash (Breishit Rabbah 78.9) in which Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar comments on the phrase "and he kissed him" - vayishakeihu - which is written in the Torah with a dot above each letter. Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar comments:

"Whenever there is more text than dots, one expounds on the text. Whenever there are more dots than text, one expounds on the dots. But here, there are an equal number of of letters and dots. From this we learn that at that moment Eisav's mercy was aroused, and he kissed Yaakov with all of his heart."

The Shem Mishmuel writes on this kiss:

"Eisav wanted to inject his poisonous philosophy into Yaakov, to draw him toward the evil life which Eisav personified. At this moment, Yaakov's neck miraculously turned into marble. Vessels made from stone (marble is an example) are not subject to the laws of tumah and taharah ('ritual purity' and 'impurity'). Given this, we can understand why the midrash uses the symbolism of marble, rather than the more usual hard materials of iron or brass. Yaakov's neck was unable to contract any impurity from Eisav's malicious advances. He was completely impervious to Eisav's designs, and marble, which is unable to receive tumah, is a perfect metaphor for this."

The Shem Mishmuel then suggests, and herein lies the message which seems to have been intellectualized and internalized by the courageous new soldiers mentioned above:

"Yaakov was able to resist Eisav's attack in the way described... purely because of his attitude toward the meeting. The very fact that he was more concerned for his spiritual, rather than his physical, well-being... protected him when the moment of truth arose. Indeed, we can be sure that Yaakov would rather have submitted to physical death than lose his integrity by associating with his vile brother."
May these courageous soldiers and other Torah-true leaders reach national leadership.

Returning to the midrash mentioned above, Rabbi Yannai replied to Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar's premise that Eisav kissed Yaakov with all of his heart: "If that's the case, then why are there dots at all?"

The Shem Mishmuel includes a footnote here: "The simple meaning of the text implies that the kiss is genuine. Rabbi Yannai notes that the dots must change the simple meaning of the text, not confirm it."

Rabbi Yanai: "Yaakov's neck turned to marble, and the wicked one blunted his teeth on it. Indeed, that is the meaning of 'they wept'.­ Yaakov cried because of his neck; Eisav because of his teeth."

May it be that those who stand steadfast and rock-solid for Torah, Ha'Am HaYehudi, for their Jewish brethren and for Eretz Yisrael speedily achieve the upper hand over the current lame, corrupt national leaders. May these courageous soldiers and other Torah-true leaders reach national leadership and reflect chessed, the wisdom and intuition of Avraham Avinu, of Rivka Emeinu and of Yaakov Avinu.




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