Parshat Vayishlach 5771: Contrasting Moral, Spiritual Honesty With Suicidal Appeasement

by Moshe Burt

We learn at the end of Parsha Vayeitzei that Yaakov and his family were escorted by a group of Melachim to the border of Eretz Yisrael where a second group of melachim took over and escorted them inside Eretz Yisrael. Yaakov declared both groups to be Holy and named this border point Mahanaim for the two camps of Melachim.

It was about this second camp that our Parsha begins by informing that Yaakov sent Melachim (angels) — some render a translation of messengers:

“… ahead of him to Eisev to the land of Seir, to the field of Edom… Thus shall you say … to Eisev, so said your servant Yaakov: ‘Im-Lavan garti’ (I have sojourned with Lavan) …” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 32, posukim 4 & 5).

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, Parsha Vayishlach page 251)

This is the Parsha where we learn of Yaakov’s climactic reunion with brother Eisev which was reminiscent of the old Four Tops song from the 1960’s, “if you bite my neck, I’ll turn to stone, turn to stone…” We learn that upon their reunion, Yaakov and Eisev, embraced, wept and that Eisev kissed Yaakov on the neck.

Shem Mishmuel (Shem Mishmuel, Rabbi Zvi Belovski, Parsha Vayishlach, pages 61 – 63) cites a Midrash (Breish’t Rabbah 78.9) where Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar comments on the phrase “and he kissed him”, represented by the word “vayishakeihu” 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 Eisev’s mercy was aroused, and he kissed Yaakov with all of his heart.”

Shem Mishmuel writes on this kiss;

“Eisev wanted to inject his poisonous philosophy into Yaakov, to draw him toward the evil life which Eisev 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 chose to use 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 Eisev’s malicious advances! He was completely impervious to Eisev’s designs, and marble, which is unable to receive tumah, is a perfect metaphor for this.”

In a message which needs to be both intellectualized and internalized by contemporary Jewry, Shem Mishmuel then suggests:

“That Yaakov was able to resist Eisev’s attack in the way described was 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 rather than lose his integrity by associating with his vile brother.”

Returning to the Midrash stated above, Rabbi Yannai replied to Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar’s premise that Eisev kissed Yaakov with all of his heart:

“If that’s the case, then why are there dots at all? (Shem Mishmuel footnote: “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.) “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; Eisev because of his teeth.”

There seems a message in the reunion between Yaakov and Eisev which seems both timely and crucial in light of prime minister Netanyahu’s recurring equivocation and fruitless appeasement, most recently in the form of a possible second period of construction freeze in Yehuda and the Shomron. That message — best expressed by the loshen Levado (Sefer Breish’t. Perek 32, posuk 25), the “quality of self-containment and oneness” (Torah Tapestries, Rebbetzen Shira Smiles, page 124), reflects Yaakov’s primary concern for his spiritual well-being rather than for his physical welfare. This message seemingly applies to inspire those on Israel’s political scene who cleave to the land, that they will stand stubbornly and vehemently in opposition to further building freezes and, Chas V’Chalila, any future evictions of their fellow Jews from their homes and their land. The message also seems to extend to the nation at large — the primary concern of a Jew being for the welfare of his brethren rather than for self-enrichment.

It also applies to a generation of soldiers who, hopefully, have learned lessons which would lead them to withstand the pressures of indoctrination and who would remain courageously defiant against government pressure and possible future immoral orders to evict their fellow Jews from outposts in Yehuda and the Shomron.

May it be that those who stand steadfast and rock-solid for Torah, Am Yehudi, for their Jewish brethren and for Eretz Yisrael merit to speedily achieve the upper hand over current and successive lame, corrupt, crony Israeli political leaders whose intellect, common-sense, wisdom, intuitiveness and sense of national security and well-being have been corrupted, clouded and obscured by governance guided by adherence to distorted Western morality and subserviance as cover-up for their deep-seeded, blind hatred of anything and everything Jewish. May courageous soldiers and Torah-true leaders gain the national leadership upper hand and reflect the chessed, wisdom and intuition of Avraham Avinu, of Rifka Emeinu and ofYaakov Avinu.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to stand up as one to prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem, Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.