Parshat Vayishlach 5773: Levado: In Our Generations — Individually, Nationally

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 the recurring equivocation and fruitless appeasement of Israeli corrupt politics and governance.

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.

Rebbetzin Smiles explains Levado this way (Torah Tapestries, Rebbetzen Shira Smiles, pages 115-117, 125):

The night before Yaakov Avinu was to encounter Eisev, something strange and important took place. “Yaakov was left alone and a man struggled with him until the dawn. He saw that he could not beat him and he touched his hip and the hip of Yaakov became dislocated in his struggling with him.” (Torah Tapestries citing of Breish’t Perek 32, posukim 24-25)

This “man”, actually an angel, asks Yaakov Avinu to release him, and Yaakov Avinu gives him an ultimatum: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (Torah Tapestries citing of Breish’t Perek 32, posuk 26). The angel complies. He blesses him changing his name from Yaakov to Yisrael — a name later endorsed by Hashem… — for the reason that “You have struggled with the Divine and with men and prevailed.” (Torah Tapestries citing of Breish’t Perek 32, posuk 28)

…Levado… elucidates the relationship between the Jew and the outside world…, “Vayivaser Yaakov levado (Yaakov was left alone)” (Torah Tapestries citing of Breish’t Perek 32, posuk 24). Yes, physically Yaakov Avinu was alone. Just prior to this battle…, he had led his entire family to the other side of the Yabok River, and then was left alone.

Levado is the path that Yaakov Avinu forges for us — a path through the confusing tangle of diversions and amusements offered by society today, a path leading us to Hashem. Yaakov Avinu is telling us that if we go to battle with the world outside, we must do so with the strength that comes from our uniqueness as a nation and as individuals. Our motivating factors, our strength must come from within. If they do not, we will be easily swayed and pressed upon by multiple distractions, internal and societal.

Sound familiar??

This message seemingly applies to inspire all who cleave to our Divinely-given land; that they will stand stubbornly and vehemently in physical opposition to further acts of appeasement and, Chas V’Chalila, any future evictions of their fellow Jews from their homes and their land. The message to the nation at large seems to be that the primary concern of a Jew should be for the welfare of his brethren rather than for self-enrichment, self-affectionation and self-empowerment over the masses.

The message 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.

The reality is that the Jews, the B’nai Yisrael are separate and distinct from the other nations and cannot depend on mortal man, even one with his cynicism toward his opponents, when he says on behalf of his ‘superpower nation’ that “we’ve got your back.” The fact is that the only ones who have our back are the army of the B’nai Yisrael and Hashem. The past nearly 65 years of Israel’s modern nationhood have borne this out again and again, and this fact will inevitably be borne out yet again in Operation Pillar of Defense, an action against Hamas missiles and terror launched from Hamas-occupied Gaza against the Jewish people. 3rd party imposed “ceasefires” ALWAYS result in more and more Jewish blood flowiing.

This seems to be one of the messages behind R’ Zelig Pliskin’s commentary in “Growth Through Torah (page 92):

Before encountering Eisev, Yaakov divided all that he had into two camps: “And [Yaakov] said, If Eisev will come to one camp and smite it, the remaining camp will be saved.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 32, posuk 9)

…Said Rabbi Yeruchem Levoviitz, that Yaakov did not rely on his righteousness and he made every human effort possible. This is an important principle: the forefathers kept to natural laws in dealing with life situations. Ultimately, the laws of nature are the Almighty’s laws because this is the way He set up the world.

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, sense of national security and well-being and Jewish levado have been corrupted, clouded and obscured by their 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, Rifka Emeinu and of Yaakov 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 — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone 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 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 ofThe Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.