Parshat Vayishlach 5777: Yaakov’s Fear of Eisev and Not Taking for Granted One’s “Merit”, or the Word of Man

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Vayishlach is being sponsored by Tzvi and Shari Gherman and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of Vayishlach being Tzvi’s Bar Mitzvah Parsha. To the Gherman family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
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Parshat Vayishlach 5777: Yaakov’s Fear of Eisev and Not Taking for Granted One’s “Merit”, or the Word of Man

by Moshe Burt

There seem to be great and timely lessons for NOW, regarding Israel’s populus and governing mindsets in the aftermath of the United States presidential election, in Torah’s teachings regarding the lead-in to the confrontation/reunion between Yaakov and Eisev.

We learn that Yaakov employed a three-pronged strategy in preparing for his encounter with Eisev:

  • 1/ Tefillot.
  • 2/ Sending a gift from his flocks in effort to appease Eisev.
  • 3/ Preparing for possible warfare, i.e. Yaakov dividing his camp into two camps, etc.
  • (In part, cited from “The Midrash Says”, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman, page 310)

Several posukim at, and near the beginning of our Parshat Vayishlach say:

“…Yaakov sent Melachim [angels] before him to Eisev his brother… He charged them, saying, Thus you shall say, To my lord, to Eisev, ‘So said your servant Yaakov… I am sending to tell my lord to find favor in your eyes.'” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 32, posukim 4-6)

“The Melachim returned to Yaakov saying, ‘We came to your brother Eisev; moreover, he is heading toward you, and 400 men are with him.'” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 32, posuk 7)

“Yaakov became very frightened, and it distressed him. So he divided the people with him… into two camps. For he said, ‘If Eisev comes to the one camp and strikes it down, then the remaining camp will survive.’ Then Yaakov said, ‘G’d of my father Avraham and… of my father Yitzchak; Hashem Who said to me, Return to your land and to your relatives and I will do good with you — ‘I have been diminished by all of the kindnesses and by all the truth that You have done for your servant… Rescue me from the hand of my brother, …Eisev, for I fear lest he come and strike me down, mother and children.’ And You had said, ‘I will surely do good with you and I will make your offspring like the sand of the sea which is too numerous to count.'” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 32, posukim 8-13)

The Artscroll Stone Chumash offers this commentary on the root of Yaakov’s fear:

On the surface it would seem that Yaakov’s fear of Eisev betrayed a lack of faith in Hashem’s promise of protection when he went to Charan, a promise that Hashem reiterated when He commanded Yaakov to return to Eretz Yisrael. Rashi (v.11) however, explains that the righteous are never sure of themselves, and that is why Yaakov was afraid that he might have sinned in the interim and thereby forfeited his right to Hashem’s shield from harm…. According to the opinion of the Sages cited by Rashi, Yaakov did not know of any specific sins, but was sure that there might have been some.

He [Yaakov] might have felt that he was at fault for sealing a covenant with Lavan, or it may have been his failure to honor his parents for twenty years that troubled him. The Zohar comments that Hashem instilled this fear in Yaakov so that he would be forced to pray, for Hashem craves the prayers of the righteous. (The Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 171)

This author has omitted discussion of the gifts to Eisev as they don’t seem (to this author) to relate to the theme of this vort as stated above.

Many of Am Yisrael, and to some extent — as yet to be definitively ascertained — Israeli governance appear to be viewing a President Trump as more supportive of Israel than any of his predecessors, as reversing the adversarial relations of Obama, as greatly easing or eliminating U.S. pressure on Israel, as a death knell for the so-called “two-state solution”. But here is where the lessons of Yaakov’s preparations for confronting Eisev kick-in.

While it is true that the President-Elect has a daughter who has chosen observant Judaism as a religion and way of life with her Observant husband — both of them appearing to be taking active roles in the new administration, for Israelis to assume, to take for granted, that such an American president and his administration will, at all times have Israel’s back and welfare in mind is sheer fantasy. We cannot look to mortals, to gentile politicians and real estate entrepreneurs for our salvation. As Yaakov did, we, Am Yisrael, can only look to Hashem, through our constant tefillot with kavanah and our actions as Jews in asserting our Divine, inalienable right to possess Eretz Yisrael as our own, and in bringing about a Jewish mindset, culture and governance where Hashem “will do good with us.”

A friend of this author verbalized it this way: “A President Trump and his administration can’t be more Zionist than the people and government of Israel.”

May we, the B’nei 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 brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of over two years ago. 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 Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — 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.

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