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Parshas VaYishlach (#2)

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Vayishlach

Oct 21, 2009

 

 

Yaakov Avenu sent angels before him to his brother Eisav. They returned and reported to Yaakov that they had met up with his brother, with Eisav, and he is coming towards him with four hundred men.

Rashi comments on the usage of the words "to your brother, to Eisav". Yaakov refers to Eisav as a brother, but he is still filled with anger and is acting like Eisav HaRasha. The word "achicha" - your brother is a statement of Yaakov's belief, The word "Eisav" - the wicked one, being the reality.

We find this echoed in Yaakov Avenu's prayer (posuk 12), "Save me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisav", from my brother who acts not as a brother but as Eisav HaRasha.

It seems that Yaakov Avenu is seeking to relate to Eisav as a brother, only to be rebuffed by him. Despite the lack of filial recognition on Eisav's part, Yaakov continues to refer to him as "brother". (See pesukim 14 & 18)

Rashi stresses upon two occasions that Eisav is not "acting" as a brother, rather he is acting like Eisav HaRasha. He derives this from the manner the posuk refers to him as "my brother", Eisav". The very title "Eisav" denotes wickedness. Eisav and Yaakov were meant to function as one unit. They complement one another. They looked identical and were even destined to perish on the exact same day. Eisav's role in life was to be "Yaakov's brother". He is a force to reckoned with, one who possesses tremendous strength and power. Such gifts are to be put to use bridled by his connection with Yaakov. If he is Yaakov's brother he is a force for good. If he is Eisav, stripped of his bond with Yaakov, he then is automatically Eisav HaRasha.

Eisav resisted being identified as Yaakov's brother. He was filled with the drive of self determination, developing independently from Yaakov and forging the image of the entire world in his likeness.

Perhaps with this we can plumb the depths of the meaning of the Medrash brought by Rashi (perek 33, posuk 8). Groups of angels assaulted Eisav and his men. As they were shoving them, the Malachim asked of Eisav's men, "whose men are you?", they answered, "Eisav's. They proceeded to beat them. "Desist", the men cried, "Eisav is the son of Yitzchok". The Malachim paid them no heed. "He is the grandson of Avrohom", this also produced no letup. Finally they conceded, "He is the brother of Yaakov". The Malachim replied, "If so, then you are one of ours".

The resistance to acknowledging a relationship with Yaakov is starkly apparent. Did they only do so under fear of further beatings? Why did the Malachim refer to Eisav and his men as "ours" as a result of this forced admission?

A young man, by the name of Gadi Rosenberg, suggested that something is going on here beneath the surface.

The Rambam in his work Mishneh Torah, (Hilchos Gerushin perek 2 halacha 20) clarifies that beating cannot be a successful method of imposing one's wishes or values upon another. It is only successful when one's true longings are being repressed by an outside source or factor and one is being forced to act against his own nature. In such a case the physical suffering facilitates between a person and his true self.

Eisav's true essence was that of being Yaakov's other half, working together towards the goal of uniting the world under the banner of "Kavod Shamayim". He chose to ignore and cover up his true self, deeply burying it under many layers and layers. The beating of the Malachim peeled away these layers and revealed his inner self. For that moment, after being stripped to the core, he was aware of of his true self. And the Malachim pronounced upon him the title of being "one of ours".

Eisav asked of Yaakov, "What is this camp of Malachim that assaulted me so harshly?" And Yaakov answered, "Limtzo chen b"einei adoni" - "to find favor in the eyes of my master". In light of the above explanation, Yaakov's response makes perfect sense. Yaakov revealed to Eisav his intent in sending malachim to beat him. In order to uncover the bond of brotherhood between them.

There is a puzzling group of phrases which become clear as a result. The Torah relates the instructions that Yaakov relayed to his Malachim (perek 32 posuk 21). "And say to him, behold your servant Yaakov is behind us. Perhaps I will cleanse his face with the gift offering which is going "before me" (literally before my "face") and afterwards I will see his "face" perhaps he will raise my "face".

Let's "face" it. What is the meaning of this exchange? The word in Lashon Hakodesh for "face" is "panim". The root of the word "panim" is "p'nim" - which means "the inside". It is in the face of a person that some glimmer of his inner self is revealed, the moods, the intelligence. Yaakov's goal was to "cleanse the face of Eisav" to remove all that was blocking him from seeing himself. Then and only then will Eisav gaze into Yaakov's face and see himself mirrored within.

Perhaps we can now understand the meaning of a puzzling rule in the grammar of Lashon Hakodesh. Yaakov sent Malachim to the Land of Se'ir. The Torah when telling us this states that he sent them "artzah se'ir", rather than "l'eretz se'ir". Rashi (perek 32 posuk 4) explains that any word that requires a "lamed" preceding it, the posuk substitutes a "heh" at the end.

What is the reasoning of this substitution? If the word requires a "lamed" before it then why not leave it at that?

The function of a "lamed" prior to a verb is to activate it. For example, the word "avoda" means work. "La'avod" means "to" work. A "heh" is generally added to a word to transform it from the male to female gender, from active to passive.

Yaakov Avenu sought to save his life and that of his family from the threat of Eisav. He sought to do so not by imposing himself actively on Eisav, through intimidation and fear, but rather by revealing what was deeply buried in the heart and soul of the recipient of his gift and message. It was a "giluy" - revelation, from the side of the "mekabel" - recipient, hence the letter "heh".

Yaakov Avenu achieved success in his endeavor. Eisav's mercy was temporarily aroused. The impact of this encounter is being felt up to this very day. We find that Rabbah Bar Bar Chana and Rav Yehuda prayed to be exiled under the auspices of Eisav rather that the oppressive Chabbori nation that was terrorizing them at the time. Rashi explains in Meseches Gittin (17a) "They (Eisav) have respect for us". The light of the true essence of Eisav is alive but deeply buried.

(See Gittin 57b The grandchildren of Haman converted and learned Torah in Bnei Braq. R' Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin explains that this was the cause that Shaul HaMelech had mercy on Agag the king of Amalek. - Sefer Risisei Laila 32)

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