Parashat Vayishlach

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Parashat Vayishlach


Meeting Esav

Messengers to Esav

Yackov sent real angels[1] ahead of him as messengers to his brother Esov to the land of Seir, the field of Edom. They were to Esav how Yackov has lived as a guest with Lavan. He had not been made an officer or a dignitary but had remained a stranger in their land, unlike Yitzchak's blessing that Yackov would become a master over his brothers and was therefore not worth hating him since it had not been fulfilled.[2]. Additionally by using the word 'גרתי' which has a numerical equivalence of 613, Yackov was informing Esov, that despite having lived with the wicked Lavan he had kept the 613 commandments, and I did not learn from his evil deeds, therefore he had protection on his side.[2]

Due to all this Yackov had been held up until this point from returning. There he had acquired oxen and donkeys, flocks, servants, and maidservants which were neither from the from the heavens or earth not matching Yitzchok's blessing “of the dew of the heavens and the fatness of the earth”.[3] He was now sending the messengers to inform Esov that Yackov was coming to him[3] in peace and seeking his love[3] so he may find favor in Esov's eyes.

The angels returned to Yackov, informing him how Esav, whom he had called his 'brother' was still behaving like the 'wicked Esav' and with great hatred[4] was advancing to attack him along with 400 men.

Preparations for Meeting

Yackov became very frightened that he might be killed and distressed he might have to kill others.[5] Yackov prepared himself for three things: for a gift, war and prayer.

Division of the Camp

He divided the people who were with him, the flocks, cattle and camels into two camps. This way if Esav would come and strike one camp, the remaining camp will escape against his will, for Yackov planed to wage war with him.[6]

The Prayer

Yackov then prayed to Hashem calling Him the G-d of his fathers Avraham and Yitzchak and reminding Him of His two promises; the first when he originally left Beer Sheva[7] and Hashem promised Yackov that He will guard him wherever he goes and be good to him in his own merit and in merit of his forefathers.[8]. Hashem said He would multiply his offspring to be as numerous as the dust of the earth and as He had promised Avraham[8] also like the sand of the sea which can not be counted due to its quantity. A second promise had been given to him by Lavan's house when Hashem command him to return to Eretz Yisroel[9] and has said that He will be with him.[10] It was based on these two promises that he was praying.[9]

Despite this, Yockov then described how he feared that his merits had diminished[11] because from all the kindnesses that Hashem had given him and truth of the promises being fulfilled[11]. During his arrival Yackov had crossed the Jordan River only with this staff and no possession of money and livestock[11] and now he had multiplied into two camps. He also took this opportunity to thank Hashem for allowing him to split the Jordan with his staff and cross thorough it. Yackov was now fearful that he had sinned since the time of the promises and that might cause him to be delivered into Esav's hands.[11]

Yackov beseeched Hashem to save him from the hand of Esav who behaves wicked and not like a brother[12] and he is afraid that he will come to strike him along with all his wives and children.

The Gift

On that night Yackov set up camp where he was. He then gathered from his possessions[13] what came in his hand as a gift to give Esav. This included precious gemstones that can be carried in one's hand.[13] First Yackov seperated a tenth of all his possessions as Masser and only then sorted a gift for Esav from the remaining part, herby fulfilling his earlier vow[14] to give a tenth of his possessions to Hashem.

The gift of Esav was the same aspect as the other offerings given to the Other Side like Mayim Achronim and the Goat of Azazel given on Yom Kippor[15]

The Flocks

Yackov separated as a gift for Esav composed of various livestock. For each species males were given in ratio to the amount needed for the females.[16] From here the Sages learn that the obligation of Onah differs for each person depending on his career burdens.[16]

  1. 200 she goats (female goats)
  2. 20 he goats (male goats)
  3. 200 ewes (adult female sheep)
  4. 20 twenty rams (adult male sheep)
  5. 30 he camels (male camels, not mentioned openly in verse because they are very modest)[17]
  6. 30 nursing camels with their young children (female camels)
  7. 40 cows (female cows)
  8. 10 bulls (male cows)
  9. 20 she donkeys (female donkeys)
  10. 10 he donkeys (male donkeys)[17]

Space Between the Flocks

Yackov then sent each flock with an individual servant. He instructed his servants to travel around a day's distance[18] in front of him and he would follow them.[18] They were to place gaps of space between each species.[18] Each gap would be just far enough within the distance of what the eye can see from the previous flock.[18]. All this was done in order to satisfy the eye of the wicked Esav and bewilder him with the enormity of the gift.[18]

Yackov knew that the time was not ready to fight Esav and if done now he would loose, he therefore spread out the fight over time. By giving Esav the gift, he was in essence handing Edom and the Yetzer Hara the ability to prosecute the Jews over the years.[19] By placing spaces between the flocks, Yackov managed to invoke a great leniency in this oppression; that going forward even amidst the suffering there would always be breaks and good elements as well. The main suffering is the exaggeration of the situation, where one's mind becomes confounded, feeling like he is being attacked from every direction with absolutely no relief, leading to the feeling of helplessness, causing him to giving up, despair and not be able to cry out to Hashem, which in turn continues to intensifies the suffering. This is even greater than then the actual suffering itself and is the main tool of the Yetzer Hara. Now after Yackov's achievement, one would be able to analyze the situation and break it up in his mind, seeing how even the suffering is limited and that Hashem is also providing good elements and spacing even amidst the suffering, allowing him to cry out to Hashem, survive and move forward.[20] ּ

Message to Esov

Yackov commanded the first messenger that when he meets his brother Esav and who asks him who sent him,[21] where he is going and for whom the flock gift[21] is for, he should reply in the order he was questioned;[22] that he belongs to his servant Yackov who is sending this gift to his master Esav and that Yackov himself[22] is following shortly behind.

Yackov then commanded all the remaining messengers to to reply to Esav in the above manner when they meet him. They are all to tell Esav, that his servant Yackov is following behind them and is first sending this gift before him to appease and wipe away his anger,[23] so perhaps when he sees Esav's face, he will favor him.

Crossing of Yabok

While the messengers of the gift traveled ahead,[24] Yackov lodged that night in his current camping location. He was in an angry mood that he had to do all of this.[24]

In middle of the night Yackov arose, took his two wives, two maidservants and his eleven children and crossed the Yabok river.[25] In order to prevent Esav from seeing his daughter Dena and wanting to marry her, Yackov hid her in a box.[25] Since there was a chance that she could have caused Esav to improve his ways, Yackov was punished from withholding her from his brother, and she fell into the hands of Shechem.[25] Yackov stood in the middle of the river and made himself like a bridge, taking from one side and placing on the other.[26] He took his family and brought them across the stream, also taking across the animals and movable possessions that were his.[26]

Fighting the Angel

Yackov forgot some small vessels and went back to retrieve them.[27] This was because the righteous greatly value their money, not because of the lust for wealth but rather due the great spiritual and physical dangers that were already done to attain it. Now that they have it, they greatly guard it.[28]

When Yackov was left alone, the ministering angel of Esav[27] appearing as a man knotted and tightly wrestled[27] with him until the break of dawn. As they fought they raised a layer of dust by their movements as they stamped the ground with their.[27]

When the angel saw that he could not prevail against Yackov, he touched the socket of his hip, dislocating it from its joint,[29] as he wrestled with him. This was the upper thigh bone that is thrust into the hip bone and the flesh on it is shaped sort of like a pot ladle.[29]

The angel asked Yackov to let him go as dawn was breaking and he must recite the heavenly songs[30] but he refused until the angel would acknowledge the blessings that Yitzchok had blessed him, that Esav was contesting.[30] The angel then asked him for his name and he replied that it was Yackov. The angel declared that his name would no longer be Yackov which implied the blessing came to him through trickery and deceit but rather Hashem would later appear to him in Bet El,[31] bless him and change his name to Yisroel, which denotes nobility and openness[31] and also since he fought with an angel of Hashem and with men; Lavan and Esav[31] and had prevailed over them.[31] The angel wept and pleaded with Yackov to delay his admission until the revelation at Bet El, Yackov refused to release the angel and he was forced against his will to concede to the blessing right there.[31]

Yackov then asked the angel for his name and responded by asking why is it that he asked for it since the angels do not have permanent name as their names change according to the service they are commanded to do and the mission which they are sent on. The angel then blessed Yackov.[32]

The Meeting

Incident of Dena


Settling in Shecehm

Kidnapping of Dena

The Deal

Vengeance of Shimon and Levy

Bet El

Passing of Devorah

Blessing of Yisroel

Passing of Rachel

Incident of Reuvain

Passing of Yitzchak

Genealogy of Edom

Genealogy of Esav

Genealogy of Seir

Kings of Edom

Chieftains of Esov


  1. ^ Rashi Berashis 32:4
  2. ^ a b Rashi Berashis 32:5
  3. ^ a b c Rashi Berashis 32:6
  4. ^ Rashi Berashis 32:7
  5. ^ Rashi Berashis 32:8
  6. ^ Rashi Berashis 32:9
  7. ^ Berashis 28:13
  8. ^ a b Rashi Berashis 32:13
  9. ^ a b Rashi Berashis 32:10
  10. ^ Berashis 31:5
  11. ^ a b c d Rashi Berashis 32:11
  12. ^ Rashi Berashis 32:12
  13. ^ a b Rashi Berashis 32:14
  14. ^ Berashis 28:22
  15. ^ Likutay Halachos, Hilchos Rosh Chodesh 7:52
  16. ^ a b Rashi Berashis 32:15
  17. ^ a b Rashi Berashis 32:16
  18. ^ a b c d e Rashi Berashis 32:17
  19. ^ Shover Zadim Parashat Vayishlach
  20. ^ Likutay Halachos, Hilchos Kilay Behama 4:8
  21. ^ a b Rashi Berashis 32:18
  22. ^ a b Rashi Berashis 32:19
  23. ^ Rashi Berashis 32:21
  24. ^ a b Rashi Berashis 32:22
  25. ^ a b c Rashi Berashis 32:23
  26. ^ a b Rashi Berashis 32:24
  27. ^ a b c d Rashi Berashis 32:25
  28. ^ Likutay Halachos, Hilchos Avada Umitziah 3:9
  29. ^ a b Rashi Berashis 32:26
  30. ^ a b Rashi Berashis 32:27
  31. ^ a b c d e Rashi Berashis 32:29
  32. ^ Rashi Berashis 32:30
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